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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Desserts

TIP OF THE DAY: Kitchen Torch

The kitchen torch, culinary torch, cooking torch or [less poetically] butane torch is used by chefs and sophisticated home cooks.

Today’s handy culinary torch descends from the heavy duty blowtorches, long used by gold and silversmiths (the first patent dates to 1791).

While its most famous kitchen use is to caramelize the sugar on the top of crème brûlée, it is also handy to:

  • Brown meringue (we use it for Baked Alaska)
  • Char vegetables such as bell peppers
  • Melt or brown toppings on casseroles and soups
  • Melt cheese
  • Toast marshmallows
  •  
    Affordable at $25 or so, it’s well worth it if you’d like an easy alternative to using the broiler or holding peppers over the stove flame. You can pick one up at most kitchenware retailers or online.

       

    creme-brulee-davidvenableQVC-230

    Always a treat: crème brûlée. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    If you get one now, you can make Crème Brûlée for Valentine’s Day. Digging into that crunchy, crackly caramelized sugar topping and eating a piece with the creamy custard underneath is one of dessert’s great experiences. You can make it a signature special-occasion dish.

    Here’s a recipe from QVC’s David Venable. If you want to add a Grand Marnier accent, take a look at this recipe.

    You’ll need round or oval ceramic ramekins: 5-ounce ramekins for four servings, 3-ounce ramekins for seven servings. This set (photo below) from Bonjour includes both the torch and the ramekins.

    RECIPE: CRÈME BRÛLÉE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 9 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
  • White sugar (2-1/2 teaspoons for 5-ounce ramekins or 1-1/2 teaspoons for 3-oz ramekins)
  • Optional garnish: fresh berries
  •  

    creme-brulee-kitchen-torch-bonjour-230r

    You can also use the torch to melt the cheese on French onion soup, toast marshmallows and more. Photo courtesy Bonjour.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F.

    2. BRING the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar to a simmer in a 2-qt saucepan.

    3. LIGHTLY WHISK together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Temper the egg mixture by slowly pouring the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add the vanilla and the rum and continue whisking until fully incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Place the bowl with the brûlée mixture into an ice water bath and let cool completely.

    4. PLACE the ramekins in a large baking dish. Divide the brûlée mixture evenly among the ramekins, filling them 3/4 of the way full. Place the baking dish in the middle rack of the oven and then fill it with hot tap water, to 2/3 of the way up the ramekin sides.

    5. BAKE for 35-45 minutes for 4 (five-ounce) ramekins; or bake for 25-35 minutes for 7 (three-ounce) ramekins. When done, each brûlée will jiggle lightly in the center.

    6. REFRIGERATE for 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, sprinkle the white sugar over each cooled crème brûlée and torch until all of the sugar is melted and golden brown (it will begin to harden when the torch is removed). Serve immediately.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fondue For National Fondue Month

    Originally a melted cheese dish, the concept evolved to cooking beef, chicken, chocolate or seafood in the fondue pot. February is National Fondue Month, so why not plan a fondue feast?

    THE HISTORY OF FONDUE

    The melted cheese dish originated in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. The word fondue itself is the past participle of the French fondre, to melt down.

    The fondue is served from a communal pot called a caquelon, using long forks to spear cubes of bread that are swirled in the melted cheese. The tradition dates to the 18th century; some say it was developed as a way to use slightly stale bread.

    Each Swiss canton has its own variation on the recipe, which generally consists of at least two varieties of cheese, wine and a bit of flour or cornstarch to keep the melted cheese from separating.

  • Raclette is a related dish, made from a Swiss cheese that is similar to Gruyère. But instead of melting it in a communal pot, the wheel of cheese is brought to the table on a cart, exposed to heat and and scraped onto a plate as it melts (racler is French for “to scrape”). It is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, cornichons and dark bread.
  •    

    fondue-artisanalrestaurant-230

    Classic cheese fondue. Photo courtesy Artisanal Restaurant | NYC.

  • Fonduta is an Italian dish similar to fondue, made with Fontina cheese, milk and egg yolks. Elegant versions top it with shaved white truffle.
  • Kaas Doop is a fondue-style Dutch dish made with Gouda cheese, milk and brandy, with nutmeg seasoning, that uses brown bread for dipping.
  •  
    Although it adds to the aesthetic, you don’t need a fondue pot (caquelon) to melt cheese or chocolate or to heat cooking oil. A heavy-bottomed saucepan or ideally, a double boiler, works fine.

    But then, to keep the fondue heated after it has been served, you’ll need a hot plate for the table. If you don’t have one, you probably know someone who has one stashed away and will lend it.
     
    FONDUE RECIPES

    To help you decide where to begin: We recommend starting with a classic cheese fondue. Here’s the basic cheese fondue recipe plus 28 variations, from blue cheese and goat cheese variations to Nacho and Philly Cheesesteak fondue. Or consider:

  • Reduced Fat Cheddar Fondue Recipe
  • Cheddar Chive Fondue With Tortilla Chips Recipe
  • How To Melt Cheese Tips
  •  
    For Valentine’s Day, how about chocolate fondue—your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate? Here’s an even richer Chocolate Fondue with Mascarpone recipe.

    You can also spice things up with these Spicy Chocolate Fondue recipe variations.

     

    sugardaddys-230

    Chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy Sugardaddy’s.

     

    RECIPE: SEAFOOD FONDUE

    This recipe was adapted from GourmetSleuth.com.

    Ingredients For 4 People

  • 1 pound* salmon, halibut or other thick-fleshed fish filets
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed and dried
  • Canola or peanut oil
  • Optional vegetables: bell pepper strips, pearl onions
  • Dipping sauces (see below)
  •  
    *Plan for at least 1/3 pound fish/seafood per person.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT fish into one-inch cubes or 1/4″ w x 2″ long strips, depending on shape of filets. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

    2. SET the table with plates, fondue forks and dips. You can provide individual dip portions, or have guests spoon dips onto their plates. (NOTE: Use only metal fondue forks or bamboo skewers, as wooden skewers can burn in hot oil.)

    3. FILL the fondue pot with oil and heat on the stove until it reaches 350°F. Place the fondue pot on a brazier stand or hot plate on the table, over moderately high heat. Note that for beef or seafood fondue, you must use a stainless steel pot. Ceramic pots aren’t safe with the hot oil.

    4. SPEAR cubes or shrimps and place in the hot oil until cooked.

     
    SEAFOOD FONDUE DIPS

    RECIPE: SPICY COCKTAIL SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • Dash hot pepper sauce
  •  
    1. COMBINE ingredients and store refrigerated until use.
     
    RECIPE: TARTAR SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons drained sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon drained small capers (chop if large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon (or substitute 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles)
  •  
    1. BLEND all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt.
     
    RECIPE: DILL SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/4 cups crème fraîche or whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  •  
    1. COMBINE clam juice and wine in a heavy small non-aluminum saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. WHISK in crème fraîche. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in dill. Season with salt and pepper.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Key Limes Are In Season

    persian-key-napkins-230

    Darker green Persian/Tahitian limes and the
    smaller, yellower Key limes. Photo by Evan
    Dempsey | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We love the filling of Key lime pie. Not especially a crust fan, we often make the filling alone, to serve crustless in pots de crème or ramekins.

    If you’ve had Key lime pie made with fresh-squeezed, as opposed to bottled, juice, you know what an exquisite difference that is. But for many years, Key limes weren’t available nationwide, and then, they were limited to their season of June through August.

    So great is America’s love of Key lime pie that the fruits are now available year-round. That means no more bottled juice!

    Key limes (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle), also known as Mexican limes and West Indies limes, are grown in the Florida Keys, Mexico and the West Indies. They are much smaller than standard supermarket limes, known as Persian or Tahitian limes (Citrus x latifolia). You can see the relative sizes in the photo. (See all the different types of limes in our Lime Glossary.

    About the size of a ping pong ball, the Key lime is rounder and more fragrant than the Persian/Tahitian lime, with a much thinner rind. It has more seeds, and we’ll keep it that way: Breeding out features like seeds tends to breed out flavor as well.

    But the real reason people love Key lime is that it’s less acidic than the Persian/Tahitian: pleasantly tart rather than puckery sour. It makes a big difference in a dessert. You can make Key lime pie with regular lime juice, but it will have more tang.

     

    When purchasing Key limes, don’t worry if the skin is more yellow than green, or vice versa. Choose limes that are heavy for their size, which indicates more juice. The limes can be kept at room temperature for several days, or will keep for a week or more in the fridge (keep them in a plastic storage bag or wrap them in plastic wrap).

    As a general tip, before you juice limes or any citrus, bring them to room temperature; then roll them on the counter under firm pressure from your hand. This will release more juice from the sacs.
     
    THE HISTORY OF KEY LIMES

    The Key lime, a.k.a. Mexican lime and West Indies lime, originated in neither the Florida Keys nor Mexico nor the West Indies, but in the Indo-Malayan region of southern Asia. It was unknown in Europe before the Crusades and is presumed to have been brought to North Africa and the Near East by Arabs.

    It was brought by European Crusaders from Palestine to the Mediterranean countries. In the mid-13th century, the lime was cultivated and well-known in Italy and probably also in France. It was taken to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the early part of the 16th century, where it became naturalized in southern Florida, notably in the Florida Key. It was grown in southern Florida at least since the early half of the 1800s, often as an ornamental yard tree.

    By 1883 Key limes were being grown commercially on a small scale. When pineapple cultivation was abandoned in the Florida Keys because of soil depletion and the 1906 hurricane, farmers began to plant Key limes as a substitute crop. Because transporting delicate fruit was iffy in those days, Key limes were pickled in salt water and shipped north, where they became a popular children’s snack. (Remember Amy March in Little Women pining for pickled limes?)

     

    HOW TO USE KEY LIMES

    Use them wherever you might use regular lime juice: in cocktails like Gin & Tonics and Margaritas, in salad dressings (including fruit salad, where just a squeeze will suffice), on chicken and fish/seafood, in marinades, sauces and soups.

    But the flavors soar in desserts. Try these Key Lime Bars (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart).

     
    RECIPE: KEY LIME BARS

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 2-1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 23 limes)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Garnish: 2 Key limes, thinly sliced into half-moons
  •  

    Key-Lime-Pie-Bars-mybakingaddiction-230

    Replace the ubiquitous lemon bars with Key lime bars. This recipe from My Baking Addition incorporates coconut into the crust. Photo courtesy My Baking Addition.
    .

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. MIX the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Do not turn off the oven.

    2. MAKE the filling: Put the egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium. Add the condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise the speed to high and mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low. Add lime juice and mix until just combined.

    3. SPREAD the filling evenly over the crust with a spatula. Bake until the filling is just set, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking dish halfway through. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Cut into 2-inch-square bars. Ungarnished bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.

    4. MAKE the optional whipped cream prior to serving. Place the cream in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Garnish the bars with whipped cream and serve.
    Cook’s Note

     
    MORE KEY LIME RECIPES

  • Key Lime Pie Recipe
  • Key Lime Pot de Creme Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Eggnog Panna Cotta

    eggnog-panna-cotta-driscolls-230

    Eggnog panna cotta. Photo courtesy
    Driscoll’s.

     

    Panna cotta is an Italian dessert whose name means “cooked cream.” The heavy cream and eggs form one of the different types of custard.

    This recipe, from Driscoll’s Berries, adds rum and brandy, ingredients of eggnog; and creates individual portions in ramekins. The puddings get a festive finish with a topping of colorful, sweet-tart balsamic raspberries.

    Prep time is 1 hour, chill time is 2 hours. Find more delicious recipes at Driscolls.com.

    RECIPE: EGGNOG PANNA COTTA WITH
    BALSAMIC RASPBERRY TOPPING

    Ingredients For 8 to 10 Servings

  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • Canola oil for ramekins
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) plain gelatin
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons rum flavoring (or 1 teaspoon each rum flavoring and brandy flavoring)
  •  

    For The Balsamic Raspberries

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 package (6 ounces or 1-1/3 cups) raspberries
  •  

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY OIL six 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups.

    2. SPRINKLE gelatin over 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl. Let it stand until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.

    3. PLACE a fine mesh sieve over a heatproof bowl near the stove. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a second heatproof bowl until combined. Heat the cream and the remaining 3/4 cup milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until simmering.

    4. GRADUALLY WHISK the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the spoon (a finger run through the custard on the spoon will cut a swath) and an instant-read thermometer reads 185°F, about 3 minutes.

    5. POUR through the sieve into bowl. Discard any bits of cooked egg white in the sieve. Add the gelatin-milk mixture and rum extract to the cream mixture and whisk until gelatin is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Let stand 5 minutes to cool slightly.

     

    driscolls-boxes-imblogger.net-230

    Driscoll’s raspberries are available nationwide. Photo courtesy IMBlogger.net.

     

    6. DIVIDE the cream mixture evenly among ramekins. Cover each with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 2 hours.

    7. MAKE the balsamic raspberries: Whisk the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar together in a medium bowl to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the raspberries. Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

    8. ASSEMBLE: To unmold each panna cotta, run a dinner knife around the inside of the ramekin to release the panna cotta. Hold a dessert plate firmly over the ramekin and invert the plate and ramekin together. Shake firmly to unmold the panna cotta onto the plate.

    9. TOP each panna cotta with an equal amount of raspberries and their juices. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Fondue

    In supermarkets, displays are currently piled high with panettone and pandoro, Italian holiday breads that are traditionally served and gifted during the Christmas and New Year season.

    The origins of sweet leavened breads date back to Roman times. By Medieval times, different regions of Italy had created signature holiday breads. Best-known, and available in the U.S., are:

  • Pandoro, the star-shaped “golden bread” from Venice, has no inclusions but is sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. This modern version first appeared in late 19th-century Verona. In the Renaissance, cone-shaped cakes for the wealthy were dusted with gold leaf.
  • Panettone, from Milan, has origins in a medieval Christmas yeast bread, filled with candied fruits and raisins. It is tall, dome-shaped and airy. While the recipe has been around for centuries, the first known use of the word “panettone” with Christmas is found in the 18th century writings of Pietro Verri, who refers to it as “pane di tono,” “large loaf.”
  • Panforte is short and dense, almost like fruitcake. It dates to 13th-century Siena, in Tuscany. Like fruitcake, it is served in thin slices.
  •    

    milk-chocolate-fondue-zabars-230

    Dip panettone cubes into chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy Zabars.

     

    PANETTONE DESSERT

    Most panettone is accented with raisins, candied orange peel, citron and lemon zest. Some modern versions add chocolate, which was not available when the recipe originated; others are plain, like pandoro.

    For a dessert or a snack, the classic panettone accompaniment is a sweet hot beverage or a sweet wine such as spumante or moscato (any dessert wine will do). Some Italians add a side of crema di mascarpone, a cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, and amaretto (or you can substitute zabaglione, a sherry-flavored custard sauce).

    But you can Americanize it into chocolate fondue with seasonal dippers. Here are recipes for chocolate and white chocolate fondues. Consider a white chocolate version with panettone and green and red fruit dippers—very Christmassy.

    You can also slice the panettone into layers and fill them with whipped cream (how about bourbon or rum whipped cream); then top with berries.

     

    pandoro-monkey-chef.blogspot-230

    A pandoro, baked in the shape of a star, with staggered slices emulating a Christmas tree. Photo courtesy Monkey-chef.blogspot.com.

     

    FONDUE DIPPERS

    Cakes, Cookies & Candies

  • Amaretti
  • Biscotti: cranberry, ginger, pumpkin
  • Crystallized ginger
  • Fruit cake cubes
  • Mini meringues
  • Gingersnaps or mini gingerbread men
  • Panettone cubes
  •  
    Fruits

  • Figs
  • Kiwi
  • Lady apples
  • Red grapes
  • Clementine/orange/mandarin segments
  • Pear slices
  • Strawberries and raspberries
  •  
    MORE PANETTONE DESSERT RECIPES

  • Try this Panettone Bread Pudding recipe.
  • With this Panettone French Toast recipe, you can serve the slices like dessert crêpes, topped with some whipped cream or ice cream.
  •  
    PANDORO DESSERT

    The star shape of a pandoro enables creative cooks to cut the cake into horizontal layers, then stack them in a offset layers to create a Christmas tree effect (see the photo above). You can decorated the tree with red and green candied cherries, or raspberries and and mint leaves.

    Alternatively, layers can be sandwiched with whipped cream or zabaglione. Whipped cream flavored with amaretto, Irish cream liqueur or chocolate liqueur is especially festive. Follow this recipe for Bourbon whipped cream (there’s also a recipe for salted caramel whipped cream).

    Find more pandoro recipes at BauliUSA.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker

    Some gadgets are a snore. Others really make a difference. In the latter camp is the Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker.

    The device enables you to create bite size, multi-layered gourmet appetizers using everyday ingredients. Yes, even peanut butter and jelly or egg salad seems “gourmet” when made in this format!

    The manufacturer claims that this can be done in “just five minutes,” but that’s just for simple layering, slicing and plating. You need to add a bit of time for any prep work—making crab salad, slicing olives and pimentos, chopping nuts, whatever. But what you end up with is worth it: fancy and fun appetizers or dessert bites that can become a signature offering at your home.

    If you have great knife skills, you don’t need this gadget. Just build a loaf of layers and slice your own.

    If, however, you’d never get even slices without help, this is your gadget for triple- or quadruple-layer appetizer or dessert bites that delight adults and kids alike. The instructions are easy to follow and deliver perfectly proportioned pieces. The device is fool-proof: Anyone can turn out impressive, professional looking appetizers with inexpensive ingredients (or, feel free to load in the pricey ones).

       

    Stacked layers of crab salad, garnished with crème fraîche and celery. Feel free to add more complexity to your stacks: some watercress atop one of the crab layers or some pimento strips, for example. Photo courtesy Architec.

     

    HOW IT WORKS

    You layer the ingredients in the plastic mold (see the photo below), then use the slots in the mold to cut the loaf into even pieces.

    You start and ending the stacked loaf with bread or another base. The base can be polenta, tortillas or even sushi rice.

    The fillings can be anything that’s a bit moist or creamy—the ingredients need to be “flexible” since the mold presses them into bites that hold their shape. So avoid a hunk of iceberg lettuce (but arugula, cress, mesclun or baby spinach work) or roast turkey. But if there’s something you really want, you may be able to figure out how to make it work. (Shred the lettuce and dice the turkey into mini cubes in a layer with moist stuffing, for example.)

    The layers are pressed to your desired thickness, and you can keep adding layers until the body of the mold is full. Then slice. When you remove the mold, the appetizers can be served from the plastic bottom tray. But for impressing your guests, you’ll probably want to re-plate them.

    And of course, you can garnish them with whatever you like, from crème fraîche to caviar, or whipped cream for dessert stacks.

     

    Layers of pimento, goat cheese and black olives. In this photo, the bottom tray has been removed from the mold and the individual stacks are being separated for serving. Photo courtesy Architec.

     

    WHAT TO MAKE

    Kids will enjoy peanut butter, jelly and banana bites; ham and cheese; bacon and egg stacks on a toast or waffle base; and mini pizza stacks.

    Foodies will enjoy crab salad, smoked salmon, goat cheese, chicken mousse, and a garnish of caviar.

    For everyone else: you know what your friends and family like (onions? pickle relish?), and where your own creativity will lead you.

    For desserts, you can layer angel or pound cake with jam, fruit compote or pudding; make zebras from brownies, cheesecake and perhaps some jam; and otherwise layer your fantasy dessert ingredients.

    The fun of the Stackable Appetizer Maker is playing around with different ingredients to find what works for you. Do your experimenting right before lunch, so you can eat your experiments.

     
    WHERE TO BUY IT

    The Stackable Appetizer Maker is $19.99, available on Amazon or from the manufacturer, Architec, in your choice of black, blue or red.

    Customers have posted a lot of good comments on Amazon—that the cutting tool isn’t effective (use your own bread knife), that the recipe booklet is a mess (you’ll have no problem putting together your own combinations).

    There are also great tips not provided by the manufacturer, including:

  • Watch the video before you begin.
  • Use “squishable” ingredients with enough fat or moisture content to act as glue when the stacks are compressed. Spreads and salads (chicken, crab, egg, shrimp, tuna) work with a bread base.
  • Be sure that all the ingredients are cold.
  • Dip your knife in ice water after each cut to prevent sticking.
  •  
    You can watch the video and download the recipe book for free on the Architec website (the video link leads to YouTube).

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pomegranate Panna Cotta

    Italian for “cooked cream,” it is a light, silky-smooth egg custard made with heavy cream and gelatin and typically served with fresh fruit or a fruit purée. Panna cotta originated in the Piedmont area of northern Italy, a region known for its cream.

    Smooth, silky and creamy, panna cotta is less rich than other types of custard because it’s made without eggs. (Check out the different types of custard in our delectable Custard Glossary.)

    Panna cotta is a gluten free dessert, and this version with pomegranate adds a festive holiday touch. This recipe is from Karen Tedesco of Family Style Food and Go Bold With Butter. Find more delicious recipes at FamilyStyleFood.com.

    RECIPE: POMEGRANATE PANNA COTTA

    Ingredients

  • 1 packet (2-1/2 teaspoons) powdered gelatin
  • 1-1/4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds (arils)
  •    

    pomegranate-panna-cotta-familystylefood-2-230r

    Bright panna cotta for the holidays. Photo courtesy Family Style Food.

     

    halved-pomegranate-pinkberry-230

    The arils (seeds) inside a pomegranate. Photo courtesy Pinkberry.

     

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY COAT 6 x 1/2-cup molds or ramekins with neutral-tasting oil or spray.

    2. SPRINKLE 1/2 teaspoon of the gelatin over 2 teaspoons of water in a small dish, and let stand a few minutes to soften and dissolve.

    3. MAKE pomegranate jelly: Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the pomegranate juice with the granulated sugar in a small saucepan; stir to dissolve sugar and heat just to a simmer. Stir in the gelatin mixture over low heat until it dissolves in the juice, then divide into the molds (about a scant tablespoon in each). Place the molds on a baking sheet and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

    4. DISSOLVE the remaining 2 teaspoons of gelatin in a small dish with 1 tablespoon water.

    5. HEAT the cream, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Heat until very warm, but not boiling. Stir in the gelatin until it dissolves. Pour the cream through a fine strainer into a container with a pouring spout, such as a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Set aside to cool completely.

     

    6. POUR the cream over the pomegranate jelly in the molds, dividing evenly. Cover gently with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill and set, at least 4 hours. About an hour before serving…

    7. PUT the remaining cup of pomegranate juice in a small saucepan with the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until reduced in volume by half (you should have 1/2 cup syrup); cool.

    8. TO SERVE: Dip the molds in very hot water for about 30 seconds (be careful not to submerge). Run a small offset spatula or blade of a small, sharp knife around the edges of the panna cotta, then invert onto plates. Drizzle some pomegranate syrup over each, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mexican Christmas Pudding

    christmas-pudding-GerryLerner-230

    Oh give us some figgy pudding! Photo
    courtesy Gerry Lerner | London Lennie’s.

     

    Christmas pudding is an English tradition. It has been celebrated in song since at least the 16th century. Thought to bring luck and prosperity to all those who share it, it is typically made five weeks before Christmas, on or after the Sunday before Advent, known in the Anglican church as Stirring Sunday.

    BRITISH PUDDING VS. AMERICAN PUDDING

    Christmas pudding is also known as plum pudding and figgy pudding, popular pudding ingredients along with dates. Irish recipes vary the dried fruits with raisins, currants, sultanas and citrus peel.

    These are nothing the creamy milk-and-sugar-based dessert puddings familiar in the U.S. (chocolate, rice and tapioca puddings, for example), but solid puddings with a binding—essentially, steamed cakes.

    A Christmas pudding is essentially a very wet, alcohol-soaked, boiled fruit cake. Boiling creates a similar dense texture as baking, but more moist (British puddings can also be baked or steamed).

     
    In the U.K., the soft, creamy, thickened milk-based desserts that Americans think of as puddings are called custards if they are egg-thickened and blanc-mange, the French term, if they are starch-thickened (these are our soft chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch puddings).

    Making the Christmas pudding can be a social occasion. Family and friends get together to create the dessert, each giving the mixture a stir, then making a wish with the hope that good fortune will find them once the pudding is served on Christmas Day. The Christmas pudding is traditionally decorated with a spray of holly (which is not edible). In some homes, it is doused in flaming brandy and brought to the table in a darkened room.

    If you want to make a traditional English Christmas pudding, you need to start at least 30 days in advance so the flavors can meld and the alcohol can blend into the cake. Here’s a Christmas pudding recipe: Mark your calendar.

    But if you don’t have 30 days, there are other options to make right before Christmas.

     
    *Traditional British puddings can be baked, steamed, or boiled and can be sweet or savory. They range from Yorkshire pudding (bound with a batter, similar to a popover) to black pudding (also known as blood sausage, bound with blood), to bread pudding, noodle and potato pudding (all bound with eggs, the latter two also called kugels) or plum pudding (a.k.a. Christmas pudding, bound with suet and flour or some other cereal). Savory puddings are served as a side with a main course, sweet puddings as a dessert.

     

    BUDIN DE ROMPOPE, MEXICAN CHRISTMAS PUDDING

    As easy to make as any gelatin mold, budin de rompope, eggnog pudding, is a traditional Mexican Christmas pudding made from eggnog (rompope). It can be made on the day of serving.

    The eggnog, and subsequently the pudding, was originally made by nuns in the convents of Puebla, Mexico†. (These sisters were great cooks: They also invented the classic Mexican dish mole poblano, turkey in mole sauce, among other great recipes.)

    Like other puddings, rompope can be made in a mold or in individual dessert dishes. This recipe is courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

    You can add a bit of liqueur to the fruit sauce: Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, or a berry liqueur to match the berries used.

    RECIPE: BUDIN DE ROMPOPE or GELATINA DE ROMPOPE

    Ingredients

    For The Pudding

  • 1 cup eggnog
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 egg yolks, large
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1 inch long) cinnamon
  • 1 envelope of flavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  •  

    gelatina-de-rompope-gopixpic.com-230

    Boudin de rompope, an eggnog-based Christmas pudding. Photo courtesy GoPixPic.com.

     
    For The Fruit Sauce

  • 1 pint fresh or package thawed frozen raspberries or strawberries (10 ounces)
  • Sugar to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon liqueur
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SCALD the eggnog and milk by heating together in small saucepan over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the temperature reaches 180°F. Set aside.

    2. BEAT the egg yolks with all but one tablespoon of the sugar, until pale and thick. Add the salt and cinnamon stick. Whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Pour the yolk mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat, until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon and thickens slightly (about 4 minutes). Do not boil. Set aside.

    3. SOFTEN the gelatin in cold water and let it stand 5 minutes. Whisk the gelatin into the milk mixture to dissolve. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Add the rum and vanilla.

    4. CHILL in the refrigerator until the mixture begins to set, about 1-1/2 hours. Whip the cream with the remaining one tablespoon of sugar until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the milk mixture and pour into a mold or 8 glass dessert dishes. Chill until set.

    5. MAKE the fruit sauce: Process the berries in a blender until smooth, sweetening to taste with sugar. Add optional liqueur. Strain out the seeds if desired. Pour the sauce into a glass pitcher or gravy boat and serve with the rompope.

     
    †Puebla was one of the five most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico. It is located in Central Mexico southeast of Mexico City and west of Mexico’s main Atlantic port, Veracruz, on the main route between the two.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Better-For-You-Holiday Desserts

    apple-pie-yogurt-cup-yoplait-230

    An alternative to apple pie using Apple Pie
    Yogurt. Photo courtesy Yoplait.

     

    Looking for sweet relief from high-calorie holiday desserts? Yoplait’s limited edition winter yogurt flavors can fill in.

    The new flavors include Greek 100 Caramel Macchiato, Greek Cinnamon Roll, Original Coconut Caramel and Light Chocolate Mint. Refreshing from the cup, they can also be combined with other ingredients to make better-for-you desserts.

    For example, you can make this apple pie yogurt cup in just 15 minutes:

    RECIPE: APPLE PIE YOGURT

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg roll skin (6-1/2-inches square, from a 16-ounce package)
  • 1/2 cup chopped apple
  • 1 container (5.3 oz) Yoplait Greek 100 Apple Pie Yogurt
  • Preparation

    1. PLACE a 6-inch cooking parchment paper square on microwavable plate. Spray with cooking spray. In small bowl, stir together sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

    2. CUT two 3-1/2-inch rounds from the egg roll skin; discard scraps. Cut each round into 1/2-inch strips. Tightly weave the strips into a lattice pattern on parchment paper.

    3. SPRAY the strips with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar.

    4. MICROWAVE uncovered on Medium (50%) 30 seconds; continue microwaving an additional 15 to 30 seconds, checking every 5 seconds to prevent the strips from burning in the center. Cool 5 minutes on parchment paper (the lattice will crisp as it cools). Meanwhile, stir the chopped apple into the yogurt cup.

    5. PLACE the pie crust on top of cup, and serve.

     

    RECIPE: APPLE CHIPS WITH CARAMEL-YOGURT DIP

    Or, try apple chips with a caramel-yogurt dip. If you don’t want to make the apple chips, it’s easy to buy them.

    Prep time is 10 minutes; total time including making the apple chips from scratch is 1 hour 10, minutes.

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1 large Granny Smith apple
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free caramel topping
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 container (6 ounces) Yoplait Original 99% Fat Free Apple Crisp Yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
  •  

    apple-chips-caramel-dip-yoplait-230

    Apple chips with a caramel yogurt dip. Photo courtesy Yoplait.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT THE oven to 275°F. Line a cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper.

    2. USE a sharp knife to cut the apple into very thin slices (about 1/8 inch). Place on the cookie sheet.

    3. BAKE for 30 minutes. Quickly turn the slices and bake for 30 to 40 minutes longer or until golden brown and crispy. Cool on a cookie sheet (the apples will continue to crisp up). Meanwhile…

    4. MICROWAVE the caramel topping in small microwavable bowl, uncovered on High for 30 seconds. Stir in the salt. Place the yogurt in a small bowl and drizzle the with salted caramel. Top with the walnuts and serve with the apple chips.
     
    Find more recipes on Yoplait.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Unsweetened Whipped Cream

    whipped-cream-230-IST-b

    Grab your hand mixer and start whipping! Photo by Robert Matic | IST.

     

    If you’re putting whipped cream on a very sweet dessert, such as pecan pie or double chocolate cake, you can halve the sugar in the whipped cream or eliminate it entirely.

    An unsweetened or just slightly sweet whipped cream provides a better counterpoint to the sweetness of the dessert. Otherwise, the sweet-on-sweet can be cloying.

    Another tip: Make your own whipped cream. Once you see how easy it is and how much better it tastes, you’ll never go back to store-bought aerosol cans.

    Just look at the ingredients comparison:

  • Reddi-Whip contains cream, nonfat milk, corn syrup, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, carrageenan (a thickening agent), mono- and diglycerides (emulsifiers, to preserve the texture of the product) and nitrous oxide as a propellant.
  • Homemade whipped cream contains cream, sugar and natural flavors (vanilla, almond extract) and no other additives. (If you use a cream whipper, then you are using nitrous oxide as a propellant.)
  •  
    The amount of heavy cream you use—one half or one pint—yields up to five times as much whipped cream.

     
    Here’s how to whip the cream in a bowl with beaters; however, if you you want an even easier way to make whipped cream that you can prepare days in advance, consider a cream whipper, also called a whipped cream maker or canister.

    RECIPE: CLASSIC WHIPPED CREAM

    You can also make flavored whipped cream, from bourbon to salted caramel; chocolate whipped cream (recipe below); and savory whipped cream for meat and fish.

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHILL the bowl, beaters and cream thoroughly before beginning. Using an electric mixer whip the cream, vanilla, and sugar in the chilled bowl until soft peaks form (3-5 minutes). Makes about 2 cups.

     

    CREAM WHIPPERS

    We’ve used a cream whipper for many years. They last forever—we still have our mother’s unit from the 1960s.

    You simply pour the cream into the canister, add the sugar and flavoring, and then aerate instantly with a nitrous oxide charger instead of whipping for 5 minutes with the beaters. All of the whipped cream is good to the last drop; it stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

    In addition to whipping cream, you can use a cream whipper for espumas (foams), gravies, sauces and soups. In fact, there’s a thermal version that keeps the contents cold for up to eight hours with no refrigeration needed, or hot for three hours—on the kitchen counter or the buffet for people to help themselves.

    The differences between a cream whipper and beater whipped cream: The cream will be more highly aerated (airier, not thick) and will emerge from the nozzle of the whipper in a thin ribbon, as opposed to a rounded mound as large as you like, from a spoon.
     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM

    You can use dark, milk or white chocolate.

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  •  

    red-pin-cream-whipper-230

    A pint whipper from iSi. Don’t buy a half pint whipper to save money. It’s a lifetime purchase, and you’re likely to want a larger batch at some point. (Note that a half liter equals a pint).

     
    Preparation

    1. MEASURE the chocolate into a medium bowl; set aside.

    2. HEAT the sugar and 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.

    3. POUR the cream mixture over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted. Let cool.

    4. ADD the remaining cup of heavy cream and beat with electric beaters (or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment) on medium speed, until thick and fluffy.

      

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