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TIP OF THE DAY: Cut The Calories In Thai Iced Tea & Thai Iced Coffee

Thai Iced Tea

Thai Iced Coffee
The milky swirl of Thai iced tea or coffee is a visual treat (photo #1 courtesy Wife Mama Foodie, photo #2 courtesy Hella Good).

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

[3] Want to make your own sweetened condensed milk? Here’s the recipe, from Gluten Free On A Shoestring.

 

June is National Tea Month, time for an article on a type of iced tea not yet as broadly served in the U.S. as we think it should be. The easy recipe follows.

For those who already know and love Thai iced tea or coffee but not the overload of sugar, we have a solution below. But first, some history about the drinks.

WHAT IS THAI ICED TEA?

Thai iced tea, known as cha-yen in Thailand (cha is the word for tea), is served in Thailand, Vietnam, elsewhere around the Pacific Rim and in Thai restaurants around the world. It is made from strong-brewed black tea—typically Ceylon tea—and sweetened condensed milk, which adds creaminess, body and mouthfeel.

For visual appeal, the deep amber tea and white sweetened condensed milk (and often, evaporated milk) are swirled together or layered. The drink can be topped off evaporated milk, coconut milk, half and half or whole milk. It is sweetened with lots of sugar (local to the the South Pacific), and often served over crushed ice.

The brewed tea can be enhanced with spices, such as cardamom, clove, nutmeg, orange blossom water, star anise and tamarind. If you like chai tea with milk and sweetener, you are likely to enjoy Thai iced tea.

The countries where it’s most popular are known for hot, steamy summers. Thai iced tea is a welcome refreshment—and a complement to spicy food. If your neck of the woods is as hot and steamy as ours is, it’s time to try the recipe.

THE HISTORY OF THAI ICED TEA

In hot countries before refrigeration, where fresh milk was hard to come by, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk were used in coffee, desserts and other recipes requiring milk (including Key lime pie).

The precise birth date of what is now known today as Thai tea is uncertain. Americans and Europeans living in Asia brought evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk—first available in 1856—for their tea and coffee [source].

One source suggests that “It was probably introduced during the time of Field Marshall Pibul Songkram [1938 to 1944] who seemed to favour Western habits as being civilized” [source]—hence the ice and milk in tea, previously only a hot drink.

Tea is a relatively new crop in Thailand, brought in by the Chinese in the 1880s to supplant opium as a cash crop to [hopefully] curb drug trafficking. The tea became a street food staple [source]. The British and other foreigners in Thailand had their own supply of tea.

Why is the tea often very orange in color? After the tea was brewed for the master, the domestic workers took used leaves that would have been discarded, to brew tea for themselves. The flavor and color of this second infusion were faded, so orange color and flavoring were added to make a more appealing brew.

The tradition of orange color became a tradition of Thai brewed tea [source]. (See photo #4, below.)

Thai iced coffee followed much later, in the postwar 20th century.

 
WHO INVENTED EVAPORATED MILK & SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK?

Both products were invented by Gail Borden, who subsequently formed the dairy company that bears his name.

In 1852, Borden was traveling transatlantic when the cows aboard ship became too seasick to provide milk (there was no refrigeration in those days to keep milk fresh). He began to experiment, and two years later produced a canned milk that did not go sour at room temperature for three days after the can was opened.

Borden received a patent for sweetened condensed milk in 1856 and began commercial production the following year. Unsweetened condensed milk, now called evaporated milk, took more time to perfect since it didn’t have the sugar to inhibit bacteria growth. It was finally canned successfully in 1885.

In the days before refrigeration, both evaporated and sweetened condensed milk were used more than fresh milk in households, because they were less likely to spoil and harbor harmful bacteria.
 
 
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EVAPORATED MILK AND SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK

The quickest explanation is in the names: sweetened condensed milk has added sugar and evaporated milk doesn’t. It is also much thicker: Evaporated milk pours like regular milk, but sweetened condensed milk pours like molasses. They are not interchangeable in recipes, but both can be used in coffee.

  • Evaporated milk is fresh cow’s milk from which about 60% percent of the water has been removed by evaporation. It’s then homogenized, fortified with vitamins and stabilizers, canned and sterilized. The heat from the sterilization gives the milk a bit of a caramelized flavor, and makes the color slightly darker than fresh milk. Evaporated milk was originally called unsweetened condensed milk, although that term is no longer used.
  • Sweetened condensed milk also has about 60% percent of the water removed, then sugar is added as well as vitamin A. Condensed milk contains 40% to 45% sugar, but it means that no (or less) added sugar is required in the recipe. Condensed milk requires no sterilization, since sugar is a natural inhibitor of bacteria growth. It is darker and more yellow in color than evaporated milk.
  •  

    THAI ICED TEA OR ICED COFFEE RECIPE

    Substitute strong-brewed coffee for the tea, with spices as desired (here’s the recipe for Thai Iced Coffee).

    You can chill the drink in the fridge, for enjoyment without the dilution of ice cubes.

    Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup black tea leaves (approximately 3 ounces)
  • Optional spices: cardamom, ground tamarind, nutmeg, star anise or others (cinnamon works for us), to taste
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent noncaloric sweetener)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk to top (you can substitute coconut milk, half and half or whole milk)
  • Crushed ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STEEP the tea leaves (and any optional spices) in boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain out the tea leaves. Using an infuser (tea ball) makes this step easier.

    2. STIR in sugar while the tea is still hot, until dissolved; then stir in condensed milk.

    3. COOL to room temperature or ideally, chill in the fridge.

    4. ADD ice to tall iced tea glasses and pour in tea mixture until glasses are roughly 3/4 full. Slowly top off glasses with evaporated milk.
     
    VARIATIONS

    If you find yourself in the Pacific Rim, you can have what Americans think of as iced tea.
     

  • Dark Thai iced tea (cha dam yen) is simple iced tea without the milk, sweetened with sugar.
  • Lime Thai tea (cha manao) is dark Thai iced tea flavored with lime. Mint may also be added.
  • Boba Thai iced tea, a modern fusion, adding the black tapioca balls used for Chinese bubble tea.
  •  

    Thai Iced Tea

    Thai Iced Tea Pops Recipe

    [4] Thai iced tea and [5] iced tea pops with added boba (tapioca balls). The orange color is a Thai tradition. Here are both recipes from Pineapple and Coconut.

     
    For Low Sugar Thai Iced Tea

    If you’re looking for unsweetened iced tea in the Pacific Rim, you may be out of luck. It’s the birthplace of sugar.

    But use the low-calorie or low-glycemic sweetener of your choice (Splenda, agave), and use evaporated milk instead of sweetened condensed milk.

    You’ve created a low-calorie Thai iced tea.
     
     
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF SUGAR

    Sugar is native to Southeast Asia. Three species seeming to have originated in two locations: Saccharum barberi in India and Saccharum edule and Saccharum officinarum in New Guinea.

    Originally, people chewed on the raw sugar cane stalks to enjoy the sweetness. Refined sugar appears around 500 B.C.E., when residents of what is now India began to make sugar syrup from the cane juice. They cooled it to make crystals that were easier to store and transport. These crystals were called khanda, which is the source of the word candy.

    Indian sailors carried sugar along various trade routes. In 326 B.C.E., Alexander the Great and his troops saw farmers on the Indian subcontinent growing sugar cane and making the crystals, which were called sharkara, pronounced as saccharum.

    The Macedonian soldiers carried “honey bearing reeds” home with them. But sugar cane remained a little known crop to most Europeans for the next thousand years, a rare and costly product that made sugar traders wealthy.

    In the 12th century, Crusaders brought sugar back to Europe from the Holy Land, where they encountered caravans carrying the “sweet salt.” Venice began to produce sugar in Lebanon to supply Europe, where honey had been the only available sweetener (beet sugar was not isolated until 1747). By the 15th century, Venice was the chief sugar refining and distribution center in Europe.
     
    HOW MANY TYPES OF SUGAR HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check out the different types of sugar in our Sugar Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Salmagundi On A Platter

    Grilled Chicken Salad Platter
    [1] Salmagundi #1: a “hodgepodge” of dinner salad ingredients.

    Marinated Red Onions
    [2] Marinated red onions. These are so tasty, you may want to quadruple the recipe.

    Yogurt Salad Dressing
    [3] Making the dressing.

    Icelandic Provisions Skyr
    [4] The base of the dressing.

    Steak Salad
    [5] Salmagundi #2: steak salad.

    Nicoise Salad

    [6] Salmagundi #3: Lobster Niçoise salad. Photo #4 courtesy Icelandic Provisions; all other photos courtesy No Crumbs Left).

     

    A little salad history: Since man first gathered wild greens, before the invention of fire*, mankind’s hominim ancestors ate what we call salad greens.

    Fast forward to ancient Greece and Rome: Salads—defined as mixed greens with dressing—were a common dish on the table.

    The Romans had many salad varieties, quite a few of which differed little from present-day ones: a selection of raw vegetables with a dressing of some sort.

    That dressing was oil, vinegar, and often brine. The brine actually gives salad its name:

    The key ingredient of salad, as opposed to raw vegetables (crudités), is the dressing. Our name for the dish derived from Vulgar Latin herba salata, literally, salted herb.

    Dinner salads, as they are called today—a salad with proteins (cheese, chicken, eggs, fish, steak) as the entrée—were popular during the Renaissance, and continued to be refined.

    By the early 17th century in England, composed salads (not tossed but laid out in a pleasing way) comprised cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices [source].

    They were called salmagundi, from the French word salmagondis, meaning a hodgepodge of widely disparate items. In English, the word came to mean a mixture or assortment. Here’s more on salmagundi.

    MAKE YOUR OWN SALMAGUNDI

    When we received the following recipe from Icelandic Provisions Skyr, developed by No Crumbs Left, we looked at it and thought: dinner salad ingredients look so nice served family-style on a platter. Salmagundi, anyone?

    Thus today’s tip: Get out your platters and serve family style when appropriate—and not just salads. Food looks so much more festive on a platter than passing around bowls of sides, or serving everything pre-plated (known as Russian-style serving). With a platter, people can take exactly what they want.

    RECIPE: SALMAGUNDI PLATTER

    Since this is salmagundi, you can use whatever ingredients you like. The recipe is just one of endless combinations: Any “hodgepodge” works.

    Pick vegetables and fruits as they come into season, vary the dressings, take inspiration from global cuisines. You’ll eat healthfully and never be bored.

    The ingredients and instructions that follow start with the final assemblt. Recipes for the components should be made before cooking the chicken. (We saved time with pre-cooked, boneless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s—well seasoned, ready to slice, and our favorite time-saver).

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1/4-1/2 cup marinated red onions (recipe below)
  • 2 roasted chicken breasts, see recipe below
  • Potato crisps (recipe below)
  • 5 ounces baby romaine lettuce, or your favorite greens
  • 1 cup parsley (we used half parsley, half basil)
  • 5 radishes, thinly sliced (the photo shows watermelon radishes)
  • 6 pepperoncini
  • 12 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 bunch green grapes
  • 2 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Sliced fruits and vegetables
  • Skyr dressing (recipe below)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ASSEMBLE the salad, arranging the greens and herb(s) on a platter. Add the sliced vegetables and fruits. Add the marinated onions (don’t worry if the marinade comes along with them) and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve the dressing on the side, or drizzle it over the platter.

    RECIPE: TANGY SKYR DRESSING

    Skyr (pronounced skeer) is similar to yogurt, but has a slightly different recipe and more protein. Here’s more about skyr.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain skyr
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons water to thin, if needed
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients except the mint in a bowl; whisk to combine.

    2, ADD the the mint and stir. For a thinner consistency, add 1-2 tablespoons of water.

     
    RECIPE: MARINATED RED ONIONS

    Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Thinly slice the red onion. Place the slices in a container and top with the oil and vinegar. Add the dried oregano. Cover and let sit at room temperature to marinate for at least an hour.
     
    RECIPE: ROASTED CHICKEN BREASTS

    Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Rub every crevice generously with olive oil, then sprinkle with plenty of kosher salt and black pepper. Bake for about 35 minutes, then brush the top of the chicken with the juices. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to brown the tops. Remove from the oven. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice.
     
    RECIPE: POTATO CRISPS

    Ingredients

  • 2 russet potatoes or 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch circles and place in a bowl with the oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Coat each potato slice evenly.

    2. PLACE the slices evenly on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, remove, flip, and return to the oven for 15 more minutes. Repeat this step until the edges are brown and crisp and the inside of the potato is soft.

    ________________

    *The oldest unequivocal evidence of man-made fire, dated to 300,000 to 400,000 years ago, was found at Qesem Cave in Israel. It was used at different times by both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. However, archaeologists have discovered what appear to be traces of campfires that are 1 million years old, with charred animal bones and ashed plant remains. These fires were found in South Africa’s Wonderwerk Cave, a site of early hominin, and later human (Homo sapiens) habitation dating back two million years [source].

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: When Life Gives You Limes, Make Limeade

    Summer is lemonade season. But what about limeade, it’s oft-ignored sister?

    You can easily make a quart of limeade with a can of frozen concentrate. Limeade is a refreshing base for a cocktail. Fill a rocks or highball glass with limeade and ice; then add gin, tequila or vodka to taste.

    While frozen concentrate is slightly easier, this limeade recipe can be made in 15 minutes. Give it a try: Friends and family will find it more special, since its so much more rarely served than lemonade.

    RECIPE: LIMEADE

    We adapted this recipe from one by Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes. Prep time is just 15 minutes, plus chilling (or if you can’t wait, add ice cubes).

    As with any cold drink, it’s easier to make simple syrup rather than trying to get straight sugar to completely dissolve. It takes only as much time as the water to boil. If for whatever reason you don’t want to make simple syrup, superfine sugar is a second choice.

    For a more exciting lime flavor, the simple syrup is infused with lime zest. Grate extra lime zest for a glass rimmer.

    The proportion of sugar is a guideline. You can use less if you like your drink less sweet. Also, limes can have different levels* of tartness. If you want to hedge your bets, use only 3/4 of the simple syrup, taste the finished limeade, and decide if you want to add the rest.

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

  • 1 tablespoon grated zest (from 1 lime)
  • 1 cup lime juice (from about 4-6 Persian/Tahitian limes)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the simple syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, one cup of water and the lime zest, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve any remaining sugar granules, remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool.
    The amount of sugar is a guideline, it depends on how sweet you like your limeade and how tart your particular limes are.

    2. STRAIN out the lime zest: Place a strainer over a bowl or serving pitcher and pour the sugar syrup through it, straining out the zest.

    3. ADD the lime juice and 2 cups of water and taste. If it’s too sweet, add a bit more lime juice. Add several sprigs of fresh mint.

    4. CHILL or serve immediately over ice.

    Variations

  • Berry lemonade: Mix in berry purée (recipe). The limeade in photo #3 is deep purple from a cup of blueberries. Raspberry limeade is also terrific.
  • Cucumber lemonade: Peel and dice 1 large cucumber and purée in a blender with the simple syrup and lime juice [photo #4]. Garnish with a cucumber wheel. Add some gin or vodka!
  • Fizzy lemonade: Substitute sparkling water for one or both cups of the tap water.
  • Glass rim: Mix equal amounts of zest and coarse sugar in a shallow bowl. Dip the rims of the glasses 1/4 inch into a bowl of water, then twist in the zest-sugar blend [photo #2].
  • More intense flavor: Muddle mint leaves or cucumber slices in the pitcher for more mint/cucumber flavor.
  • Patriotic lemonade: For Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day festivities, set out three pitchers: raspberry lemonade (red), plain lemonade (white) and blackberry lemonade (blue).
  • ________________

    *Limes have a slightly higher acid content: On average, it’s about 6% for limes and 4.5% for lemons. Lemons have more fructose (fruit sugar): 2% for lemons, and between 0.5% and 0.75% for limes. Sugar has a suppressive effect on the perception of sourness, so lemon juice will appear to taste a bit less sour than lime juice. The composition of acids in the two also differ. The acid in lemon juice is almost entirely citric acid, which also makes up most of the acid in limes. However, limes include about 10% each of succinic acid and malic acid which have an effect on their flavor. Source: Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu.

     

    Limeade Recipe
    [1] Mint is a delicious complement to limeade (photo Elise Bauer | Simply Recipes).

    Limemade Lime Zest Rim
    [2] Make a lime zest and sugar rim (photo courtesy Saint Marc Pub-Cafe | Huntington Beach, CA.

    Blueberry Limeade
    [3] Blueberry limeade, Here’s the recipe from Ciao Florentina.

    Cucumber Lemonade

    [4] Cucumber limeade: Just add sliced cucumbers. Here’s a recipe from Saveur.

     
    THE HISTORY OF LIMES

    It is believed that lemons derived from limes. In fact, if limes are left on the tree to fully ripen, they turn yellow and are indistinguishable from lemons. They’re harvested when green to prevent confusion at the market.

  • Persian lime. The principal supermarket lime, the Persian/Tahitian lime, originated somewhere in the Pacific Rim but more than that is unknown. It is believed to be a hybrid of the Key/Mexican/Bearss lime and citron, a variety of lemon. It may or may not have been hybridized in Persia; the Key/Mexican lime appears to have arrived in the Middle East and Africa, via Arab traders, by 1000 C.E. Crusaders brought it to Western Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries; however, mosaics of lemon and lime trees have been found in remains of Roman villas. The lime was first grown in large quantities in Persia (Iran) and Babylonia (Iraq).
  • Key lime. The Key lime/Mexican lime lime (small, round, yellow flesh) arose in South East Asia, in the Indo-Malayan region.
  • The names lemon and lime are derived from the same Arabic word, limun.
  •  
    The first known mention of limes in Western literature is Sir Thomas Herbert’s Travels, published in 1677. He speaks of finding “oranges, lemons, and limes” on the island of Mohelia off Mozambique.

    Here’s a full lime history, the difference between Persian/Tahitian and Key/Mexican limes, and a photo glossary of the different types of limes the world over.

    Our favorite example: The blood lime of Australia is red inside and out!

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Grow Your Own Tea

    If you live in hardiness zones 8-10—the southern United States—and have a spot with full sun, you can grow your own tea with plants from Burpee.

    One individual commenting on the Burpee website had success in Zone 6.

    Here’s the USDA map of hardiness zones.

    Tea, Camellia sinensis, is a perennial plant. The same plant yields black, green and white tea. The difference is in the processing; basically, how much heat is applied to dry the leaves.

    At $16.95 per plant, it’s a fun opportunity to grow what you drink; and if you have younger children, a nifty project.

    You harvest and dry the tea leaves in a wok or pan.

    Buy the plants now and harvest them in the fall. Send some as gifts to tea-loving friends with green thumbs. Here’s where to order.

    Different states have particular shipping restrictions. For example, you can’t ship lemongrass plants to California or Colorado, or potato plants to Florida or Montana.

    Check here to see if tea plants can be shipped to your state.
     
     
    PREFER HERBAL TEA?

    Herbs can be grown anywhere! Read our article on growing herbal tea at home.
     
     
    TEA TIME: TIME TO LEARN MORE ABOUT TEA

    A Year Of Tea Party Ideas

    Black Vs. Green Vs. White Tea

    Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Tea

    Have An Iced Tea Party

    The History Of Tea

    Pairing Tea With Food

    Tea Glossary: All The Tea Terms You Need To Know

     

    Grow Your Own Tea
    Grow it.

    Cup Of Tea
    Drink it.

    Cup Of Green Tea

    Enjoy it! (Photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Chateau Rouge Fine Foods, photo #3 courtesy Republic Of Tea._

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry Shortcake – Tiramisu Fusion

    Srawberry Shortcake
    [1] Today’s recipe: an Italian spin on strawberry shortcake (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

    Strawberries In Colander
    [2] You can buy strawberries year-round, but summer strawberries are (no surprise) the sweetest (photo courtesy California Strawberries).

    Biscuit Strawberry Shortcake
    A traditional strawberry shortcake combines strawberry, whipped cream and biscuits. It might have been a way to use leftover biscuits (photo courtesy Driscoll’s Berries).

    Strawberry Shortcake With Ice Cream
    [4] Trade the whipped cream for ice cream, on a biscuit or in a layer cake (photo courtesy Nestlé).

    Blueberry Tart
    [5] This is what a tart looks like: It stands free of the tart pan (photo courtesy Chilean Blueberry Committee).

    Blueberry Pie
    [6] This is what a pie looks like: It needs to remain in the pie plate (photo courtesy Taste Of Home).

    Tart Slice

    [7] A tart has a solid filling (photo courtesy Butter Flour Sugar).

     

    June 14th is National Strawberry Shortcake Day, and we have a recipe below that builds on the concept.

    But first, a request that you not name your recipes with the name of a different recipe. We mean no disrespect to anyone involved with naming a recipe: It’s a teaching moment for everyone.

    In fact, yesterday we received a recipe for a banana cream pie, that is clearly a tart. Here are all the differences; the first is that the crusts and fillings are different.

  • A tart crust is buttery, firm and stands up on its own. The filling solidifies, like a custard.
  • A pie crust is soft and pliable, made with shortening. It needs the support of the pie plate. The center is usually runny, especially in the case of fruit pies. (Others, like pecan pie, solidify.
  •  
    See photos #5, #6 and #7.

    Now onto today’s misnomer. The recipe below (in photo #1) is called a Berry Tiramisu Cake by its creator, a professional baker. The name follows the downward slope of appending the name of a well-known, popular food to something new.

    Hence, for example, there are hundreds of cocktail recipes called a [add a modifier, e.g. cherry] Margarita or [chocolate] Martini, because the name “sells.” But it dowesn’t track: The ingredients do not build on the essential ingredients of the recipe they claim to represent.
     
    WHAT’S THE BEEF?

    You can build on a basic recipe—for example, make a flavored Martini. But if it doesn’t have vermouth plus gin or vodka in addition to the fruit, chocolate, coffee or whatever, it isn’t a Martini. Simply adding vodka (or tequila) to a recipe does not a Martini (or Margarita) make.

    See our rant on this topic.
     
    ON TO DESSERT!

    Following the beef above, we now comment on the concept of “Berry Tiramisu.”

    Tiramisu is a recipe that comprises sponge cake or ladyfingers (sponge fingers), soaked in espresso liqueur or a coffee syrup (for a non-alcoholic version), and layered with a mascarpone cheese and custard mixture. It is garnished with a dusting of cocoa powder or shaved chocolate.

    To build on it and still call it tiramisu:

  • You can switch the mascarpone and custard for ice cream and have a tiramisu sundae.
  • You can combine espresso liqueur, vanilla or Irish cream liqueur (for the mascarpone) and vodka and have a tiramisu cocktail, garnished with chocolate shavings and perhaps, a ladyfinger on the side.
  • You can use a different cake instead of the ladyfingers; for example, a pound cake or pandoro tiramisu.
  • You can substitute the custard for heavy cream, for a frozen tiramisu.
  • You can add a layer of fruit, for a cherry tiramisu.
  •  
    But you can’t get rid of the coffee.

    Coffee is an indispensable ingredient in tiramisu: The name means “pick me up,” referring to the caffeine in coffee.
     
    WHY DOES IT MATTER?

    Why does accuracy in anything matter?

    End of teachable moment.

    RECIPE: ITALIAN-STYLE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

    This recipe, developed by MaryJane Robbins of King Arthur Flour, is called Berry Tiramisu by its creator. You can watch the step-by-step production here.

    We have renamed it Italian-Style Strawberry Shortcake. Here’s the history of shortcake; you’ll see why shortcake is an apt description.

    As for “Italian-style,” the shortcake uses mascarpone instead of whipped cream, and soaks the sponge layers in syrup.

    Whatever you wish to call it, prep time is 35 to 45 minutes; bake time is 20 to 23 minutes.

    The syrup and cream can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and held in the refrigerator until the cake is ready to assemble.
     
    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Cake

    For The Sponge Cake

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Citrus Soaking Syrup

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (grated peel of 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  •  
    For The Citrus Cream Filling

  • 2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel (from 1 orange)
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 quarts fresh berries of your choice (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and line with parchment two 9″ square* pans. Combine the eggs, sugar and almond extract in a mixing bowl. Beat on high speed until the eggs thicken and lighten in color, about 5 minutes.

     
    2. WHISK together in a separate small bowl the flour, baking powder and salt. Sprinkle 1/3 of the dry mixture over the beaten egg and gently stir it in. Repeat twice more, using 1/3 of the flour mixture each time. The batter will begin to look spongy and fluffy.

    3. POUR the batter into the prepared pans. Bake the cake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on racks to cool in the pan completely.

    4. MAKE the syrup: Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for one minute, or until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, strain, and set aside to cool.

    5. MAKE the filling: In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone and orange zest. Gradually stir in the heavy cream until the mixture is smooth and thick. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar.

    6. ASSEMBLE the cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter and brush it with syrup. Allow the syrup to soak in, then apply more. You’ll use about half of the syrup for the first layer.

    7. SPREAD half of the sliced berries over the moist cake. Dollop on half of the cream filling, and spread in an even layer. Top with the second layer of cake, repeating the soaking process. Spread with the remaining cream filling, then top with the last of the berries. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour (or up to overnight) before serving.

    Store any leftover cake in the fridge for up to 2 days. Freezing is not recommended.

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    *If you don’t have two 9″ square pans, you can bake in two 9″ round pans. The layers will be slightly thicker, and will take a few extra minutes to bake.

    MORE SHORTCAKE RECIPES

  • Cupcake Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
  • Easy Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
  • Matzoh Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
  • Red, White & Blue Shortcake Recipe
  • Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Cake Recipe
  • Triple Berry Shortcake Recipe
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