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TIP OF THE DAY: More Modern Surf & Turf Ideas … Plus Spring Peas

National Surf & Turf Day falls on February 29th. Why would anyone choose to celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

That honor should go to, say, National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, which happens to be today’s holiday (April 21st). Or how Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13th), or Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day (July 29th)?

So today, we’re featuring some novel approaches to surf and turf.

On THE NIBBLE alone, we have obvious and not-so-obvious recipes:

  • Beef Carpaccio & Anchovies
  • Broiled Seafood With Beef Jerky Garnish
  • Clam Chowder With Bacon
  • Filet Mignon With Lobster Topping
  • Ham & Biscuits With Seafood Gravy
  • Modern Surf & Turf (18 recipe ideas)
  • National Surf & Turf Day (5+ recipe ideas)
  • Raw Scallops With Steak Tartare Or Bacon
  • Salmon BUrger With Bacon
  • Seafood Cobb Salad
  • Sea Urchin & Roast Beef Rolls
  • Surf & Turf Burgers
  • Surf & Turf Sushi & More (18 recipe ideas)
  • Surf & Turf Bloody Mary
  • Surf & Turf Eggs Benedict
  • Veal Osso Bucco On Tuna Sashimi
  • Vietnamese Pancakes With Shrimp & Pork
  • Wiener Schnitzel Surf & Turf
  •  
    Not to mention, Surf & Turf Pizza (clams or shrimp with pepperoni) or skewers (any meat, any shellfish).

    Our latest dish in the collection:

    RECIPE: SQUID & SPRING PEAS

    Who’d have thought of combining squid and bacon with fresh spring peas and fresh mint? Catalan chefs, with bounties of fresh squid pulled from the Mediterranean.

    This recipe is from Executive Chef Jaime Chavez of Sirena Cucina Latina in San Diego (which alas, closed in February).

    It’s a traditional Catalan starter from the chef’s mother, and is one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

    “[Mother] taught me that the best dishes are made from simple flavors, and when we respect the products, they give us back the very best of them,” notes Chavez.

    While Chef Jaime didn’t intend to create “surf and turf,” we’re always seeking new ways to extend the original concept of filet mignon and lobster tail, christened Surf & Turf (here’s the history of Surf & Turf).

    This is an easy recipe; the most demanding parts are slicing the squid and cooking the bacon.

    The season for fresh spring peas is short, so don’t bookmark this for “later.”

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 each squid tubes and tentacles
  • 1½ cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup sliced fennel
  • 3 tablespoons crisp bacon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Champagne vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: edible flowers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the squid and garlic in olive oil in a hot pan. Cut the squid into rings.

       

    Squid Salad With Spring Peas

    Shelled Peas

    Raw Squid

    Grilled Bacon

    Fennel Bulb

    [1] Squid, bacon and spring peas unite in a vinaigrette (photo courtesy Chef Jaime Chavez). [2] Just-shelled spring peas (photo courtesy The Chef’s Kitchen). [3] Raw squid (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [4] Fennel (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
    2. ADD the peas and season with salt and pepper. Then add the vinegar and mint.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and add the celery, fennel and bacon. Garnish as desired and serve (the edible flowers add another touch of springtime).
     
     
    Here are more ways to use spring peas.

     

    Spring Peas

    Snow Peas

    Sugar Snap Peas

    The three types of green peas. [5] Spring peas (photo Hannah Kaminsky). [6] Snow peas (photo AllWomensTalk.com). [7] Sugar snap peas (photo Good Eggs).

     

    SPRING PEAS, ENGLISH PEAS OR GARDEN PEAS?

    Spring peas, English peas and garden peas are three are names for the same thing. All can be eaten raw or cooked.

    Three types of green peas:

  • Spring peas (Pisum sativum var. sativum, photo #5), also called English peas and garden peas, which must be shelled to be edible (although some people do cook the stringless varieties).
  • Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum, photo #6), called “Chinese pea pods” by some consumers, which are edible flat pods with tiny peas inside.
  • Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon, photo #7), also called sugar snap peas, plump edible pods with smaller peas inside.
  •  
    Peas (Pisum sativum) are native to the Mediterranean basin. They grew wild and were one of the earlier vegetables cultivated at the dawn of agriculture in the Neolithic Era, beginning about 12,500 years ago.

    Having said that, pea pods are botanically a fruit, since they are pods that contain seeds, and the pods developed from the ovary of a flower.

    Peas, beans and lentils are all legumes with seeds that grow in pods. It’s easy to distinguish them by their shape:

  • Dry beans are oval or kidney shaped.
  • Lentils are flat disks.
  • Peas are round.
  •  
    Legumes are members of the botanical family Fabaceae, which also includes alfalfa, carob, licorice, peanuts and the sweet pea garden plant.
     
    Peas are sweet but can get starchy soon after harvesting. The fresher, the better.

     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.

    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once the peas are shelled, the best way to store them is to freeze them. First, blanch the peas for a minute in boiling salted water. Then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
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    FOOD 101: History Of The Upside Down Cake & Cake Pans

    If you’ve never had an upside-down cake, today’s the day: April 20th is National Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

    With an upside-down cake, fruit is set on the bottom of the pan, topped with cake batter.

    When the cooking is complete, the skillet is inverted onto a plate, such that the fruit is now on top, although it was baked upside-down.

    SCION OF THE SKILLET CAKE

    This cake was originally made on the stove top in a skillet, and called skillet cake (photo #4). Today, it’s the same process, but with the benefit of cake pans and ovens.

    (Want to be authentic with a skillet and the stove top? No one will stop you! Those who want to go really authentic should try cooking it over a campfire or wood fireplace.)

    To make a skillet cake, fruit is set on the bottom and the batter poured on top. When the skillet or pan is inverted, the fruit that was once at the bottom forms a decorative topping. Any fruit can be used.

    When canned pineapple rings became available in the first half of the 20th century, Pineapple Upside Down Cake became the rage—often with maraschino cherries in the center of the pineapple rings.

    As the recipe evolved, cooks put their skillets in the oven to bake. Nordicware, creator of the bundt pan, created a special round pan with indentations for the pineapple slices (photo #6), guaranteeing a perfect presentation.

    To show how popular the cake became, they also make mini pans for individual Upside-Down Cakes.

    Check out these upside down cake recipes:

  • Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (photo #2)
  • Upside-Down Ginger-Pecan Peach Pie
  • Upside Down Irish Whiskey Cake
  •  
    Upside Down Cake is related to Tarte Tatin, an accidental upside-down pie from 1880s France.

    Also check out the different types of cakes.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CAKE PANS

    Why are cakes round?

    Generally, the round cakes we know today are descended from ancient breads, before there were baking pans of any kind.

    Yeast-risen breads and cakes were made by hand, patted into balls and baked on hearthstones, griddles, or in low, shallow all-purpose pans.

    By the 17th century, cake hoops made of metal or wood were placed on flat pans to shape cakes.

    According to food writer Elizabeth David, in the seventeenth century, tin or iron hoops (photo #4) were increasingly used and to shape cakes, and are frequently mentioned in the “cookery books” (think of the modern flan ring, but much deeper).

    The hoop was placed on an iron or tin sheet, with a layer of floured paper on the bottom (think of today’s parchment paper). The sides of the hoop were buttered to ease removal of the baked cake.

    You can find “these or similar directions offered over and over again in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, first published in 1727 (which has recipes for 40 cakes, the large ones being yeast-leavened).

    In the preface of her book, Mrs. Smith says that her recipes reflect some 30 years of experience, so it is likely that her methods date back to the previous century.

    Some recipes direct the reader to bake the cake in a paper hoop (oiled so not to burn), which was used in kitchens of the 1600s [source].

    Wooden hoops were also fairly common. Some cooks preferred them to tin, perhaps because they didn’t rust and thus were easier to store. Wood also didn’t overheat, so were less likely to burn the sides of the cake in those primitive ovens.

    Over time, baking pans in various shapes and sizes became readily available to the general public. Molded cakes in fancy shapes reached their zenith in the Victorian era (commencing with the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1831).

    Today, fancy cake molds can still be had; as well as animal molds, action figures, beehives, sports equipment and football fields, vehicles and other popular culture shapes.
     
     
    LIKE FOOD HISTORY?

    Check out the history of more than 180 foods on THE NIBBLE.

     

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake

    Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

    2 Layer Apple Upside Down Cake

    Skillet Cake

    Wood Baking Hoop

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake Pan

    [1] A Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour). [2] A Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Good Eggs). [3] A two-layer Apple-Whiskey Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker).[4] A skillet cake. Here’s the recipe for a Pineapple Upside-Down Skillet Cake from King Arthur Flour. [5] An old-fashioned baking hoop (photo courtesy Creeds Direct). [6] Nordicware’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake pan (here it is on Amazon).

     

      

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    FOOD 101: The History Of Amaretto Liqueur

    Amaretto Disaronno

    Amaretto Disaronno

    Reina Store 1900

    Old Amaretto Bottles

    [1] Disaronno, the original amaretto liqueur brand (photo courtesy ILLVA). [2] A liqueur glass with the amber liqueur (photo courtresy Angela Bax | Pinterest via Flickr. [3] Domenico Reina’s store in Saronno. [4] Bottles of Disaronno from 1900

     

    April 19th is National Amaretto Day. Earlier today, we developed a list of almost 40 ways to use amaretto.

    You may find it hard to believe that one of the top liqueurs in the world (see the list below) was not imported into the U.S. until the 1960s.

    The almond-flavored cordial quickly became a hit in the U.S., in cocktails and food preparation. By the 1980s, it was second in sales only to Kahlùa.

    In Italian, amaro means bitter. Amaretto means a little bitter.

    Why is this sweet, almond liqueur called bitter?

    Surprisingly, no almonds are used to make most brands of amaretto. Rather, the marzipan-like flavor is achieved through apricot kernel oil, burnt sugar and a variety of spices.

    Various commercial brands—but not the top two which “own” the market—are made from a base of apricot pits or peach pits (the source of the oil), almonds, or a combination.

    Most likely, when it was first made, amaretto wasn’t as sweet as it is today. Older recipes use the bitter almond (mandorla amara) local to Saronno, Italy, which give the liqueur its name.

    In Italy, almonds are grown in two basic varieties, sweet and bitter (mandorla).

    WHO INVENTED AMARETTO?

    Before the names DiSaronno or Lazzaroni ever appeared on a bottle, the amaretto legend was born.

    In the Renaissance and earlier, many families would distill their own liqueurs and digestifs.

    According to their history, here’s the scoop:

    In 1525, the artist Bernardino Luini, a former pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, was commissioned by the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie in the city of Saronno, in northern Italy near the Swiss border, in the region of Lombardy.

    He painted a fresco of the the Adoration of the Magi (photo #5) in the sanctuary, which included the Madonna of the Miracles (photo #6). The fresco can still be seen today).

    As the model for the Madonna, Luini hired a young widow, an innkeeper. As a gift, she gave him a flask full of an amber liqueur she made by steeping apricot kernels in brandy.

    Her name is lost to history, but her likeness and her amaretto recipe live on.

    Perhaps she was a member of the Reina family; for somehow, in 1600, Giovanni Reina (who had worked for the Lazzaroni amaretto cookie business) discovered the innkeeper’s old recipe. He made the liqueur, and the “secret” recipe passed from one generation to the next.

    20th Century Amaretto Di Saronno

    At the beginning of the 20th century, Domenico Reina decided to open a store in Saronno to sell food items, including the family liqueur, which he sold as Amaretto di Saronno Originale (Original Amaretto from Saronno, photo #4). The store was called Domenico Reina Coloniali (Domenico Reina’s Grocery—photo #3).

    By 1940, liqueur production had grown into a large artisanal business. In 1947 was incorporated as ILLVA SARONNO. ILLVA is an acronym for Industria, Lombarda, Liquori, Vini & Affini (Industry, Lombarda, Spirits, Wines & Allied Products).

    The product was called Amaretto di Saronno (Amaretto from Saronno), before returning to the latter part of the original name, Disaronno Originale, in 2001. It is still produced in Saronno, and sold worldwide (source).

    It should be noted that Paolo Lazzaroni & Figli S.p.A., makers of Amaretti di Saronno cookies, claims that the Lazzaroni family created amaretto, in 1851.

     

    That may be so, but their recipes are quite different. Disaronno’s is made from apricot kernel oil with “absolute alcohol, burnt sugar, and the pure essence of seventeen selected herbs and fruits” (i.e., no almonds or other nuts).

    Lazzaroni’s amaretto contains their Amaretti di Saronno almond cookies, infused in alcohol (source).

     

    CORDIAL, LIQUEUR, EAU DE VIE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Most people—including American producers and importers—use these terms interchangeably. But there are differences:

    EAU DE VIE, CORDIAL, LIQUEUR & SCHNAPS:
    THE DIFFERENCE

  • Schnaps/schnapps, a generic German word for liquor or any alcoholic beverage, is more specific in English, where it refers to clear brandies distilled from fermented fruits. The English added a second “p,” spelling the word as schnapps. True Schnaps has no sugar added, but products sold in the U.S. as schnapps may indeed be sweetened. As one expert commented, “German Schnaps is to American schnapps as German beer is to American Budweiser.”
  • Eau de vie is the French term for Schnaps. American-made brands labeled eau de vie (“water of life”) are often heavily sweetened, and have added glycerine for thickening.
  • Liqueur is an already distilled alcohol made from grain which has already been fermented, into which fruits are steeped. It is sweeter and more syrupy than a European eau de vie or schnapps.
  • Cordial, in the U.S., almost always refers to a syrupy, sweet alcoholic beverage, a synonym for liqueur. In the U.K., it refers to a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink or the syrup used to make such a drink. Rose’s Lime Cordial, a British brand, is called Rose’s Lime Juice in the U.S. so Americans don’t think it’s alcoholic.
  •  
    EAU DE VIE, “WATER OF LIFE”
     
    The distillation of alcohol may have taken place as early as 200 C.E., possibly by alchemists trying to make gold (alembic still history).

     

    Adoration Of The Magi - Luini

    Adoration Of The Magi - Luini

    [5] Adoration Of The Magi by Bernardo Luini, and [6] the detail of the Madonna.

     
    Because spirits were initially intended to be medicinal, “water of life” was a reasonable name for distilled alcoholic preparations.

    The Russian term zhiznennia voda, which was distilled down (that’s a pun) into “vodka,” also means water of life (the literal translation of vodka is “little water”).

    The Gaelic uisce beatha, pronounced ISH-ka BYA-ha, too, means “water of life.” The pronunciation evolved into the more familiar term, whiskey.

    THE TOP 10 LIQUEURS

    According to The Spirit Business, the top-selling liqueur brands in the world are:

    1. Baileys Irish Cream (whiskey flavored)
    2. Malibu (rum and coconut flavored)
    3. De Kuyper (assorted flavors)
    4. Lubelska (vodka-based liqueur)
    5. Southern Comfort (whiskey flavored)
    6. Kahlúa (coffee flavored)
    7. Amarula (amarula fruit flavored*)
    8. Disaronno Amaretto (almond flavored)
    9. Zoladkowa Gorzka (vodka-based liqueur, black cherry flavor)
    10. Cointreau (orange flavored)
    ________________

    *The African fruit from which this is made has been described as tasting like chocolate-covered strawberries. It is a favorite of elephants.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Do With Amaretto

    Amaretto Di Saronno

    Homemade Amaretto

    Amaretto Preserves

    Coffee With Amaretto

    Shrimp With Amaretto Marinade

    [1] The grandaddy of amaretto: Amaretto di Saronno (photo courtesy Illva Saronno S.p.A). [2] Homemade amaretto (here’s the recipe from Mantitlement). [3] Amaretto preserves (photo courtesy Telltale Preserve Co). [4] Pour amaretto into your coffee, or serve it as a chaser (photo courtesy Coffee Door Country). [5] Shrimp in an amaretto marinade (photo courtesy Kansas City Steaks).

     

    Today is National Amaretto Day, in honor of an almond-flavored liqueur initially made with local bitter almonds in the area of Saronno, Italy.

    Amaretto is Italian for “a little bitter,” which it may have been back then. Today, it is sweet—and often made from apricot pits, which taste like almond and are a whole lot less expensive.

    But what to do with that bottle of amaretto?

    Gone are the days when a glass of liqueur would be a sweet ending to dinner. Has anyone had an after-dinner liqueur at home since, say, the 1970s?

    Don’t let the bottle of amaretto gather dust on a closet shelf. Today’s tip is: Take that bottle down and put it to good use!

    1. Revive the custom of the after dinner drink.

    Drink your dessert instead of eating something sweet.

    You don’t need to buy delicate, stemmed liqueur glasses: Rocks glaasses, even shot glasses, will do just fine.

    We use miniature brandy snifters.

    2. Bring out the bottle with after-dinner coffee…

    …or brunch coffee…or coffee at any respectable time of day.

    We have long followed our Nana’s custom of bringing a silver tray with four liqueur bottles (amaretto, anisette, Courvoisier, crème de cacao) and small cream pitchers to the table with coffee.

    Why the little pitchers? Nana was far too elegant to pour liqueur from a bottle into a coffee cup. It was poured from the bottle into the pitcher, and then into the cup.

    Why didn’t she serve the amaretto as a chaser in her crystal liqueur glasses? Alas, it’s too late to ask.

    But anyone who enjoys a shot of flavored syrup in their cup of coffee will appreciate the even greater depth of favor from a sweet liqueur—mixed in or served separately.

    3. Make cocktails.

    You can even throw a cocktail party with a menu of amaretto cocktails: Almond Joy, Amaretto Alexander, Amaretto and Coke, Amaretto Sour, Italian Sunset and others.

    Here are “the 10 best amaretto cocktail recipes.”

    Everything old is new again.

    And for dessert: a DiSaronno Milkshake, which is just as it sounds: amaretto and vanilla ice cream, tossed into the blender.

    MORE WAYS TO USE AMARETTO

    We have almost 40 different ways to use amaretto.

    While the biggest opportunity comes in adding a tablespoon or two to sweet foods, there are also savory uses.

    Amaretto In Desserts

  • Almond cookies
  • Anything that uses almond flour
  • Applesauce
  • Any chocolate recipe, including chocolate truffles
  • Baked or sautéed apples or pears, or sautéed stone fruits
  • Cake: sprinkle directly onto angel, pound and sponge cakes, or reduce into a sauce
  • Cannoli cream
  • Cheesecake
  • Compote or stewed fruit
  • Cookie dip (make a sweet dip, or just dip the cookies in straight amaretto)
  • Crêpes
  • Dessert sauce (butterscotch, caramel, chocolate, fruit)
  • Fresh fruit and fruit salad (pineapple or peaches and amaretto are inspired pairings)
  • Frostings and fillings
  • Ice cream: churned into homemade (really delicious!), or poured over a scoop of ready made
  • Jam and preserves
  • Maraschino cherries (replace half the sugar syrup with amaretto)
  • Marinate dried fruits (as a garnish for proteins or desserts)
  • Pudding (almost any flavor)
  • Sautéed bananas
  • Tiramisu
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    Amaretto In Beverages

  • Beertails (yes, add some to beer, especially a bland one)
  • Cherry, peach or pineapple Jell-O shots
  • Cocktails
  • Cherry, cola or lemon-lime soft drinks
  • Coffee, hot or iced
  • Floats and milkshakes
  • Hot chocolate
  • Neat or on the rocks
  • Tea, hot or iced
  • Sparkling wine
  • Spritzer (club soda and amaretto)
  •  
    More Amaretto Uses

  • Almondine sauce for chicken, duck, fish, pork and vegetables
  • French toast, pancake and waffle batter
  • Peanut butter or chocolate spread (e.g. Nutella)
  • Marinades for meat and seafood (delish with grilled shrimp—here’s a recipe)
  •  
    What if you simply have too much amaretto?

    Give it away. Our Dad, who didn’t drink alcohol, had four bottles in his closet—and didn’t understand the concept of re-gifting.

    Tie a bow around the neck; and if you feel you need to buy something, add some liqueur glasses.

    Not enough amaretto?

    Make your own with this recipe.

     

    RECIPE: AMARETTO BROWNIES WITH AMARETTO FROSTING

    Thanks to Rosie Bucherati of King Arthur Flour for this yummy recipe.

    Ingredients For About 4 Dozen Small Squares

    For The Brownies

  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional garnish: 1/3 cup tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds
  •  
    For The Amaretto Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup natural or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons amaretto
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (for enhanced flavor)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

     

    Amaretto Brownies

    Amaretto Pound Cake

    Anything baked tastes good with amaretto. [1] Amaretto brownies (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] Amaretto pound cake with amaretto glaze (photo courtesy The Baker Chick).

     
    2. MELT the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until melted (or you can microwave). Add sugar, stirring until combined. Remove from the heat, and cool to lukewarm. Stir in the eggs and amaretto.

    3. ADD the flour, salt and espresso powder, beating gently until thoroughly combined. Spread the batter into the pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

    4. MAKE the frosting. Combine the butter and chocolate in bowl, stirring until smooth. Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar alternately with the milk, beating on medium speed. Stir in the amaretto and espresso powder.

    5. SPREAD the icing on the cooled brownies. Garnish with almonds. Cover and refrigerate the brownies for at least 1 hour before serving; this will help the icing set, and make cutting a lot less messy.

    6. CUT the brownies in small squares to serve. Cover any leftovers, and store at cool room temperature. If it’s warm in your house, you can wrap them airtight and store in the fridge for a day or so; or freeze for longer storage.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Animal Crackers

    National Animal Crackers Day is celebrated on April 18th.

    You’re never too adult to enjoy animal crackers..and since your palate is likely much evolved since childhood, to taste the superiority of homemade versions.

    Any adult will smile at a plate of cookie nostalgia with a cup of coffee or tea (and listen to six-year-old Shirley Temple sing “Animal Crackers In My Soup”).

    The standard-bearer, Barnum’s Animal Crackers, have far less sugar than other cookies. In fact, they’re barely sweet enough to be called a cookie.

    So why are they called crackers?

    Animal crackers originated in Britain in 1889, when P.T. Barnum toured with his circus. British manufacturers called them animal biscuits, biscuits being the British word for cookie.

    The cookies were exported to the U.S. When American manufacturers made their own versions, they changed the word biscuit to cracker instead of cookie (we opine, because consumers would expect cookies to be sweeter).

    Today, brands like Annie’s and Best Choice call their products animal cookies…and add a more sugar to the recipe.

    Here’s more history of animal crackers.

    This recipe, from King Arthur Flour, uses small (2” to 2¼”) spring-loaded plunger cutters. You can buy a set of four for $9.95: elephant, giraffe, lion and zebra. You plunge down, then pop the dough right out.

    If you don’t want to buy the cutters, use whatever animal cookie cutters you have—even large ones.
     
    RECIPE: ANIMAL COOKIES

    This recipe, from King Arthur Flour, makes sweet, buttery cookies. It uses Princess Cake & Cookie Flavor, an extract that combines vanilla and lemon and emulates the flavor profile and aroma of Barnum’s Animal Crackers.

    If you don’t want to purchase a bottle, you can substitute only vanilla extract, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, almond extract, anise extract, other flavor of choice.

    Prep time is 15 to 20 minutes; bake time is 8 to 10 minutes per sheet.

    Ingredients For About 5 Dozen Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor (or substitute)
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oat flour or finely ground rolled oats
  •  

    Homemade Animal Cookies

    Animal Cookie Cutters

    Homemade Animal Crackers

    [1] Homemade animal cookies. [2] Make your own with these little plunger cookie cutters (photos #1 and #2 courtesy King Arthur Flour). [3] Here’s a vegan recipe from Dessert With Benefits.

     
    Preparation

    1. BEAT together the butter, sugar, honey, salt, baking soda, and flavor until well combined. Add the flour and oat flour, mixing to combine.

    2. DIVIDE the dough in half, flattening each half slightly to make a disk; then wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease several baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

    4. TAKE one piece of dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough 1/4″ thick.

    5. DIP the animal cookie cutters in flour (each time you cut), then use them to cut the dough. Using the cutters may take a little practice, not to mention patience making so many small cookies. Press the cutter down by the outside edges first, then use the plunger to emboss before picking up; and push the plunger again to release the cookie over the baking sheet.

    6. TRANSFER the cookies to the prepared baking sheets and freeze for 15 minutes. This help the cookies retain their shape and imprint.

    7. BAKE the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges (do not let the cookies brown). Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool on the baking sheet for several minutes, or until set. Then transfer the cookies on parchment to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
     
     
    HOW ABOUT 3-D ANIMAL CRACKERS

    Check ‘em out!

      

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