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Archive for Food Facts – Food History

TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Pound Cake Day

Vanilla Pound Cake

Lemon Pound  Cake

Top: Vanilla pound cake with a lemon glaze from Spice Islands. Bottom: Cut view of a similar recipe from Baked NYC.

 

A pound cake is a loaf cake, although some people make them in Bundt pans.

The original pound cake, buttery and moist, recipe was made with one pound each of butter, flour, sugar and eggs (that’s about eight eggs), plus flavoring—hence the name.

Vanilla or lemon are the classic pound cake flavors, but quite a few variations have evolved through the years—adding buttermilk, cream cheese or sour cream to the batter, as well as every flavoring under the sun (amaretto, Black Forest, blood orange, cappuccino, caramel turtle, chocolate/white chocolate, chocolate chip, coconut-macadamia, Grand Marnier, Key lime, peanut butter, pecan, and so on). Others add fruit or a fruit swirl.

Some pound cake recipes on THE NIBBLE:

  • Grilled Pound Cake
  • Meyer Lemon & Ginger Pound Cake
  • Peanut Butter Pound Cake
  • Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake Bundt
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    POUND CAKE HISTORY

    The original recipe, developed in England in the 1700s, made a very large and dense cake. By the mid-1800s, the ingredient proportions had been adjusted to make a smaller, lighter cake.

    The British pound cake is actually a fruit cake containing currants, raisins, sultanas (golden raisins) and glacé cherries. Pound cakes were the traditional wedding cakes.

    Since the ingredients are so simple, it’s hard to make a bad pound cake—just use the freshest eggs and butter you can find, real vanilla extract, and don’t over-bake.

     
    Pound cakes are so easy to make—why not whip one up to celebrate National Pound Cake Day?

    While a plain piece of pound cake is a joy, some added whipped cream, berries, vanilla ice cream or the full monte—a pound cake hot fudge sundae—makes the occasion even more joyous.

     
      

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Sticky Bun Day

    Sticky Buns

    Be precise: Sticky buns have a sticky top, iced cinnamon rolls aren’t sticky buns. Photo courtesy Wolferman’s.

     

    Some people would like to celebrate National Sticky Bun Day, February 21st, every day.

    Sticky buns, a breakfast pastry for the sweet-toothed, are also known as a honey buns, and are closely related to cinnamon buns, cinnamon rolls and cinnamon swirls.

    Many people use the terms interchangeably, but a sticky bun needs to have the sticky topping (caramel, honey, maple syrup, sugar syrup) and not all cinnamon rolls do.

    The buns are baked together in a pan and then cut apart.

  • In the original recipes, the honey and pecan topping is baked like an upside-down cake, with the sticky topping on the bottom of the pan and the dough placed on top of it.
  • Some recipes add raisins to the dough.
  • The pan is inverted after baking and the sticky bottom becomes the top. Today, many sticky buns are baked with the topping on top of the dough.
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    Sticky buns seem to be of Germanic origin, and came to the U.S. with German immigrants in the 1800s. You can find sticky buns called “schnecken” (especially in Pennsylvania Dutch country).
     
    However, in German-Jewish cooking, schnecken are crescent-rolled rugalach-type pastries. “Schnecken” means “snail” in German, and the crescent shapes are certainly snail-like.

    You can read about it, and agree to disagree, here.

    We’re not getting into any arguments today—we’re just heading over to our favorite local bakery to pick some up some freshly-baked sticky buns.

    Those who do not live near an artisan bakery can head to the nearest Cinnabon for an iced cinnamon roll.

    It’s not a sticky bun, but it will suffice!

     
      

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    TIDBITS: The Difference Between Kettle Chips And Conventional Potato Chips

    What exactly are “kettle chips,” such as those made by Boulder Canyon, our Top Pick Of The Week (see the previous post)?

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    Potato chips, invented in 1853 in Saratoga, New York, were originally called Saratoga chips (the history of potato chips).

    By the 1920s, every town in the U.S. had its own chip maker, or “potato chipper.” The chip maker sliced up potatoes and fried them one batch at a time in a small kettle.

    The chips got soggy quickly in the days before vacuum packaging (or even airtight bags), and needed to be purchased fresh (see the history for the invention of the potato chip bag).

    The continuous fryer was invented in 1929, creating tremendous economies of scale and driving most of the small, kettle cookers out of business.

    By the 1940s, automation had evolved to change much of America’s artisan food production into mass production, including potato chips.

    Potato farmers bred the natural sugars out of potatoes to accommodate mass production, because the natural, variable sugar content required individualized attention to know when the batch was done. That can’t happen in mass production.

    The result: Brands like Lay’s and Wise, which sell many millions of bags a year, are certainly popular; but their flavor is only a shadow of the former gustatory glory of the potato chip, made in small batches with more flavorful potatoes.

    Hence, the resurgence of the artisan chip.

    Today’s “kettle chips” are a return to the thicker, small-batch chips made with top ingredients (you can use some of the best brands to construct fancy hors d’oeuvres, as shown in photo #2).

    While today’s “kettles” are fryers much larger than the original stovetop kettle, they are still small in comparison to mass-produced chips.

    Don’t be afraid to spend more: With many brands, it really is a superior potato.

  • Read more about potato chips in the Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
  • Fry your own kettle chips with this recipe.
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    Artisan Potato Chips

    Potato Chip Garnish

    The right chip is not just a good snacker: It creates sexy hors d’oeuvres. [1] Saratoga Chips, the original branded chip (photo The Nibble). [2] A house-made waffle chip as an hors d’oeuvre garnish (photo courtesy Kettle Brand chips.

     

      

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    TIDBIT: Chocolatier Vs. Confectioner

    What’s the difference between “chocolates” and “confections?” Is a “chocolatier” or chocolate shop the same as a “confectionary?”

    A confectionery (also spelled confectionary) is a confectioner’s shop—more popularly called a candy store or sweet shop in modern times.

    A chocolatier (a French word, pronounced cho-co-la-tee-YAY) is both the chocolate shop and the person who makes the chocolate.

    While both of these words are commonly used in American chocolate circles, the French words for confectioner, confiseur, and candy shop, confiserie, are not.

    So what’s a confection?

    The term “confection” refers to all candies and sweets, including candy bars, candied nuts, chocolate, fudge, hard candies, licorice, lollipops, marshmallows, marzipan, nougat, mints, toffee and other products, from cotton candy and candy canes to gum drops and gummi bears.

    The term applies to snack items, so any baked goods and ice cream sold at a confectionery are included in the term—even though they also repose in other categories as well.

     

    Strawberry Pistachio Nougat

    A rose by any other name…could be an exquisite confection! Here, it’s rose-pistachio nougat from A Cozy Kitchen.

     
    So…if chocolate is also a confection, what’s the difference between a chocolate shop and a confectioner’s shop?

  • A chocolatier is a chocolate specialist, and generally makes some or all of the chocolates sold on the premises.
  • While a chocolatier often makes marshmallows, marzipan, toffee and other confections, most of what is sold is chocolate-based or chocolate-coated.
  • In a confectionary, you’ll find a balance of sweets, of which only a portion is chocolates.
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    Discover more about chocolate in the Chocolate Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. If you want to find the confectionery, you’ll have to look in the Candy Section and under Cookies, Cakes & Pastries.

      

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Fettuccine Alfredo Day

    Fettuccine Alfredo is rich comfort food, made from fettuccine, ribbon-shape strands of pasta (fettucce means “small ribbons” in Italian).

    Wider than the other popular flat shape, linguine, fettuccine provide a better surface for catching rich and creamy sauces. (Fettuccine is similar to tagliatelle, the flat pasta from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, but is narrower. See our Pasta Glossary for more shapes.)

    To make Fettuccine Alfredo, the pasta is tossed with cream, butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; the cheese melts when tossed with the hot pasta, cream and butter, creating a sauce (at home, the ingredients are simply stirred on the stovetop. In a restaurant, tossing at tableside is part of the experience.

    The original recipe was created in 1914 by Alfredo Di Lelio, owner of Alfredo alla Scrofa, a restaurant in Rome. It is simply a variation of traditional Italian recipes, fettuccine al burro (fettuccine with butter) and fettuccini al burro e panna (with butter and cream)—both served, of course, with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    Alfredo tweaked the traditional recipe slightly.

    When butter is added both before and after fettuccine is put in the serving bowl for tossing, it is known as doppio burro, double butter.

    Di Lelio doubled the amount of butter in the bowl before the fettuccine was added, creating a triplo burro, triple butter, recipe: more butter made more of a sauce.

    Why? The chef created the dish to entice his pregnant wife, who had lost her appetite. He served it with egg fettuccine, hoping that the “nutritious dish” would do the trick.

    Today, we know that a typical serving of the “nutritious dish” has 455 calories, 38g of fat, 291mg of sodium and 143g of cholesterol. But for people who love rich, creamy food, it hits the spot!

    By the way, in Italy, fettuccine Alfredo and Alfredo sauce are not common terms. Instead, orders fettuccine al burro e panna—triplo burro.

     

    Fettuccine Alfredo

    Fettuccine Alfredo

    [1] The original Fettuccine Alfredo was a triple butter and cream sauce (photo courtesy Cooking Classy). [2] In the U.S., green peas were added to give some color to the dish (photo courtesy Three Bell Peppers).

     
    For something different, try these recipes:

  • Fettuccine Alfredo with Goat’s Milk and Goat Cheese—if you like goat cheese, you’ll like this variation.
  • Blue Cheese Alfredo (a recipe for traditional Alfredo sauce is included).
  • Dessert Fettuccine Alfredo, with crème anglaise instead of cheese sauce.
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