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TIP OF THE DAY: Sauvignon Blanc Styles & Pairings

April 24th is National Sauvignon Blanc Day, a grape that grows easily around the world and makes wines that are popular wherever they are made.

Sauvignon Blanc (SAW-vin-yawn BLON) is an AOC-classified* French wine that is planted around the world. Its origin is the eastern part of France’s Loire Valley, where it abuts Burgundy.

In France, where wines are known by their region or city, the Loire produces two major appelations: Sancerre after the city in Sancerre on the left bank of the Loire River, and Pouilly-Fumé from the town of Pouilly-sur-Loire, on the opposite bank. Elsewhere in the world, wines are known by their grape varietal names (i.e., sauvignon blanc).

  • In France, the grape is also used to make White Bordeaux (Bordeaux blanc), commonly blended with Semillon and Muscadelle, and often barrel-fermented and aged.
  • A smaller amount of Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the southwest of France, in Languedoc-Roussillon.
  • There is one White Burgundy made from Sauvignon Blanc: St. Bris, and its about $12 (photo #5, courtesy Goisot).
  • The Loire Valley also grows a smaller amount of red wine grapes (about 25% of total production), used to make red Sancerre and rosé.
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    THE DELIGHTS OF SAUVIGNON BLANC

    The Sauvignon Blanc grape produces refreshing, dry, white wines with one of two key flavor profiles: grapefruit/citrus or grassy/herbaceous, depending on the terroir†. Both are delicious.

    The wine is known for high acidity, light to medium body and medium alcohol. It is most often unoaked.

    It is also very affordable, with bottles available from around $10, many in the $12 to $15 range, and the finest of the breed (such as Sancerre’s Ladoucette Comte Lafond) in the $35 to $45 range.

    By comparison, Chablis is double the price, with Grüner Veltliner in the middle.

    If you like white wines such as Chablis and Grüner Veltliner, you’ll likely be a fan of Sauvignon Blanc.

    Its acid backbone complements everything from plateaux de fruits de mer (raw seafood platters) and grilled chicken and fish to buttery sauces and rich cheeses; although the AOC cheese of the Loire, chèvre (goat cheese), is its most popular pairing.

    We go deep into food pairings at the end of this article. First, it’s important to understand the styles of Sauvignon Blanc.

    ________________

    *AOC, an abbreviation of appellation d’origine contrôlée, is a legal designation that places rigid standards on how and where a French product can be produced. This ensures consistent quality and preserves its reputation.

    †Pronounced tuhr-WAH, terroir is the French expression for sense of place, the unique environment in which something grows—its specific soil composition and microclimate. Microclimate includes temperature, amount of sunshine and rain. The flavor nuances of agricultural products, from grapes to olives to milk to cacao, is a function of its terroir.
    ________________

    STYLES OF SAUVIGNON BLANC BY REGION

    We start off with the tip to have a tasting get-together. If your group shares in the work, you can assign everyone a Sauvignon Blanc from a different region, and a food that goes with it.

    The grape is relatively easy to grow, and thus is grown in more than 10 countries, from Canada to Italy to New Zealand to South Africa—even in Romania, Moldova.

    With so many different terroirs and national preferences, you can find Sauvignon Blanc in a wide range of styles and flavors.

    Sauvignon blanc delivers minerality and very high acidity. From there:

  • Cool regions like the Loire and New Zealand produce grassy and herbaceous flavors, with notes of lime, minerals and sometimes, honeydew melon.
  • Warm climates like California and South Africa produce fruity, citrussy wines.
  •  
    The best regions for Sauvignon Blanc beyond the Loire Valley are California and Chile—but don’t let that stop you from trying examples from everywhere.

    Many thanks to Wine Folly for making these invaluable distinctions:

    Australia’s Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    Australia overall is a hot climate region, but there are cooler climate areas within Australia (Adelaide Hills, South Australia) suitable for growing good Sauvignon Blanc.

    These terroirs generate flavors of kiwi, honeydew, and white peach with medium-high acidity and light body.

    Wines from Western Australia (including Margaret River) have both vegetal and fruity flavors. Nuances of bell pepper and chervil mingle with passionfruit and minerality. The wines have high acidity and light body. Some high-end producers use oak for creaminess and texture.

    Chile’s Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    Most exported Sauvignon Blancs come from Chile’s Central Valley. The terroir generates flavors of grass, lime juice, green banana and pineapple, and, unique to the area, a bit of salinity.

    France’s Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    France is the world’s largest grower of Sauvignon Blanc. In the cooler climate of the Loire Valley, the wines yield flavors of cut-grass, nettles, elderflower, blackcurrant leaf and gooseberries combine with flinty minerality.

    These are the classic flavors of Sauvignon Blanc. But you may prefer flavors from other regions.

    Further south in Bordeaux, the terroir generates flavors of lemon pith, grass and gravelly minerals with high acidity and a simple light body. The high-end wines are often aged in oak, and develop other fruit flavors (gooseberry, kiwi, lemon curd, lemongrass, honeyed grapefruit) with a subtle nutty-creamy texture from the oak.

    Italy’s Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    The majority of Sauvignon Blanc in Italy is produced in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in the northeast bordering Austria. It is usually labeled as Sauvignon, as opposed to Sauvignon Blanc.

    The primary flavors are fruity: gooseberry, orange blossom, pear and white peach. The acidity is very high and the body is light. High acidity and light body characterize more stringent wines, making this our least favorite country for Sauvignon Blanc.

    New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    New Zealand is a cool climate country and Sauvignon Blanc is the country’s most planted grape. It is grown in the northern part of the South Island, in the Marlborough region.

    It is here that the wine is made in the most assertive style anywhere. Dpending on ripeness levels it can be more vegetal (e.g. green pepper) or smack of tropical fruit (grapefruit, guava, mango, passionfruit).

    South Africa’s Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    The warm, warm climate of South Africa produces high-quality Sauvignon Blanc, mostly in the Western Cape region.

    Most are not aged in stainless steel, but there are several smaller, more distinct areas that are known for producing barrel-fermented and aged (i.e., oaked) wines. Look for wines from Elgin, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch for these powerful oaked wines.

    Most Sauvignon Blancs from the Western Cape have a light-medium body and acidity. Flavors include green herbs, green bell pepper and guava. High-end wines may show you jasmine, honeysuckle, Meyer lemon and nuttiness.

    Spain’s Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    The majority of Spanish Sauvignon Blanc comprises value-driven bulk winegrows in the south, in La Mancha. However, there are a few quality producers elsewhere.

    Look for wines from Castilla y Leon: medium-high acidity and medium-light body, with dusty minerality and flavors of bell pepper and honeydew melon.

       
    Sauvignon Blanc Vineyard

    Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

    Sauvignon Blanc Glasses

    Sauvignon Blanc La Doucette Comte Lafon Loire

    Sauvignon Blanc  St Bris Burgundy

    Massey Dacta Sauvignon Blanc

    Jean Marc Barthez Bordeau Blanc

    [1] A Sauvignon Blanc vinpeyard in California (photo courtesy Ghielmetti Vineyard). [2] Sauvignon Blanc grapes on the vine (photo courtesy Italian Recipes. [3] In the glass, crisp and refreshing (photo courtesy Betches). [4] Our favorite: Ladoucette Comte Lafon, from Sancerre in the Loire Valley. [5] The only Sauvignon Blanc-based white Burgundy, Saint Bris AOC. [6] Massey Ferguson is a manufacturer of agricultural equipment, including tractor used in vineyards. The slang word for the tractor in New Zealand is “dacta.” Yes, the vineyard is named after its tractor! It’s a favorite of our wine consultant, Mary Taylor, and it’s around $15. [7] Another Mary Taylor favorite: this Sauvignon Blanc-based Bordeaux Blanc from Jean Marc Barthez.

     
    Rueda produces high quality Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo wines. The Verdejo grape produces wine with that tastes very similar to Sauvignon Blanc.

    The United States’ Sauvignon Blanc Wines

    Numerous wine-growing regions in the U.S. grown Sauvignon Blanc; but the best wines come from the North Coast region of California (Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma) and the Columbia Valley of Washington State.

    The California wines have medium acidity and body. In Napa, you’ll find flavors of grapefruit, honeydew and white peach. In Sonoma, the wines deliver light-medium body and medium-high acidity, with notes of green apple, honeydew and pineapple.

    Head north to Washington for light body, high-acidity wines with flavors of lime, grapefruit, and gravelly minerals.

    SAUVIGNON BLANC: A NOBLE GRAPE

    What makes a grape noble?

    The term is used to describe the grapes that are grown internationally, yet retain their fundamental characteristics regardless of growing region and the local terroir. The French term is cépage noble” (SAY-paj NOBL).

    There are six noble grapes (all grown in France), with an argument for a seventh. They are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon (red)
  • Chardonnay (white)
  • Merlot (red)
  • Pinot noir (red)
  • Riesling (white)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (white)
  • Syrah (red—the seventh contender)
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    Bowl Of Mussels

    Plateau de Mer

    Salmon With Sauvignon Blanc

    Goat Cheese With Sauvignon Blanc

    Sauvignon Blanc Sorbet

    [8] Serve Sauvignon Blanc with seafood, cooked or raw (photo of mussels courtesy Duplex On Third | Los Angeles). [9] Plateau de mer at The Smith | NYC. [10] Serve it with salmon or any fish (photo courtesy Preserved Cherries). [11] With any and all goat cheeses (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).

     

    THE HISTORY OF SAUVIGNON BLANC

    The vineyards of the Loire Valley date back to the Roman era, where the grapes that grew wild were first cultivated.

    Sauvignon Blanc is likely a mutation of that wild grape cultivated by the Romans. “Sauvignon” derives from the French word sauvage, wild; blanc is white.

    With the collapse of the Roman Empire until the 12th century, monasteries became the main keepers of viticulture and winemaking; sacramental wine (vinum theologium) was essential to celebrate the mass.

    Monks had the resources, education and time necessary to improve their viticultural skills. slowly over time. Throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries owned the best vineyards. Their wine was superior to others, and they also produced large quantities for sale, to support their orders [source].

    In the Loire Valley, Sauvignon Blanc vineyards (and other grapes still grown there today) were maintained and enhanced by Benedictine monks.

    Red wine lovers will be interested to know that the white Sauvignon Blanc grape is one of the parents of the red Cabernet Sauvignon grape. The other parent is the the red Cabernet Franc grape.
     
    SAUVIGNON BLANC FOOD PAIRINGS

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that wines pair best with foods from their regions in which they are produced. That’s why winemakers bring out particular flavors, acidity levels, and so forth.

    In the Loire, this cuisine is noteworthy for its:

  • Fish: The ancient rivers have always provided fish, cooked simply: bream, eel, pike, perch (zander) and shad are common. In more modern times, beurre blanc, a butter sauce flavored with shallots and vinegar, has become a standard accompaniment.
  • Game: The Loire is full of duck, pheasant, pigeon, quail, rabbit, venison, and wild boar. Rich sauces made with the area’s wild mushrooms are classic.
  • Rillettes: A shredded, textured pâté served in a crock for spreading on bread. Pork is the principal meat, but duck and salmon rillettes are also classics.
  • Goat Cheeses: Crottin de Chavignol, young and spreadable or old and dry (this cheese was originally created for Sancerre: a perfect pairing); Pyramide de Valençay, a pyramid-shaped goat’s cheese also dusted with ashes; Sainte-Maure, a cylinder shape coated with ashes; Selles-sur-Cher, a tangy goat also dusted with ashes.
  •  
    What’s with all the ashes?

    Goat cheese is very fragile, and before modern packaging, plant-based ashes covered the cheeses to protect them on their way to market, over bumpy roads in horse-driven carts.

    There are more food pairings below, that address favorite foods beyond the Loire.

    For Dessert

    While you likely don’t want to have dessert with a dry wine, the region offers sweet, Chenin Blanc-based wines to end a Loire-focused feast. Look for:

  • Anjou-Coteaux de la Loire AOC, moelleux, doux orliquoreux‡
  • Bonnezeaux AOC, liquoreux
  • Coteaux de l’Aubance AOC, liquoreux and sélection de grains nobles (SGN)
  • Coteaux de Saumur AOC, moelleux to liquoreux
  • Coteaux du Layon AOC, liquoreux and sélection de grains nobles (SGN)
  • Quarts-de-Chaume AOC: Liquoreux
  • Vouvray moelleux, doux or liquoreux
  •  
    There are other sweet wines made in the Loire, but this is an excellent starter list. Two noteworthy desserts:

  • Sablés: The cookie, which originated in Normandy, has become very popular in the Loire. Sablé is a buttery, shortbread-like cookie that is often flavored with almonds, lemon or orange zest. The treat originally hails from the Normandy region but has also become quite popular throughout Loire. In the translation, “sand,” refers to the cookie’s crumbly texture. : plain, dipped in chocolate or sandwiched with jam.
  • Tarte Tatin: An apple tart with caramelized apples, this beloved dessert was an accident. It is now also made with different fruits ans aavory versions are also made. Here’s the history of Tarte Tatin.
  • ________________

    ‡Both moelleux (moy-YOO), doux, liquoreux (lih-coe-ROO) are general French terms for sweet wines. The translation of moelleux is sweet, soft, tender, smooth, mellow. A wine labeled doux in sweeter still. A liquoreux designation indicates the richest, most luscious sweet wines. Labels of sélection de grains nobles (selection of noble berries, abbreviated as SGN) indicates that the grapes were affected by noble rot (botrytis). These are the sweetest and richest wines, with the most concentrated flavors (and greatest cost).
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    MORE FOODS TO PAIR WITH SAUVIGNON BLANC

    Because Sauvignon Blanc is tart and tangy, it is the best wine to serve with salad, including Caesar salad topped with chicken or salmon. Its acidity complements the vinegar in a vinaigrette.

    Other classic food pairings are:

  • Asparagus, mushrooms.
  • Cheeses: In addition to fresh and aged goat cheeses, look for goat cheddar and nutty cheeses such as Gruyère and Alpine (a.k.a. Swiss mountain) cheeses. There are also cow’s milk cheeses made in the Loire. If you’re there, look for Cendré d’Olivet and Feuille de Dreux.
  • Citrus sauces (e.g. on chicken or fish).
  • Dairy: butter, crème fraîche, sour cream, yogurt.
  • Chicken and fish, especially roasted or grilled, and/or with beurre blanc.
  • Garlicky recipes.
  • Greek mezze (spreads), anything with yogurt and dill.
  • Herbed recipes, including those with basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, mint, parsley and rosemary, tarragon, thyme.
  • Pork, pan-fried, grilled or roasted.
  • Veal, chops or scallops.
  • Smoked fish, including smoked salmon.
  • Spices: coriander, fennel, saffron, turmeric, white pepper.
  • Spicy foods and spicy international cuisines (Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese, e.g.).
  •  
    In addition to being drunk as is, Sauvignon Blanc is also popular in spritzers and white sangria.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Teriyaki, Beyond Japanese Food

    Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique in which foods are broiled or grilled with a glaze of mirin*, saké, soy sauce and sugar†.

    Proportions vary according to recipe: You can create a more sweet or more savory sauce, a thicker or a thinner sauce. Here‘s a basic teriyaki sauce recipe.

    The alcohol in the glaze gives a luster (teri) to the grilled (yaki) protein; the brown color comes from the caramelization of the sugar.

    Proper preparation of teriyaki involves repeated applications of the sauce during the latter stage of cooking, until the sauce thickens and acquires luster (the meat or fish can also be marinated in the teriyaki sauce up to 24 hours before cooking).

    While some Americans grilling the meat and then pour on the sauce, this does not produce the same results.

    The addition of garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and/or and chiles to teriyaki may be tasty, but is not traditional. The bottled teriyaki sauces that contain them are actually versions of the spicier Korean bulgogi sauce, which features garlic and hot chiles.

    Teriyaki dishes are served with steamed white rice, which is made flavorful with the excess sauce. The dish is often garnished with chopped scallions (green onion).

    While chicken teriyaki seems to be the most popular in the U.S., it isn’t even on menus in Japanese.

    Instead, the authentic teriyaki protein of choice is fish, such as mackerel, marlin, skipjack tuna, salmon, trout, yellowtail and sometimes, squid.

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    *Mirin and saké are types of rice wine. Both are fermented from rice, but mirin has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content (as an analogy, thing of sweet and dry vermouths). If you have saké but no mirin, make a mirin substitute by adding a half teaspoon of sugar to the saké, and warm it slowly to dissolve the sugar.

    †Modern American substitutes include honey for the sugar and other alcohol for the saké (e.g. bourbon, vodka).
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    THE HISTORY OF TERIYAKI

    Most of the modern Japanese dishes familiar in the U.S. first appeared during Japan’s Edo period (1603 to 1867), an era characterized by stability and economic growth. That included exposure to new ingredients from abroad, which gave rise to new styles of cooking.

    Food historians believe that teriyaki was created in the 17th century, one of a number of new dishes using roasted or grilled fish and meat. The special sweet-and-savory glaze distinguished teriyaki from other grilled dishes.

    With the proliferation of Japanese restaurants in 1960s America (thanks to the 1965 Immigration & Nationality Act, which enabled many more Asians to emmigrate), teriyaki dishes became popular [source].

    To cater to American tastes, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, salmon and tofu with vegetables were offered instead of the traditional varieties of fish.

    More recently in the U.S., fusion cooking has engendered teriyaki burgers, meatballs and other variations; and teriyaki sauce is used as a dipping sauce and a marinade ingredient (more about this in a minute).

    In fact, the concept of a discrete teriyaki sauce (as opposed to a glazed fish dish cooked teriyaki [grilled] style) is believed to have originated in Hawaii, among Japanese immigrants. Local pineapple juice was incorporated, not just for flavor: It’s enzymes also help to tenderize the meat.

       
    Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

    Chicken Teriyaki

    Beef Teriyaki With Salad

    [1] Homemade teriyaki sauce (photo courtesy Olive This). [2] Classic chicken teriyaki with a not-so-classic side of sautéed bok choy. Here’s the recipe from Chowhound. [3] A fusion “steak and salad”: beef teriyaki bowl (photo courtesy Glaze Teriyaki).

     
    According to a history on Leaf TV, “there is apparently no official teriyaki sauce history, and the term refers rather to the aforementioned cooking method, and applies primarily to the preparation of fish, such as mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.”

    TERIYAKI ON TREND

    Teriyaki was part of the first wave of Asian flavors to find a foothold here (source).

    Modern trends find teriyaki in all sorts of comfort food, from burgers and meatballs (try a meatball bánh mì sandwich) to grain bowls.

    Flavor And The Menu, a magazine that shares national restaurant trends for chefs and restaurateurs, notes dishes like these popping up nationwide:

  • Chicken Teriyaki Bowl: Grilled chicken with snow peas, onions, carrots, broccoli and rice; topped with teriyaki sauce (at RA Sushi, multiple locations). See the teriyaki bowl ideas below.
  • Fish Teriyaki Bowl combines wild mahi-mahi with tropical salsa, macadamia nuts, and lemongrass teriyaki sauce (at Tokyo Joe’s in Colorado).
  • Hawaiian-Style Meatballs with roasted pineapple, modernizing the teriyaki sauce by introducing coconut milk (from R&D chef Andrew Hunter).
  • Mexican Mash-Ups: tacos and burritos with teriyaki-seasoned fillings. Teriyaki Chicken Tacos, at Da Kine Island Grill in San Jose, combine chicken teriyaki, tomatoes, green onions and a fiery mango sauce.
  • Prime Teriyaki Tenderloin Bites with scallions and orange supremes (at Metropolitan Grill, Seattle).
  • Teriyaki Burgers, brushed with teriyaki sauce, served with teriyaki mayo (at Hotel Monaco | DC, photo #5).
  • Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich: grilled chicken breast, teriyaki, grilled pineapple, melted Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo (at Red Robin, multiple locations).
  • Teriyaki Lamb Pops with spicy apple-pepper jelly (at Share Kitchen & Bar, Williamsville, NY).
  • Teriyaki Meatball Hero: Teriyaki meatballs, Asian slaw and kimchi on a baguette with fresh basil or mint leaves, sliced jalapeño and scallions (at THE NIBBLE offices).
  • Teriyaki Peppercorn Shrimp with sun-dried pineapple (at Angelina Café, NYC).
  • Wings: Chicken Wings In Whiskey-Teriyaki Sauce (at The Comedy Zone in Greenville, NC), Wasabi Teriyaki Wings (at John & Peter’s Place, New Hope, PA), Maple-Bacon Teriyaki Wings (at Preston’s, Killington, VT), Sesame-Pineapple Teriyaki Wings (Dry Dock Bar & Grille, Norwalk, CT).
  • Other Meat Snacks: teriyaki-glazed meatballs, ribs, lamb riblets and skewers.
  •  

    Teriyaki Meatballs

    Teriyaki Burger

    [4] Teriyaki meatballs (here’s the recipe from Mom On Time Out). [5] Teriyaki meatball at Dirty Habit | Hotel Monaco | D.C.

     

    BUILD YOUR OWN TERIYAKI BOWL

    Mix and match:

  • Teriyaki-style fish or meat of choice
  • Grain of choice
  •  
    For The Salad

  • Salad of choice: mesclun, Asian cabbage slaw (recipe), other greens of choice
  • Bell pepper
  • Carrots (shredded if possible)
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Edamame, shelled
  • Onion, sliced
  • Peas: spring peas (shelled), snow peas, sugar snap peas
  •  
    Dressing

  • Ginger Dressing
  • Japanese Restaurant Salad Dressing (recipe below)
  • Mint cilantro vinaigrette
  • Miso salad dressing
  • Nobu’s sashimi salad dressing
  • Rice vinegar sesame oil vinaigrette.
  • Wasabi-passionfruit dressing
  • Yuzu dressing
  •  
    Garnish

  • Chopped scallions
  • Sesame seeds (ideally toasted)
  •  

    Love that textured, orange salad dressing at Japanese restaurants?

    It’s easy to make at home:

    Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 two-inch piece fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients except the oil in a blender. Process until liquified.

    2. ADD the peanut oil and pulse a few times to combine.

      

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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.

    Why are cake pans round? The answer is below, with the history of cake pans.

    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. By the 17th century, it was common for a western kitchen to contain a number of skillets, baking pans (including cake pans with bottoms), a kettle, and several pots, along with a variety of pot hooks and trivets.

    In the American colonies, these items would have been produced by a local blacksmith from iron, while brass or copper vessels were more common in Europe.

    Improvements in metallurgy during the 19th and 20th centuries enabled the economical production of pots and pans from lighter metals such as steel, stainless steel and aluminum [source].

    Molded cakes in fancy shapes reached their zenith in the Victorian era (commencing with the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1831).

     

    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).

     
    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. Here’s the history of the bundt pan.
     
    LIKE FOOD HISTORY?

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

      

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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.

    (What’s the difference between a cordial, a liqueur and an eau de vie? The answer is below.)

    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.

    BUT WAIT: THERE’S MORE!

    Here’s the difference between liquor and liqueur.

    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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