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TIP OF THE DAY: Cotton Candy Cocktail

Cotton Candy Cocktail

Cotton Candy Cocktail

Spun Sugar Dessert

[1] Top a cocktail or mocktail with cotton candy (photo Jeff Green | Barbara Kraft | Arizona Biltmore). [2] Soft drinks, shakes, and so forth can get the cotton candy treatment (photo courtesy Aww Sam). [3] Spun sugar, the predecessor of cotton candy (photo courtesy Food Network).

 

December 7th is National Cotton Candy Day. In different parts of the world, it’s known as candy cobwebs, candy floss, fairy floss and spider webs, among other names.

THE HISTORY OF COTTON CANDY

The father of cotton candy was spun sugar. In the mid-18th century, master confectioners in Europe and America learned to hand-craft spun sugar nests as Easter decorations and elaborate dessert presentations.

According to The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, the debut of the product we know as cotton candy took place in 1897 in Nashville.

Candymakers William Morrison and John C. Wharton invented an electric machine that allowed crystallized sugar to be poured onto a heated spinning plate, pushed by centrifugal force through a series of tiny holes.

In 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Morrison and Wharton sold the product, then known as “fairy floss,” in cardboard boxes for 25 cents a serving. Though the price equaled half the admission to the Fair itself, they sold 68,655 boxes!

Here’s more cotton candy history.

COTTON CANDY AS A DRINK GARNISH

For those with a sweet tooth, cotton candy is a fun garnish for cocktails, mocktails and other non-alcoholic drinks.

Caterers love the idea, as do some mixologists. Some mixologists create “magic” at the bar or table, presenting a glass of cotton candy, then pouring the cocktail over it.

Check out this YouTube video and this fun recipe. The cotton candy disappears “like magic”.

 
THE COTTON CANDY COCKTAIL

Match the cotton candy color to the drink, or create contrast.

Here are some recipes to start you off:

Cotton Candy Daiquiri

Garnished Shots

Multicolor Cocktail With Multicolor Cotton Candy
 
 
For a drinkable dessert, garnish a glass of sweet wine.

You can find many more online, including a Pinterest page on cotton candy cocktails.

TIP: You don’t have to add an ice cream scoop-size ball of cotton candy. Sometimes, less is more.

 

 
  

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FOOD 101: It’s Repeal Day, Drink Some Real Gin

On December 5th, in the spirit of Repeal Day—the repeal of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution—raise a glass to your federal right to drink alcohol.

In the winter of 1919, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, outlawing the production and consumption of alcohol in the United States.

The original intent was to put an end to social misconduct, crime and family crisis—since on payday, too many breadwinners would squander much of their paychecks at the saloon, leading to brawling, inability to pay for rent and food, aggression at home, etc.

Alas, instead of creating a better society, the law engendered the growth of organized crime, which was happy to bootleg, provide protection to speakeasies, and so on.

Those who wanted to party at home found a way with bootlegged spirits, bathtub gin (which could cause blindness), and other horrors.

After thirteen years of living with Prohibition, the 18th Amendment was repealed on December 5th, 1933 under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt*. The date has been referred to as “Repeal Day.”

So celebrate your freedom from bathtub gin with one of the…

TOP 12 GIN COCKTAILS

  • French 75, with champagne, lemon juice and simple syrup.
  • Gibson, a gin Martini with a cocktail onion replacing the olive.
  • Gimlet, with lime juice and simple syrup.
  • Gin Rickey, with lime juice and soda water.
  • Gin & Tonic, with tonic water.
  • Gin Fizz, with lemon juice, sugar and soda water.
  • Martini, the original made with gin, dry vermouth and an olive garnish.
  • Negroni, with Campari and sweet vermouth.
  • Pink Lady, with egg white and grenadine.
  • Tom Collins, with lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water.
  • Salty Dog, gin and grapefruit juice with a salt rim.
  • Singapore Sling, with benedictine, benedictine, bitters, cherry heering, Cointreau, lime juice and pineapple juice.
  •  
    BATHTUB GIN: WHAT WAS IT?

    Gin was the predominant spirit in the 1920s. After the Volstead Act (which led to the 18th Amendment), bathtub gin was “of necessity” created in actual bathtubs or other large containers. The alcohol to make it was either purchased from bootleggers or from legitimate medical suppliers, which sold denatured or wood alcohol.

     

    Gin & Tonic

    Caviartini

    The Gin & Tonic, photo [1] (courtesy Drizzle And Drip) and the Martini, photo [2], courtesy Petrossian, vie to be the most popular gin drink in America. We’re wild about Petrossian’s Caviartini® garnish, caviar cubes made exclusively by the company.

     
    By mixing wood alcohol with other flavorings, such as the juniper berries that flavored real gin, and allowing the mixture to steep in a tub for hours or days, the wood alcohol became more drinkable.

    Many gin cocktails were created to cover up the less-than-ideal flavor of bathtub gin.

    Actual distillation requires a closed distillation apparatus; it can’t be done in an open container like a bathtub.

    The process for converting wood alcohol into a drinkable form was not always reliable, resulting in batches that were poisonous, often leading to blindness and even death: About 10,000 people died from drinking bad alcohol during Prohibition.

    ________________
    *Not everything was rosy after the 19th Amendment was passed, repealing Prohibition. Prohibition gave way to the start of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Constitution trivia: The 18th Amendment is the only one to be repealed; a total of 27 have been ratified. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as The Bill Of Rights, were ratified together in 1791.

      

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    RECIPE: Skillet Cornbread

    Skillet Cornbread Recipe

    New England Open House Cookbook

    Corn Bread Squares

    [1] The earliest cornbread was made in a skillet: Rectangular baking pans were not yet in use. This recipe is courtesy [2] the New England Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. [3] Corn pone, also called hoe cakes and johnny cakes, was the immigrant European’s version of the Native American cornmeal flatbread. [4] Today cornbread is most often cooked in a rectangular pan, like this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

     

    Serve this skillet cornbread for breakfast with eggs.

    Or serve it for lunch with a bowl of hearty soup and/or a salad.

    The recipe is from the New England Open House Cookbook via Vermont Creamery, which used its exquisite cultured butter and crème fraîche. Chopped scallions create a piquant counterpoint to the rich dairy.

    The garnish is optional, but adds excitement to an already yummy dish. Crème fraîche or sour cream, plus fresh chopped scallions, are a delightful finish.

    We have three more cornbread recipes for your perusal:

  • Buffalo Chicken Cornbread With Blue Cheese Salad
  • Queso Fresco & Scallion Cornbread
  • Marcus Samuelsson’s Jalapeño Cornbread (video recipe)
  •  
    RECIPE: SKILLET CORNBREAD

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can make your own—see footnote*)
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh jalapeños, mixed red and green, or to taste
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 8 ounces crème fraîche (you can make your own) (substitute sour cream)
  • 2-3 scallions or fresh herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, sage, thyme), chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.

    2. WHISK together in another bowl the milk, buttermilk and eggs. Pour in the melted butter and stir well. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir till combined. Gently fold in the corn kernels.

    3. POUR into the prepared cast iron skillet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.

    4. TO SERVE: Top with crème fraîche and a sprinkle of scallions.
     
    ________________
    *To make buttermilk, just add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to a cup measure and add enough milk to make an even cup. Let stand five minutes.

     
    THE HISTORY OF CORNBREAD

    Corn, which originated in what today is Mexico, was turned into flatbread–the tortilla—in its native land. Leavened breads were not indigenous, and the concept of raised bread wasn’t known until the arrival of the Spanish.

    As corn spread from Mexico northward, it was cultivated by Native Americans across the southern region of what is now the United States. When European settlers arrived, they learned to cultivate and cook corn from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek.

    The North American natives had also learned to make another unleavened cornbread, in the form of flat oval cakes or loaves. Mixing cornmeal and water, they cooked the batter in hot ashes.

    The Europeans called it cornpone, or pone. Pone is a shortened version of the Virginia Algonquian word for bread, appone; although pone is fried cooked gruel rather than flatbread (the fine points can be argued, but not here and now).

     

    The immigrant Europeans added some salt and fried the mixture in lard in their skillets. Skillet breads, pies, etc. date back generations before people had home ovens, much less baking pans. Everything was cooked over a fire in a cast iron pot or a skillet; or in some towns, in a central community oven.

    In parts of England, hoe was a colloquial term for griddle. The tale that hoe cakes were cooked by field workers on their hoes over a fire is a story perpetuated but not substantiated.

    The fried corn batter is also known as hoe cakes and johnnycakes. Today, outside the South, we call them corn pancakes.

    Here’s a recipe for hoecakes and for johnnycakes; the photos are below.
     
    Johnnycake is similar, The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England, A modern johnnycake is fried cornmeal gruel, which is made from yellow or white cornmeal mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened

    The immigrants adapted cornmeal to their European recipes: bread loaves and muffins, corncakes, fritters, hoecakes and pancakes, liquor, porridge and so on. Most people had little cooking equipment. The skillet served multiple purposes, from frying to baking.

    Cornbread became popular as the main ingredient for a dressing or stuffing with fowl (the difference: stuffing is cooked inside the bird; dressing is cooked in a separate pan).
     
    What Is Cornmeal?

    Cornmeal is produced by grinding dried raw corn grains. The finest grind is used for baking, a medium grind for porridge and polenta, and a coarse grind for grits. Raw corn kernels spoked in hot water and an alkaline mineral like calcium hydroxide is called hominy (pozole in Spanish) and ground and mixed into masa harina, the dough used to make tamales and tortillas.

    Cornbread can be baked or fried, even steamed. Steamed cornbread is more like cornmeal pudding or mush, moist and chewier than a traditional bread. Here’s more on the evolution of cornbread plus early cornbread recipes.

    One thing to note: Originally cornbread did not contain sugar. As disposable income increased, this expensive ingredient was added as a variation, to make cornbread more like a cake.

    Unfortunately, more and more sugar was added until cornbread became an overly-sweet, simple bread. That’s fine if you want cake; you can serve sweet cornbread with berries and whipped cream.

    But if it’s bread you want, lose the sugar. We prefer to add whole corn kernels for sweetness, or enjoy cornbread as a savory bread.
     
    CRÈME FRAÎCHE, MASCARPONE OR SOUR CREAM?

    When should you use which? Here are the differences.

    Here are the differences.

     

    Corn Pone

    Johnnycakes

    Original Corn Plant

    [1] Hoecakes. Here’s the recipe from the Wall Street Journal (photo Christopher Testani | Wall Street Journal). [2] Johnnycakes come in different shapes—flatter, plumper, individual or the size of an entire skillet. Here’s the recipe for these pancake-syle johnnycakes from About.SouthernFood.com. [3] Who would have imagined that the wisp at the left evolved into the plump ear of corn we know today? Here’s the whole story.

      

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    RECIPE: Lemon Cream Pie

    Lemon Cream Pie

    Zested Lemon

    [1] A yummy way to celebrate National Lemon Cream Pie Day (photo courtesy The Baker Chick). [2] You can use any extra lemon zest to garnish the pie, with or without the candied mint leaves (photo courtesy Sunkist).

     

    It’s November 29th: National Lemon Cream Pie Day.

    We adapted this classic recipe from one of our favorite bakers, Audra, The Baker Chick (who adapted it from Martha Stewart).

    We have two less classic recipes for your consideration:

  • Frozen Lemon Vodka Cream Pie, made with lemon sorbet, frozen lemonade and Greek yogurt
  • Lemon Cream Pie made with sweetened condensed milk
  •  
    For a seasonal touch, we garnished our pie with candied mint leaves (recipe below), an old-fashioned treat that was often served as a confection with afternoon tea.

    RECIPE 31: LEMON CREAM PIE

    Ingredients For 1 Nine-Inch Pie

  • 1 single layer pie crust (here’s Audra’s pie crust recipe)
  •  
    For the Lemon Filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  
    For the Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin*
  • Optional garnish: candied mint leaves (recipe below)
  •  
    ________________
    *The gelatin stabilizes the whipped cream topping, so it doesn’t collapse after a few hours. If you plan to serve the pie immediately, you can skip this step.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Roll out the crust and drape it over a 9-inch pie dish, trimming and crimping the sides. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and place it in the freezer while the oven preheats.

    2. LINE the chilled crust with foil and cover with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are set. Remove the the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes. If the crust puffs up, just flatten it with a fork. Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F.

    3. MAKE the filling. Whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, sour cream, salt, sugar and zest. Pour into the crust and carefully place back into the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the edges of the pie are completely set, with the inside still a bit jiggly. Let cool completely before proceding. If you’re in a hurry, you can place the pie in the freezer.

    4. MAKE the topping. If using the gelatin, dissolve it in cold water and then place in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until dissolved. Let cool slightly.

    5. WHIP the cream and sugar with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the liquid gelatin and continue to whisk until you have medium peaks. Spread whipped cream onto cooled pie and serve chilled. If using the mint leaves, add just before serving.

     

    RECIPE #2: CANDIED MINT LEAVES

    Also called crystallized mint leaves, crystal mint leaves and sugared mint leaves, we know that President Lincoln and his wife Mary enjoyed them on cakes, in salads and as sweetmeats, along with candied flower petals.

    You can candy edible flowers with the same recipe. Just be sure they’re organic—no pesticides.

    Use them to garnish beverages and desserts, including ice cream.

    The candied leaves must be made 24 hours in advance so they can dry.

    If you can find a specialty mint—apple mint, chocolate mint, lemon bergamot or orange bergamot mint—so much the better!
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 large egg white
  • 12 fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup superfine† sugar
  • ________________
    †You can pulse table sugar in a food processor or spice grinder to make it superfine.
     
     
    Preparation

    1. SELECT 12 attractive mint leaves of similar size (unless you want a range of sizes). Remove them from the stalk, keeping the stems with the leaves. Rinse in cool water and gently pat dry with a paper towel.

    2. BEAT the egg white until frothy. If concerned about raw egg whites, use pasteurized egg whites like Davidson’s Safest Choice.

     

    Fresh Mint

    Mint Leaf Garnish

    [3] Fresh mint (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [4] Candied mint leaves are a lovely garnish (photo courtesy VegSpinz).

     
    3. BRUSH a thin layer of egg onto the mint leaves, evenly coating both sides so the sugar sticks evenly. If the mixture is too runny, let it sit a minute before proceeding.

    4. TRANSFER the leaves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between them so they don’t stick together. Let them dry for 24 hours, uncovered.

    5. STORE the leaves in an airtight container if not using immediately. If you don’t like the look of the stems, trim them before garnishing (the serve as a convenient handle until then).
     

    CREAM VS. CREME

    What’s the difference between creme and cream? Why do some people write “creme pie” instead of “creme pie?”

    Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French word for cream. In America, French recipes were served at the tables of the wealthy, many of whom knew how to pronounce French properly.

    As these recipes entered the mainstream, people who did not know French began to pronounce crème (KREHM) as cream (KREEM). Some people dispensed with the accent mark, to provide a mashup of French and English, and either became acceptable.

    But to display your erudition, when discussing a French dish, e.g. Crème Brûlée, use crème; when discussing an American dish, e.g. Chocolate Cream Pie, use cream.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Cranberry Wreath…And A Mistletoe Ball

    Christmas Wreath With Cranberries

    Mistletoe Ball

    Bowl Of Cranberries

    Ocean Spray Cranberries Package

    [1] Make a cranberry wreath for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or [2] a cranberry and mistletoe “kissing ball” for Christmas (photos 1, 2 and 4 courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] Were cranberries served at the first Thanksgiving? No one knows* (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    Sure, you can buy evergreen wreaths galore during the holiday season. But you can also have fun making your own, or as a gift for holiday hosts.

    A fresh cranberry wreath or mistletoe ball will last approximately one week. Replace the cranberries when they begin to soften.

    To extend the life of the cranberries, you can spray them with an even coating of shellac. Caution: For the safety of wildlife and birds, do not use shellac if you plan to hang wreath outdoors.

    To avoid staining, do not place fresh cranberries directly on lightly-painted surfaces or linens.

    CRANBERRY WREATH

    Ingredients

    For The Wreath

  • 1 12-inch evergreen wreath
  • 1 thin needle
  • 5 yards of strong cord or waxed dental floss, cut into five 36″ lengths
  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • Hook for hanging
  • Optional: shellac
  •  
    For The Cranberry Ball

  • 1 five-inch Styrofoam® ball (or other size of preference)
  • Dark red acrylic craft paint (or other suitable for painting styrofoam)
  • 1-2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • 1 box metal pins with small flat heads, approx. 1″ long (approx 300 quantity)
  • 1 12-18″ length of 3/4″ wide red ribbon
  • 1 48″ length of 3/4″ wide red ribbon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the wreath. Start with one 36″ length of thread and a thin needle. Knot one end of the thread and string the cranberries one at a time by piercing through the center with the needle. Secure the end of the thread with a large knot.

    2. REPEAT with the 4 remaining lengths of thread. To make stringing cranberries easier, use waxed dental floss or try waxing the needle and thread with beeswax.

    3. WRAP each strand around the wreath 3-4 times.

    4. MAKE the ball: Paint the Styrofoam ball with red paint and set aside to dry. Painting the Styrofoam ensures that any spaces between the cranberries will be less noticeable.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Lay the wide red ribbon over the top of the wreath with the ends hanging down into the middle. Pin each end of the ribbon to the ball so it hangs in the middle of the wreath. To complete, attach the 48″ ribbon at the top of the ball and tie a bow.
    ________________
    *There is no complete record of the food at the feast shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag in 1621. Two letters written near that time mention wheat, corn, barley, waterfowl, deer, fish and wild turkey. The Wampanoag ate cranberries and they may have brought some, but there is no direct evidence that they did so.

    HOLIDAY KISSING BALL

    Ingredients

  • 5” Styrofoam ball
  • Dark red acrylic craft paint (or other suitable for painting styrofoam)
  • 24-gauge beading wire
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks OR wooden toothpicks
  • 1-2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • Holiday trim of choice: ribbon, mistletoe, holly, ivy, bells
  • Hook for hanging
  • Optional: shellac
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PAINT the ball with red craft paint. Set aside to dry.

    2. CUT an 18″ piece of wire and fold it in half. Push the folded wire all the way through the center of foam ball, leaving a 1” wire loop extending at bottom of ball and 3” of wire extending at top.

    3. ATTACH the cranberries to ball with the hot glue gun or toothpicks, covering the ball completely. Twist the wires at the top of the ball into a simple hook for hanging. Use ribbon to tie the mistletoe and other trim to the wire above and below the ball. Hang with a hook.

    4. INSERT a pin through each cranberry and press into the styrofoam, placing the berries as closely together as possible. Continue until all areas of the ball are covered with cranberries. TIP: Completing a section of berries close together is easier than continuing a single row all the way around the ball.

    ABOUT OCEAN SPRAY

    Cranberries are native to America, and first cultivated on Cape Cod around 1816.

    Ocean Spray was formed in 1930 by by lawyer and grower Marcus L. Urann and two other growers. Since then, the Ocean Spray cooperative has grown to more than 700 grower families all across North America.

    The cooperative’s first product was jellied cranberry sauce, followed by original Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail, hitting the shelves a few years later.

    Since 1995, Wisconsin has produced the largest crop of cranberries, currently about 57% of the U.S. total production. Massachusetts, originally the largest producer, fell to second that year, and currently produces another 23%-30% of the crop. The remaining U.S. cranberry crop comes mainly from New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

    The U.S. is the largest producer of cranberries, followed by Canada, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Ukraine, Romania, Macedonia, Tunisia and Spain.

    Here’s more cranberry history and details of the different product introductions from Ocean Spray, and great details from the University Of Wisconsin (for example, where does white cranberry juice come from).

      

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