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RECIPE: Peanut Butter & Jelly Fudge

April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. You can have PB&J oatmeal, a PB&J-stuffed omelet or PB&J-topped waffles for breakfast,. For lunch, a PB&J sandwich for lunch, and PB cake or ice cream with a jelly/preserves topping for dessert.

For snacking, make this PB&J fudge in just 8 minutes, plus 4 hours in the fridge.

Peanut butter fudge is super-simple to make, but adding jelly makes it more fun, not to mention a perfect way to celebrate National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day.

Made with just peanut butter, jelly, confectioners’ sugar, butter and white chocolate, this rich, yummy fudge is a pantry-ready dessert that can be whipped up in minutes, although it needs 4 hours to set.

The recipe is from ILovePeanutButter.com, the website of Peanut Butter & Co. It was developed by Caroline Wright of TheWrightRecipes.com. She used Peanut Butter & Co.’s Smooth Operator creamy PB.

Prep time is 3 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes, plus 4 hours chilling to set.
 
RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY FUDGE

Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (1 pound box) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup strawberry jam, warmed in the microwave
  • 2 ounces white chocolate, melted
  •  

    PBJ-Fudge-ilovepeanutbutter-230r

    Can you resist PB&J Fudge? Photo courtesy Caroline Wright and ILovePeanutButter.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the peanut butter and butter in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium until melted; stir in the confectioners’ sugar and salt until combined.

    2. POUR into an 8-inch square pan lined with parchment. Stir together the jam and melted chocolate, place dollops atop the fudge and use a knife to swirl the mixtures until marbled. If you’re not certain how to make a swirl, here’s a video of the recipe.

    3. REFRIGERATE until chilled and firm, about 4 hours. Cut into pieces. You can store fudge in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oatmeal With Peanut Butter & Jelly

    PB&J Oatmeal

    PB&J Oatmeal: a way to start the day. This recipe also sprinkles on some coconut. Photo courtesy SimplyQuinoa.com

     

    April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. If you haven’t tried it yet, a bowl of PB&J Oatmeal hits the spot. If you don’t like jelly, we have a PB-only recipe below.

    Not to mention, more than 40 other toppings for your oatmeal, sweet as well as savory.

    There’s also National Oatmeal Day on October 29th. Here are the different types of oats. Check out the health benefits of oatmeal. Oats are the only major grain proven to help blood cholesterol.

    This recipe is adapted from SimplyQuinoa.com.
     
    RECIPE #1: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY OATMEAL

    Ingredients

  • Rolled oats or steel-cut oats
  • 1-3† tablespoons creamy peanut butter per serving
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Optional: pinch cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Optional: pinch vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Jam or preserves of choice
  • Optional toppings (see list below)
  •  
    ________________________
    †One tablespoon provides a lighter peanut butter flavor, three tablespoons is very peanutty. Try the smaller amount first; you can always stir in more or use add a PB topping when the oats are done cooking.

    †Eating three grams of soluble fiber from oats each day, as part of a diet that’s low in fat and cholesterol, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the oatmeal according to package directions. Stir in the peanut butter, maple syrup and spices when the oats have started to soften but are still runny. Cook until thick and creamy.

    2. TRANSFER to bowls and top with jam and any optional toppings.
     
    MORE FAVORITE OATMEAL TOPPINGS

    Toppings can be savory or sweet. You can use one or several on your bowl of oatmeal.
     
    Sweet Toppings

  • Apple, fig, kiwi, pear, stone fruits and other fresh fruits, diced or sliced
  • Agave, honey, jam, maple syrup, preserves
  • Banana
  • Berries, fresh or frozen
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, raw sugar
  • Cinnamon pecan topping (recipe)
  • Cooked fruit: apples, applesauce, compote
  • Dairy: butter, cream, mascarpone, milk, plain or flavored yogurt, sweetened condensed milk
  • Chutney, cranberry sauce, jam, preserves
  • Chocolate chips, chocolate syrup
  • Dried fruits: apricots, blueberries, cherries, coconut (plain or toasted, shredded or flaked), cranberries, dates, figs, raisins, strawberries
  • Granola
  • Fruit Salt
  • Mascarpone or ricotta
  • Nutella
  • Nuts, seeds (including pomegranate arils), trail mix
  • Sweet spices: allspice, anise cinnamon, nutmeg
  •  

    Savory Toppings

  • Baked/sautéed garlic
  • Barbecue sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
  • Bourbon
  • Butter: brown butter, compound (flavored) butter, salted butter
  • Chopped green onions (scallions)
  • Chopped beef jerky
  • Congee style, with cilantro, chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, ginger, pepper, pickled/preserved vegetables, radish, sliced chicken, pork or fish, soy sauce (Congee is made with rice porridge, like Cream Of Rice)
  • Crumbled bacon or diced ham
  • Egg: hard-boiled/sliced, fried, poached, soft-boiled
  • Flavored salt and artisan salt
  • Flavored oil droplets: basil, chili, rosemary, sesame, etc.
  • Fresh cheese: cotija, goat, ricotta, paneer, etc.
  • Grated/shredded/crumbled cheese: blue, Cheddar, Parmesan, other
  • Greek: Greek yogurt or labne, feta cheese, lemon zest, Greek olives, pine nuts
  • Grilled shishito peppers
  • Ground pepper, chili flakes or minced jalapeño
  • Herbs: basil, chives, oregano
  • Kimchi or chopped pickled vegetables
  • Leftover cooked vegetables (mustard greens, spinach, kale, mushrooms, squash, etc.)
  • Mexican style: chili powder, cilantro, corn kernels, cotija cheese or grated Cheddar, lime zest, minced/sliced jalapeño, salsa
  •  

    PB Oatmeal

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

    Top: Peanut Butter Oatmeal. Photo courtesy HoneyWhatsCooking.com. Bottom: How about Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal? Here’s the recipe from AlidasKitchen.com.

  • Nuts and seeds: chia, flax, hemp, sesame, sunflower
  • Olives
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Spices: caraway seed, celery seed, chili, cumin, fennel seed, toasted sesame sees
  • Thai-inspired: cashews, chile, chopped peanuts, cooked in coconut milk infused with optional lemongrass and/or ginger
  •  
    RECIPE #2: PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1-3 tablespoons* peanut butter, equivalent PB powder or other nut butter
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Optional toppings (see list above)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the oatmeal according to package directions.

    2. PLACE the peanut butter and optional honey/syrup in a cereal bowl. When the oatmeal is done, add to the bowl and stir to blend.

    3. GARNISH as desired.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Piano Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

    do-re-mi-pb-sandwich-NatlRestAssn-230sq

    It’s a winner: A PB&J keyboard. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. For fun, make this Piano PB&J Sandwich. It was one of the winners of the Kids Live Well Recipe Challenge.

    Sponsored by McCormick, this initiative challenges restaurants’ culinary ingenuity in creating healthful, appealing, nutritious and delicious menu options for children.

    This recipe, called the Do-Re-For-Me Sandwich, was created by Bean Sprouts Café & Cooking School in Seattle. It is delicious with glass of milk.
     
    RECIPE: PB&J PIANO SANDWICH

    Ingredients

  • Multigrain oat bread or substitute
  • Peanut butter, sunflower or other nut/seed butter
  • Strawberry jam or other jam flavor
  • Pumpernickel bread
  • Optional: grapes or other fruit
  • Optional: milk
  • Preparation

    1. CUT the crusts off the bread. Spread the bottom slice of oat bread with peanut butter/sunflower butter and jam. Add the top slice and cut into piano-key sized/shaped pieces.

    2. CUT the pumpernickel into cut smaller pieces and placed on top of the wheat bread to represent black piano keys.

    3. SERVE with a side of grapes or other fruit and a glass of milk.
     
    MORE FUN

    Watch this art film on the preparation of PB&J sandwiches, courtesy Dave’s Killer Bread.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan’s Simply Ground is part creamy, part crunchy. Photo courtesy Mastercook.com.

     

    Something great has happened in the world of peanut butter. Peter Pan has introduced all natural Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter.

    What’s new about that, you ask? While there’s plenty of all-natural peanut butter on store shelves, Simply Ground is delightfully ground.

    Its unique texture lies between creamy and crunchy, reminiscent of finely home-grouund PB. It spreads easily and evenly and is universally useful for everything from sandwiches and soups to baking.

    There are two varieties, Original and Honey Roast, the latter with a touch of real honey. There’s not a big flavor difference; eating the peanut butter straight from the spoon is a nuanced experience. The main difference is 3g sugar per serving versus 6g sugar per serving.

    It’s a winner! National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day is April 2nd, so head to the nearest store.

    FOOD TRIVIA: Peanut butter was developed by a physician to provide a protein food to people who lost their teeth and could no longer chew meat. Here’s the history of peanut butter

     
    RECIPE 1: KING OF MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    This recipe is from Chef Spike Mendelsohn, owner of D.C. restaurant Béarnaise, a Top Chef contestant and consulting chef for Peter Pan Simply Ground.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 8 slices country bread
  • 1/2 cup Peter Pan Simply Ground Original Peanut Butter
  • ¾ cup banana slices
  • 8 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 cup blackberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the blackberry topping: Combine the preserves and water in a pot add heat, stirring, until smooth. Serve on the side

    2. SPREAD the bread with peanut Butter; fill with bananas and bacon to make 4 sandwiches. Press the edges of sandwiches together to seal.

    3. HEAT a large skillet, add the butter and melt over medium heat.

    4. WHISK the egg, cinnamon and milk in bowl until well blended. Add the sandwiches, one at a time, turning to evenly moisten the bread.

    5. ADD the sandwiches to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

    ABOUT THE MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    A Monte Cristo is a fried ham or turkey sandwich with cheese. It’s an American variation of the French Croque Monsieur sandwich.

    Traditionally, the sandwich is dipped in batter and deep fried, but there are regional variations. In some regions of the U.S. it’s just grilled; in others, French toast is used as a base, with cheese melted under a broiler.

    In this version, the sandwich is fried like French Toast.

    Monte Cristo sandwiches originated in southern California; the earliest reference is printed on a 1941 menu from Gordon’s restaurant in Los Angeles and a recipe was published in the 1949 The Brown Derby Cookbook. The sandwich became very popular in the 1950s-1970s.

    Check out the different sandwich types in our Sandwich Glossary.

     

    Peanut Butter Monte Cristo Sandwich

    Peanut Butter Wraps

    Top: Spike Mendelsohn’s re-interpretation of the Monte Cristo Sandwich. Photo courtesy Peter Pan. Bottom: PB&J Lettuce Wraps. Photo courtesy CoffeeandQuinoa.com.

     

    RECIPE 2: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY LETTUCE WRAPS

    The recipe is adapted from Crofter’s Organic.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings, 4 Wraps

  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Boston lettuce or romaine leaves
  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • Mango or apricot fruit spread
  • Optional: 1/4 cup lightly crushed peanuts—raw, roasted, honey or spicy
  • Optional: peanut dipping sauce (recipe)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the spring roll wrappers by softening in hot water, one at a time to avoid sticking.

    2. SPREAD a teaspoon of peanut butter over each, followed by a teaspoon of fruit spread. Sprinkle the optional crushed nuts over the fruit spread.

    3. WRAP the lettuce over the spring roll wrappers. Cut if desired and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Other Uses For A Paella Pan

    Shrimp Paella

    A paella pan from IMUSA USA. The delicious shrimp and bay scallop paella has lots of fresh spring peas.

     

    Today is National Paella Day, one of our favorite foods. It’s a great party dish. It can feed a crowd. It can be served at the table or can sit on a buffet. It can be a special weekend dinner. Any leftovers can be microwaved for lunch at work—but it tastes just fine at room temperature.

    Paella can be made on a stovetop or atop a grill. In fact, it was originally a worker’s meal, cooked in the field over a wood fire.

    Here’s the history of paella, and a recipe for paella on the grill.

     
    DO YOU NEED A PAELLA PAN TO MAKE PAELLA?

    Paella pans were developed to meet specific criteria for cooking the dish. If you don’t have a paella pan, you can use a large skillet, of course.

    Be sure that it’s a flat-bottomed conventional, nonstick skillet. If you want soccorat, the caramelized rice an the bottom of the pan which many people cherish, it won’t happen in a nonstick pan. (That said, there are nonstick paella pans for those who would rather not scrub the rice off the bottom of the pan.)

    The major “pro” for the skillet is that you don’t have to buy a piece of specialized cookware.

     
    Not surprisingly, there are more reasons to use a paella pan.

  • First is the diameter. Paella pans are very large so you can make a lot at once. Paella is usually served as a large family meal or for a party. It takes enough effort so that you want leftovers, too. A 15″ pan is fine for family dinners, and since the pans are made in one-inch increments (15″, 16″, 17″, 18″, etc.) the choices are staggering,
  • Diameter is important so the rice can be spread out to cook properly; a layer half an inch deep is ideal. Pans are made up to 50 inches in diameter. The jumbo ones are for restaurant use; but on a consumer level.
  • Another important criterion is even heat distribution.
  •  
    In sum, the shape was developed over time to be ideal for…cooking paella!
     
    OTHER USES FOR A PAELLA PAN

    Beyond paella, the pan can easily substitute for skillets, griddles and baking and roasting pans.

  • Make breakfast. You can cook larger amounts of bacon, eggs, and pancakes in a wok than in most frying pans and griddles.
  • Fry or sauté fish and meat. A paella pan is much larger than a standard frying pan. You can fit numerous chicken breasts, chops, fish fillets or steaks, even large steaks, without crowding the pan.
  • Make stir fries. Don’t have a wok? Use your paella pan to stir fry.
  • Bake and roast. Need an extra baking sheet or roasting pan? Bake those biscuits or roast that chicken in your paella pan!
  • Serve. If your pan looks new enough, use it as a serving tray.
  • Use as a plancha. A plancha is a flat-top metal grill that gets very hot, enabling cut-up food or small items like shrimp to cook quickly. It’s the high-heat, quick-cooking Spanish version of a wok.
  •  
    If you have other kitchen uses for paella pans, we’d love to hear them!
     
      

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    RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Without The Cream

    March 26th is National Spinach Day, honoring the most iron-rich vegetable, the reason Popeye was strong to the finish. Many people name Creamed Spinach as their favorite way to enjoy the vegetable—along with a juicy steak. It’s a steakhouse staple.

    To help tone down the richness a bit, some steakhouses are making their Creamed Spinach without cream. Chicken stock, flour and butter are substituted for the heavy cream or cream cheese.

    Executive Chef Eddie Advilyi from Angus Club Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is one of the steakhouse chefs turning out Creamless Creamed Spinach (we’ve also had the dish at Benjamin Steakhouse). Chef Eddie shares his recipe with us:

    RECIPE: CREAMLESS CREAMED SPINACH

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base*
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (substitute black pepper)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of melted butter
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Chicken base is a highly concentrated stock available in powder or cube form.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL or steam the chopped spinach and drain well.

    2. ADD the other ingredients. Mix until it becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY SPINACH

  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Spanakoita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
  •  

    Creamless Creamed Spinach

    Ribeye, Creamed Spinach

    Fresh Spinach

    Top: Creamless Creamed Spinach at Benjamin Steakhouse. Center: Ribeye steak with Creamless Creamed Spinach at Angus Club Steakhouse. Bottom: Fresh spinach from Good Eggs.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence. Florentine dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère and Parmesan).

      

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    RECIPE: Chocolate Covered Raisins

    March 24th is National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day, honoring a confection that dates well before the introduction of Raisinets in 1927.

    You need only three ingredients to make chocolate-covered raisins: raisins, chocolate and coconut oil. The oil thins the chocolate so it adheres better.

    We loved this suggestion from TheRoadNotProcessed.com: Add a bit of spice to elevate the recipe.

    You can coat the raisins in dark, milk or white chocolate using chocolate chips. But the better the chocolate quality, the tastier the results. We chop up a Lindt bar.

    Look for jumbo raisins you can find. You can substitute jumbo sultanas (golden raisins) as well.

     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED RAISINS

    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar
  • 1/2 tbsp virgin* coconut oil (substitute vegetable shortening)
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or cloves (if you like heat, add chipotle)
  • 1 cup jumbo raisins
  •  
    ____________________________
    *Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, like vegetable oil. Virgin coconut oil is fresh-pressed, unrefined coconut oil—superior to refined coconut oil. Here’s more about coconut oil.

     

    National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day

    Jumbo Sultanas

    Top: Homemade Raisinets. Photo courtesy TheRoadNotProcessed.com. Bottom: Jumbo sultanas, golden raisins. Photo courtesy CandyMax

     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler or microwave for 30-seconds, then at 10-second intervals as needed, taking care not to scorch it. Stir well with a whisk, adding the optional spice(s).

    2. ADD half the raisins and mix well to coat them all; then add the rest of the raisins and do the same. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Harden in the refrigerator and break up the hardened pieces. For faster hardening, use the freezer (they’ll be ready in 5-10 minutes).

    6. BREAK up the hardened pieces into individual pieces or raisin clusters. Refrigerate any leftovers.
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAISINETS

    Raisinets, raisins in chocolate shell, is a movie theater staple and the third-largest selling candy in U.S. history.

    To make the candy, raisins are coated with oil and spun in a hot drum with milk chocolate or dark chocolate. They’re then polished to a shine.

    Raisinets are the earliest brand of chocolate-covered raisins on record, introduced by the Blumenthal Brothers Chocolate Company of Philadelphia in 1927 (the brand was acquired by Nestlé in 1984).

    The Blumenthals did not originate the concept. Hard chocolate was invented in 1847, enabling confectioners to develop all types of chocolate candies (the history of chocolate), including chocolate-dipped fresh and dried fruits.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Hot Cross Buns

    Hot Cross Buns

    Hot Cross Buns

    Top: What a treat: Warm hot cross buns (photo King Arthur Flour). Bottom: You can substitute dried cherries or cranberries for the raisins (photo Ocean Spray).

     

    Tomorrow is Good Friday, a traditional time for Hot Cross Buns. You can mix up the dough today, divide it into muffin pans, mix up the frosting…and have everything ready when you wake up tomorrow. In just 20 minutes, Hot Cross Buns will emerge from the oven: fragrant with spices, sweet with dried fruit.

    from King Arthur Flour

    And you don’t need to save these delicious breakfast buns for Easter. Although that’s why they have an icing cross, you can…

    RECIPE: HOT CROSS BUNS

    Prep time is 25-35 minutes, rise time is 1 hour, bake time is 20 minutes. You can prepare the dough in advance and refrigerate it overnight. See footnote*.

    Ingredients For 12 To 14 Buns

    For The Buns

  • 1/4 cup apple juice or rum
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
  • 1-1/4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, 1 separated
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • For The Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg white, reserved from above
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  •  
    For The Icing

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing
  •  
    ___________________________________
     
    *You can refrigerate the completed dough for the first rise (first proof), from a few hours to a few days. For loaves of bread, refrigerate unshaped dough; then shape it after removing it from the fridge. Refrigerate the dough immediately after mixing, not after a rise. After removing from the fridge, let it rise a second time on the counter. This can take one hour or several, depending on the yeast. Refrigeration actually yields tastier results because the yeast has more time to do its work. Allow the dough to warm up a little before baking.

    You can shape loaves before refrigeration, but it may produce an uneven rise because the center of a large loaf will warm much more slowly after removal from the fridge. However, buns are small enough to avoid this problem, so feel free to shape before you refrigerate. [Source]

     

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY GREASE a 10″ square pan or 9″ x 13″ pan.

    2. MIX the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave briefly, just until the fruit and liquid are very warm and the plastic starts to “shrink wrap” itself over the top of the bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature. When the fruit is cool…

    3. MIX together all of the dough ingredients except the fruit. Knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, until the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the fruit and any liquid. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

    4. DIVIDE the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces. That’s about 3-3/4 ounces each—about 1/3 cup, a heaped muffin scoop. Use greased hands to round the dough into balls and place them in the prepared pan.

     

    Good Friday Buns

    Originally, the cross atop Hot Cross Buns was a simple knife cut. The icing came later. Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com. Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com.

     
    5. COVER the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they’ve puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

    6. WHISK together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns. Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

    7. MIX together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe a cross shape atop each bun.
     

    THE HISTORY OF HOT CROSS BUNS

    The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733. A sweet yeast bun filled with raisins or currants, the cross on top was originally made with knife cuts. Over time, icing was piped over the cuts.

    The cross symbolizes the crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday.

    They are believed to predate Christianity: Similar buns were eaten by Saxons to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring. In their ancient pagan culture, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon.

    “Eostre” is believed to be the origin of Easter. Many pagan holidays were ported into Christianity in its early days, to encourage pagans to convert to the new faith.

    You don’t have to wait for Good Friday to enjoy hot cross buns. They’re too delicious to save for one day of the year. You can variety the recipe with dried cherries or cranberries instead of raisins.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: The History Of Ravioli For National Ravioli Day

    Lobster Ravioli

    Cutting Ravioli

    Fazzoletti Ravioli

    Ligurian Pasta

    Sardinian Ravioli

    Fried Ravioli

    Lobster & Crab Ravioli

    Chocolate Ravioli

    (1) A classic dish of ravioli with tomato sauce (photo courtesy CBCrabcakes.com). (2) An illustration of why ravioli is also called “pillow pasta.” (3) Fazzoletti, meaning “handker-chiefs,” at Osteria Morini | NYC. (4) Casoncelli, the twisted shape of Liguria (photo TripAdvisor.uk.co.). (5) Culurgione, Sardinian stuffed pasta shaped like wheat (photo It.Wikipedia). (6) Ravioli can be fried and served with a dipping sauce (at Giovanni Rana | NYC). (7) Lobster and crab ravioli in duo-tone pasta sheets (at Nuovo Pasta). (8) Chocolate ravioli for dessert. Here’s the recipe from Fashion Newbie.

     

    When we were growing up, our mom had access to an Italian restaurant supply store, from whom she purchased a copious amounts of ravioli: in pinked but uncut sheets, four layers to a cardboard carton. When tossed into boiling water and they’d magically separate for an brief swim, until ready to drain and sauce.

    Each week we had Ravioli Night. In those days it was meat or cheese with Mom’s homemade pasta sauce. Lobster ravioli, pumpkin ravioli, and even spinach ravioli were still in the future. She did, however, have a wedge of Parmesan cheese, which she grated over our dishes.

    There has always been ravioli in our life. But who invented ravioli?
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, thin wonton noodles like Italian linguine, lo mein noodles like Italian pappardelle, and wide wonton noodles like Italian fettuccine—but filled pasta.

    Those stuffed wontons (boiled in soup or steamed separately) or pot stickers (pan-fried) wrapped wheat dough around a filling. Other Asian countries followed suit, and also made pasta from rice and from mung bean threads.

    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta was called ravioli (another name is pillow pasta). Some food historians believe the name derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap. Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef by that name, who lived in what is now the Italian region of Liguria), who is credited with the invention of the dumpling composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Today, you can find pasta shaped in circles, novelty shapes (fish, hearts, stars, etc.), rectangles, squares, triangles and other shapes. But let’s start at the beginning.

    When Did Pasta Get To Italy?

    Many have credited Marco Polo, who returned from China in 1295 after 17 years of service in Kublai Khan’s court. But more recent archeological discoveries in Southern Italy have uncovered examples of square ravioli dating to the 9th century. They recipe initially arrived during the Arab conquests of Sicily in the 9th century, which also brought that iconic Italian food (via Arabia via China), spaghetti.

    Of course, in those days communications weren’t great over large distances, and it could be that the Venetians didn’t know about stuffed pasta until Marco Polo returned.

    Like the Chinese, Italians served ravioli (singular: raviolo) in broth, or with a pasta sauce—oil- or cream-based. Tomatoes, which arrived from the New World in the late 16th century, were used as houseplants, believed to be poisonous, and not eaten in Italy until the 18th century.
     
    The Creativity Begins

    By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout Italy. Each region would fill them with local ingredients and give them local names.

    The creative chefs of wealthy families expanded on the square ravioli idea shape to circles, half-moons, hats and other shapes, creating agnolotti, cappelletti, tortelli, tortellini, tortelloni and a host of other shapes. Affordable by all economic classes, stuffed pasta grew in popularity during the Middle Ages.
     
    Whatever the shape, stuffed pasta was made from very thin layers of a dough consisting of wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs (egg pasta was popular in the north and central regions, less so in the southern regions). A bottom sheet of dough was dotted with filling, the top sheet added and the individual pillows scored and crimped.

    Fillings could include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese: Parmigiano and related cheeses (Asiago, Gran Padano), ricotta, sheep’s milk (pecorino) and other soft cheeses
  • Fish or seafood
  • Fruits, nuts, breadcrumbs
  • Herbs: borage, garlic, marjoram, parsley
  • Meat: boar and other game, beef, chicken, cured meats, deer, lamb, pork, sausage
  • Vegetables: mushrooms, pumpkin or other squash
  •  
    Regional Specialties

    Emilia-Romagna, called “the capital of filled pasta” by some, served tortellini (also called cappelletti or tortelli) in beef or capon broth. Other preparations included meat sauce (ragù alla Bolognese) and fresh cream with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Traditional fillings were mortadella or prosciutto with Parmigiano, nutmeg and pepper.

    Here are some of the numerous specialties from other regions:

  • In Abruzzo, tortelli abruzzesi di carnevale was served on the last Sunday of Carnival and other occasions. With a filling of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon, they were cooked in a meat broth and served with grated pecorino cheese.
  • In Piemonte (Piedmont), agnolotti, stuffed, bite-size squares, were served in beef broth, sauced with the juices from roasted meats or tossed with browned butter with sage. The pasta was topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • In Liguria, casoncelli (a twisted shape reminiscent of Jewish kreplach) and pansotti (triangular ravioli) were popular shapes, served in beef broth.
  • In Lombardia (Lombardy), casoncelli were served with butter and sage. A famous dish from the region, tortelli di zucca [pumpkin] mantovani [from Mantua], was filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti and mostarda (fruit mustard).
  • In Molise, a traditional filled pasta was ravioli scapolesi (after a village called Scapoli). The egg dough filling was complex: chopped chard, roasted ground meat, sausage, beaten eggs, ricotta and pecorino cheese. These large ravioli were first boiled, then topped with a pork and sausage ragù, then baked.
  • In Sardinia, culurgioni were filled with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes, pecorino cheese, chard or spinach were added. And then, something unique: They were molded to resemble the tip of a stalk of wheat, boiled and served—these days, with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. In Sardinia, the local aged pecorino is shaved on top instead of the Parmigiano of the continent. A variation of the filling uses fresh (day old) pecorino cheese, mashed potatoes and mint, onions or oregano.
  • In Toscana (Tuscany), tortelli alla lastra was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone (lastra) over a fire. Large squares were filled with mashed potatoes, sometimes with added pancetta, and topped with a sauce made of braised carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, garlic and sage.
  •  
    Today, the different shapes, fillings and sauces are available throughout Italy.

    Surprise: Sweet Accents

    Until the 16th century, pasta of all types was customarily served with a sweet accent—crumbled amaretti biscotti, currants, marmalade and/or sweet spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg). These ingredients could also be added to the filling.

    While cooking in broth was a common preparation, the ravioli could be fried and served with spices, sugar or honey.

     
    But today, full-fledged dessert ravioli is available, from chocolate and vanilla dough to fillings of chestnut, chocolate, fruit and tiramisu. We even have a recipe for peanut butter and jelly ravioli.

    And there’s no end in sight.

    Many thanks to Piergiorgio and Amy Nicoletti for their scholarship on the history of ravioli.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Dutched Cocoa Powder

    Top: Sweet and salty, chocolate and caramel: How can you resist? A recipe and photo from The Baker Chick. Bottom: Dutch process, or Dutched cocoa, is processed with alkali to neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity. It is milder in flavor and lighter in color than non-Dutched cocoa powder. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Thanks to The Baker Chick for helping us celebrate National Chocolate Caramel Day, March 19th. We made her wickedly good Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies.

     
    RECIPE: SALTED CARAMEL PRETZEL BROWNIES

     
    Ingredients For 24 Brownies

    For The Pretzel Crust

  • 4 cups small pretzels, crushed into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  •  
    For The Brownies

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Fit a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper. Overlap two sheets, including two tabs that hang over the sides, so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan.

    2. ADD the crushed pretzels to the bottom of the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Set aside while you make the brownie batter.

     
    3. WHISK together the cocoa powder and boiling water in a large bowl, whisking quickly until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Add the oil, melted butter, eggs, yolks and vanilla, whisking after each addition. Add the sugar, mix until well-combined. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the batter and then fold in, mixing until smooth and well incorporated while not over-mixing.

    4. POUR the caramel sauce over the batter in lines going vertically, then horizontally. Use the tip of a knife or skewer to swirl the batter back and forth.

    5. BAKE for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

     
      

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