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Archive for International Foods

TIP OF THE DAY: National Hummus Day: Try A New Brand!

Hope Black Garlic Hummus

Salad-Topped Hummus

Chocolate Hummus

[1] Black Garlic, one of 11 delicious flavors of Hope Hummus (photo courtesy Hope Foods). [2] One of our favorite ways to serve hummus: topped with salad ingredients and, as a lunch dish, with a hard-boied egg (photo courtesy Shayla | NOLA). [3] Woo hoo, chocolate hummus (photo courtesy Hope Foods).

 

May 13th is International Hummus Day.

Over the last two decades, hummus has evolved from a mezze at Mediterranean restaurants to the hottest, most nutritious dip and spread at supermarkets nationwide. It’s the darling of nutritionists, nutritious and versatile, and a better-for-you snack.

Hummus is Arabic for chickpea. The more long-form name for what we refer to as hummus is hummus bi tahina, chickpeas with tahini. Tahini is a paste made of toasted, hulled sesame seeds, which can been joyed as a dip on its own.

The recipe for hummus is simple: chickpeas, tahini and seasonings (including garlic), mashed and puréed*.

THE HUMMUS RENAISSANCE

Two decades ago, the hummus available in the U.S. was the classic: plain. If you didn’t order it at a restaurant or live near a neighborhood with an international market that carried it, you made your own the recipe is easy, once you found a store with tahini).

But since the hummus renaissance, stores have been sagging under the weight of so many brands and so many flavors. We’ve counted more than two dozen flavors among different brands. Our personal favorites: horseradish and black olive, which we found at Trader Joe’s.

But, we like everything. So we were very pleased to receive samples of a new brand from Hope Foods. If you head to the website now, you can enter to win a year’s supply of hummus.

HOPE FOODS ORGANIC HUMMUS

There are 11 flavors of hummus. We tried three of them, all especially delicious.

First, the consistency is wonderful, like well-mashed homemade hummus.

While we enjoy the ultra-smooth texture of big brands like Tribe, we welcome the return of toothsome texture, like Grandma used to make (if your grandma’s ancestry was in the eastern Mediterranean).

Second, the flavor selection is a bit more interesting, with black garlic, Thai coconut curry, and spicy avocado hummus (the most popular flavor).

The line is preservative free, certified Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Certified, OU kosher and USDA Organic. There’s a store locator on the website.

HOPE HUMMUS FLAVORS

Currently, the line of hummus includes:

  • Black Garlic Hummus
  • Jalapeño Cilantro Hummus
  • Kale Pesto Hummus
  • Lemon Peppercorn Hummus
  • Original Recipe Hummus (nice and peppery)
  • Red Pepper Hummus
  • Spicy Avocado Hummus
  • Sriracha Hummus
  • Thai Coconut Curry Hummus
  • Plus, Dessert Hummus

  • Dark Chocolate Hummus
  • Dark Chocolate Coconut Hummus
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    While we haven’t had Hope’s chocolate hummus, we have had other brands: Thumbs up!

    The company also makes guacamole, which we have not yet tried.

    “Spread” the word!
    ________________

    *Some brands also add olive oil.

     

    THE HISTORY OF HUMMUS

    Chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic have been eaten in the Levant† for millennia. Though widely consumed, chickpeas were cooked in stews and other hot dishes. Puréed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period (750 to 1517 C.E.) in Egypt and the Levant.

    The earliest known recipes for a dish similar to hummus bi tahina are in 13th-century cookbooks from Cairo.

    Some food historians believe it appeared a century earlier, prepared by Saladin, the first sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (1174–1193); and if so, it was more likely created by a cook in his kitchen, the idea of the warlord Saladin-as-cook being tough to swallow.

    Recipes for cold purée of chickpeas without tahini, but with vinegar, oil, pickled lemons, herbs, spices (but no garlic), appear in medieval cookbooks; as do recipes with nuts vinegar (though not lemon), but it also contains many spices, herbs, and nuts. [source]

    Whomever and however, we’re grateful that it came to be part of our [almost] daily diet,

    ________________

    †The Levant is an English term that first appeared in 1497. It originally referred to the “Mediterranean lands east of Italy.” The historical area comprises modern-day Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Among other popular foods, Levantine cuisine gave birth to baklava, balafel, kebabs, mezze (including tabbouleh, hummus and baba ghanoush), pita and za’atar, among other dishes that are enjoyed in the U.S. and around the world.
    ________________

    WHAT IS/ARE MEZZE?

    Mezze (MEH-zay) or meze is the singular form for a number of small dishes served in the Middle East to accompany drinks (add an “s” for the plural form in English). In some countries, an assorted mezze plate is served as an appetizer.

    Each country has its favorites. The ones most often found in the U.S. are:

     

    Mezze Platter

    Hummus Platter

    [4] A mezze plate in California: babaganoush, feta, hummus, olives, pita and a local touch, pickled carrots (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [5] Hummus itself is gluten-free, but not the pita. This gluten-free hummus plate from Glutino Foods offers other options.

  • Babaghanoush, mashed eggplant mixed with seasonings.
  • Dolmades can take many forms. In the U.S., they’re usually Greek-style: grape leaves stuffed with rice, chopped mint and lemon juice (these are also called sarma). In some countries, eggplants, peppers and zucchini are stuffed, often with the same ingredients plus minced lamb.
  • Falafel, a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both.
  • Fattoush – salad made from several garden vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread.
  • Feta cheese or other local cheese.
  • Halloumi cheese, sliced and grilled.
  • Hummus, a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas.
  • Kibbeh, a mixture of bulghur, minced onions, finely chopped meat, and spices. Depending on the region, it is shaped into balls or patties and fried, baked, cooked in broth, or served raw (tartare).
  • Souvlaki, bite-sized lamb cubes, grilled on a skewer.
  • Labneh, strained yogurt that is more tart, like sour cream.
  • Tabbouleh, bulgur wheat, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, green onion, with lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings.
  • Taramasalata, a carp roe dip based whipped with lemon juice and olive oil. Sometimes, mashed potatoes or bread are added to stretch the recipe. We buy the Krinos brand, which does not add fillers.
  • Tzatziki, a dip made from plain yogurt, chopped cucumber with finely chopped garlic and mint leaf.
  • Yogurt.
  •  
    They are typically served along with Greek-style olives and pita, or other flatbread.

    MORE HUMMUS

  • Beyond Dipping: More Ways To enjoy Hummus
  • Black Garlic Hummus Recipe
  • Carrot Hummus Recipe
  • Hummus Sushi
  • Make Your Signature Hummus
  • Rancho Gordo Hummus Recipe
  • Turn Plain Hummus Into Flavored Hummus
  • 20 Ways To Make A Hummus Sandwich
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    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mostarda, A Sweet-Hot Italian Condiment

    Mostarda di Cremona

    Mostarda di Cremona

    Mostarda

    Mostarda Bolognese

    Mostarda di Mantova

    [1] The classic: mostarda di cremona. Here’s a recipe to make your own from The Spruce). [2] A cremona close-up (photo courtesy Cucina Corriere. [3] Mostarda vicentina has a jam-like consistency, losing the physical beauty of other mostardas (photo courtesy Buonissimo). [4] Mostarda di mantova, made from apples, pears and quince (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese).

     

    Years ago, on a trip to Italy, we first came across mostarda di frutta, mostarda for short.

    A sweet-and-hot, fruit-and-mustard condiment from the north of Italy, it’s our go-to condiment with Italian cheeses, and some other nationalities on the cheese board. We offer more uses below.

    Think of mostarda as a mustardy fruit chutney—although mostarda uses mostly candied fruits. (The Italian word for mustard in the English-language issenape).

    Candied whole small fruits or larger pieces of fruit are beautifully suspended in a clear syrup flavored with mustard oil. It’s clear and doesn’t cloud the syrup. Home recipes often use mustard powder mixed into white wine.

    Some mostarda is lovely to look at, like part of a still life painting. It is cooked slowly (often over three days) to maintain the natural bright colors of the fruit, and the perfect texture.

    Buy jars as gifts for your foodie friends.

    The origin of the word comes from a Latin term of the Middle Ages, mustum ardens, “grape juice [must] that burns,” a term first used in the Middle Ages by French monks, for the mustard they made (the history of mustard).

    It burns because of the addition of crushed mustard seeds. Once crushed, the seeds release the fiery mustard oil that gives the mustard condiment its flavor.

    THE HISTORY OF MOSTARDA

    From the Middle Ages forward, man has sought ways to enjoy the fruits that are scarce in winter, at least through the celebrations of Christmas.

    Mostarda is a food born from the need to preserve fruits for the off-season. Originally, the fruits were preserved in mosto (grape must*), unfermented grape juice that has been reduced to a syrup.

    Mostarda’s origins date back to the honey and mustard condiments of ancient Rome. Grape must (freshly pressed grape juice) was mixed with ground mustard seeds and honey to create a sweet mustard. Later, fruit was added.

    Recipes for “modern” mostarda, dating from the 13th century, call for the use of grape must. The first written document “Fruit Mostarda for festive season” dates to 1393 and is attributed to Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan [source].

  • Grape must, called must for short, is the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes. Among other uses (in saba and vin cotto, for starters), it is mixed with ground mustard seeds to make mustard.
  • Subsequently, the condiment mostarda was made by candying the fruits and adding mustard oil to create sweet heat. Both the sugar to candy the fruits and the mustard oil were preservatives.
  • And by the way, mostarda became a Christmas tradition, traditionally eaten with creamy, slightly sweet mascarpone cheese.
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    Beginning in the 16th century, newly-affordable sugar replaced the must to candy the fruits, then mustard was added [source]. The oldest known recipe prepared with fruit, mustard and sugar, without the grape must, was found in 17th century Belgium.

    From that point on, cookbooks began to include mostarda as a main ingredient. By the 19th century there were some 93 different varieties.

    The sweet heat went really well with boiled meats. Initially, mostarda was the served with bollito misto, a plate of mixed boiled meats that’s a specialty of northern Italian cuisine (there’s more below about uses for mostarda).

    TYPES OF MOSTARDA

    According to legend, mostarda was invented by chance in medieval times. In an apothecary shop, a piece of melon fell unnoticed into a barrel filled with honey.

    When it was later discovered, the melon was still as delicious as if it had been freshly picked (honey, which is virtually moisture-free, is an excellent preservative) [source].

    Mostarda itself takes on different ingredients in different regions, incorporating local fruits—whatever is plentiful in the region. Raisins, nuts and other ingredients can be added.

    As one source notes, almost every town in the Po valley has its own recipe.

    There are many, many mostarda recipes, from grape and fig (uva e ficchi) to vegetable mustards (also candied) modern recipes with non-Italian ingredients, from cardamom pods to pineapple and pumpkin.

    Here are some of the most famous, named for the areas where they originated.

  • Mostarda bolognese is made from apples, oranges, pears, plums and quince. In the area of Bologna, it is used to flavor the classic dish of boiled pork and cooked sausages, as well as to fill tarts and in other sweets.
  • Mostarda di carpi, from a town in the Emilia-Romagna region. It still uses red grape must in its recipe, along with oranges, pears, quince and sweet apples,
  • Mostarda di cremona also called mostarda cremonese, is the classic recipe, made with several different kinds of fruits (the makers choice among apricots, cherries, figs, peaches, pears, quinces and tangerines). It is the most commercially available style.
  • Mostarda di mantova, also called mostarda mantovana and mostarda di mele campanine, is made from tart= green apples called mele campanine (singular mela campanina) and pears or quince.
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  • Mostarda veneziana, from the Venice region, is made with fresh quince pulp (a minimum of 36% pure pulp), and candied fruits (apricots, clementines, figs, white pears, yellow cherries). It is intentionally grainy/sugary.
  • Mostarda vicentina, from the town of Vicenza in the Veneto region, is characterized by a jam-like consistency and the use of quince (mele cotogne) as its main ingredient. During the Christmas holidays, it is eaten with spoonfuls with mascarpone.
  • Mostarda di voghera, in the Lombardy region of Italy, has documentation from 1397, when Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti requested “mostarda de fructa cum la senavra.” The recipe can include apples, apricots, candied orange peel, cherries, clementines, figs, lemon, melon and pears.
  • Mostarda siciliana is made with orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and often, toasted chopped almonds.
  • Dalmatian mostarda, made in Croatia across the Adriatic Sea from Venice, is a simpler recipe, made with quinces and honey.
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    WAYS TO USE MOSTARDA

    Any discussion starts with bollito misto a fundamental part of Northern Italian cuisine. It’s a one-pot meal, Italian comfort food.

    The boiled meats vary by region, and a very elaborate presentation can include seven kinds of meat and fowl, seven vegetables and seven condiments.

    The meats can include beef brisket, beef cheeks, calf’s tongue, chicken or capon (or turkey), cotechino sausage, pork shank, sweet Italian sausage, veal shank—slowly boiled in a large pot with carrots, celery, onions and potatoes.

    The cooked cooked meats are sliced, placed on a platter and served with mostarda—or, for those seeking a different flavor profile, with a green herb sauce (salsa verde). The savory broth that remains in the pot can then be turned into soup.

    Why not plan a dinner party, with a multi-mostarda tasting?

    Over time, mostarda became a broad-purpose condiment.

    The heat of mostarda varies by producer. In general, however, it needs a hearty food that can show off both the sweet and the heat.

    Serve mostarda with:

  • Eggs: omelets, sliced egg sandwich on crusty toast.
  • Cheeses: as a condiment on a cheese board, or drizzled over individually plated slices or scoops of mascarpone or ricotta. In Italy, gorgonzola and stracchino are popular.
  • Meats: any boiled, braised, broiled, roasted or smoked, from chicken and turkey to ham, pork loin and beef brisket and sausages.
  • Up-condimenting: added to a dip base or mayonnaise for a more complex flavor.
  • Salume and other charcuterie).
  • Sandwiches: grilled vegetables, Italian cold cuts, porchetta, roast beef, strong cheeses.
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    You can find many mostarda recipes online, and can purchase it in specialty food stores and Italian markets. You can also buy it online.

    Don’t be put off by the high price for a small jar. If you look at the ingredients in the recipe, you’ll see it as a bargain.

    Let us know how you like it.

    Discover the world of mustard in our Mustard Glossary.

    PHOTO CAPTIONS

    [5] Bollito misto, a dish often served with mustard (photo courtesy Cucina Italiana).

    [6] Add a ramekin of mostarda to a cheese and/or charcuterie board (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    [7] A delicious appetizer or snack: bruschetta with prosciutto, burrata and pear mostarda (photo courtesy Davio’s Boston).

     

    Bollito Misto

    Cheese Board

    Prosciutto Burrata Bruschetta

     

      

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    RECIPE: Fried Egg Quesadilla & Quesadilla History

    We don’t know what Chef Ingrid Hoffmann is making for Cinco de Mayo, but we’re breakfasting on our adaptation of her Fried Egg Quesadillas.

    A simple Mexican snack food. A basic Quesadilla are a Mexican snack food: a turnover (photo #1) made with an uncooked tortilla and a variety of fillings—beans, cheese, meats, potatoes, then folded and toasted on a hot griddle (comal) or fried.

    Regional variations abound.

  • In the northern states, it can be filled simply, with strips of Chihuahua cheese (queso Chihuahua—photo #3), a soft white cheese made in braids, balls or rounds and similar to mild white cheddar or Monterey Jack—all good melters.
  • The cheese originated in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. (Interestingly, in Chihuahua, where it originated, it is called queso menonita after the Mennonite community that first produced it.)
  • In central Mexico, the preference is for braided Oaxaca cheese (photo #4), some leaves of fresh epazote, and strips of peeled chile poblano.
  • A favorite filling is potato and chorizo; the “deluxe” versions contain sautéed squash blossoms or huitlachoche, the highly-esteemed corn blossom fungus.
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    RECIPE: FRIED EGG & AVOCADO QUESADILLAS

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large whole-grain tortillas
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, peeled, seeded and mashed
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts or pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Optional: ½ jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional garnishes: crema (sour cream), salsa
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    Preparation

    There are more complex tortilla recipes, including a “sandwich” style with a top and bottom tortilla, cut into wedges (photo #2).

    It can be served with sides of crema (sour cream), guacamole or salsa for customization.

    This recipe (photo #1) is a much quicker version.

    1. BRUSH a small nonstick skillet with the oil and heat over medium heat.

    2. ADD the eggs one at a time and cook sunny side up about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer to a plate. While the eggs are cooking…

    3. WARM the tortillas in a separate, hot skillet (no oil needed).

    4. ASSEMBLE: Spread the warm tortilla with half of the mashed avocado, tomatoes, pine nuts, cilantro and jalapeño.

    5. TOP with an egg, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold over and serve.

    If you’re making multiples, quesadillas can be kept warm in 300°F oven on a baking sheet, until ready to serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MEXICAN COOKING & THE QUESADILLA

    The quesadilla was born in New Spain (what is now Mexico) during colonial times: the period from the arrival of the conquistadors in 1519 to the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, which ended Spanish rule.

       

    Breakfast Quesadilla

    Breakfast Quesadilla

    Queso Chihuaha

    Queso Oaxaca Ball

    [1] Quesadilla, loaded and ready to fold, grab and go (photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann). [2] A more formal quesadilla presentation requires a knife and fork, is made between two tortillas and then cut into triangles (photo courtesy Cabot Cheese). [3] Queso chihuahua from Mozzarella Company (photo courtesy iGourmet). [4] Queso oaxaca, braided (photo courtesy Food & Travel Mexico).

     
    For thousands of years, the local cuisine had consisted of the area’s staples: avocados, beans, cacao (available to the rich and famous), chiles, corn (made into a variety of foods, including tortillas), papayas, pineapples, potatoes (which originated in Peru), tomatoes, squash (including pumpkin) and vanilla.

    Dishes included corn pancakes; tamales; tortillas with pounded pastes or wrapped around other foods; all flavored with numerous salsas (sauces), intensely flavored and thickened with seeds and nuts.

    The Spanish brought with them wheat flour and new types of livestock: cattle, chicken (and their eggs), goat, pigs, sheep. Before then, local animal proteins consisted of fish, quail, turkey and a small, barkless dog bred for food, the itzcuintli, a [plump] relative of the chihuahua.

    Cooking oil was scarce until the pigs arrived, yielding lard for frying. Indigenous cooking techniques were limited to baking on a hot griddle, and boiling or steaming in a pot. While olive trees would not grow in New Spain, olive oil arrived by ship from the mother country.

     

    Bean Quesadilla

    Steak Quesadillas

    Lobster Quesadillas

    [5] Basic quesadilla: cheese and beans (here’s the recipe from Taste Of Home). [6] Grilled flank steak tortillas (photo courtesy Kings Ford Charcoal).[7] Going gourmet: lobster quesadillas from Mackenzie Ltd.

     

    The Spanish brought dairying, which produced butter, cheese and milk.

    The sugar cane they planted provided sweetness. Barley, rice and wheat were important new grains. Spices for flavor enhancement included black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant), cumin, garlic, oregano, and parsley.

    Almonds and other sesame seeds augmented native varieties. Produce additions included apples, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions and oranges.

    While grapes, like olive trees, would not grow in the climate, imported raisins became in ingredient in the fusion cuisine—i.e., Mexican cooking.

    (Mind you, the peasant diet was still limited to beans, corn tortillas and locally gathered foods like avocados.)

    While the Spanish could not make wine locally, they did teach the Aztecs how to distill agave, into what was called mezcal.

    The pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica brewed a fermented alcoholic beverage called pulque (think corn based beer). With the barley they brought, the Spanish brewed their home-style beer.

    The development of the cuisine was greatly aided by the arrival of Spanish nuns [source].

    Experimenting with what was available locally, nuns invented much of the more sophisticated Mexican cuisine, including, but hardly limited to:

  • Buñuelos.
  • Cajeta, a type of dulce de leche made with goat’s milk. It is a type of dulce de leche.
  • Chiles rellenos, stuffed with beef, cheese or pork.
  • Escabeche, a variety of marinades for fish.
  • Guacamole (New Spain had the avocados, tomatoes and chiles, but Spain brought the cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant) and the onions.
  • Mole sauce.
  • Rompope, an eggnog-like drink.
  • Lomo en adobo: pork loin in a spicy sauce. [source]
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    So whence the quintessentially Mexican quesadilla?

    It’s half indigenous, half Spanish.

  • From the New World: the corn tortilla, hot sauce and other salsas.
  • From Spain, the cheese, beef-chicken-pork and the shredded lettuce…as well as the wheat for flour tortillas and the eggs for breakfast quesadillas.
  •  
    And it’s very, very popular, from Mexican street food to restaurant far in Mexico and the U.S.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Cinco De Mayo With Tres Leches Cake

    Plain Tres Leches Cake

    Tres Leches Cake With Fruit

    Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

    Raspberry Tres Leches Cake

    [1] Basic tres leches cake with added rum. Here’s the recipe from Bake Or Break. [2] Add some fruit garnish. Here’s the recipe from Renee’s Kitchen Adventures. [3] Go chocolate, with this recipe from The Domestic Rebel. [4] Go fancy for a special occasion. Here’s the recipe from Vika’s Home Goods.

     

    First: There is a recipe for a specialty Tres Leches cake below, Caramel Coconut Tres Leches Cake.

    Tres Leches cake is a vanilla sponge cake that is baked, perforated and soaked in three different milk products: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk. The cake absorbs the milks, making it moister and richer.

    It is then frosted with whipped cream or meringue, and often garnished with caramel, chocolate, coconut, liqueurs, nuts and tropical fruits. It’s not your grandmother’s sponge cake.
     
    Tres Leches has been a favorite cake for celebrations throughout Central America since at least World War II era, and become popular in the U.S. at the end of the 20th century (Jenna Bush Hager served it for her wedding cake).
     
    It is kin to other sponge cakes and angel food cakes, which are light and airy because they use beaten eggs to rise. Chiffon cake and génoise are two you may be familiar with. Here are:

  • The different types of sponge cakes.
  • The different categories of cake.
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    THE HISTORY OF TRES LECHES CAKE

    Popular in Central America since the 19th century, pastel de tres leches (pastry with three milks)

    While the origin lacks clean documentation, food historians believe that tres leches cake most likely originated in Nicaragua in the early 1900s. The recipe was printed on the label of sweetened condensed milk cans to spur sales of the product.

    A number of recipe sources place the origin of the tres leches cake in Nicaragua, born from a recipe on the label of Nestle’s sweetened condensed milk. (More than a few recipes, from cheesecake to Chex Party Mix and Rice Krispies Marshmallow Treats, began in the development kitchens of manufacturers to promote more uses for their products.)

    Some sources say the recipe dates to 1875—but that’s the year Nestlé began distributing its condensed and evaporated milks, and seems to soon (their original purpose was to provide milk in areas where fresh milk was not available).

    Nestle Mexico cannot confirm a date, but did say that the company had published a recipe for Tres Leches Cake on the labels of milk cans sold in that country, and that the firm began manufacturing milk products in Mexico around World War II.

    Whatever the truth, “soaked” cakes had been a European tradition since medieval times: British rum cake, trifle, and fruitcake; Italian zuppa inglese and tiramisu, not to mention the soaked foods of the poor, bread pudding and pain perdu (French toast).

    The missing link is believed to be a Mexican cookbook with a recipe for “antes,” a bread soaked in wine and layered with milk custard, that appeared in Mexico in the 19th century [source].

    A search of Mexican cookbooks by journalist M.M. Pack produced these related recipes:

  • Torta de leche (milk cake), cake batter poured into a pan of sweetened scalded milk, baked, and served floating in its milk sauce.
  • Antes, bread soaked in wine and layered with milk custard and fruit or nuts, which appears in Mexico in the 19th century.
  • Sopa Borracha and Ante de Almendra, two soaked cakes from Oaxaca.
  • Cookbook author Patricia Quintana, in her book The Taste of Mexico, opines that Tres Leches comes from Sinaloa, a state on the country’s west coast across from Baja. She provides a colonial-era recipe for Viceroy’s Cake: sherry-drenched layers of cake, custard, fruit, and meringue.
  •  
    And then, a cake called Tres Leches emerges.

    As the recipe traveled from region to region, local bakers added their own touches. In the rum-focused Caribbean islands, rum was added to the “soak.” In U.S. chefs added caramelized milk to create a cuatro leches cake [source].

    Modern Tres Leches Cake

    Tres Leches Cake began to get noticed north of the border toward the end of the 20th century.

  • In 1997, Rich’s, an American food manufacturer, began to sell a premixed, liquid dairy product called Tres Riches, a soak for food-service tres leches cakes.
  • Both Häagen-Dazs and Blue Bell ice cream introduced a tres leches ice cream flavor in 2003.
  •  
    And American home cooks have created every variation: Bailey’s Irish Cream, berry, chocolate, coconut, coffee, marble, peach, pecan, pumpkin, red velvet…

    Not to mention bundts, cupcakes, naked cakes, puddings and stack cakes (the originals were sheet cakes baked in rectangular pans), iced with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, dulce de leche buttercream, even topped with a layer of flan.
     
    Many thanks to journalists M.M. Pack and Patricia Sharpe for their intrepid research into the topic. We hope they enjoyed many slices of Tres Leches Cake along the way.

     

    RECIPE: CARAMEL COCONUT TRES LECHES CAKE

    Ingredients For One 8″-9″ Cake
     
    Ingredients For The Cake

  • 4 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    Ingredients For The Soak

  • 1 16-ounce can coconut milk
  • ¼ cup dulce de leche (or caramel sauce)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  •  
    Ingredients For The Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup toasted coconut
  • Dulce de leche for drizzling
  •  
    Preparation

    Audra, The Baker Chick, notes that she used a 7 inch springform pan, but thinks an 8- or 9-inch cake pan works the best. “The thicker the cake, the harder it is to really get those liquids to soak. Any of those options are fine, or you could double the recipe and use a 9 x 13 rectangular pan.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Generously butter the inside and sides of a 8 or 9 inch round cake pan* and line with a parchment round. Sprinkle with flour- set aside.

    2. COMBINE the egg yolks and ½ cup of the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

    3. BEST the egg whites on medium high in a very clean stand mixer bowl or a large mixing bowl, using a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar while the mixer runs and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

    4. PILE about one-third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture. Gently fold them together until smooth. Add half of the flour and continue to gently fold, being careful to not deflate the egg whites. Repeat with another third of egg whites, the rest of the flour, and the last third of whites. Do not over-mix, but the batter should be smooth, airy and fluffy.

     

    Tres Leches Cake With Caramel Sauce

    Tres Leches Cake With Caramel Sauce

    The Baker Chick’s take on Tres Leches Cake, adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe (photos courtesy The Baker Chick).

     

    5. POUR the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. While the cake is baking, combine the soak ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and set aside.

    6. RUN a knife around the edge of the cake pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment, then flip the cake right side up so it can cool. After the cake has cooled for about 15 minutes, use a fork to prick it all over, not forgetting the sides, edges and all over the top. Try to get pretty close to the bottom of the cake.

    7. USE a spoon or pour the soaking liquid over the cake, a little at a time, waiting for it to absorb before adding more. Use the spoon and gently press the liquid into the cake•. It may seem like a lot of liquid, but use as much as you can to soak the cake.

    8. CHILL the cake in the fridge for an hour or more, to really let the flavors soak and set.

    9. WHIP the cream and once the cake is done chilling, dollop on the whipped cream, drizzle with extra dulce de leche and sprinkle on the toasted coconut. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

    ________________

    *Audra, The Baker Chick actually used a new syringe to inject the liquid. You can buy similar devices for shooting liquid into cakes. She says: Pull up the liquid and then literally inject it into the sides and top of the cake. It works surprisingly well.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tricolor (Multicolor) Tortilla Chips

    Today’s tip is to make Cinco de Mayo (and any celebration) more colorful with tri-color taco chips.

    Some brands sell them in mixed-color bags. Or you can buy your favorite brand in different colors and mix them yourself.

    Tortilla chips, such a popular snack food and dip holder, is a relatively new Tex-Mex food, created in 1940s Los Angeles by Rebecca Webb Carranza, who owned a tortilla shop and Mexican delicatessen.

    THE HISTORY OF TORTILLA CHIPS

    Rebecca Webb was born in Durango, Mexico in 1907, to Leslie Webb, an engineer from Utah who worked for an American mining company in Mexico, and his Mexican-born wife, Eufemia Miranda.

    In Durango, her family, including five brothers lived through the turmoil of raids by Pancho Villa and other bandits. Pancho Villa especially did not like her father, because he was American.

    Leslie Webb moved the family moved to El Paso, Texas when Rebecca was a pre-teen. After her parents divorced, in the 1920s, her mother brought the children to Los Angeles. She met her future husband, Mario Carranza, on a blind date, and they married in 1931.

    At that time, she was sewing ties for a neckwear company, and he worked in finance at O’Keefe & Merritt, an appliance maker. On the advice of a friend who ran a successful tortilla shop in East Los Angeles, the Carranzas opened one in the early 1940s and moved into an apartment above the tortilla factory and shop. [source: L.A. Times].

    The deli sold fresh tortillas daily. In the tortilla factory, she observed the daily waste of misshapen tortillas and leftover dough that were discarded.

    She set out to do something with the discarded tortillas.

    According to the Boston Globe, for a family party in the late 1940s, Ms. Carranza cut some of the discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them into a delicious, crunchy snack.

    A hit with the relatives, she soon was selling them for a dime a bag at her delicatessen, and at the factory that made them for her in southwest Los Angeles.

    From Handmade To Conveyor Belt

    Tortillas met the machine age in the late 1940s. The Carranza’s El Zarape Tortilla Factory was among the first to automate the production of tortillas, acquiring a tortilla-making machine in 1947.

    Tortillas poured off the conveyor belt more than 12 times faster than they could be made by hand.

    At first many, came out bent or misshapen, recalled decades later, and were thrown away. So we can thank tortilla machinery for the existence of taco chips.

    The chips Ms. Carranza created were initially called tostadas, from the Spanish word for toasted.

    Tortilla chips became a wild success among her customers. In addition to snacking from the bag, they were used with Mexican dips such as guacamole and salsa, and even with refried beans.

    By the 1960s, the snack chips, packaged as Tortills Chips, were distributed up and down the West Coast by El Zarape, and had evolved into El Zarape’s primary business.

    Competition Arrives

    The product came to the notice of Frito-Lay, which began making their a mass-market version of the crunchy triangles. Soon, other manufacturers got into the act.

    She turned her tortilla chip business over to her husband when they divorced in 1951, and he moved the factory to Long Beach. But by 1967, El Zarape was forced out of business by competition the superior marketing clout of Doritos and Fritos.

       

    Pumpkin Salsa Tricolor Tortilla Chips

    Tricolor Tortilla Chips With Dips

    Tricolor Tortilla Chips Bag

    Multicolor Tortilla Chips

    [1] Tricolor chips with pumpkin salsa from The Veg Life. [2] Tricolor chips with dips (crema, guacamole, salsa) from Tastespotting. [3] A bag of mixed chips from Abuelita’s [4] We mix and match our own colors with one of our favorite brands of tortilla chips, Food Should Taste Good. Beyond the mixed colors and shapes, there are eight different flavors, from traditional to jalapeño, kimchi and olive.

     
    In 1994 and 1995, Ms. Carranza was among the 20 Tex-Mex industry innovators honored with the Golden Tortilla Award, which was given by Azteca Milling of Irving, Texas.

    The hard-working Ms. Carranza worked in East Los Angeles into her 80s, first as a meat wrapper at grocery stores and then as a U.S. Census taker. She had three more relatively brief marriages, and in 2003, at the age of 95, moved to Phoenix to be near her family: 2 sons, 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and 2 two great-great-grandchildren. She passed away at the age of 98.

    All of her descendants and take great pride that their abuela invented tortilla chips.

    It’s a nice story to share with a glass of beer and tortilla chips.

     

    Tex Mex Scrambled Eggs

    Nacho Hot Dogs

    Use leftover chips in [5] Tex-Mex scrambled eggs, [6] nacho hot dogs, and more everyday foods.

     

    MORE USES FOR TORTILLA CHIPS

    Whole chips, broken chips and the crumbs at the bottom of the bag, can all be repurposed to add crunch and flavor to everyday recipes. Some ideas:

    Burger crunch: taco-rubbed burgers with avocado and tortilla chips. Use this recipe from Kraft to season the burger meat; then add layers of avocado and broken taco chips.

    Casserole toppings: broken and crushed tortilla chip pieces are a great casserole topper. Here’s a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Casserole from Kristin’s Kitchen.

    Cheesy casseroles, like this Ranch Black Bean and Veggie Tortilla Casserole recipe from Mom Foodie.

    Chili Topping: Use the chips or crumbs for a chili topping, like this Salsa Verde White Chicken Chili recipe from The Comfort Of Cooking.

    Crusted Chicken, Fish & Seafood, like this Taco-Crusted Scallops recipe from The Woks Of Life.

    Egg Scrambles
    , like this Mexican Egg and Sweet Potato Breakfast Scramble recipe from Taste And Tell Blog.

    Hot Dog Topping, like this Nacho Hot Dogs recipe from A Spicy Perspective.

    Salad topping, from green salad and potato salad to Tex-Mex salads like this Chopped Taco Salad recipe from Cinnamon Spice And Everything Nice.

    Vegetable tots, like potato or this recipe for Tortilla-Chip Crusted Cauliflower Tots from Mom What’s For Dinner Blog.

     

      

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