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TIP OF THE DAY: Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur & How To Infuse Your Own

Ancho Reyes Liqueur

Casa Noble Reposado Tequila

Tequila Cocktail

[1] Today’s pick: Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy Ancho Reyes). [2] Casa Noble reposado and blanco tequilas. Mix reposado with the liqueur in the cocktail below (photo courtesy Casa Noble). [3] Combine them to make this delicious cocktail (photo courtesy Casa Noble).

 

If you like tequila, mezcal and the cuisine and culture of Mexico, why should you celebrate September 16th?

Because it’s Mexican Independence Day.

In the U.S., the holiday Americans celebrate is Cinco de Mayo. But Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810—the biggest holiday celebration in Mexico.

Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

The date commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over superior French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is celebrated locally in the city and state of Puebla, in south-central Mexico.

A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo has taken on a life of its own. It has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations, and many non-Mexican fans of the cuisine. Here’s more on the holiday.

So what’s today’s tip?

Celebrate with some chile-infused liqueur.
 
ANCHO REYES LIQUEUR

In 1927, the Reyes family of Puebla, Mexico made a homemade liqueur from the area’s ample ancho chile crop. Fortunately, they decided to make it commercially.

We love its smoky heat, for mixing, sipping neat, in marinades or for drizzling over lemon or lime sorbet.

It’s not simple, sweet heat: Beyond the smoky chile are notes of cinnamon, cocoa, herbs and tamarind (maybe more depending on the sensitivity of your palate).

Here’s a detailed story in pictures of how the chiles are grown and infused to become Ancho Reyes.

We’ve seen it on Wine-Tracker from $29.99 to a high of $48.99.
 
RECIPE: IN NOBLE FASHION (TEQUILA & ANCHO CHILE LIQUEUR)

We really enjoyed this cocktail from Casa Noble Tequila (here are more recipes).

The recipe specifies reposado tequila, slightly aged (a minimum of two months by law): Casa Noble reposed is matured in French white oak barrels for 364 days!

We had only silver/blanco, but it was delicious just the same. (Here are the different types of tequila.)
 
Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces reposado tequila
  • .5 ounce ancho chile liqueur
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 drops mole bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients—except the garnish and ice—in a mixing glass. Stir and strain the drink into a glass over ice.

    2. SQUEEZE the orange peel into the glass; then rub the inside of the peel around rim and drop into the glass.
     
    FIND MORE COCKTAILS FOR ANCHO CHILE LIQUEUR AT ANCHOREYES.COM.

    Here’s an Ancho Reyes cocktail we published, featuring grilled pineapple.

     

    OTHER CHILE-INFUSED SPIRITS

    While not an exhaustive list, we found these products at retailers:

  • Tanteo (a NIBBLE favorite) and other brands make chile-infused tequila.
  • Stolichnaya and other brands make chile-infused vodka.
  • Patrón XO Cafe Incendio adds arbol chiles to a chocolate liqueur based on their tequila.
  • Kiss Of Fire is another chile-infused liqueur.
  •  
    HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CHILE-INFUSED TEQUILA

    You can infuse tequila or vodka (or any other spirit) with fresh chiles. The spirit adds more heat to Margaritas and Bloody Marys (and the tequila-based Bloody Maria and Chipotle Maria.

    You can also cook with the infused spirits. Just search online for “cooking with tequila” (or vodka) and you’ll find everything from salad dressing and marinades to pasta sauce and tequila-lime sorbet.

    You can use any type of chile; habaneros will give more heat than jalapeños (check the Scoville Heat Units. For a smoky flavor, chose ancho or chipotle.

    Try three chiles your first time out. If you want more heat when you taste it after 3-4 weeks, you can add more chiles and infuse for another 3-4 weeks (or just use more chiles next time).

    Here’s our glossary of the different types of chiles.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750ml) tequila, vodka or other spirit
  • 3 large chile peppers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH the chiles, pat dry, slit lengthwise and insert into the bottle of tequila.

    2. CAP the bottle tightly and place in a cool (away from a heat source), dark place for 3 weeks. Taste and if you want more chile flavor, infuse for another 1-2 weeks.

    3. KEEP or strain the chiles from the bottle, depending on how you like the look.

     

    Ancho Chile

    Infused Tequila

    [4] An ancho chile, used to infuse the alcohol base of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy CulinaryArts.About.com). [5] It’s easy to infuse your own favorite chiles into tequila or vodka. This photo shows how Foodie Misadventures did it (photo © Foodie Misadventures).

     
    Infused spirits are great for gifting!

      

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    RECIPE: A Simple Salmon Dinner & The History Of Oven Cooking

    Salmon With Herb Butter

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/poached salmon w salad goodeggs 230

    Poached Salmon

    [1] Spoon the herb butter sauce over the fillet. [2] Plated with a butter lettuce salad (recipes below). [3] With kale and baby potatoes (all photos courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco).

     

    Last night we had guests over for a simple salmon dinner. It was an impromptu event: Our fishmonger had a sale on wild-caught salmon and we decided it would be a “salmon weekend.”

    We adore complicated recipes in the right hands. When we dine out, it is usually to have food from gifted chefs whose technique to make it surpasses anything we could hope to achieve.

    But at home, we tend to keep things simple. The best ingredients, simply prepared to show them off, create the best meals.

    While many people say they can’t cook fish well, baking it is pretty fool-proof (as it is tossing a marinated fish on the grill, if you have one).

    This easy recipe from Good Eggs, bakes the salmon in a slow oven (see the chart below), to “gently coax out the salmon’s delicate flavor.”

    Add a simple green salad and a steamed fresh vegetable and you’ve got a delicious dinner. Everything will be ready in 35 minutes.
     
    WINE PAIRINGS FOR BAKED OR POACHED SALMON

    The best wine pairings are chosen by preparation, not by ingredient. A classic wine pairing for salmon baked in butter sauce is Chardonnay/White Burgundy. You can also serve rosé or a sparkling wine.

    We served a luscious Pinot Gris* from our favorite Alsatian producer, Zindt-Humbrecht, and a Grüner Veltliner (a superb Austrian white) from Pichler. Sauvignon Blanc is another favorite.

    Red wine is typically paired with a meatier preparation, such as grilled or blackened salmon. But if you only drink red, a light Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy, Gamay/Beaujolais, or Valpolicello Classico will work.

     
    RECIPE: BAKED SALMON IN HERB BUTTER

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 1 pound fresh salmon
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 handful† basil leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for the salad
  • 2-3 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Butter Lettuce, leaves washed and trimmed (or lettuce of choice)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Additional salad ingredients as desired
  •  
    ________________
    *Pinot Gris is a white wine grape now planted around the world, but originally known by the wines from Alsace, France. Pinot Grigio is Italian for the same grape. Pinot Blanc is very similar: Both grapes (Pinot Gris/Grigio and Pinot Blanc) are mutations of Pinot Noir. Alsatian Pinot Gris tends to be a more finely crafted wine. While there are fine Pinot Grigios, much of what is sold in the U.S. is a lighter, mass-market wine.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.

     

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F. While it heats, make a simple herb butter by combining the basil leaves with the butter. If you have other herbs in the kitchen—parsley, tarragon, etc.— feel free to add them also.

    2. PLACE the salmon fillet(s) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season it lightly with salt and pepper, and scoop a few dollops of herb butter over it. Then bake it for about 30 minutes, until it is just barely firm to the touch. While fish bakes…

    3. MAKE the salad dressing. Place the onion in a bowl, cover it with the vinegar and let sit for about 15 minutes. Then whisk in the olive oil with, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When fish is done…

    4. REMOVE the fish from oven and let it rest for a minute as you make the salad. Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette, sliced avocado and a few torn basil leaves; serve with a big piece of salmon and a glass of nicely chilled wine.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF OVENS

    When early man mastered the creation of fire, food was cooked in pits dug into the ground, over flame-heated stones, and then—with the invention of cooking vessels—suspended over fires. Cooking was at best imprecise, but so was all of life back then.

    When nomadic man settled into agricultural communities, an outdoor or indoor fireplace could be constructed; an indoor fireplace also provided heat in colder climates. All cooking was still approximate in terms of how large a fire was needed, and how long to cook the food. In those days, food was sustenance rather than cuisine. Fire was used to make tough foods more chewable.

    In earlier times before ovens had sophisticated temperature controls, it was a challenge for cooks to make temperature-sensitive recipes. Even in recipes from the early 20th century, you’ll find directions like “cook in a slow oven for 2 hours or until meat is tender.”

    Today, ovens have precise temperature controls and those general times have been converted to degrees. For example, a “moderate oven” is 350°F to 375°F.

    This history of ovens is adapted from an article in Smithsonian Magazine by Lisa Bramen.

    Before ovens, there was cooking over an outdoor fire (think campfire) or an indoor fireplace and chimney with pots suspended over a wood fire.

  • Ancient Ovens: Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Jews and other peoples baked their bread in a wood-fired stone or brick oven—the same general format used for today’s wood-fired pizza ovens.
  • Cast Iron Stoves With Ovens: Over the centuries, brick ovens were refined to contain a door—the only way to regulate heat. Wood-fired cast iron stoves appeared in the mid-1700s, but still there were no gauges. To bake a cake or other heat-sensitive recipe, ovens were “regulated” by burning the right amount of wood to ash. Bakers stuck their hands inside the oven to feel the temperature, adding more wood for heat or opening the door to let the oven cool to what seemed like the right temperature.
  • Gas Ovens: The first recorded use of gas for cooking was by a Moravian named Zacchaeus Andreas Winzler, a German-born inventor living in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) in 1802. It took another three decades for the first commercially produced gas stove, designed by Englishman James Sharp nine 1834. The stoves became popular by the end of the 19th century. They were easier to regulate and required less upkeep than wood or coal stoves, the ashes of which had to be swept out often—a dirty job.
  • Electric Stoves/Ovens: Home electricity came into use at the end of the 19th century. In 1892, an early electric stove and oven was manufactured by Thomas Ahearn, a Canadian electric company owner.
  •  

    Oven Temperature Chart

    Pot Over Campfire

    Ancient Pompei Oven

    Iron Stove

    [1] Slow oven? Fast oven? Here’s what it means (chart courtesy Wikipedia). [2] After fire was invented, man could have a campfire with a simple spit to hold the food, until flameproof cooking vessels (clay pots) were invented. The oldest pot found is from China and dates to 20,000 B.C.E., at the height of the Ice Age, long before the beginnings of agriculture (photo with a contemporary pot courtesy Tips-For-Camping.com). [3] An oven in Pompei (photo courtesy TrueBrickOvens.Blogspot.com). [4] A Victorian cast-iron oven: still wood-fueled, no temperature dials (photo courtesy Telegraph.co.uk).

  • The Microwave: In 1946, Percy LeBaron Spencer, an engineer for the Raytheon Corporation, was doing research on microwave-producing magnetrons when he discovered that the chocolate bar in his shirt pocket had melted. He experimented further and found that microwave radiation could cook food more quickly than gas and electricity. Raytheon’s Amana division released the first consumer microwave oven in 1967. The high price and [unfounded] fears about radiation took another decade for adventuresome consumers to adopt.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pane Bianco For Brunch, Lunch Or Cocktails

    Pane Bianco Recipe

    Unbleached Bread Flour

    [1] Pane bianco, a delicious treat at any meal. [2] The award-winning recipe uses unbelted bread flour (photos courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     

    Pane bianco means “white bread” in Italian, but this jazzy recipe is a cheese bread: dough stuffed inside-out with sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic and Italian cheeses.

    It’s a treat for breakfast, with a light lunch like salad or soup, or with beer, wine and cocktails.

    If you serve a bread basket at dinner (or at special dinners), these slices will disappear quickly!

    The original recipe, by Dianna Wara of Washington, Illinois, took first place in the first-ever National Festival of Breads.

    P.J. Hamel of King Arthur Flour simplified the recipe a bit so that any home baker can make it. She notes, “The unique shape is simple to achieve, and makes an impressive presentation.” Thanks to both ladies for this delicious treat!

    The recipe takes 2 hours 40 minutes, because the dough must rise and then bake; but actual prep time is just 30 minutes and the steps are easy.

    RECIPE: PANE BIANCO WITH SUNDRIED TOMATOES & BASIL

    You can see a step-by-step pictorial at KingArthurFlour.com.

    Ingredients For 1 Loaf (About 20 Slices)
     
    For The Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour (see the tips below)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (you can marinate plain sundries tomatoes in your own oil) or your own oven-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (purple basil adds something extra)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl (or the bucket of a bread machine). Mix and knead by hand or with a mixer; or in a bread machine set on the dough cycle. You should have a smooth, very soft dough that should stick a bit to the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.

    2. PLACE the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size. Meanwhile…

    3. DRAIN the tomatoes thoroughly, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits.

    4. DEFLATE gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into a 22″ x 8 1/2″ rectangle. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

    5. STARTING with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

    6. USING kitchen shears, start 1/2″ from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1″ deep, to within 1/2″ of the other end.

    7. KEEPING the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

    8. UNCOVER the bread and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

    9. REMOVE the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.

     
    BAKING TIPS

  • You can substitute all-purpose flour 1:1 for the bread flour in the recipe, if desired. Reduce the water to 1/4 cup.
  • Use a light touch with your fillings. Over-stuffing this bread will create a messy-looking loaf.
  • Be careful not to let the bread rise too long; over-risen bread will lose its shape.
  •  

    Sundried Tomatoes In Oil

    Italian Cheese Blend

    [1] Use sundries tomatoes in oil. You can buy plain sundries and marinate them in your own oil (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).[2] Use your favorite Italian cheese blend (photo courtesy Sargento).

     

  • Keep your eye on the loaf: Much of the filling will be exposed as the bread bakes. When it’s a light golden brown, tent it with aluminum foil to prevent the exposed tomatoes and basil from burning.
  •   

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    RECIPE: Bacon Bourbon Cider

    Bacon Cocktail Garnish

    Cinnamon Sticks

    [1] Another way to enjoy fall’s apple cider: with bourbon and bacon (photo courtesy Davio’s | Manhattan). [2] Make your own cinnamon simple syrup with cinnamon, sugar and water (photo by Ben Fink, Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran).

     

    As restaurants and lounges switch to their autumn menus, we’re getting lots of fall cocktail recipes. We test cocktail recipes each weekend, typically inviting friends to stop by between their errands.

    This week’s cocktail recipe: Bacon Bourbon Cider from Davio’s Manhattan, one of New York’s fine steakhouses with a Northern Italian-accented menu.

    Two fall favorites—apple cider and maple-candied bacon—will make this a favorite fall cocktail. It’s so easy that it may well end up on your favorite home cocktail list.

    Davio’s uses Bulleit Bourbon for the cocktail. We used another top brand/
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
  • 1 ounce cinnamon infused* simple syrup
  • 3 ounces apple cider
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a cocktail shaker; shake and pour into a Collins glass.

    2. GARNISH with a slice of candied bacon.
     
    ________________
    *You can add ground cinnamon to plain simple syrup or use the recipe below.
     
    RECIPE: CANDIED BACON

    This recipe is for 8 pieces, but trust us: You’ll want to candy the entire pound package.
     
    Ingredients

  • 8 pieces thinly sliced bacon
  • 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons maple syru
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Place the bacon strips flat on a cooling rack screen placed over a baking sheet. Bake the bacon for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, or until thoroughly brown and crisp.

    2. COOL the bacon; then brush both sides of the strips with maple syrup, using a pastry brush. (We long ago replaced our bristle pastry and basting brush with a silicon pastry brush—so much easier to use and clean).

    3. PLACE the bacon back on the rack in the oven and bake for an additional 3-4 minutes.

    4. RESTRAIN yourself from eating all the candied bacon.

     
    RECIPE: CINNAMON SIMPLE SYRUP

    You can make simple syrup up to a month in advance and keep it in the fridge, tightly capped. It can keep even longer, but why take up spice with an item you don’t use?

    Instead, use the cinnamon syrup to sweeten tea or coffee, or to drizzle over desserts: baked goods, fruits, puddings, etc. You can also give it as gifts in a Mason jar tied with a ribbon.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BREAK the cinnamon sticks into pieces (1 inch or longer), using a rolling pin or other implement (or break them by hand). Place them in a small sauce pan with the sugar and water.

    2. BRING to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

    3. STRAIN out and discard the cinnamon stick pieces, and refrigerate, tightly covered.
     
    SUBSTITUTING GROUND CINNAMON FOR CINNAMON STICKS

  • For each 2-inch cinnamon stick piece a recipe requires, substitute 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
  • Taste to see if you want more cinnamon flavor, and proceed 1/4 teaspoon at a time. Ground cinnamon has a stronger flavor than cinnamon sticks.
  • However, the flavor of ground cinnamon dissipates after 6 months or so (the minute a spice is ground and has much more exposure to air, the flavor begins to fade). If you don’t use cinnamon often, buy cinnamon sticks instead: They keep their flavor for up to 2 years. Grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder as needed.
  •  
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CINNAMON AND CASSIA

    Who knew that most of our ground “cinnamon” is actually cassia—not true cinnamon?

    Check out the different types of cinnamon.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking & Baking With Crème Fraîche

    It would be fair to say that most home bakers in the U.S. have never worked with crème fraîche. It isn’t carried everywhere, it’s pricier than heavy cream and sour cream, which can be used instead of it in most recipes.

    Today’s tip is: Find some and work with it.

    WHAT IS CRÈME FRAÎCHE?

    Crème fraîche (pronounced crem fresh, French for “fresh cream”) is a thickened cream—not as thick as sour cream, more of the consistency of yogurt. That’s an appropriate analogy because both are slightly soured with bacterial culture. Crème fraîche has more fat than either, for a richer experience.

    Originally from Normandy, the dairy heartland of France, today crème fraîche used throughout Continental and American cuisines.

    Sour cream, which is more accessible and less expensive, can be substituted in most recipes; but crème fraîche has additional advantages:

  • It can be whipped, and it will not curdle when cooked over high heat.
  • It’s a bit lighter in body than commercial sour creams, more subtly sour, and overall more elegant.
  •  
    Crème fraîche is made by inoculating unpasteurized heavy cream with Lactobacillus cultures, letting the bacteria grow until the cream is both soured and thick and then pasteurizing it to stop the process.

    Thus, authentic crème fraîche cannot be made at home in the U.S., because only pasteurized cream is available to consumers. Adding Lactobacillus to pasteurized cream will cause it to spoil instead of sour.

    However, you can still make it at home with pasteurized cream. Here’s a crème fraîche recipe plus the difference between crème fraîche, mascarpone, sour cream and similar products.
     
    Uses For Crème Fraîche Beyond Baking

  • Creamy salad dressings and soups
  • Crêpe and omelet fillings
  • Sauces for vegetables
  • Topping for fresh fruit and other desserts
  • Coffee, creamy cocktails and bittersweet hot chocolate
  • Caviar (or roe of any kind) and smoked salmon
  • Guilty pleasure (eating it from the container)
  •  
    RECIPE: DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CRÈME FRAÎCHE CUPCAKES WITH CRÈME FRAÎCHE FROSTING

    Because you have to start somewhere, here’s a recipe that few people would decline: chocolate cupcakes. The star ingredient in these beautiful cupcakes from Hummingbird High is crème fraîche, used in both the cake and frosting. Rich, chocolaty cupcakes are topped with a creamy, velvety, simple-to-make frosting.

    Ingredients For 12 Cupcakes

  • 1 ounce 72%* cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) Vermont Creamery crème fraîche, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  •    

    Salmon Caviar Creme Fraiche

    Tomato Soup Creme Fraiche

    Chocolate Ganache

    Creme Fraiche Cupcakes Recipe

    [1] Crème fraîche on a baby potato, topped with salmon caviar (photo Fotolia). [2] Tomato soup with caviar in the base and as a garnish (photo courtesy Munchery). [3] A classic chocolate ganache is made from chocolate and cream. Corn syrup is added for glossiness. Here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour. [4] Crème fraîche cupcakes, recipe below (photo courtesy Michelle Lopez | Hummingbird High).

     
    Ingredients For The Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting (About 1 Cup)

  • 6 ounces 72% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces/1/2 stick) Vermont Creamery cultured unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) Vermont Creamery crème fraîche, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  •  
    ________________
    *A 72% bittersweet chocolate is perfect for lovers of bittersweet, and the cacao level used by top pastry chefs. However, if you prefer a lower percentage, go for it. You can make milk chocolate ganache and white chocolate ganache as well. The key is not the percentage cacao, but the quality of the chocolate. Ganache is de facto made just from chocolate and cream, but you can take a few liberties. We’ve added coffee to both dark chocolate and white chocolate ganaches. Here’s a recipe for chocolate ganache with crème fraîche instead of heavy cream.

     

    Creme Fraiche Vermont Creamery

    Creme Fraiche & Fruit

    [1] One of our fantasies: an entire bucket of crème fraîche from Vermont Creamery. [2] We’d use it to make everything, without forgetting the simple pleasure of crème fraîche with fresh berries (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    Preparation For The Cupcakes

    1. CENTER a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F. Prepare a 12-well muffin tin by lining with cupcake liners.

    2. COMBINE 1 ounce coarsely chopped dark chocolate and 1/3 cup hot coffee in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. DO NOT STIR. Let sit for 2 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. As the chocolate is melting…

    3. COMBINE in a medium bowl 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; whisk until combined. Set aside.

    4. RETURN to the chocolate. At this point the chocolate should be melty and easily melt into the coffee when whisked. Turn the mixer to its lowest setting and whisk the chocolate and coffee together, then add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup crème fraîche, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. Continue whisking until just combined.

    5. STOP the mixer and sprinkle the dry ingredients (from the 3rd step) over the liquid ingredients (from the 4th step). Turn the mixer back on to medium-low and continue whisking until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

    6. DIVIDE the batter evenly between the cupcake liners using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop. Be careful not to overfill and start with as little as 2 tablespoons per cupcake.

    7. BAKE in the preheated oven until the cupcakes are domed and the top springs back when gently touched, around 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack to room temperature before frosting.
     
    Preparation For The Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting

    1. MAKE the frosting. Combine 6 ounces of dark chocolate, 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl that sits on top of a pan of simmering water. The water in the pan should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Melt completely, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir occasionally to combine the ingredients.

     
    2. REMOVE from the heat when the chocolate and butter have fully melted. Whisk the mixture gently to release more heat, before whisking in 1/4 cup crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons half-and-half. Continue whisking until both the crème fraîche and half-and-half are fully integrated and the frosting is a uniform dark chocolate color.

    3. SET the frosting aside for 15 minutes to cool more, giving the frosting a gentle whisk every 5 minutes to allow heat to escape. After 15 minutes, use the frosting. At first it will seem too liquidy, but the frosting will quickly cool as it is spread throughout the cake. Work quickly to frost the cake before the frosting cools completely: It will harden as it cools. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to divide and spread the frosting evenly among the cupcakes, and garnish with any additional decoration.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Additional Uses For A Waffle Iron

    Recently we had to get rid of some things in our appliance cabinet to make room for a large countertop pizza maker.

    Two items bit the dust: an old Cuisinart kept as a “back-up” for 15 years, but have never needed to use; and a beautiful double waffle iron, barely used (we’d rather make French toast or pancakes than drag out and clean the waffle iron).

    Then, I took some advice from Posie Harwood of King Arthur Flour, who noted with sagacity that “a waffle iron is just a teeny, tiny oven…a much cooler version of a panini press.”
     
    WAFFLE IRON BENEFITS

  • A waffle iron can do everything from toast to bake to griddle.
  • It provides all those honeycomb indentations, which create extra crispness and crunch and soak up better, sauces, whatever.
  • You can make a single serving of what you’re yearning for.
  • Why turn on the oven on, or take the time to preheat it?
  •  
    STARTING TIPS

  • Spray your waffle iron very well so the food doesn’t stick.
  • Don’t overfill. Start with less batter or dough than you think you need.
  • When baking foods that are traditionally baked in an oven (brownies, cookies, muffins), resist the temptation to peek. These particular foods tend to stick more and need to be fully baked before you lift the lid.
  •  
    BROWNIES IN A WAFFLE IRON

    One of the nicest things about a waffle iron is how much time it saves you, especially when you’re baking a single serving. Sometimes you just want a brownie, and you want it right away!

    Just ladle in your batter of choice, close the lid, and cook until baked through, like a waffle. This may even be the preferred way of cooking brownies for those who like the “edges”: The waffled brownie is crisp and crunchy.

     
    MUFFINS IN A WAFFLE IRON

    Cook the muffin batter and you get what is essentially a jumbo, crisp muffin top.
     
    COOKIES IN A WAFFLE IRON

    Portion your favorite cookie dough into individual scoops and freeze them. When you need a warm cookie, bake one or two. Help you make just one instead of a baking pan full of temptation.
     
    DOUGHNUTS IN A WAFFLE IRON

    We haven’t tried it, but Posie says: “Doughnut batter performs surprisingly well in a waffle iron. It bakes up into a puffy, light disc with a wonderfully crunchy top. It’s not shaped in a circle, but it tastes just the same.” She recommends drizzling a glaze (and loves this apple cider glaze recipe) or a ganache frosting. Add coconut, crushed nuts, sprinkles or other garnish.

       

    Waffled Carrot Cake

    Waffled Hash Brown Potatoes

    Grilled Cheese In Waffle Maker

    [1] Carrot cake in a waffle iron! Here’s the recipe from Food Network Kitchen. [2] Waffled hash brown potatoes. [3] Pop grilled cheese and almost any sandwich into the waffle iron (photos #2 and #3 courtesy Posie Harwood | King Arthur Flour).

     

     

    Brownie Waffles

    Waffled Biscuits & Gravy

    Will It Waffle Recipes

    [4] A brownie comes out “all edges” in a waffle maker. Here’s a recipe from Food Network Kitchen (photo courtesy Posie Harwood | King Arthur Flour). [5] Waffled biscuits with sausage gravy. Here’s the recipe from Food Network Kitchen. [6] Get 53 recipes for waffled food.

     

    GRILLED CHEESE & OTHER SANDWICHES IN A WAFFLE IRON

    Consider your waffle iron as a panini press with different grill marks. Spray the waffle iron, add a slice of bread, the cheese and any extras (bacon, tomato, etc.) and the top slice of bread. Close the iron and cook until the cheese is melted.

    A tip from Posie: Spread some mayonnaise on the outside of each slice of bread. It makes the sandwich extra crisp and golden.
     
    HASH BROWNS IN A WAFFLE IRON

    They’re not just for breakfast, either. For a quick dinner, top the hash browns with a fried or poached egg, leftover proteins and/or vegetables. Rosie likes to add wilted greens.

    But all you need is grated potatoes (we grate in onion as well, and you can also add cheese). Wring out as much liquid as you can, season with salt and pepper and waffle a thick layer until crisp and brown.
     
    PANINI IN A WAFFLE IRON

    Ditto. You get waffle marks instead of grill marks.

     
    WAFFLED POLENTA

    For breakfast or as a side with lunch or dinner, here’s a recipe from Julie’s Jazz.
     
    WHAT ELSE CAN YOU WAFFLE?

    Posie has also made waffled calzones, omelets and zucchini fritters—even simple buttered toast.

    There’s a whole book on the topic, Will It Waffle? Get your copy on Amazon with 53 foods to waffle, including:

  • Apple pie
  • Gnocchi
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Meatballs
  • Pierogi
  • Pizza
  • Steak
  •  
    Here are more recipes from Food Network including:

  • Bibimbap
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • Falafel
  • Quesadillas
  • French Toast (fusion food!)
  •  
    Also check out Greatlist.com., which features a bunch of the recipes above plus a healthier Waffled Eggplant Parmesan!
     
    Who knew?

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Wine With Food (Non-Traditional Matches)

    Today’s tip is to step outside your comfort zone and try different wines than the standards you serve with particular foods.

    If you drink wine often, you no doubt have a favorite to drink with your favorite foods, from snacks to mains to desserts.

    What happens if you step out of your comfort zone? You may discover grape varietals you haven’t had before, and pairings that you like even better.

    While it’s common wisdom that the wines of a particular region pair best with the foods of that region, don’t let that impede your decisions. The most important pairing is with the food and its preparation (light or heavy, herbal or spicy, etc.).

    Entire books have been written on the topic, but here’s a brief overview from DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com. You can search online for recommendations, or ask your wine store clerk: an invaluable source of information and recommendations.

    If you’re not familiar with the grape varietal, look it up. Wines in France, Italy and elsewhere are often named for their region of production, not for the varietal labeling of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.S.

  • In France, you’ll find bottles of Red Burgundy and Sauternes—the regions rather than the grapes Pinot Noir and Semillon.
  • In Italy, you’ll find a mixed system: Brunello di Montalcino instead of Sangiovese (which is also the main grape in Chianti), Barolo and Barbaresco instead of Nebbiolo; but with Pinot Grigio, it’s the name of the grape.
  •  
    It gets much more complicated than this, involving history, law and other factors. But let’s get on to the wines.
     
    WINE & FOOD PAIRINGS FROM A TO Z

    Some are red wines (R), some are white wines (W), and some are both (R&W).

  • Albariño (W): Pair with light summer foods or foods that want fresh acidity because they’re fatty/oily, mildly spicy, rich or salty; plus tart recipes with capers, tomatoes and vinaigrettes.
  • Barbera (R): Pair with smoked salmon, grilled mozzarella and prosciutto, and flatbread with fresh tomato, basil and roasted garlic.
  • Cabernet Franc (R): Pair with a classic beef stew, aged Gouda, and rosemary-rubbed pork tenderloin.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (R): Pair with grass-fed beef, whether grilled, roasted, braised or stir-fried.
  • Chardonnay (W): Pair with white fish, shellfish and free-range chicken – especially with creamy, buttery sauces.
  • Chenin Blanc (W): Pair with seared scallops, chicken in coconut curry, or sliced ripe pears with fresh or slightly aged sheep’s milk cheeses.
  • Dessert Wines (R & W): Pair with nuts—almonds and hazelnuts—as well as chocolate tortes, vanilla custard, peach cobbler and ricotta cheesecake. In general, aim to pair sweet dessert wines with sweet desserts, and light dessert wines with light desserts. foie gras, lobster, and seafood in a butter or white cream sauce.
  • Gewürztraminer (W): Pair with smoked white fish, spicy stir-fried dishes, or slightly sweet desserts. See our full article on pairing desserts with wine.
  • Grenache (R): Pair with any grilled shellfish as well as salami, sliced ham and other charcuterie.
  • Grenache Blanc (W): Pair with crab, squid, or clams with garlic butter as well as grilled snapper with lemon zest.
  • Malbec (R): Pair with classic rack of lamb, beef fajitas, and roasted root vegetables.
  •    

    Wine, Salami, Olives

    Wine & Sushi

    Wine & Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    [1] An Italian red is a traditional pairing with salami, olives and other nibbles. But why not try a Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Zinfandel (photo courtesy Rebelle | NYC)? [2] Don’t want beer or saké with your sushi? Try a light white wine, such as Albariño or Chenin Blanc. Our personal favorites are Gewürtztraminer and Riesling—more assertive, because we just can’t get enough of them (photo by Lognetic | Dreamtime). [3] With a well-seasoned grilled cheese sandwich, try a medium-bodied red: Barbera, Malbec, Merlot, Rhone blend, Sangiovese, or the lesser-known Montepulciano.

     

    Spaghetti & Red Wine

    Red Wine & Chocolate

    [4] For pasta, match the wine to the sauce. With a meat sauce or meatballs, Sangiovese, Rosso di Montalcino and Barberas are popular in Italy. But a good old American Zinfandel is also a popular match. [5] Wine with chocolate? Absolutely: We have an entire article on pairing wine and chocolate, as well as pairing wines and desserts (photo courtesy Taza Chocolate).

     
  • Marsanne (W): Pair with creamy potato-leek soup or roasted butternut squash with cinnamon butter.
  • Merlot (R): Pair with sautéed duck breasts or roasted pork tenderloin.
  • Mourvèdre (R): Pair with roast duck or squab, seared New York Strip steak with cracked black pepper, or a tangy blue cheese.
  • Muscat/Moscato (W): Pair sparkling and late-harvest Muscat with fruit tarts, vanilla custard, dark chocolate torte, or rich cheesecake.
  • Petite Sirah (R): Pair with sweet barbequed chicken, a cold roast beef sandwich with mustard, or mild blue cheeses.
  • Pinot Blanc (W): Pair with pan-fried fresh trout, seared tuna, or smoked salmon.
  • Pinot Gris (W): Pair with pasta with a light tomato-based sauce or spicy noodles with shrimp.
  • Pinot Noir (R): Pair with wood-smoked bacon, roast leg of veal or grilled wild salmon. It’s our favorite with rare lamb.
  • Red Blends (R): Pair with pulled pork tacos, barbecued chicken wings, or slow-cooked short ribs.
  • Riesling (W): Pair with Thai spring rolls, spicy stir-fried chicken or a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on rustic country bread.
  • Rosé(R & W): Pair with everything from spicy sauces to crisp, light salads.
  • Roussanne (W): Pair with honey-glazed ham or butternut squash ravioli.
  • Sangiovese (R): Pair with sausage and caramelized onions, or pork chops with plum conserve.
  • Sauvignon Blanc (W): Pair with wild mushroom soup, grilled red snapper, or asparagus – especially sautéed in garlic.
  • Semillon (W): Pair dry Semillon with fresh halibut or mushroom couscous. Pair sweet Semillon with peach cobbler or pears sautéed in butter.
  • Sparkling (R & W): Pair with everything from Szechuan stir fry to triple crème cheeses.
  • Syrah (R): Pair with robust, hearty foods—from black bean chili with pork, to buffalo sliders or rich beef stews.
  • Tempranillo (R): Pair with dill-poached salmon, pork tenderloin with cilantro pesto, or steamed mussels.
  • Viognier (W): Pair with smoked oysters or mussels, or herb-roasted free-range chicken, goose or duck.
  • White Blends (W): Pair with fresh seafood, cold roast chicken, creamy polenta, or a range of cheeses—from ricotta to triple crème, from goat cheese to dry Jack.
  • Zinfandel (R): Pair with barbecued free-range beef, lamb, pork, chicken or spicy sausage.
  •  
    PAIRINGS FOR FAVORITE FOODS

  • Pairing Cheese With Wine & Beer
  • Pairing Wine & Chocolate
  • Pairing Wine & Desserts
  • Pairing Wine & Ice Cream
  • Pairing Wine & Sorbet For Cocktails
  •   

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

    September 5th is National Cheese Pizza Day, honoring the original modern pizza, the Margherita. It was named after Queen Margherita, consort to Umberto I, King of Italy from 1878–1900.

    As the story goes, during a visit to Naples, she asked the best pizza maker in town, Don Raffaele, to make her a pie. He made it in the colors of the Italian flag, a simple but delicious pie of basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. Here’s the history of pizza.

     
    WHAT’S A STOVETOP PIZZA OVEN?

    Simply this: a steel case that sits on top of a gas burner and cooks your pizza atop pizza stones. There’s no electricity, no wood chips, no nuthin’ but the Pizzeria Pronto and your gas range.

    We love it: from the pizza stones that create an oh-so-delightful crust to the top quality ingredients we used. As long as we have dough in the fridge, we can have a pizza anytime we want, better than anything delivered. efficient new way to make pizza at home.

    Pizzeria Pronto is made by Companion Group, a company that began more than 30 years ago with the original Charcoal Companion charcoal chimney starter. The line now includes other grilling tools and accessories, and the Pizzacraft® line of artisan-quality pizza stones, pizza ovens, tools and accessories.

    In 2013 the company launched the first propane-fueled outdoor portable pizza oven, which pre-heats in 10 minutes and cooks the pie in 5 minutes. In 2016, the indoor Pizzeria Pronto® Stovetop Pizza Oven was released nationwide—the first gas range-powered indoor oven.

    Small but mighty, Pizzeria Pronto transforms your favorite dough and toppings into perfectly-cooked pizzas in just minutes (after all, the name means “pizza in a hurry”). With its heat-efficient design, it traps and reflects heat to harness the power of your gas range, creating an optimal cooking environment of up to 600°F. Yet, the room is no warmer than if you used your oven.
     
    How To Use Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

  • Simply place the round oven over a gas burner and turn on the flame.
  • The inside of the oven reaches 600°F, much higher than a conventional oven.
  • It preheats in 15 minutes and cooks a personal-size pizza in 6 minutes. TIP: If you want to keep the first pizzas hot while you cook more, keep them warm in a conventional oven preheated to 500°F.
  • You also need a personal-size pizza peel to insert and remove the pizza from the oven. The company sells one separately.
  •  
    The electric plug-in pizza ovens we’ve tried can’t hold a candle to it.

    It’s well worth the space it requires if you’d like to make pizza weekly or more often. We don’t have extra room in our kitchen so we did a bit of housecleaning. So long, old backup food processor and biannually-used waffle iron.
     
    WHERE TO FIND IT

    Pizzeria Pronto is available at major retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and online. Williams-Sonoma carries a gray-top model instead of the standard red-orange model shown in the photos.

    Prices vary but it’s currently $106.27 on Amazon (a deep discount off the MSRP of $179.99).

     

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    [1] Place the oven on the stovetop and turn up the flame to preheat. Add the pizza. [2] Close the oven door. [3] Cook for six minutes. [4] Remove the pizza, fragrant and bubbling. Photos courtesy Pizzeria Pronto .

     
    Before buying, take a minute to look at the bottom of this page to see if your gas burners will work.

    OUR FIRST PIZZERIA PRONTO PARTY

    We invited the crowd over for a pizza party and bought (or over-bought, as is our won’t) the ingredients: regular and whole wheat doughs, sauces and cheeses for red and white pies.

    We provided lots of toppings: anchovies, garlic, jalapeños, mini meatballs, mushrooms, olives, onion and zucchini. But the crust (dough purchased from Fairway), sauce (the Classico brand Riserva line [not Bertolli Riserva]), mozzarella and ricotta (Bel Gioso) were so good that most people opted for a plain pie.

    We personally, however, had anchovies from Cento: not salty, just right.
     
    FEATURES & TIPS

    Features

  • Steel casing with a heat-efficient design (you won’t feel that it’s 600° of heat).
  • Ttwo Cordierite baking stones diffuse the heat and deliver a perfect crust.
  • Very little assembly required. You need no technical skill whatsoever.
  • The built-in thermometer tells you when it’s time to add the pizza.
  • A moisture vent on top prevents the crust pizza from becoming soggy.
  • Dimensions: 16.93 inches x 14.25 inches x 6.69 inches. Weight: 14.7 pounds, which we (non-athletic female) had no trouble lifting.
  • Not for use with electric or induction stoves.
  •  
    Tips

  • You’ll need cornmeal (semolina), so the bottom of the crust doesn’t stick to the stone plate.
  • Be sure to have a good pizza cutter and a brush to clean the pizza stone afterward.
  • One package of store-bought dough (we bought the fresh dough that comes in a plain plastic bag), meant for one large pie, makes two personal pizzas.
  •  
    HAVE FUN WITH IT!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tea Party Ideas, Part 2

    Tea Sandwiches

    Modern Tea

    Tea Party Crostini

    [1] Tea can be classically staged, like this one from Tea Time Magazine, or [2] modern service, like this at the Langham Palace | New York. Instead of classic British tea sandwiches on crustless bread, you can substitute tartines—French open-face sandwiches—or Italian crostini. Here’s a close-up from Honestly Yum.

     

    Yesterday we tendered the idea of a monthly tea party. That list covered January through July. Today: the rest of the year.
     
    AUGUST TEA PARTY

  • Iced Tea Party. What could be more refreshing in the dog days of summer than a iced tea with strawberry shortcake scones topped with vanilla ice cream? Offer guests the choice of black, green and herbal iced teas, with lemon and lime slices.
  • Iced Tea & Sorbet Sundae Bar. Cut up the many luscious fruits in season and create a fruit salad bar. Sorbet is half the calories of ice cream and frozen yogurt.
  •  
    SEPTEMBER TEA PARTY

  • Teen Tea Party. Take your teenager (or someone else’s) out for a tea experience and ask him or her to bring a friend. Share your love of tea and some good conversation as you give them a glimpse of the past and a custom enjoyed by everyone from kings to common folk.
  • Book Exchange & Tea Party. Ask everyone to bring a favorite book that they’ve read and are ready to trade. Each person gives a two-minute presentation about why they loved the book. Names are drawn from a hat and each participant selects his/her new book in the order the names were drawn.
  •  
    OCTOBER TEA PARTY

  • Tea O’ween. Celebrate Halloween for the whole month of October with cinnamon spice tea, pumpkin scones and midnight chocolate double layer cake. Try Constant Comment, the original American spiced tea recipe invented by Ruth Bigelow (available in supermarkets and from BigelowTea.com). Decorate your midnight chocolate cake with candy corn or other favorite Halloween candy; or serve midnight chocolate cupcakes and provide different Halloween candies so guests can decorate their own.
  • Harvest Tea. Serve fall harvest foods for tea: pumpkin muffins, apple pie, nut tarts, cookies or nutted cream cheese sandwiches on zucchini bread.
  •  
    Bonus: Provide oranges, pomanders and optional ribbon, and let guests make their own party favors: pomanders!
     
    NOVEMBER TEA PARTY

  • Pumpkin Tea. Start Thanksgiving early with a “Pumpkin Tea” consisting of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin scones. Have a some cranberry scones or muffins for those who don’t like pumpkin. Serve your favorite black tea, or try the Pumpkin Spice Tea from Bigelow Tea, Zhena Gypsy Tea (organic, Fair Trade and KSA kosher) or Dragonwater.com (rooibos).
  • Thankful To A Tea. No matter how busy we are, we all can lend a hand, and we all could use one. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, host a “Wish List Tea.” All the participants submit in advance one reasonable request they hope someone else in the group can fulfill. It can be a night of babysitting, a bicycle, the loan or donation of a black cocktail dress or size 9 red pumps, someone to explain home equity loans, etc.
  •  
    DECEMBER TEA PARTY

  • Tea & A Christmas Tree. ‘Tis the season to enjoy cinnamon spice tea with your favorite holiday goodies. Invite friends over to enjoy your tree, or decorate with a couple of non-denominational poinsettia plants. ‘Tis also the season to call people you haven’t been in touch with in a while, and mix new friends with old.
  • Chari-Tea. Help your favorite local cause. Ask friends to bring something to donate—“like new” clothes that they no longer wear, some canned goods, toys and books for the hospital waiting room—whatever your cause can use (call them and ask).
  • Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773. This and a second “tea party” on March 7, 1774 were a prelude to the Revolutionary War. In honor of American Independence Day, you can hold a commemorative “Boston Tea Party” with the kind actually destroyed on that day. It was Britain’s oldest tea merchant, Davison, Newman & Co., whose tea chests were dumped at the first event. Still in business, the company sells Boston Harbour Tea (certified kosher), a blend of Ceylon and Darjeeling teas. Or, simply dump loose leaf tea “overboard” into a tea pot as you read the story of the Boston Tea Party. Serve colonial cookie favorites: benne cakes (sesame cookies), coconut macaroons, gingersnaps, jumbles, molasses cookies and sugar cookies.
  •  

    WHAT TO SERVE AT TEA PARTY

    Perhaps the most fun of planning a tea party is deciding on the goodies. Just search online for “tea party recipes” and you’ll find enough for a lifetime of teas. The basic categories:

  • Cake. Here’s your opportunity to serve special things that most people don’t have often enough. They can be simple, from sponge cake to layer cake to bite-size madeleines and individual cheesecakes. Should you serve your “Death By Chocolate” cake or rich chocolate brownies? It’s a personal choice. We prefer to keep tea on the light-to-medium side, since, after all, dinner is in a few hours.
  • Tarts or tartlets. Fruit tarts and lemon tarts rule! You can make them quickly with tart shells and fruit curd. Tortes Almond, chocolate and linzer tortes are popular and less rich than layer cakes.
  • Cookies. Tea is a wonderful reason to get out your favorite cookie recipes: butter cookies, gingerbread or gingersnaps, linzer cookies, shortbread—the sky’s the limit.
  • Scones.
  • With curd or jam and clotted cream, they’re a classic favorite. It’s easy to bake your own moist scones with gourmet mixes from King Arthur Flour or other quality producer. They also sell gluten-free mixes.

  • Tea Sandwiches. These can be as simple or elaborate as you like. In the top photo, the sandwiches are simply ham and radishes, with spreads. The key to tea sandwiches is smaller size and fanciful cuts. Triangles and finger sandwiches are easiest, but get out your cookie cutters and go to town.
  •  
    Healthier Tea Party Foods

  • Lower-Sugar, Unfrosted Cakes. Angel cake, Bundt cake, carrot cake, sponge cake and zucchini bread, among others, have fewer calories than frosted cakes. They also can be with a heart-healthy oil instead of butter. butter—and no frosting. You can serve them with fruit purée (sweeten with a dab of agave) and/or Reddi-Wip, which has so much air that it has just 15 calories.
  • Pavlovas. These meringue cups (egg whites and sugar only, lots of air, no fat) filled with fresh fruit or brandies fruit. If it’s winter and the fruit selection isn’t great, citrus salad with mint is delicious!
  • “Slender” Tea Sandwiches. On Whole Grain Bread Slice bread ultra-thin and serve with healthy spreads: hummus, tuna and olive tapenade, turkey with marinated cucumbers and curried yogurt spread instead of mayonnaise.
  •  

    Sandwich Cake

    Sandwich Cake Slice

    [4] This beautiful sandwich cake yields a wedge [5] of savory sandwich. Here’s how to make it from AmusesBouche.fr.

  • Fruit With Diet Yogurt Dip. Cut up fruit and serve with a dip made of fat-free yogurt, no-cal sweetener and cinnamon. If you don’t want to use a noncaloric sweetener, use agave syrup. The glycemic index is 21 compared to sugar (65) honey (56) and maple syrup (58). Baked Apples Bake apples with a bit of agave syrup—it’s very sweet, so a little goes a long way. Cinnamon and nutmeg provide wonderful seasoning.
  • Crudités. Low-calorie and fiber packed, serve a platter of raw or blanched vegetables with a yogurt-herb dip.
  •  
    TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE

    Etiquette expert Arden Clise erases common ideas of “proper” tea behavior. She says:

    “People often think proper tea drinking means sticking your pinky out. That’s actually rude and connotes elitism. It comes from the fact that cultured people would eat their tea goodies with three fingers and commoners would hold the treats with all five fingers. Thus was born the misguided belief that one should raise their pinky finger to show they were cultured. Tuck that pinky finger in.”

    Find more of her comments at CliseEtiquette.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Plan An Afternoon Tea Party, Part 1

    Tiered Tea Stand

    Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford

    [1] You don’t need a tiered stand, but you can find inexpensive ones. —This one is less than $20 (photo Chef Buddy | Amazon).[2] Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, inadvertently invented the custom of afternoon tea in 1840 (photo courtesy Woburn Abbey).

     

    THE HISTORY OF AFTERNOON TEA

    In the U.K., afternoon tea is a longstanding tradition: a light meal in mid-afternoon, between lunch and dinner. It can be simple or elaborate, consisting of a pot of tea plus finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, cakes and pastries.

    September 3rd is the birthday of Anna Maria Russell (1783 – 1857), the seventh Duchess of Bedford. In 1840 she inadvertently created the British custom of afternoon tea, a midday meal.

    As their main meal of the day shifted from midday (luncheon) to evening, English high society didn’t dine until 8 p.m. The hungry duchess needed something to tide her over during the stretch between lunch and dinner.

    She ordered tea with small sandwiches to be brought to her room. Over time, her friends joined her, and “afternoon tea” expanded from her circle to all of society.

    It was an elaborate social and gustatory affair with sweet and savory delicacies, special tea cakes and even tea gowns to bridge the fashion gap between casual afternoon and formal evening dress. As the custom spread downstream, tea rooms and tea gardens opened to serve tea to all classes (no change of clothing required).

    Be the Anna of your circle: Plan afternoon teas as regular get-togethers, quarterly or more often. People can take turns hosting; and it can be as simple or elaborate as you like.

    While today’s ladies are more likely to work, consider afternoon tea instead of Sunday brunch. Feel free to invite the gentlemen.
     
    AFTERNOON TEA VS. HIGH TEA

    Afternoon tea is not the same as “high tea.”

  • High tea is a hearty working class supper traditionally served in the late afternoon or early evening (in modern times generally around 6 p.m.). It is the main meal for the farming and working classes in Britain, a world away from the fashionable afternoon teas enjoyed by the upper classes.
  • The name may sound elegant to Americans, but this is not an upscale repast. It comprises a main dish (generally roast beef or leg of lamb), bread and butter, a pudding (pastry or custard) and tea. It is sometimes called meat tea.
  • In a seemingly ironic reversal of terms, the afternoon tea of society is sometimes called “low tea,” after the late afternoon feeling of low energy.
  •  
    Can You Serve Alcohol With Afternoon Tea?

    While it is not part of the tradition, you can add a modern “pre-cocktail” touch. Go for light and/or fruity:

  • Liqueur
  • Pimm’s Cup
  • Sangria (red, white, rosé)
  • Sherry: dry or cream sherry
  • Sparkling wine
  •  

    A YEAR OF TEA PARTY IDEAS: PART 1, JANUARY TO JULY

    JANUARY TEA PARTY

  • Tea & A Spree. Take advantage of post-holiday sales with a pre- or post-shopping tea party that’s rejuvenating and relaxing. Green tea whole wheat finger sandwiches will help to keep those New Year’s resolutions. A plate of crudités with yogurt dip also helps.
  • New Year’s Resolution Tea. Who doesn’t resolve to lose weight in the new year? Have a “spa tea”: different kinds of green tea and healthy munchies.
  •  
    FEBRUARY TEA PARTY

  • Tea & Bent Knee. Propose over a luxurious tea service, featuring imported Earl Gray tea, Champagne, fresh strawberries and cream and luxurious chocolate cake. If your town has a venue that serves afternoon tea, check it out and reserve a cozy table.
  • Valentine Potluck Tea. If there’s no proposal at hand, you still deserve a celebration. Have everyone bring their favorite Valentine treat. You supply different teas, from flavored teas like hazelnut and vanilla to elegant Earl Grey and smoky Lapsang Souchong. Everyone can vote on their favorite tea-and-treat pairings.
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    MARCH TEA PARTY

  • Tea & A Shillelagh. Pronounced shuh-LAY-lee, a shillelagh is a walking cane also used as a cudgel or “fighting stick.” It’s named after Shillelagh Forest in County Wicklow, Ireland, from whence the wood originally came. But there’s no fighting here: After a pot of Irish tea, shortbread and scones, go for a lovely stroll, with or without your walking stick.
  • Tea & The Rites Of Spring. Celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring (March 21st) with pastel frostings on the cakes and cookies, optional iced tea, fresh tulips and daffodils. If people ask what they can bring, say “tulips” and be prepared to have a room full of them—very springlike! Think of happy spring music, too: Chopin’s works for pianoforte say “spring” to us.
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    APRIL TEA PARTY

  • Tea & A Tree. Help celebrate Earth Month with green tea, vegan cookies and fresh organic fruit.
  • Tea With A Bunny. Host an Easter Tea with plain, frosted cupcakes and the fixings to decorate them (jelly beans, easter candies, traditional cupcake decorations). Everyone gets to decorate cupcakes and the group can vote for winners in different categories (prettiest, most creative, most festive, etc). Send the winners home with small tea gifts.
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    MAY TEA PARTY

  • Tea & A She. May honors all of the important mothers in our lives. Even if you’ll be with your own family for Mother’s Day, call up other moms and invite them for tea. Enjoy Lady Gray tea, pecan scones and raspberry velvet cheesecake.
  • Women’s Health Week. It’s the second week in May. Companies like Republic Of Tea sell special “teas for the cure,” with profits going to cancer research. Serve high-antioxidant foods like berries and dark chocolate with tea sandwiches on whole-grain breads.
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    JUNE TEA PARTY

  • Fits To A Tea. With bathing suit season at hand, we’re all watching calories. Enjoy chai tea with fresh fruit salad. The spiciness of the chai requires no milk or sugar.
  • Fruit Tea Party. Serve fruit teas (hot and iced), fresh fruit salad and fruit tarts.
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    JULY TEA PARTY

  • Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773. This and a second “tea party” on March 7, 1774 were a prelude to the Revolutionary War. In honor of American Independence Day, you can hold a commemorative “Boston Tea Party” with the kind actually destroyed on that day. It was Britain’s oldest tea merchant, Davison, Newman & Co., whose tea chests were destroyed at the 1773 “tea party.” The company sells a Boston Harbour Tea (certified kosher), a blend of Ceylon and Darjeeling teas. Serve it with all-American favorites such as brownies and chocolate chip cookies.
  • Loose Leaf Tea Party. Commemorate the Boston Tea Party by dumping loose leaf tea “overboard” into a tea pot as you read the story of the Boston Tea Party. Serve colonial cookie favorites: benne cakes (sesame cookies), coconut macaroons, gingersnaps, jumbles, molasses cookies and sugar cookies.
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    We placed the Boston Tea Party teas in July because of Independence Day; but you can as easily have them in December or March.
     
     

     

    Tea Sandwiches

    Makeshift Tiered Stand

    [2] Yesteryear: Tea sandwiches were cut into fingers or triangles. Today: Add some pinwheels (photo courtesy Libelle.nl). [4] There’s no need to buy a tiered stand. This one was put together with regular plates balanced on tea cups. Clever! (photo courtesy Sketch.uk.com.

     
     
    NEXT: PART 2, AUGUST TO DECEMBER

      

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