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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

TIP OF THE DAY: Australian Liquorice (Licorice!)

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Flower-like “shooters” and other specialty
shapes. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE
NIBBLE.

 

Today is National Licorice Day. There is much debate in the U.S. over Red Vines versus Twizzlers, but if you haven’t had English or Australian liquorice, as they spell it, you haven’t had great licorice.

The natural flavors and chewy consistency are magnificent. Alas, our American-produced, artificially-flavored licorice can’t hope to compete.

While there are American products labeled “Australian-style,” seek out the authentic Australian product or a U.K. brand like Bassetts. One of our favorite brands is Kookaburra from Australia (OU-kosher).

There are bags of familiar red or black licorice twists, but Kookburra and other Australian and English companies take licorice to an art. At Kookaburra:

  • Twists are also available in apple, mango and raspberry flavors.
  • Creamy Strawberry & Cream Bites are dual color and flavor cylinders.
  • Liquorice Shooters are blue, brown, green, red and yellow flower-like shapes with white centers
  • Allsorts are a combination of all of these plus other colorful cylinders
  •  
    “Rich, Chewy & Delicious,” exclaims the package. “Best Liquorice in the World.” We don’t dare disagree—the kookaburras would laugh us down.

    You can buy all of them online at KookaburraLiquorice.com.

    Of course, if you’d rather celebrate with Belgian salt liquorice, licorice cats, chalk (black liquorice with a white mint coating), coins, drops, Scotties, ropes, wheels or other shapes, just head to Amazon.com and search for “liquorice.”

    WHO INVENTED ALLSORTS

    Allsorts is our favorite type liquorice—a variety of colorful and flavorful shapes and chewing consistencies. They were first produced in Sheffield, England, by Geo. Bassett & Co Ltd (now part of Cadbury).

    As the story goes, in 1899, Charlie Thompson, a sales representative, was in Leicester showing the liquorice to a client when he dropped the tray of samples, mixing up the various styles. He picked them up but before he could properly arrange them, the client was attracted to the mix of shapes and colors, and put in an order. The company quickly began to package “allsorts,” and they became very popular.

    Each company makes its own assortment of shapes, which can include balls covered in nonpareil-type sprinkles, colorful cylinders (rolls) and multicolored, sandwiched squares. They look beautiful in a candy dish, and more than one young girl has strung them into a necklace.

     

    WHAT EXACTLY IS LICORICE

    Licorice is a confection flavored with the extract from the root of the licorice plant, combined with sugar or other sweetener and a binder (gelatin, gum arabic or starch). The big American brands use corn syrup*.

    Additional ingredients can include flavoring, beeswax for a shiny surface, molasses to provide the familiar black color, and ammonium chloride. Some brands substitute anise oil instead of with licorice root extract.

    The ingredients are dissolved in water and heated to 275°F, then poured into molds. The resulting pieces are sprayed with beeswax to make their surface shiny. Who knew?

    The original liquorice was black. Later, “red licorice” was made with strawberry flavoring. Today it is made in numerous flavors, including apple, blackcurrant, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, grape, mango, raspberry and watermelon.
     
    *Red Vines ingredients include corn syrup, wheat flour, citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40 artificial food color. Strawberry Twizzlers are made with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, palm oil, salt, artificial flavor, mono and diglycerides, cytric acid, potassium sorbate, Red 40, mineral oil, soy lecithin and glycerine.

     

    fml-AT7WF0.jpg

    Some of the shapes of allsorts licorice. Photo courtesy Sporticia.com.

     

    WHAT’S A KOOKABURRA?

    The kookaburra is a bird in the kingfisher family, native to Australia and New Guinea. Its loud call is said to sound like echoing human laughter.

    Here are some photos.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    lobster-grilled-cheese-marcforgione-tfal-230sq

    Add lobster to your grilled cheese sandwich.
    Photo courtesy T-Fal.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month and April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day. So it’s time to get out the bread and cheese, and turn on the stove.

    There are many wonderful grilled cheese recipes. But perhaps the most luxurious is lobster grilled cheese.

    T-fal “commissioned” the sandwich recipe below from Iron Chef Marc Forgione to launch its Mini Grilled Cheese Griddle. It’s a small, handled griddle that cooks a single, perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

    The small, non-stick pan heats up more quickly than larger pans; the flat griddle base ensures even heat distribution for perfect melting. It’s $5.29 at Amazon.com.

    Of course, you can use whatever pan you have; but a flat griddle of any size is best for uniform heating.

    Chef Forgione obviously likes heat; we’re not sure we like the extra sriracha sauce as a condiment on the side because the lobster is so delicate. But try it and see for yourself.

     

    RECIPE: LOBSTER GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

    Ingredients For 4 Whole Sandwiches

    For the Chili Lobster

  • 2 cups lobster stock (if you can’t find lobster stock at a fish store, get generic seafood stock)
  • 4 one-and-one-half pound lobsters, claws removed (we used the claw meat as well as the tails)
  • ¼ cup sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 8 slices of Gruyère or fontina cheese (we prefer truffle cheese)
  • 4 slices Pullman Loaf or other high-quality thick sliced white bread, 1” thick (we used brioche)
  • Melted butter for brushing
  •  

    lobster-claw-cooked-hancocklobster-230

    We used the claw meat in the sandwiches, but you can enjoy it separately. Photo courtesy Hancock Lobster.

     

    Preparation

    1. CUT the tails off the lobster bodies, and into 1-inch pieces while the tails are still in their shells

    2. BRING the lobster stock to a simmer and add the sriracha, soy sauce and lime juice. Piece by piece, whisk in 6 tablespoons of butter until emulsified. Reduce the remaining sauce until it slightly thickens, about 2 minutes.

    3. TOSS the lobster tail pieces in oil with salt and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes or until cooked through. Place the lobster pieces in a bowl and transfer to the fridge until cooled. When the lobster pieces have cooled, pop the meat out of the tails and set aside.

    4. TAKE two slices of bread per sandwich. Place one slice of cheese on top of the first slice, cover the cheese with some lobster meat, sprinkle ½ tablespoon of tarragon, cover with a second slice of cheese, and then top with the second piece of bread.

    5. BRUSH the outer sides of each slice of bread with melted butter and season with salt. Grill the sandwich on the T-fal Mini Grilled Cheese Griddle and serve with an optional small bowl of sriracha sauce on the side.

      

    Comments

    BOOK: Brassicas, Cooking The World’s Healthiest Vegetables

    brassicas-230

    Eat your vegetables—make that, eat your
    Brassicas. Photo courtesy Ten Speed Press.

     

    Frequent readers of THE NIBBLE know of our devotion to cruciferous vegetables, also known as brassicas, from their Latin name in taxonomy*.

    For a long time, brassicas have had a mixed reputation. People who know how to cook them adore them. Beyond the deliciousness, brassicas are superfoods—nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants).

    But anyone who has been served overcooked brassicas—when the sulfur compounds top the mushy texture with an unpleasant aroma—might just concur with George H.W. Bush, whose mom, we’re betting, didn’t cook the broccoli al dente.

    Brassicas get the respect they deserve in a new book, Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell, published this week in hardcover and Kindle editions.

    One word is missing from that title: delicious. “Healthy vegetables” sounds too much like an admonition from mom or grandma. “Healthy and delicious” is a win-win.

     

    And that’s what you’ll get in this cookbook. It showcases 80 recipes for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and leafy greens such as arugula and watercress. Recipes are easily tailored to accommodate special diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

    The recipes prove that brassicas can taste delicious when properly prepared in ways that let the flavors shine through (no blanket of cheese sauce is required—or desired). When roasted, for example, Brussels sprouts, a food avoided by many, reveal their inherent sweetness that other preparation techniques take away. Caramelizing cauliflower in the sauté pan makes it so lovely that each individual will want to consumer the entire caramelized head.

    This is a book for people who love their brassicas, and for people who don’t love them yet. Give copies as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts, and to anybody who should eat more veggies.

    The handsome hardcover volume is $17.04 on Amazon.com. The Kindle version is $10.99.

     
    *Kingdom Plantae, Order Brassicales, Family Brassicaceae, Genus Brassica.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Chocolate Matzoh Crunch (Bark) For Passover

    Passover begins on the evening of Monday, April 14th and ends on the evening of Tuesday, April 22nd. During that week, observant Jews refrain from bread and other food made with leavened grain.

    Matzoh replaces conventional bread.

    Passover is the story of the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Bible relates that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste that they could not wait for their bread dough to rise; the result, when baked, was matzoh (Exodus 12:39).

    We can argue over how to spell matzoh: matza, matzah and matzo are common variations (not to mention the plural forms, beginning with matzoth). But we won’t argue about how good chocolate-covered matzoh is, turning the humble unleaved bread into a crunchy chocolate confection.

    You can buy chocolate-covered matzoh, or you can make your own. Here’s a recipe from Golden Blossom, which makes honey that is kosher for Passover.

    You can make the recipe with dark, milk or white chocolate, and with different nuts (we like pistachios).

     

    matzoh-crunch-goldenblossomhoney-230sq

    Matzoh crunch, chocolate “bark” made with crunchy matzoh. Photo courtesy Golden Blossom Honey.

     

    The recipe has a variety of names; among others, chocolate matzoh, matzoh bark, matzoh buttercrunch, matzoh cookie, matzoh crunch, matzoh toffee, and even the questionable matzoh crack.

    Here’s a second “recipe from Marcy Goldman, who calls it “matzo toffee.”

     

    chocolate-matzoh-burdick-230

    Burdick Chocolate and others dip whole
    boards of matzoh in chocolate, and scatter
    nuts, dried fruits or other ingredients on top.
    It is available from BurdickChocolate.com from
    April 7th through April 22nd, and is not
    kosher for Passover.

     

    RECIPE: HONEY ALMOND MATZOH CRUNCH
    (A.K.A. MATZO BARK)

    Active preparation time is 20 minutes; total time is 2 hours. Note that the recipe below produces “just” two boards of matzoh. The 16 pieces won’t last very long!

    Ingredients For About 16 Pieces

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 matzohs, coarsely crumbled (about 1 cup
    crumbled)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Large flake sea salt (such as Maldon), for sprinkling
  • Optional: dried cherries or cranberries, dessicated or flaked coconut
  •  

    Preparation

    1. LINE an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If using foil, generously butter the foil (parchment paper is naturally nonstick). Set aside.

    2. COMBINE honey and butter in a 2-3 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture begins to boil. Insert a candy thermometer into the bubbling mixture and continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally to prevent scorching, until it is deep amber in color and measures 275°-285ºF, about 8 minutes.

    3. REMOVE from heat and add vanilla extract (be careful as it will spatter). Stir in crumbled matzo pieces, slivered almonds and optional dried cherries until evenly coated. Pour into prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer.

    4. SPRINKLE chocolate chips evenly over top of hot candy. Let sit for 5 minutes, then spread into an even layer using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool for 1 to 2 hours or until set, then cut or break into bite size pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Bird’s Nest Cheesecake

    This cheesecake gift from Harry & David is inspired by the chirping birds of spring, who decorate the top with a “nest” of premium chocolate shavings that holds a few bright blue candy almond robin’s eggs.

    The creamy cheesecakes also feature a chocolate cookie crust and a chocolate ganache layer on top.

    The two New York style cheesecake cheesecakes are 5.5 inches in diameter, enough for four people or a big piece for two.

    A delicious gift for a cheesecake lover or a special occasion dessert, the Bird’s Nest Cheesecakes duo is $29.95 at HarryAndDavid.com.
     
    BAKE YOUR OWN

    Here are some of our favorite cheesecake recipes.

     

    birds-nest-cheesecake-harrydavid-230w

    Cheesecakes for springtime. Photo courtesy Harry & David.

     

      

    Comments

    EASTER: A Chocolate Box Filled With Fleur De Sel Caramels

    charles-chocolates-chocolate-box-2014-230sq

    Please, Easter Bunny, bring us one of these!
    Photo courtesy Charles Chocolates.

     

    Charles Chocolates of San Francisco makes some truly wonderful products. We’re gaga over the melt-in-your-mouth Orange Twigs and the Triple Chocolate Almonds.

    But for Easter, we must have a Bunny Collection Edible Chocolate Box: a white chocolate box filled with classic fleur de sel and bittersweet chocolate fleur de sel chocolate-enrobed caramels. Decorated with chicks and bunnies, there’s nothing child-like about the sophisticated flavor of these confections.

    Eighteen caramels in their edible box, 17 ounces of treats, $65.00. Order online.

    If you don’t want the edible box, you can save a few dollars by getting the fleur de sel caramels in a regular gift box.

    Ten pieces, 3.9 ounces of treats, is $24.00. Order online.

     

    If you’re in San Francisco, drop by the Charles Chocolate store in the mission district, and enjoy some goodies inside or on the outdoor patio.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rosé Wine & The Best Rosé Tasting Ever

    Quick: What’s a rosé wine?

  • It’s a type of wine that gets some of its rosy color from contact with red grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine.
  • It can be made anywhere in the world, from almost any grape (or a mix of different grapes); it can be made as a still, semi-still or sparkling wine.
  • Depending on the grape, terroir and winemaking techniques, the color can range from the palest pink to deep ruby red to hues of orange or violet; and in styles from bone dry Provençal rosé to sweet White Zinfandel and other blush wines from California.
  • It may be the oldest style of wine, as it is the most easiest to make with the skin contact method.
  •  
    And it’s popular.

    According to Nielsen, premium imported rosés (those priced at $12 or more per bottle) grew by 39% in volume and 48% in dollar value in 2013, capping nine straight years of double-digit growth.

    In sum, a glass of chilled rosé is now hot.

    And soon, in celebration, the world’s first large-scale rosé tasting event, La Nuit En Rosé will be held in New York City—on June 13th and 14th.

    Before then, you can set a bottle or two on your Easter table. But La Nuit En Rosé is a rosé tasting with 50 wines you won’t want to miss.

     

    rose-glass-corksandcaftans-230

    Multiply times 50: That’s how many roses you’ll be able to taste at La Nuit En Rosé (if not more!). Photo courtesy Corks and Caftans.

     

    LA NUIT EN ROSÉ: ROSE WINÉ TASTING CRUISE UP THE HUDSON RIVER
    JUNE 13th & 14th, 2014

    La Nuit En Rosé, “The Pink Night,” marks the first time a large wine event has focused exclusively on rosé. It’s a celebration of rosés from around the globe, and your opportunity to taste the different grapes and styles all in one evening—on a yacht cruise!

    There will be more than 50 wines from the world’s great wine regions.

    This tasting event will take place during an elegant yacht cruise along the Hudson River that nestles Manhattan Island. There are not only wines, but live music, optional cuisine and some of the best views Manhattan has to offer.

    There are two four-hour sessions a day, an afternoon and an evening sailing, each featuring a 90-minute cruise. The yacht departs from Pier 40 (West Street and the Hudson River).

    Just pick your day and time on Friday, June 13th or Saturday, June 14th:

  • DAY TASTING & CRUISE, 1 PM to 5 PM: Take in the summertime sun during a daytime cruise. Sip on the world’s finest rosé wines while taking in the sights of downtown New York City from the water. You can board as early as 1 and start tasting. The cruise begins at 2 p.m. and sails until 3:30 p.m.; you can then remain on board until 5, tasting and enjoying the music.
  • NIGHT TASTING & CRUISE, 7 PM to 11 PM: Prepare for an evening of wine tasting, dancing and cruising around the city. Enjoy views of the lit-up Manhattan skyline. Boarding time is 7 p.m.; the cruise begins at 8 p.m. and sails until 9:30 p.m. You can remain on board until 11.
  •  
    TICKETS

    Tickets are $60 per person and include all of the wines and the 90-minute cruise. Buy them at NuitRose.com.

    Food vendors on board will sell cheeses, charcuterie, fresh seafood, French pastries and other snacks to pair with the wines.

    The event also features a wine competition, where distinguished judges will confer honors upon the best of the wines, and you can cast your own vote for the audience award (“people’s choice”).

    If you taste something you really like, you’ll be able to order it on board from renowned wine merchant Zachys.

    Get together a group: It should be a memorable event!

     

    sancerre_rose_Wine-thor-wiki-230

    We can’t wait to taste and cruise. Photo by
    Thor | Wikimedia.

     

    HOW IS ROSÉ MADE?

    Surprise: Most wine grapes have clear juice, regardless of the skin color. The pink color in rosé—and the color of red wines—is obtained through skin contact. This means letting the crushed grape skins and fresh juice (which is called the “must”) of black-skinned grapes (a.k.a. purple or red grapes) rest together in a vat.

    The longer that the juice is left in contact with the skins (typically one to three days for rosé), the more color is extracted and the more intense the color of the final wine. When the color is the right shade for the brand, the must is then pressed and and the skins are discarded.

    The winemaker drains the juice from the skins and proceeds to make the wine in the same way most whites are made (cool fermentation and, for rosé, no oak).

    Rosé Vs. Blush Wine

    In the 1980s, American winemakers began using the term “blush wine” to sell their pink wines. The reasons:

     

  • White Zinfandel had become enormously popular (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America), and there weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes grown to meet demand. Winemakers needed to use other grape varieties, and could no longer call the product “White Zinfandel.”
  • No one was buying, or showing an interest in, rosé at the time, while blush wines flew off of the shelves.
  • American pink wines, whether White Zin or the generic “blush,” are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosé.

    The styles and tasting profiles of each are as varied and complex as any varietal, and richly deserve their new popularity. Get to know fifty of them this June.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Tagine

    A tagine (tah-ZHEEN) is a Moroccan stew of vegetables with meat, poultry, fish or seafood. More specifically, it’s a Berber dish from North Africa that is named after the type of earthenware pot in which it is cooked, originally over coals. (A similar dish, tavvas, is made in Cyprus.)

    There are traditional clay tagines, some so beautifully hand-painted as to double as decorative ceramics; modern tagines, such as Le Creuset enamelware; and even electric tagines for people who don’t have stoves or ovens.

    You can buy a tagine, but you can make the stew in whatever pot you have.

     
    HOW A TAGINE WORKS

    The traditional tajine pot is made of clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a round, flat base pot with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that covers it during cooking.

    The cover is designed to promote the return of all the liquid condensation back to the pot, allowing for a long simmer and moist chunks of meat. The stew is traditionally cooked over large bricks of charcoal that have the ability to stay hot for hours.

     

    chicken-tagine-lecreuset-230

    A modern enamelware tagine. Photo courtesy Le Creuset.

     
    Tajines can also be cooked in a conventional oven or on a stove top. For the stove top, a diffuser—a circular piece of aluminum placed between the tajine and burner—is used to evenly distribute the stove heat to permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking. Modern tajines made with heavy cast-iron bottoms replace them.

     

    black-white-tagine-230

    A traditional hand-painted tagine. You can
    buy this one online.

     

    MAKE A TAGINE

    This vegetarian tagine recipe is from FAGE Total Yogurt. You can serve it as a side or as a main dish with sliced grilled chicken, lamb or salmon.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 1 hour, 10 minutes. Serve with couscous and a crisp salad.
     
    RECIPE: MOROCCAN CHICKPEA & VEGETABLE
    TAGINE WITH YOGURT DRESSING

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, cinnamon and turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1-3/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1-3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 cup baby corn
  • 1/4 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 cup baby carrots
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley and coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT half of the oil in a tagine or other pan. Add onion, garlic, and spices. Fry over a low to medium heat for 5 minutes until golden.

    2. ADD the chickpeas, tomatoes and stock. Cook for 20 minutes.

    3. STIR FRY the vegetables in a separate frying pan or wok with remaining oil, and then add to the chickpea mixture.

    4. BRING to a boil, cover and simmer for a further 20 minutes.

    5. MAKE the herb yogurt dressing: Mix the yogurt, chopped parsley and coriander together. To finish, add half the yogurt, adjust seasoning to taste and serve with the rest of the yogurt on the side. NOTE: Don’t boil the stew after adding the yogurt or it may separate.

      

    Comments

    PASSOVER: Danny Macaroons

    Passover is around the corner, and macaroons are on the menu. The soft, coconut cookies are a delight year-round, but especially appreciated by Passover observers. Made of shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and egg whites—without the flour or leavening that are verboten during this holiday—they happily replace other baked sweets. (They’re gluten-free, too.)

    Dan Cohen of Danny’s Macaroons and author of The Macaroon Bible, is one of the country’s—and probably the world’s—great macaroon makers. Beyond his grandmother’s plain and chocolate dipped, he’s brought macaroons into the new flavor age.

    The cookies are made with kosher ingredients, but are not kosher for Passover. Still, those who observe the spirit of the law if not the letter of it, will enjoy every bite.

    DANNY MACAROON FLAVORS

    Just take a look at these choices:

     

    the-macaroon-bible-230

    Get the book and bake your own! Photo courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • Amarena Cherry, topped with an semi-candied cherry
  • Baileys McRoons
  • Bourbon
  • Black Chocolate Stout
  • Chocolate Almond
  • Chocolate Banana Nut
  • Chocolate Caramel
  • Chocolate Dipped
  • Chocolate Malted
  • Guava
  • Jamstand Surprise with spicy raspberry jalapeño jam
  • Maple Pecan Pie
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Plain Coconut
  • Red Velvet
  • Rice Pudding
  • Spiced Pumpkin
  • Stoopid, coconut macaroons are filled with potato chips, pretzels and pieces of Butterfinger, then drizzled with dark chocolate (how this relates to stupid, we can’t say)
  •  
    Get yours at DannyMacaroons.com.

     

    box-danny-macaroons-southportgrocery-230

    How many flavors do we want? All of them!
    Photo courtesy Southport Grocery.

     

    THE HISTORY OF MACAROONS

    “Macaroon” means different things to different people. To some, it’s a big ball of coconut, to others, a delicate, airy meringue. Both are delicious and neither is made with flour, making them options for gluten-free observers and for the Jewish holiday of Passover.

    The first macaroons were almond meringue cookies similar to today’s Amaretti di Saronno, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste.

    Macaroons traveled to France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. Two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters” (the French word is macaron, pronounced mah-kah-RONE).

    Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening, the agent that raises and lightens a baked good, such as baking powder and baking soda (instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites).

     

    The recipe was introduced to other European Jews and became popular for Passover as well as a year-round sweet.Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds in Jewish macaroons, and, in certain recipes, completely replaced them.

    Coconut macaroons are more prevalent in the U.S. and the U.K.—and they’re a lot easier to make and transport than the fragile almond meringues that became the norm in France.

    Here’s more macaroon history.

      

    Comments

    EASTER: Bunny Bread & Other Sourdough Gifts

    Boudin Bakery in San Francisco loves to make bread critters. The bakery cafe, which features salads, sandwiches, soups and sourdough, Original Sourdough French Bread, has designed special gifts for Easter that can be shipped fresh anywhere in the country.

  • Sourdough Baby Bunny Rolls: Celebrate springtime with these 4oz 1-dozen adorable Sourdough Baby Bunny Rolls. $19.95; order online.
  • Easter Sourdough Bunny Gift Basket: Have friends and family who might prefer an alternative to chocolate? This basket includes a one pound sourdough Mama Bunny Bread, a half dozen Baby Bunny Rolls and an 8 ounce bag of Marich’s delightful Easter select candy mix (because you have to have a wee bit). $24.95; order online.
  • Seasonal Bread Club: 12 months of the seasonal loaves in the photo below. Each month two tangy one-pound specialty loaves arrive, including Crab Breads (January), Heart Breads (February), Shamrock Breads (March), Bunny Breads (April), Grape Clusters (May), Turtles (June), Cable Cars (July), Bears (August), Grape Clusters (September), Pumpkin Breads (October), Turkey Breads (November), Christmas Tree Breads (December). $21.95/month; order online.
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    bunny-bread-basket-boudinbakery-230

    Send bunny bread for Easter. Photo courtesy Boudin Bakery | San Francisco.

     

    Boudin Bakery was established in 1849 and is the oldest continuous operating business in San Francisco. Boudin’s original “mother dough” has been replenished with flour and water every day for more than 165 years, and the original recipe is still used. The sourdough is leavened only with wild yeast “caught” from San Francisco’s fog-cooled air.

     

    bread-gift-club-boudinbakery-230

    Great gift: 12 months of fun sourdough
    loaves. Photo courtesy Boudin Bakery.

     

    ABOUT SOURDOUGH BREAD

    Sourdough is a method of baking using lactic-acid-producing bacteria (lactobacillus) that produce a characteristic sour taste and aroma. The sour taste comes from from the lactobacillus, which lives in symbiosis with the yeast, feeding on the byproducts of the yeast fermentation.

    Until science uncovered the leavening process in the 19th century, all yeast-leavened breads were sourdough. Sourdough starter from a prior batch is used to create the new batch.

    Sourdough starters are different from other starters; while regular starters can live for several years, sourdough starters can live for generations.

     

      

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