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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Coconut Torte Day

March 13th, Coconut Torte Day, begs the question: What is a torte? Is it just a pretentious word for cake, something to make you think the torte is more special than an everyday cake?

Nein, mein freund. While torte is the German word for what the British (and Americans) call cake and the French call gâteau, they don’t refer to identical confections.

Different cooking traditions led to different styles of baking.

  • British cakes, German tortes and Italian tortas are generally hardier creations than delicate French gâteaux.
  • The French, those keen culinarians, went for light, rich, layered affairs stuffed with custard, whipped cream or butter cream, frosted, and decorated with fresh fruit—oh la la, but very perishable.
  • While British culinary tradition created sturdier, longer-lasting pound cakes and fruit cakes, tortes are rich, dense cakes made with many eggs and little or no flour, using ground nuts (and sometimes breadcrumbs) for texture.
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    A torte is thus easily recognizable because it’s one layer that’s shorter than a typical cake layer, often no more than 2-1/2 inches high because there’s not much, if any, flour to rise. Flourless cakes are tortes. The crumb is denser than the airy crumb of a layer cake; it’s similar to the density of a Bundt cake.

    And a torte is wider than a cake—usually 10 to 12 inches in diameter compared to the typical 8-to-9-inch cake. That’s to compensate for the shorter height, so each short wedge will be a good portion.
     
    KNOW YOUR TORTES

    Alas, many people, including some bakers, use terms incorrectly. The following may be called “torte” by their makers and/or sellers, but are not tortes:

  • Bundt cakes
  • Layer cakes
  • Sheet cakes
  •  
    Remember these words: one short, dense, round layer.
     
     
    TORTE VS. TART: THE DIFFERENCE

    These two are not related except broadly: both are filled baked goods that can be sweet or savory.

  • A torte (photos 1, 2 and 3) is a type of cake. It does not have a separate crust, as do tarts and pies. It is baked in a tin with smooth edges.
  • A tart (photo #4) is related to a pie: a filled crust. A tart has no top crust but it may have a lattice. A pie can have a top crust, no top crust, or a lattice. It is baked in a tin with crimped edges (more difference between tarts and pies).
  •   /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/coconut torte sweetsmarts 230
    [1] A torte can be plain or iced. Here, a plain coconut torte from SweetSmarts.com; it’s also sugar-free.

    Coconut Torte
    [2] A Key Lime Coconut Torte from Pixilated Crumb.

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/coconut torte food52 230r
    [3] A flourless almond and coconut torte. Here’s the recipe from Food 52.

    Linzertorte
    [4] A linzer tart. A tart is NOT a torte. See the difference at left.

     
    Unlike a pie, which has a soft, thin crust and—often—a soft filling that will ooze out once sliced, tarts have a hard, thick crust and a firm filling.

  • The entire tart stands erect on its own, with no pan to hold it. In fact, the baking pan is removed before the tart is brought to the table.
  • Similarly, the firm filling of a sliced tart will not ooze.
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    What to remember: torte is a cake, tart is a [relative of] open-face pie.
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAKES IN THE NIBBLE’S TASTY CAKE GLOSSARY.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Irish Cream Icing

    White Chocolate Cake
    Make a white chocolate frosting with Irish cream liqueur. Photo courtesy of Equinox Maple Flakes.
     

    Celebrate the 17th with Irish Cream Icing. You can bake or buy brownies or a loaf cake and add this tasty homemade topping. Take 1/3 cup Irish cream liqueur (such as Bailey’s) and 8 ounces of top-quality white chocolate. Buy a good chocolate bar instead of baking chips, which can be vegetable oil instead of real chocolate. You can buy Green & Black’s, one of our favorites (it’s organic, too), readily available at Whole Foods Markets and elsewhere. In a small pan, bring the liqueur to a slow boil; then remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped white chocolate until it’s completely melted and the icing is smooth. Refrigerate until it becomes thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally. Spread the icing over the brownies or cake. Keep refrigerated until 30 minutes before serving.

    – Make Irish Coffee to go with your dessert.
    – Find more cake recipes in the Gourmet Cakes Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

     

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Baked Scallops Day

    We love scallops, so National Baked Scallops Day isn’t a hard day for us to fit in to our eating schedule. Scallops are found in all the world’s oceans. They are a member of the oyster family, Ostreida, and have the familiar central adductor muscle that attaches their two shells. The adductor muscle of scallops is larger and more developed than that of oysters, because the little dudes are active swimmers. Not just content to hang around at the bottom of the ocean, waiting to be scooped up, they exercise their inner Michael Phelps (or does Michael Phelps exercise his inner scallop?) by rapidly opening and closing their shells. Another fun fact: Scallops are hermaphrodites, and switch sexes. Both sexes produce roe. So, here’s an example in the animal kingdom where dads can give birth (if you call expelling your roe into the water, where it is fertilized by by some other scallop’s expelled spermatozoa, and then sinks to the bottom of the ocean to hatch, giving birth).   scallops-260.jpg
    Bake me tonight.
    Scallops were traditionally caught by dredging (dragging) the seabed, but scuba divers now catch the quality ones—hence the term “diver scallops” or “dayboat scallops” (the divers go out just for the day) on menus of better restaurants. If you saw or read “The Perfect Storm,” you understand that seafood can spend two or more weeks on ice in the hold of a boat before getting to port. Diver scallops get to market quickly, and thus are so much are fresher and tastier. Now, onto baked scallops: Perhaps the most famous baked scallop dish is Coquilles Saint-Jacques, translated as Saint James’s scallops, a rich mixture of butter, cream, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, baked in a scallop shell. The scallop shell is the emblem of Saint James the Greater. The saint’s association with the scallop shell is based on a legend that he once rescued a knight covered in scallops, or alternatively, that while his remains were being transported to Spain from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water and emerged covered in scallop shells. As a result, Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, often wore a scallop shell symbol on their clothing. You can easily find a delicious recipe for Coquilles Saint-Jacques online (we use the one from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child. It’s easy to make—pick up the ingredients and enjoy it tonight. You can buy the scallop shells in any cookware store (including chain stores), and they’re useful for serving other foods, from desserts to hors d’oeuvres (olives, for example). And of course, you can serve the dish on any plate—scallop shells not required!

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Callie’s Southern Biscuits

    Country ham biscuits
    Can’t you taste the goodness of Callie’s Country Ham Biscuits? The Cheese and Cinnamon are also stunning (photo courtesy Callie’s).
     

    She catered Reese Witherspoon’s and Ryan Philippe’s wedding, and other catering clients have been clamoring for her country ham-stuffed biscuits for years.

    She couldn’t hand over the secret recipe, of course, so Charleston, South Carolina caterer Callie White did the next best thing: She charged her daughter with opening up a division to sell the bodacious biscuits online.

    Now, there’s no need for you to imagine what super Southern biscuits taste like. Buttermilk, cheese, cinnamon and the country ham biscuits that started it all will come to you.

    Get yourself a variety pack for Easter dinner or breakfast. Send some to Mom for Mother’s Day. Each biscuit is handmade with just a bowl and no other equipment (save for the oven, of course).

    Callie says that the secret to making a great biscuit is to not over-mix the dough. Each batch is mixed by hand, and the expert biscuit makers know by the feel when the dough is ready. It’s art, it’s science, it’s delicious!

    Read the full review, and order at CalliesBiscuits.com.

    Visit more of our favorite breads and biscuits in the Gourmet Bread Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

     
    WHY IS A BISCUIT A COOKIE IN ENGLAND?

    Why do the British refer to cookies and crackers as biscuits?

  • In the U.S., a biscuit is a small, typically round cake of bread, leavened with baking powder, baking soda or sometimes, yeast. It is typically savory.
  • British biscuits are either sweet (U.S. cookie) or savory (U.S. cracker). Both are flat and crisp.
  • What Americans call a biscuit is called a scone in the U.K.
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    Why the difference?

  • It’s because the word biscuit comes from the Latin bis coctum, which means “twice cooked.” This is manifested in biscotti, the hard Italian cookies which are baked twice. So hard and flat indicates a biscuit.
  • Americans get “cookie” from the Dutch word, koekje, which means little cake (and cake is soft). Both terms arrived in America in the 1600s, with their respective groups of Colonists.
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    Do The British Use The Word “Cookie?”

    Yes, but for a different style: not flat and crisp.

    The soft, chewy cookies that developed in the U.S. are, in fact, called cookies in the U.K. But they aren’t as common in the U.K. as the crispy biscuits.

    When American Biscuits Came To Indicate Bread

    According to The Encyclopedia of American American Food and Drink, the first American usage of “biscuit” as a soft bread was in 1818, in the Journal of Travels in the United States of North America, and in Lower Canada, by John Palmer.

    By 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defined a biscuit as “a composition of flour and butter, made and baked in private families.” These small, puffy leavened breads were called soda biscuits or baking-soda biscuits, to differentiate them from the unleavened cracker type of biscuit. Recipes are ubiquitous in 19th-century cookbooks.

    In addition to serving up plenty of soda biscuits, Southerners also developed the beaten biscuit, first mentioned in print in 1853. In 1930, General Mills introduced Bisquick, the first packaged biscuit mix. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Pass the butter, please.

      

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Oatmeal-Nut Waffles Day

    Who thought up this food holiday, you might ask? Why not Blackberry Waffles Day, or Milk Chocolate Chip Waffles Day?

    We’re guessing that Oatmeal-Nut Waffles Day is the work of nutritionists at the Whole Grain Council or some other group supporting oats—and they’re not wrong.

    We need three portions of whole grains daily, and oatmeal waffles are a good start. As for the nuts, while they are high in calories and fat, they contain protein plus the good, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3s), which have all been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. (Your body needs two tablespoons of good fats daily.)

  • Waffles are a great way to limit portions of nuts (unlike, say, eating an entire bowl of mixed nuts).
  • Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts are approved by the FDA, since they contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g.
  • Walnuts are your best bet—they are more heart-healthy than olive oil and have bone-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid). But if you must have pecan waffles, we understand.
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    Here’s a recipe to celebrate the day:
     
     
    RECIPE: OATMEAL-NUT WAFFLES

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (oatmeal)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped nuts (the healthiest nuts)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Optional garnishes: butter, fresh fruit, syrup, yogurt
  •   Whole-Grain-Waffles-turvs.net-230-ps-sq
    [1] Oatmeal or other whole grain waffles are better than white flour waffles. Nuts add protein. Photo courtesy Turvs.net.

    Chopped Almonds
    [2] Chop the nuts to the fineness you prefer (photo of almonds courtesy Big Tree Organic Farms).

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a lightly greased waffle iron.

    2. COMBINE the flour, oats, nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in large mixing bowl. Set aside.

    3. MIX the eggs, milk, butter and brown sugar in small mixing bowl. Add this to the flour mixture, stirring until blended.

    4. POUR the batter onto the preheated waffle iron. The waffle iron needs to be hot enough to make a cold drop of water “dance.” When it’s hot enough, add the batter. Close the lid quickly, and do not open during baking.

    TIP: Cooking time varies by waffle iron, setting chosen, if the iron surface is coated (e.g. with Teflon), how much moisture is in the waffle batter, etc. You will need to experiment with your waffle iron. Look for steam escaping from the sides. When the steam stops, the waffles should be finished.

    5. REMOVE the finished waffles with a fork. Top with syrup or fresh fruit and/or yogurt.
     
     
    HOW MANY TYPES OF WAFFLES HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check them all out in our Pancake & Waffle Glossary, along with the history of waffles.

      

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