Make these individual Valentine cakes with a 3-inch heart cookie cutter.
Bake your sweetie a devil’s food chocolate cake with our Valentine cake recipe from Michael Recchiuti. It uses a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut mini-heart cakes from a sheet cake. For one large cake, heart-shaped cake pans are available at any kitchen supply store. Write a customized message on the top of your Valentine cake and decorate with seasonal candies (cinnamon red-hots, Hershey’s kisses). If you’d rather buy than bake, check our favorite heart-shaped cookies and cakes in the Gift Finder section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. Try them with some of our favorite, romantic Valentine’s Day wines and liqueurs.
Larry Burdick was a pastry chef in New York City when he chose to focus on making chocolate. Then, he decided to focus on making it in quieter, gentler New Hampshire—in the old “mail order” days, before the Internet, when those in the know might get a holiday catalog. Today, it’s easy for chocolate connoisseurs everywhere to visually feast on his wares. Order online or by phone and beautiful catalogs will be mailed to you as well. If you happen to be in Walpole, New Hampshire or Cambridge, Massachusetts, you can feast in person at Burdick’s restaurant and café, destination spots for many fans.Burdick is one of the senior statesman of great American chocolate. Even if your palate doesn’t covet his sophisticated bonbons, marvelous marzipan and pert pâtes de fruit, his famous, ganache-filled chocolate mice and penguins (and seasonal bunnies and ghosts) are irresistible. His hot chocolate was our winner in a field of 60, and is a prior Top Pick Of The Week. Read the full review, and separately, check out the hot chocolate. Your Valentine will appreciate both.
Chocolates are only part of Larry Burdick’s extensive repertoire.
While National Pizza Week is celebrated the second week of January, today is Pizza Pie Day. Most of us aren’t old enough to remember that pizzas were formerly called pizza pie—you can catch the reference in movies from the 1950s. The history of pizza is relatively recent, given how ancient flat breads and cheese are in man’s cuisine. The key element that turned them into what we know today as pizza is the tomato, which was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century. This was the yellow cherry tomato, and as a member of the Nightshade family of plants, it was believed by many Europeans to be poisonous. The tomato was enjoyed as a houseplant. However, famine in the 18th century caused the fruit to be eaten by the poor, and no one died. The poor in the area around Naples then add tomato to their flat bread, often serving as their main meal with melted cheese and/or anchovies, and so the pizza was born. (So was tomato sauce for pasta and other dishes.)
Pizza gained in popularity, sold from open-air stands by street vendors, and soon became a tourist attraction. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples is regarded as the world’s first pizzeria. It began as a pizza bakery in 1738, providing street vendors with pizzas, but in 1830 expanded to include a pizza restaurant with chairs and tables. It remains in business today. Pizza arrived in the U.S. with the first wave of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. – See our favorite line of frozen gourmet pizzas, Pizza Romana—imported from Italy. – Try something different: An apple, cheddar and bacon pizza recipe.
February 9th is National Bagels and Lox Day. “Lox” is an old generic term that is fading away, replaced by much more complicated choices. So how does one decide among the Irish, Danish, Nova Scotia, Norwegian, Scottish and other smoked salmon contenders? They differ in saltiness, smokiness and fishiness; the only way you’ll know is to taste. If it’s sliced-to-order, you can try a piece at the counter; but packaged salmon (which can be equally fine or better quality depending on manufacturer) is often less expensive because factory slicing is cheaper than store labor). Buy small amounts of each and compare. You don’t need bagels: Slices of salmon with a sprinkling of dill and capers, a lemon wedge and an optional garnish of crème fraîche make a lovely first course for brunch, lunch or dinner. TIP: Once you decide what you like, write it down—they sound so similar, it’s easy to forget.
If you’d like to bake molasses bars to celebrate National Molasses Bar Day (February 8th), you can find many recipes online. But first: What is molasses?
Known in the U.K. as treacle, it’s a thick syrup produced as a by-product during the refining of sugar cane. Molasses is the residue that is left after the sugar crystals are extracted (i.e., molasses is produced when no more sugar may be economically crystallized by conventional means).
Molasses is predominantly sucrose, with some glucose and fructose. It is 65% as sweet as sugar. About 80% of the world’s molasses comes from sugar cane, with the remaining 20% coming from sugar beets.
The better grades, such as New Orleans drip molasses and Barbados molasses, are unreprocessed and contain more sucrose, making them lighter in color> They are used in cooking and confectionery and in the production of rum.
Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the cane; it is also called sweet molasses and is used as pancake syrup or a sweetener.
Dark molasses from the second boiling; it is more flavorful and less sweet than light molasses, and often used for gingerbread and spice cookies.
lackstrap molasses, the lowest grade, comes from the third boiling; it is strong and bitter, and mainly used in mixed cattle feed and in the manufacture of industrial alcohol.
Sulfured molasses, has had sulfur dioxide added as a preservative (or, the sulfur in the manufacturing process is retained in the molasses).