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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Hot Cross Buns For Good Friday

Hot Cross Buns
[1] Enjoy hot cross buns for breakfast on Good Friday, and at tea time or coffee break all Easter weekend (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

 

Hot cross buns are sweet yeast buns made with raisins or currants, and decorated with a cross.

The cross, symbolizing the Crucifixion, was originally made with knife cuts in the dough. Today it’s piped or spooned on with icing.

The buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
 
 
THE HISTORY OF HOT CROSS BUNS

The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733. However, the buns have much earlier roots.

As with some other Christian traditions, this one is believed to predate Christianity.

  • Similar buns were eaten by Saxons to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring, whose name is believed to be the origin of “Easter.”
  • In pre-Christian times, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon.
  •  
    Hot cross buns are so tasty, we wish they were available year-round.

     
    So make some time to bake a batch. If you don’t celebrate Easter, make them to celebrate spring.

    Here’s a great recipe from King Arthur Flour.

    You can make the dough and the icing the day before, and bake them in time to serve them warm for breakfast on the morning of Good Friday.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Salad As A First Course

    Potato salad as first course?

    Sure, when it’s as elegant and complex as this Stacked Purple Potato & Cucumber Salad recipe, from the Idaho Potato Commission.

    The recipe is a fusion of American potato salad and Middle Eastern tabouli (tabbouleh).

    Of course, you can still serve the potato salad, unstacked, as a side dish.
     
     
    RECIPE: STACKED BLUE POTATO SALAD WITH TABBOULI

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 pounds Purple Peruvian or Idaho All Blue or Potatoes, peeled, small dice
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 ounce extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 English (seedless) cucumbers, chopped fine
  • Optional garnish: 6 mini cucumbers with blossoms (substitute gherkins)
  •  
    For The Side Salad

  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • Asian mesclun mix, as needed
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    Preparation

    1. BRING salted water to boil in a medium pan. Add the red wine vinegar and then the diced potatoes. Cook until just al dente, then shock the potatoes in ice bath. Drain well and pat dry.

    2. COMBINE the potatoes, parsley, olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in large bowl.

    3. PLACE a 4-inch ring mold in the center of each plate. Pack the potato mixture firmly into each ring mold. Reserve the extra vinaigrette in a bowl.

    4. SPREAD the chopped cucumber on atop. Carefully remove the ring molds. Top the tabouli with mini cucumber (optional).
    Garnish plate with feta cheese and Asian greens. Drizzle the greens with remaining vinaigrette.
     
     
    CHECK OUT MORE POTATO RECIPES
    FROM THE IDAHO POTATO COMMISSION.

     

    Purple Potato & Cucumber Salad
    [1] Purple Potato stacked potato salad (photo courtesy International Potato Commission).

    Purple Peruvian Potatoes
    [2] Purple Peruvian potatoes (photo Mona Makela | IST).

    Blue Potatoes
    [3] Blue potatoes (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
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    *The miniature potatoes used as garnish in photo #1 have their blossoms attached. Unless you grow your own, you won’t find them in stores. Instead, you can substitute miniature gherkins.

      

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    RECIPE: Butter Pecan Chocolate Fudge For National Pecan Day

    April 14th is National Pecan Day.

    Since we got our taxes in the day before, we treated ourself by making this layered Butter Pecan Chocolate Fudge yesterday.

    The recipe is below, but first…
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF PECANS

    Pecans are the only major tree nut indigenous to America, native to the southeastern United States. They are not found naturally (i.e. wild, uncultivated) anywhere else in the world. Even though they can be cultivated elsewhere, American growers produce more than 80% of the world’s pecans (source).

    The pecan appeared more than 100 million years ago. Flash-forward 100 million years: Wild pecans were a staple in the diets of Native Americans, who called them pecanes—an Algonquian word that refers to any nut requiring a stone to crack, such as pecans, hickory nuts and walnuts.

    The nutritious nut kernels were a major food source for Native Americans in the fall and winter, months when there were no crops to harvest. They also created a nut milk called powcohicora, by fermenting powdered pecans into a drink.

    After centuries foraging wild pecans, Native Americans began planting pecan trees (photo #2) and trading the nuts (photo #3) to European explorers.

    It takes nearly 10 years for a pecan tree to yield a full output of nuts. But it then produces nuts for 100 years or more.

    Pecans are one of our favorite nuts. With their rich, buttery texture, sweet taste (no “bite” as with walnuts) and protein and other nutrition*, we give them two thumbs up.
     
     
    RECIPE: BUTTER PECAN CHOCOLATE FUDGE

    Thanks to Pampered Chef for this yummy layered recipe of chocolate fudge and butterscotch fudge with pecans (photo #1).

    Cut into bite-size pieces, you can have a piece without guilt. The fudge keeps well in an airtight tin.

    Ingredients For 60 Bite-Size Pieces

  • 1 cup (250 mL) butterscotch morsels
  • 1 container (16 oz/450 g) prepared vanilla frosting, divided
  • 1 cup (250 mL) pecan halves, toasted
  • 1 package (8 oz/250 g) semi-sweet chocolate squares (8 squares), coarsely chopped, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) vegetable oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE the bottom of a 8-1/2 X 10-inch pan with a piece of parchment paper.

     

    Butter Pecan Chocolate Fudge
    [1] This delicious chocolate fudge has a top layer of butterscotch fudge with pecans (photo courtesy The Pampered Chef).

    Pecan Tree
    [2] A groove of pecan trees (photo courtesy Perfect Plants Nursery).

    Pecans In Shell
    [3] Beautiful pecans. Their shell is one of the prettiest among nuts (photo courtesy Home Depot).

     
    2. COMBINE the butterscotch morsels and half of the frosting in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Add the pecans, stirring to coat evenly. Spread the butterscotch mixture evenly over the parchment paper.

    3. RESERVE 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the chopped chocolate for a garnish. In the same saucepan, combine the remaining chocolate and the remaining frosting. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth.

    4. CAREFULLY POUR the chocolate mixture over the butterscotch layer in the pan, spreading evenly. Refrigerate 10-15 minutes or until set.

    5. INVERT the bar pan onto a cutting board. Carefully peel the parchment paper from the fudge.

    6. PLACE the reserved chocolate and oil in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.

    7. SPREAD the chocolate evenly over the top of fudge. Refrigerate 15-30 minutes or until firm. Cut into 60 small squares.
     
     
    HOW ABOUT SOME CHOCOLATE PECAN BROWNIES?

    Here’s the recipe.

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    *A one-ounce serving of pecans (approximately 20 halves) contains 196 calories, 20.4 grams total fat (1.8 saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 grams sodium, 2.7 grams dietary fiber and over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc. They are one of the heart-healthy nuts recommended by the USDA: You can have an ounce a day to keep the doctor away.

      

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    RECIPE: Grilled Cheese Caprese with Balsamic Syrup Drizzle

    Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich
    [1] Today’s recipe: a Grilled Cheese Caprese sandwich from Marge Perry & David Bonom (photo courtesy Pots and Pans).

    Caprese Sandwich
    [2] Grilled Cheese Caprese without the balsamic drizzle. Here’s the recipe from Cooking Classy.

    Caprese Sandwich
    [3] Don’t want to grill it? Here’s the recipe for an “uncooked” Caprese sandwich from Somewhat Simple.

    Caprese Salad
    [4] A traditional Caprese salad (photo courtesy Balducci’s).

     

    A couple of years ago we received this recipe for a Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Pots and Pans kitchenware outlet. We made it, we liked it. But we never published it.

    Since April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, it’s time.

    Caprese salad is so popular in the U.S.—as are grilled cheese sandwiches—that the idea was just waiting for food writers Marge Perry & David Bonom to put them together.

    They used the balsamic vinegar of a Caprese salad to create a drizzle for the sandwich. You can purchase balsamic glaze if you don’t want to spend 10 minutes making it from scratch. If you make it, don’t use the pricey balsamic; any supermarket balsamic will do here.

    Marge and David used Martin’s Potato Bread, but we had a baguette on hand and used that. You can use whatever bread you like.

    They also added slices of provolone cheese to the sandwich, to add flavor complexity. If you don’t want it, leave it out.

    Or, substitute another cheese of choice. It won’t be a classic Caprese, but have fun with it.
     
     
    RECIPE: GRILLED CHEESE CAPRESE WITH BALSAMIC SYRUP

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes cut into a total of 8 half-inch thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 slices Martin’s sliced potato bread
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced
  • 16 large basil leaves
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 8 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  •  
    For The Balsamic Glaze

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. BRUSH the tomato slices with the oil and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes until they are very soft and just hold their shape, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven. Meanwhile, make the balsamic glaze:

    3. COMBINE the vinegar and sugar in a 1.5-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 10-12 minutes.

    4. PLACE 4 slices of the bread on a work surface. Top each with 2 ounces of the mozzarella. Place 2 tomato slices on top, then 4 basil leaves, followed by 2 slices of provolone cheese. Place the remaining slice of bread on each sandwich.

    5. SPREAD the outside of each sandwich with 2 teaspoons of the butter. Heat a large 12.5-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 sandwiches, and cover the pan with a lid or large piece of aluminum foil. Cook until the sandwiches are golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 3-4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

    6. TO SERVE: cut each sandwich in half diagonally and drizzle with balsamic syrup.
     
     
    WANT TO CREATE YOUR OWN SIGNATURE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH?

    Here’s a guide to create your own unique grilled cheese sandwich.

    Also check out these grilled cheese tips.
     
     
    CAPRESE SALAD RECIPES

  • Artistic Caprese Salads
  • Caprese Pasta Salad
  • Caprese Sandwich
  • Deconstructed Caprese Salad
  • Goat Cheese Caprese Salad
  • Mango Caprese Salad
  • “Martini” Caprese Salad
  • Mixed Heirloom Caprese Salad
  • Plum Caprese Salad
  • Summer Caprese Salad With Flowers
  • Tofu Caprese Salad
  • Watermelon Caprese Salad
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    FOOD FUN: Stuffed Bagel Buns Baking Kit

    We first encountered petite stuffed bagels at a trade show, some 10 years ago.

    Made by a Canadian company, they were a delight for the eyes. They were not the traditional two halves of a bagel with cream cheese, but a dome shape with cream cheese piped inside.

    They tasted the same as a traditional bagel and cream cheese, with a bonus: the dome was more tender, less laboriously chewy than a New York-style bagel.

    Sold frozen, we waited for them to come to the U.S. Alas, they never did.

    In 2014, Bantam Bagels opened up a shop in Greenwich Village, selling the same idea freshly baked. It expanded to a nationally-distributed frozen business.

    A couple of years ago, Nancy’s Petite Stuffed Bagels debuted, also frozen.

    Now, King Arthur Flour has teamed with Milk Bar pastry chef Christina Tosi to create a kit version of her Bagel Bombs. King Arthur Flour calls them Stuffed Bagel Buns.

    The dome bagels in the kit are stuffed with a cheddar and cream cheese filling and sprinkled with everything bagel topping.

    The kit contains everything you need to make them at home. Along with the recipe, you’ll get:

  • Half-Sheet Pan
  • Parchment Paper
  • High-Gluten Flour
  • Non-Diastatic Malt Powder
  • Vermont Cheese Powder
  • Everything Bagel Topping
  • SAF Yeast
  •  
    The kit is $48.65; you can order it here.

    You can check out the recipe for free.
     
    >>> THE HISTORY OF BAGELS <<<

     

    Stuffed Bagels

    Stuffed Bagel Buns Kit
    King Arthur Flour’s “Stuffed Bagel Buns,” available in a baking kit (photos courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     

      

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