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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clearly Cornstarch

The soft smooth texture of cornstarch gives me the chills. I'm not kidding. I can't stand the feel of cornstarch, flour, powdered sugar, or baby powder. I don't know what it is but it drives me crazy. This statement is coming from a person who can "feel" nail polish so I'm sure it's me. It's also the reason why I never wear it and perhaps one of the reasons why I don't bake. That said, cornstarch or cornflour (as the British call it) once went through quite an ordeal itself to be developed. The refining process used to separate corn starch from corn kernels is called the wet milling process. It was patented by Orlando Jones.

As is the case in such declarations, there seems to be a discrepancy in the actual patent date of Orlando Jones' invention. It appears that the English patent was granted on April 30, 1840 but, if you research on the internet, you are likely to find the patent date stated as March 12, 1841 or April 22, 1841. I believe I have discovered the tale of confusion. I think what may have happened is Orlando Jones may have gotten his original patent in England, he was from Middlesex, and then again received a patent in the US. The US patent number is, I believe, #2000. There's just one grain of the story that makes me wonder about the April 30th date. It seems to me, if the first patent for cornstarch was indeed in England, why can't I find it anywhere on an UK website? Below is what I did find at a website called The Story of London. It is actually quite an interesting website filled with historical anecdotes right off the streets of London.

"In 1841, the first U.S. patent for starch processing (No. 2000) was granted to Orlando Jones of City Road, Middlesex, England. Traditionally, corn was steeped in water for several weeks to separate the starch by a fermentation process, but this had a rather limited yield. Jones' patent described a process which extracted starch from rice and which shortened the production time, increased the yield, and left by-products in a condition suitable for further uses. A hundred pounds of rice were macerated for up to 24 hours in fifty gallons of a caustic alkali solution, which contained “about 200 grains of real soda or potash to the gallon. The rice was then washed, drained, milled, sieved, further macerated and settled, yielding a deposit of starch which was drained, washed and dried. The process was later applied to corn. (Corn starch is now used in deodorants, to heal nappy (diaper) rash, and to thicken gravy)." 

I was willing to accept the fact that I missed the March date until I came across this bit of information while researching another matter. It has been harvested from a book I found at google books titled Corporate Promotions and Reorganizations by Arthur Stone Dewing © 1914

On April 30, 1840, an Englishman by the Orlando Jones, patented an improved process whereby an alkali was employed in the recovery of the starch granules. This process shortened the period of manufacture, and enabled the starch maker to obtain a larger yield. The Orlando Jones invention was patented for the United States in 1841, and may be regarded as the basic patent for the present industry. In 1844, Colgate and Company, who had been manufacturing wheat starch in their Jersey City factory, began to apply the Orlando Jones process to corn. The experiment proved satisfactory, and was subsequently adopted by Julius J. Wood and Charles Colgate at their wheat factory in Columbus, Ohio. Subsequently, the Colgates ceased to manufacture corn starch at their Jersey City plant, so that, at the time of the formation of the National Starch Manufacturing Company in 1890, the Wood plant at Columbus was the oldest corn starch manufactory operating in the United States. In the employ of the Colgates at their New Jersey factory was an Englishman by the name of Thomas Kingsford. 

There is quite a bit of information about the entire cornstarch refining process with references such as "A very exhaustive description of the Orlando Jones alkali process is to be found in the Scientific American, March 4, 1854." Alas, I didn't find that article online. I also didn't find anything online that verifies that the patent included rice from starch also. According to what I did read, "starch is made by all green plants through the process of photosynthesis." Whatever the date, it certainly appears that Orlando Jones of Middlesex, England, introduced cornstarch to the world.

Cooking with Cornstarch


"The pudding's proof doth in the eating lie,
Success is yours, which ever rule you try."

Cornstarch, or cornflour, is the starch of the corn grain. It is ground from the white heart, of the corn kernel. Cornstarch is an inexpensive ingredient used for many recipes in cooking, but it's most common use is as a binder and thickening agent. It has about twice the thickening ability of flour. (1 tbs. is comparable to 2 tbs. of flour) Unlike flour, cornstarch becomes translucent when cooked to the right consistency (if overcooked, it will become too thin.) It's also used as an anti-caking agent in powdered sugar. If you want to avoid the raw cornstarch taste in a recipe, light cooking is often suggested. For thickening non-cooked recipes such as salad dressings use guar gum or xanthene gum. Cornstarch is one of the substitute ingredients used in gluten free recipes. To use corn starch as a thickening agent, it should be mixed with a cold liquid until smooth then slowly added to the other ingredients. If not done this way, you are sure to have lumps. If you have never used corn starch as a thickening agent before, it is best to experiment with it by beginning with lesser amounts, and adding as necessary until the desired consistency is reached but, remember to mix it in a cold liquid before adjusting. I have made that mistake more than once and it is not a pretty site. Cornstarch has many non-cooking benefits and many uses in the manufacturing of environmentally-friendly products. I have left a couple of links below for you to check out.

Cornstarch & Recipes

Finding recipes that include cornstarch is not difficult at all. It's used in so many ways in so many things. I was surprised to discover this claim made by the Sugar Association. "Cornstarch is by far the biggest source of the other carbohydrate sweeteners used by today’s food manufacturers."

Cornstarch is split into a variety of smaller fragments (called dextrins) with acid or enzymes. The smaller fragments are then converted into the various cornstarch sweeteners used by today’s food manufacturers.

Okay, that's enough of this "technical" stuff let's share some recipes. My goal was to find recipes that included cornstarch as the main ingredient. I did find Cornstarch Pudding at the Argo website but it really is just a vintage vanilla pudding recipe. I suppose I will have to hit the books. First, I found this recipe for Cornstarch Souffle in the book The Story of Crisco by Marion Harris Neil.

Cornstarch Souffle
Bring 1 quart milk and 1 tablespoon Crisco to boiling point; beat 4 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 cup sugar, yolks of 5 eggs together and add to hot milk. Stir and cook 8 minutes then add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pour into a greased fireproof dish. Beat up whites of eggs to stiff froth, then beat in 4 tablespoons sugar, pour over top of pudding and brown lightly in oven.

I had to give up on the cornstarch based recipes when I "re-found" this little die-cut booklet pictured. Isn't it just so cute. It only measures about 3-1/2x2-1/2 inches. It's titled Harry Horne's Double Cream Brand Custard Powder Vanilla. I knew right away that the recipes in this booklet required custard powder but I just couldn't resist sharing it. What is custard powder you ask? Well, a quick trip over to wiki reminded me that I had a few notes in my other computer about custard powder. Custard Powder was invented by a man named Alfred Bird (because his wife was allergic to eggs.) His custard powder caught on and soon his company was producing custard powder for the whole of England. “Bird’s Custard Powder” is an English tradition as is Harry Horne's Custard Powder. Custard powder looks a lot like cornstarch or corn flour, and in fact, is made from cornflour. It also has annatto coloring, and sometimes other flavorings added to it such as sugar and/or salt. Custard powder is a common ingredient in British cooking and it is sometimes used to make the filling for the deliciously famous Canadian dessert, the Nanaimo Bar. It is difficult to find custard powder here in the US but, it is readily available on the internet. Custard powder is a good alternative to minimize the amount of cholesterol in a custard, and to ensure everyone at the table can eat it, even if someone who may be allergic to eggs. I thought it would be easier to scan the booklet so you could see the various recipes. (click to enlarge) I have one more recipe I would like to include. I missed Ella Fitzgerald's birthday on April 25th so I thought I would include this recipe for her Old Fashioned Corn Pudding harvested from Harmony In The Kitchen; Favorite Recipes of Musical Celebrities compiled by Maida Glancy and Ettore Stratta; copyright 1979. custard recipecustard recipe

Old Fashioned Corn Pudding, a la Ella Fitzgerald
2-1 lb. cans cream style corn
3 eggs
1 lg can evaporated milk
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cornstarch
Combine milk, eggs, sugar and butter in a bowl. Add cornstarch, vanilla, pinch of salt and mix well. Stir in creamed corn. Add the baking powder, mix well. Pour mixture into a pan that is at least 3 inches deep. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Bake pudding 45 minutes to an 1 hour, or until it is firm and golden brown. Serves 6-8.

Resources
1. Cornstarch @ wikipedia
2. Cooking with Cornstarch (includes recipes)
3. Gluten Free Recipes
4. Unusual uses for corn starch
5. Household Tips for Cornstarch
6. Recipes Using Cornstarch
7. Question: Pecans or Nanaimo Bars? (this is a previous post of mine with a recipe)
8. Custard Powder (includes recipes)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

National Pretzel Day

The Dutiful, the firemen of Hartford
are not without reward
A temple of Apollo on a velvet sward
And legend has it that small pretzels come
Not from Reading but from Rome
A suppliant's folded arms twisted by a thumb.
Marianne Moore, Pretiolae (1950)

Hurray! It's National Pretzel Day! National Pretzel Day was first proclaimed by Congress back in 1983 which is rather surprising since the National Pretzel Bakers Institute has been in existence well before that time.

As a matter of fact, at one time, the president of the institute, Alex V. Tisdale, encouraged the promotional aspects of pretzels by offering an explanation as to the meaning of the twists which are suppose to represent "folded arms in prayer." The amount of time and energy Mr. Tisdale and his wife spent promoting the pretzel industry, especially in Pennsylvania, would be reason enough to celebrate National Pretzel Day in their honor. They traveled one week each month year round, making an average of 20 radio and television appearances promoting pretzels. Back in the early 50's, the Tisdales were on the Johnny Carson show, the Groucho Marx show, and the Ernie Kovacs show. In 1954, a year after they began extensive travels, they even presented pretzels to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mr. Tisdale went as far as publishing a bi-monthly magazine titled The World of Pretzels which he compiled from his home in PA. You may not hear much about Alex V. Tisdale as he has since passed away but, if you ever get to visit Lititz, Pennsylvania, you may find his name engraved on the marker which decorates the place where the first pretzels were baked in America; The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.

According to some resources, Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation's pretzels. No wonder Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell re-claimed April 26th as "National Pretzel Day." Pretzels are an important part of Pennsylvania history and economy. Why all this fanfare over the humble pretzel you may wonder? 

"That salt-besprinkled twist of dough as Dr. Preston Barba calls them, claims its fame in Lititz Pa as Moravian in origin." I found an article in a magazine called The Dutchman published in 1955. You may recognize the name of the food editor Edna Eby Heller. Edna Eby Heller is the author of many Pennsylvania Dutch Cookery books including The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking which was published around 1976, I believe. Here is an excerpt from her article in The Dutchman. (The above scan comes from the article also.)

The Lititz Pretzel can truly be called Moravian in origin. The original recipe itself belonged to Moravians. Throughout these ninety-four years since Julius Sturgis began manufacturing pretzels from the formula received from an itinerant baker many pretzel bakeries have opened in Lititz.
Have you ever wondered where the pretzel came from? The word itself, though German, was taken from Latin pretiola, meaning "little gift." In the Palatinate they were once given as rewards to children who learned their prayers. The shape of the pretzel suggested a pair of folded arms, an attitude of supplication. what a significant beginning for the lowly pretzel. From this grew our present multi-million dollar industry.

Unfortunately, a pretzel recipe is not included in the article but, I just couldn't resist including this scanned recipe for Moravian Mints which is included in the article. Oh, I may as well include the Moravian Ginger Cookie recipe also or my daughter Michele will never forgive me:) Both recipes will enlarge when clicked.

I suppose it's time to mention Auntie Anne's pretzel company which is also based out of PA. Dare I say, I'm not much of a fan of Auntie Anne's pretzels? I don't know what it is about them. They just don't sit right with me. I must admit though, I do enjoy a lemonade drink from Auntie Anne's when I go to the mall in State College. But, I'm not much of a mall person either. Auntie Anne's is probably the reason more people have been introduced to the soft pretzel variety. Most of us think of pretzels as those treats we find in canisters or bags. You know pretzel logs, bites, sticks or the infamous hard shaped pretzel. There is a big difference between a soft pretzel and a plain pretzel that you find in the supermarket. A "real" pretzel should be large, soft, chewy, freshly baked and HOT! Oh I don't know, think zeppole folded and twisted by a thumb:) That's not really a fair analogy, I suppose that's the Italian in me:) There is an Italian pretzel cookie biscuit which is called Taralli. It really isn't a pretzel though it's more of a biscotti. In The Secret Life of Food, by Martin Elkort, there is a brief explanation of the travels of the pretzel.

The pretzel comes not from Germany, as you might guess, but from Italy. The Italian word for pretzel, bracciatelli means "folded arms," a reference to its shape. According to legend, the pretzel was invented by a monk in Northern Italy in 1610, who baked pretzels in the shape of folded praying arms as prizes for his students who recited their catechism without error.

I don't remember ever being rewarded with "braided arms" when I was in Catholic School. I do remember a few rulers though. I had a difficult time finding a pretzel recipe in any of the cookbooks I have here with me in New York. Thank goodness, there is no shortage of pretzel recipes on the internet. Try this version at The Fresh Loaf. Shaping and baking pretzels with kids can be hilarious. They just love to get their "grubby" little fingers into the dough and the shapes they create can be, let's say, quite inspiring. Andrea had fun making pretzels with her boys. Check out her pretzel recipe. Here's another easy pretzel recipe for kids. Something tells me I may one day be baking pretzels with Tabitha & Noah :)

My contribution to National Pretzel Day is a recipe for Almond Pretzels from The Settlement Cookbook (1938 ed.) by Mrs. Simon Kander. We will be exploring more recipes from The Settlement Cookbook in May when we celebrate author, Lizzie Black Kander who was born on May 28, 1858.

Almond Pretzels
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 lb. almonds, ground
2 cups flour
2 yolks and
2 whole eggs
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, the almonds, unblanched, and the rest of the ingredients. Mix and knead into one big roll. Let stand in ice chest to harden. Cut into pieces size of walnut. Roll each piece 1/2 inch thick and form into hearts, rings, cresents and pretzels. Bake in a moderately slow oven, 325 degrees.
Enjoy! National Pretzel Day!

Resources
1. The History of Pretzels
2. Alex V. Tisdale obit-scroll down
3. The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery
4. The History of the Pretzel @ Auntie Anne's
5. 16th century recipe, translated
6. Marianne Moore (poet)
7. Centennial Exhibition Celebrates Marianne Moore (NYT article 10/14/87)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Morsels of Shakespeare

Where have I been? "I've been to London to visit the Queen." Yes, I'm only kidding. Actually, I'm back in PA. Don't worry, I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say, busy busy busy. Anyway, I wanted to touch base with everyone especially since I have missed a couple of important days. I missed Eliza Acton's birthday on April 17th, and Garlic Day on the 19th. Shame on me:) Things aren't going to be back to normal @ Months of Edible Celebrations until after May 15th. So, please bear with me and thanks in advance.

Today, may be the birth date of William Shakespear. I say maybe because no one is quite sure. At the time of Shakespear's birth, it wasn't common in England to record births; no birth certificates, no records. There is a record of Shakespeare's baptism in the Parish church of Stratford though. It was recorded on April 26, 1564. It appears that babies were usually baptized three days after they were born in England due to the low mortality rate of newborns. Therefore, the birthday of William Shakespeare has been set as April 23rd 1564. April 23, is another day of importance in England. St. George's Day is celebrated on April 23rd and Saint George is the patron saint of England. Granted, Shakespeare's true birthday will probably remain a mystery forever, however, thank goodness, the "Bard of Avon" has left us a glimpse of his likes and dislikes through his plays, sonnets and poems.

Hark! Hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
And Phoebus 'gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chaliced flowers that lies; And winking Mary-buds begin
to ope their golden eyes;
With everything that pretty bin
My lady, sweet, arise:
Arise, arise."

It is said, that Shakespeare was quite smitten with the charming marigold known as Calendula Officinalis. He always spoke of it with poetic rapture. We will "speak" more of it later.

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I lasted from 1558 until 1603. It was a time of peace, stability and Shakespeare. Shakespeare's diet or the kinds of things Shakespeare may have eaten were discussed in an article in the New York Times in 2004. As much as I would like to explore the Fooles & Fricassees in Shakespeare's England, It is beyond the scope of this blog. Although I don't have any copies of Shakespearian cookbooks in my cookbook library, I know there are a wonderful books available to purchase. Here are a few: If you have a hard time finding any of these books, you might try Kitchen Arts & Letters. I have no affiliation with this magnificent culinary book store, I'm just offering a resource:)

  1. Dining With William Shakespeare by Madge Corwin
  2. Cooking with Shakespeare by Mark Morton & Andrew Coppolino
  3. "Shakespeare Plain & Fancy: A Renaissance Cookbook" by one Judith Ackley
  4. Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook by Francine Segan.

A quick search revealed this lovely recipe for Salmon with Violets from Shakespeare's Kitchen. I am including a few resources below which I found most helpful for the introduction to the Elizabethan Food & Dining era. Of course, the best resource is Shakespeare himself.

Shakespeare in his plays speaks of apricots, mulberries, pomegranates, quinces, figs, gooseberries, and seems to have had a particular interest in strawberries, then considered by many to possess some special health giving qualities. In Henry V a courtier likens the emergence of the young king's virtues after a misspent youth to the virtue of the strawberry thriving under the nettle. Indeed, the fascination with medicinal plants and herbs long survived: to Shakespeare, rhubarb was known as physicke (which, to be sure, it is), and cowslips, lungwort, liverwort, pennyroyal, were respected for their qualities along with the mysterious mandrake--celebrated in the second line of John Donne's lyric "Get with child a mandrake root..."The Horizon Cookbook & Illustrated History of Eating & Drinking through the Ages by William Harlan Hale & The Editors of Horizon Magazine, copyright 1968 pgs. 131-132

Before I go, I must mention another resourceful website. It is called Shakespeare and Food; An Alphabetical Garden of the Bard's Esculent Poesiers. Although I didn't spot any recipes, it is a sort of a listing of foods you may come across while reciting Shakespeare. The best part is, after you select your letter, you are then brought to a page that cites where in Shakespeare's many writings you may find such selections. For instance, if you select the letter A, your reward may be something like this for Almond. It's available at the Soupsong site so you already know it is filled with info.

Troilus and Cressida, V, 2:
THERSITES: Would I could meet that rogue Diomed! I would croak like a raven; I would bode, I would bode. Patroclus will give me any thing for the intelligence of this whore: the parrot will not do more for an almond than he for a commodious drab. Lechery, lechery; still, wars and lechery; nothing else holds fashion: a burning devil take them!

The following recipe of Shakespeare's comes from Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter p.559.

"Take four level tablespoons, preferably of dry Coleman's English mustard; if not available, French's mustard. Put into a mixing bowl. Add three level tablespoons of cold water and mix in well. Then add three level tablespoons of blue grape jelly and mix in well. This is truly great meat or fish sauce served cold or hot. It is delicious on ham, hamburgers and beef. You cannot realize how good this sauce is until you try it"

I know I mentioned one of Shakespeare's favorite flowers, the Calendula Officinalis. My plan was to explore the Shakespearean garden especially Pot Marigolds which is the name most of us associate with Calendula Officinalis (also known as Poet's Marigold, Bride of the Sun, and Holigold and quite a few more names:) The Mary-gold has been the inspiration of herbalists and gardeners for centuries. I just planted some Husbandman's Dial in my new garden here in PA. I was delighted to discover that the Calendula is the herb of the year this year as per the International Herb Association and since May is Herb Month, I am going to wait until then to give this intriguing flower a post of its own. Oh alright, I'll leave you with this tidbit.

Did you know? Calendula can be used as an egg substitute. Personally, I find it amazing but, I have experienced this for myself, although not recently, and it works. Here is a recipe link. While you're at it, check and see where you can get a plant or some seeds and plant some quick. You still have time and they are breathless, especially as you watch Sun's Spowse follow the sun.

Solis, the Spowse of the Sun, because it sleeps and is awakened with him.
The Winter's Tale


Why, then the world's mine oyster,

Which I with sword will open.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Resources
  • 1. Shakespeare (detailed biography)
  • 2. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
  • 3. Shakespeare's food @ Food Timeline
  • 4. Elizabethan Food
  • 5. Elizabethan Food & Dining
  • 6. Jacobean Dinner
  • 7. Everyday Expressions From Shakespeare
  • 8. Renaissance Faires by State (many Renaissance fairs are held in the later part of the summer. I have feasted at the fair in Sterling forest many times. I guess I'll have to check and see when and where there is one in PA)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month

Many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese--toasted, mostly.
~Robert Louis Stevenson~

I'm delighted to announce; April is Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month!

Do grilled cheese sandwiches have a history I wonder? Who was it that put a few pieces of cheese between two slices of bread to create the very first grilled cheese sandwich? Sure enough, a quick trip over to The Food Timeline and I got my fill of grilled cheese history. Guess what? While I was there, I also discovered another interesting crust of sandwich history. Today is the day The Dagwood Sandwich was first introduced to the American public. Anyone who has ever attempted fate by digging into a Dagwood Bumstead Sandwich knows it can certainly include cheese or anything else that happens to be "growing" in the refrigerator.

The Dagwood Sandwich was introduced to the American public on April 16, 1936. It was invented by Chic Young and featured in his comic strip Blondie. The first Dagwood consisted of tongue, onion, mustard, sardine, beans and horseradish. Over the years, the sandwich grew bigger and typically included everything "but the kitchen sink!" foodtimeline.org

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Crumbs

Most likely, The grilled cheese sandwich is a product of the depression. "Gussied" up, it was stylish enough to present to guests, yet economical enough to serve for dinner, usually with a bowl of hot tomato soup. Grilled cheese sandwiches are not usually called as such in vintage cookbooks. Many refer to them as toasted cheese sandwiches or cheese toast. Toasted cheese sandwiches also take on many forms and methods when described in vintage cookbooks. For instance, in The American Woman's Cookbook first published in 1938, the instructions are quite simple.

"Between two slices of medium-thick bread, lay slices of cheese cut about one-eighth inch thick. Place in the oven until cheese melts.

By definition, a grilled cheese sandwich is usually a toasted sandwich, (sometimes toasted by frying) that consists of two slices of buttered bread, layered with freshly melted warm cheese. My version of a grilled cheese sandwich is pretty much the same but instead of butter, I slather mine with my favorite mayonnaise, Hellmann's. I always follow the same procedure, which is probably more time consuming then most ways but hey, it's my sandwich! First, I put the mayo on one side of each slice and lay it in the frying pan one at a time. I repeat with the second slice of bread. Then, I take both pieces of bread and put them to the side. Now, I add butter to the bottom of the frying pan and let it melt gently. I take the toasted sides of the bread and cover them each with 1 piece of cheddar cheese each. I know this is going to sound silly but, here goes. I then take another single slice of cheese, cut it in half and add 1/2 of each piece to each slice of bread. I return each slice to the pan all alone to toast gently. When both pieces have been toasted gently, I "sandwich" them together, put them back in the pan and cover the pan. I shut the stove off and let it sit for exactly 2 minutes. This of course is the most basic of grilled cheese sandwiches. I have been known to add ham and tomatoes to the repertoire but, to me, this becomes more of a croque-monsieur. I'm a bit fussy about the kind of cheese I use also. I'm not in favor of using processed store bought cheese, although I have. I much rather select a Vermont cheddar. It just seems to me, the simplicity of the sandwich deserves the best ingredients available. Oh alright, one more thing, I never have my favorite grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. I prefer potato soup if I had to choose a soup and sandwich combination. If not, grilled cheese with V8 is fine with me.

According to wikipedia, "The grilled cheese sandwich is a variation on the very old combination of bread and cheese. The modern grilled cheese sandwich (American cheese and sliced white bread) began in the 1920s as an open sandwich. The additional slice of bread became common in the 1960s." I didn't know that! It doesn't appear that way in the various recipe books I skimmed through in search of a grilled cheese recipe to include today. I chose to include a few recipes from three bread booklets I have on hand. Perhaps, when I'm done here, I'll check a few of the cheese recipe books I have to compare. In the mean time, I have chosen 3 recipes to include from different bread books and years. Before we get to the recipes, I would like to include this item of information I found in a 1902 publication titled The Cooking Club It is filed under a section titled "Some Sandwiches." This is the same publication I used when posting a recipe for pecan day.

The fried egg sandwich, while it has ardent supporters among the masculine lunch box carriers, is to be regarded as a doubtful food by him whose digestion is not of the strongest ...Cheese sandwiches are said by some to belong to the same black list, and for the same reason. They are certainly nutritious and are very simply and quickly made by grating a mild sft cheese over slices of buttered bread.

The Recipes

The first recipe was harvested from 88 Mealtime Surprises Made with Bond Bread. The copyright on this promotional booklet is 1933, General Baking Co. Not exactly a grilled cheese sandwich, the toasted cheese roll sandwich sounded interesting so it is included below.

Toasted Cheese Roll
To 1/4 lb. soft cheese, use 3 tbs. creamed butter. Rub cheese through strainer, mix with butter and season with salt and paprika. Spread on loaf before slicing thin. Trim crust, roll, and seal edge with butter. Set in refrigerator 15 minutes, then bake in 450 oven until light brown.

From Taystee Bread we get this recipe for Toasted Tomato & Cheese Sandwich. The How I Use Taystee Bread booklet was published in 1933 by Purity Bakeries.

Toasted Tomato Cheese Sandwich
6 slices Taystee Bread
2 large ripe tomatoes
1/2 cupful ground cheese
1 tbs. cream
1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Cut off ends of tomato, slice thin into 3 slices
  2. Cut bread in circles a little larger than tomato. Toast bread, butter lightly, place tomato slice on each
  3. Mix cheese with cream & salt. Spread evenly over tomato slices.
  4. Toast until cheese is melted & lightly browned.
  5. Serve with slices of broiled or fried bacon.

The last recipe comes from The Wonder Book of Good Meals. This is a World's Fair Edition of the booklet which was published in 1934. If you missed my post on Wonder Bread, you can visit it here. The following recipe for Cheese Dreams is filed under the heading "Some Special Sandwich Recipes."

Cheese Dreams
Spread soft American cheese between buttered slices of Wonder Bread. Toast. Stiffly beaten egg whites may be mixed with the cheese. The sandwich is then toasted in the oven.

Resources
1. April is National Grilled Cheese Month
2. New York Magazine Selections for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches around the city
3. Grilled Cheese Gobblers
4. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with a Difference
5. Roasted Eggplant & Red Bell Peppers Grilled Cheese Panini
6. Grilled Cheese with Fig Jam, Fontina, and Arugula
7. Onion Chutney Grilled Cheese Sandwich @ Closet Cooking
8. Grilled cheese and basil polenta

Monday, April 14, 2008

Question: Pecans or Nanaimo Bars?

I'm not really sure if today is Pecan Day. It appears, I may have missed Pecan Day back in March. Apparently, Pecan Day is celebrated as the day George Washington planted pecans at his Mount Vernon home. It is said, they were given to him by Thomas Jefferson. I do know April is National Pecan Month. Something else I don't know (and there's mucho things:) is anything about a sweet three layer bar called a Nanaimo Bar. There I was, pecan cookbook in hand, all ready to share a few recipes and tidbits about the history of pecans in America, when, as I was skimming through the cookbook, I came across a recipe for Nanaimo Bars. There they were, not physically of course, on page 108 of The Pecan Cookbook published for the Adams Pecan Company in Alabama (1999 ed.) Hmmm...I thought to myself. "This recipe looks unique" and, it has a funny mark on the page. Perhaps, the former owner is leaving me a message. Let me take a look. Oh, why don't I just share it with you now so we can "see" it together. (there are more Nanaimo Bar recipe links in the resource section below)

Nanaimo Bars
1 c. butter
2-1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg
1-3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. sweetened flaked dried coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecans
2 tbs. milk
1 tbs. vanilla
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
In a 2-3 quart pan, combine 6 tbs. butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and cocoa. Stir over low heat until butter melts. Off heat, beat in egg, mix in crumbs, coconut and pecans. Press mixture in bottom of an 8 inch square pan. Bake in 350 degree oven until slightly darker, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
Icing: Beat 1/2 cup butter with remaining sugar, milk, and vanilla until fluffy. Spread over crust. In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons butter and chocolate; set bowl in hot water. Stir often until chocolate is smooth; spread over filling. Cover and chill 1 hour or up to 2 days. Cut into 25 squares.

If you notice, the recipe calls for 1/2 chopped pecans and, it calls for baking in the oven. Interesting. Why? Well, it appears that the Nanaimo Bar not only has a history, it's legendary! and not baked! According to wikipedia,

The Nanaimo bar is a dessert of Canadian origin popular across North America. A type of chocolate no-bake square, it receives its name from the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. It consists of a crumb-based layer, topped by a layer of light custard or vanilla butter icing, which is covered in soft chocolate. Many varieties are possible by using different types of crumb, flavours of custard or icing (e.g. mint, peanut butter), and types of chocolate. Two popular variations on the traditional Nanaimo bar involve mint flavoured custard or mocha flavoured custard.

The Nanaimo Bar Legend

Confession time. I don't usually eat candy. Oh alright, I do indulge in a Reese's every now and again. Normally, I don't eat candy. But wait, is this a candy bar or a cake bar? I suppose, that's the bad thing about "flat" pictures. From the way I view it, they could be either. Unless, someone out there tells me, I may never know:( Oh silly me, I'll just give the recipe a whirl and try them for myself. It seems that Nanaimo Bar flavors are only limited by the imagination. The legendary bars were created by Joyce Hardcastle in response to a recipe contest, oh how utterly classic...do I hear National Nanaimo Day coming in the near future. Hey! It's one of Canada's National Dishes already.

According to local legend about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies", but "Nanaimo Bars". The entry won a prize, thereby publishing the town as much as her cooking. Some American tourists claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as "New York Slice" which is sold in many other places in the world. Nanaimo residents refuse to accept this theory, however, believing that once you set foot on Vancouver Island, there are no other places in the world. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe was available as a handout as well as on quality tea towel and apron souvenirs. source

The legend of the Nanaimo Bar is studded with questions. Some say the recipe dates back to Chocolate Refrigerator Cakes of the 1930s. Others claim the recipe was created in New York about the same time period as the "New York Slice." We can't ignore the "romance" layered within this treasured sweet. Locals from Nanaimo, the namesake city, say it goes back to the coal-mining days of early Nanaimo, when it was sent to the miners from their friends and relatives in the United Kingdom as a gift. Regardless of where the recipe came from, today, the city of Nanaimo takes their bars very seriously (the city's mascot 'Nanaimo Barney' is shaped like a giant Nanaimo bar) I suppose the best way to celebrate the Nanaimo Bar on National Pecan Day is to substitute pecans in the no bake version of the bar which by the way also freezes quite well. (links below)

Pecans

Up until about 10 years ago, I lived on Long Island pretty much my whole life. (we moved out here when I was around five) I'll be darned if I have ever seen a pecan tree growing naturally anywhere here, or else where in New York for that matter. What happened to all those pecan trees I wonder? According to the "I Love Pecan Society," pecans were first planted in these United States on Long Island in 1772. I'm guessing by "planting" the website is referring to actual cultivation. If pecans are indigenous to the US, why would the first recorded planting be stated as such? I'm going to have to a little further research into this matter (and the "real" pecan day date) because, quite frankly, something doesn't make sense to me. Now, not to say these "facts" aren't true, I'm sure the "I Love Pecan Society" has done their research. Newsday, which is Long Island's local newspaper, did an extensive history on everything Long Island and no where in that history does it mention anything about pecans. As a matter of fact, Peggy Katalinich in her book Foods of Long Island has no mention of pecans residing on Long Island. Granted, her recipe book tends to lean on the side of Long Island's vast fishing supply (which has been greatly depleted since the publication of her book in 1985) but no pecans. So, what I have decided to do today is provide some links for visitors to delve into the history of pecans. Be prepared to go on quite a journey. I'm also providing a few recipes for those who would rather just create and forsake the history for now.

The history of pecans can be traced back to the 16th century. The only major tree nut that grows naturally in North America, the pecan is considered one of the most valuable North American nut species. The name "pecan" is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe all nuts requiring a stone to crack. source

Pecan Month Recipes

The first recipe I would like to share is from 1902. It has been harvested from a newspaper like booklet titled The Cooking Club. On page 19, there is a paragraph titled Some Sandwiches by L.W.M. The introduction:

For one who has a daily lunch to put up, the subject of sandwiches is of perennial interest. The variety is bewildering and new kinds are being brought to notice continually, most of them good, some of them delicious.

Mixed within various samples of ham sandwiches, boiled tongue sandwiches, egg sandwiches, and cheese sandwiches there are nut sandwiches. I kid you not. This is 1902 remember.

Recently nuts have come well to the fore of fillers. English walnuts or peanuts chopped no to finely, and mixed in a thick, salted, cold cream sauce, make one of the best, being particularly nice made of entire wheat bread. Chopped nuts and chopped celery is a new combination. Season with salt only; must be eaten soon after preparing

There are two "novelty" sandwiches included as the newest recipes. I am providing both, although, the second sandwich is for the purpose of Pecan Day, I thought they were both interesting enough to include.

Nut Sandwich Recipes
Recipe #1
Chop together one cupful of seedless raisins, one cupful of English walnuts, one half cupful of grated cocoanut, two tablespoons of grated chocolate and mix well together. Moisten with a little cream and spread on whole wheat bread.
Recipe #2
Slice marshmallows thinly, or flour your scissors and snip them in small bits and spread them thickly on slices of very thinly cut white bread, lightly buttered. Now strew these with chopped pecan meats. They will taste like more be assured. The sweet sandwiches for afternoons at home should be cut in fancy shapes.

Below you will find a few gleanings from The Pecan Cookbook. If you click on the scanned recipes, you will find recipes for Cowboy Cookies & Pam's Pecan Cookies.

In the 1530's, years before the arrival of European settlers, American Indians were harvesting pecans. Nomadic Indians spread pecans up and down the Mississippi River. These Indians also had regular campsites where they planted pecan seedlings trees for their children. An early Spanish explorer write "Pecans are the subsistence of the people for two months in the year without any other thing." The pecan is the most popular nut tree native to the United States. It is a species of hickory and belongs to the same plant family as walnuts. In 1774, George Washington maintained a large pecan orchard in Mount Vernon. "Mississippi nuts" were said to have been his favorite snack. He had friends from as far as florida to visit his orchard and carry seedlings back South...George Washington was not the only President who loved pecans. Thomas Jefferson made pecans a demanded delicacy in the White House during his term...In the Southeastern United States the pecan tree is called the "tax tree" because pecan trees planted around the house will provide extra income during the fall and help pay property taxes...George Washington was know to always carry a handful of pecans in his pocket for munching...
Bits & Recipes
  • Pecans are packed with food energy. NASA has sent pecans off with our astronauts
  • Ladybugs are a very beneficial insect to the pecan tree
  • Pecan meats can pick up flavors and odors, store them in tightly covered containers
Pecan Recipes

Resources
1. National Pecan Month
2. Pecan Day Quiz
3. Nanaimo Bars @ Cookie Madness
4. Nanaimo Bar Recipes
5. Nanaimo Bar Recipes @ Joyofbaking.com
6. Nanaimo Bars w/Banana Pudding Ice Cream
7. Pecans-The True Blue-Blooded Americans Great for pecan info & recipes
8. Pecan History & Fun Facts
9. Gluten Free Nanaimo Bars @ Rosa's Yummy Yums

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Prize Winning Banana Pudding Pie

Almost immediately after I posted Bananas Take A Bow on Thursday, I received the following comment:

Hello Louise,
I am so excited to see you speak about bananas. My children, of course, absolutely love bananas. As for me, one of my all time favorite foods, well desserts, incidentally, for me a dessert could quite easily replace any meal, anytime... so my favorite is Banana Pudding Pie. But the catch is that it HAS got to be made from scratch and there is no going around it. No boxed banana pudding... it is the real stuff for me. It's a to die for, farely easy recipe. If you or any of your readers are interested in please let me know. Thanks again.

I had to smile to myself when I read the comment and of course, I had to respond.

Hello frutlup, (Pumpkin)
With an introduction such as yours, you better be sending me that recipe, yesterday:) There's just one "catch." Include a picture of your tempting dessert with my darling grandchildren in the pic and I will happily post it. Only kidding, but do give them kisses & hugs for me:)
P.S. Hey everyone, I'd like you to "meet" my daughter, Michele (frutlup)

Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Michele's winning recipe:

This picture was taken at our 2007 Family Reunion Bake Contest. The Banana Pudding Pie that I made won the first prize. The second prize was taken by a Marble Cheesecake which has won various awards in other Bake Contests, so I am going to assume that my Pie must be pretty good in order to beat out the cheesecake. But then again, it was family, so they very well could be biased. Nonetheless, this pie recipe is very good. I found it to be fairly easy to prepare and even a friend of mine that DOES NOT like to bake made it and said she had no problems with it. She even said it was very well worth the time. If she can do it, then so can anyone else. Enjoy!!!!

Banana Pudding Pie

Cookie Crust
Ingredients:
1 (12 oz.) box Vanilla Wafers, divided ½ c. butter, melted
2 large bananas, sliced

Set aside 25 Vanilla Wafers; finely crush remaining wafers in food processor or place cookies in a Ziploc bag and crush with a mallet. (Yield about 2 ½ cups.) Stir together crushed cookies and melted butter until blended. Firmly press on bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes. Let cool about 30 minutes. Then arrange banana slices evenly over bottom of crust. Prepare Vanilla Cream Filling.


Vanilla Cream Filling
Ingredients:
¾ c. sugar ⅓ c. all purpose flour
2 large eggs 4 egg yolks
2 c. milk 2 tsp. vanilla

Off the heat in a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients, except vanilla. Gently whisk. Heat pan to medium-low. Whisk constantly, about 8-10 minutes or until reaches the thickness of chilled pudding. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will thicken enough to hold soft peaks when whisk is lifted.) Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Use immediately – Pour half of hot filling over bananas. Top with about 20 vanilla wafers. Spread remaining filling over vanilla wafers. (Filling will be about ¼ inch higher than top of crust.) Cover with aluminum foil and bake once again for about 10-12 minutes. Let cool at least one hour. Top with Whipping Cream.

To prepare Whipping Cream
Ingredients:
14 oz. Heavy Whipping Cream Sugar to taste - start with about 1/4 cup

Beat whipping cream on highest speed until thickens. Slowly add sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time until it is the sweetness you like. Cream is done when it holds stiff peaks. Try not to over beat. Coarsely crush remaining Vanilla Wafers and sprinkle evenly over top of pie. Chill 4 hours.

The family reunion Michele "speaks" of is her husband's family reunion. It is held clear across the country in Idaho. Michele has promised to make me the pie when I go to Idaho for my five year old grand daughter's first ever dance recital in May.

In case you missed Bananas Take A Bow, it is the next post below.

Well, it's back to New York today. I wish I would have had time to post for Thomas Jefferson's birthday which along with Catherine de Medici is today but, alas, no can do. I did post a recipe for Jefferson's Rum Omelet on President's Day back in February. Here is the recipe in case you missed it.

Thomas Jefferson
April 13, 1743
Jefferson's Rum Omelet
6 eggs beaten 2 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt 2 tbs. confectioner's sugar
3 tbs. sugar 4 tbs. apricot preserves
4 tbs. rum
Add salt sugar and 2tbs. of rum to beaten eggs. Beat again until fluffy. Heat butter in omelet pan, pour in egg mixture, cook until firm, lifting up from sides. When firm throughout but still a little moist, fold over, slip onto warm platter. sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Make a sauce of remaining rum and preserves. Pour over omelet.

See you all Monday for Pecan Day!

Resources
  • 1 Thomas Jefferson Beef Soup
  • 2 Recipes from the President's Kitchen
  • 3 Thomas Jefferson & the History of Wine in Virginia

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bananas Take A Bow

Surprise! I'm writing this post from Pennsylvania. Yep! I decided to come up for the weekend and of course my Mac is with me. I have an Imac already here but, I have gotten so use to the larger monitor I would rather bring this one with me. Whenever I come back home, I face the raising of the heat, the turning on of the water, the over filled mail box (they won't forward my mail anymore) and the perplexing questions. Which house has which groceries. Did I just buy laundry detergent in New York or PA? I know I just bought a jar of peanut butter, "oh" that was New York. Is the Mojito mix in this freezer or the other? (I prefer wine over any other alcoholic beverage, my son bought me some Mojito mix and I thought I would give it a try.) Uh Oh! Where's the limes? Well, you get the idea. To the rescue; a box of Rice Krispies. Both houses have a box of Rice Krispies always! Rice Kripsies are one of my I don't want to be all warm and cozy because I have work to do, comfy food. Oh admit it, we all have them. So after a six hour ride I arrived safely in PA. I made my usual stop at the neighborhood Uni-Mart (they don't have delis here:( for the bare necessities, milk, bread, eggs, and bananas. Well today anyway. I don't really usually buy bananas at Uni-Mart. They just looked so inviting and after the drive, they somehow brought out the urge for Rice Krispies, ice cold Pennsylvania milk, (sorry New York, milk is creamier in PA, really it is) topped with thinly sliced banana. BTW, I had my first bowl before I even crawled under the house to turn the water on. I'm eating the second bowl "as we speak" want some? Perhaps, the irresistible urge came over me because, I spent part of the time driving up here trying to figure out how to make introduce the banana.

Thank goodness, Thomas Johnson didn't have the same problem. He just hung a bunch of bananas in his shop window for all of Snow Hill, Britain to see. For the curious British on lookers, this was the first time bananas were available for purchase by them. Truth be told, at least a finger of credit should go to Alexander the Great. After Alexander the Great ate a banana in India, liked it and introduced it to the wider world it travelled to the Middle East, where it acquired its current name from the Arabic banan, or finger, and from there Arab traders took it to Africa, where the Portuguese transported it to the Caribbean and Latin America.

The banana is one of the oldest foods known to man. In 327 B.C the armies of Alexander the Great found the fruit growing in abundance in the valley of the Indus in southeaster Asia. The story of the spread of its use from Asia to Africa and from Africa to the Americas is full of historic interest. With the development of facilities for the distribution of this tropical fruit in the markets of North America and Europe has come a greater appreciation of its food value.

Don't you just love it when you can practically trace the fingerprints? It's one of the reasons why I collect cookbooks. You see, the cite above is from a small booklet titled A Study of the Banana; Its every-day use and Food Value. In tiny print it has Student Manual. The booklet was published by the Home Economics Department of The United Fruit Company, Pier 3, North River, New York, NY. (fourth ed. 1940) You can click the image to see it.

The banana has an extensive trade history beginning with the founding of the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita) at the end of the nineteenth century. For much of the 20th century, bananas and coffee dominated the export economies of Central America. In the 1930s, bananas and coffee made up as much as 75% of the region's exports. As late as 1960, the two crops accounted for 67% of the exports from the region. Though the two were grown in similar regions, they tended not to be distributed together. The United Fruit Company based its business almost entirely on the banana trade, as the coffee trade proved too difficult for it to control. wiki

Now, according to what I could find out from various places on the internet, (I've provided a few of them below) the British were already familiar with bananas as bonana or bananero which is a form of Spanish for "banana tree." I suppose it would be only natural for Johnson to display them and offer them for sale. He had provided a woodcut of the fruit in his enlarged and amended version of the 1633 edition of [John] Gerard’s Herball (1597) The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes Even more exciting is he documented it!

Banana/Plantain pages 1514-1517.
"Musa fructus. Of Adams Apple tree, or the West-Indian Plantaine.

...Aprill 10. 1633. my much honored friend... gaue me a plant he receiued from the Bermuda's... The fruit which I receiued was not ripe, but greene, each of them was about the bignesse of a large Beane... This stalke with the fruit thereon I hanged vp in my shop, where it became ripe about the beginning of May, and lasted vntil Iune: the pulp or meat was very soft and tender, and it did eate somewhat like a Muske-Melon...

The fruit hereof yeeldeth but little nourishment: it is good for the heate of the breast, lungs, and bladder: it stoppeth the liuer, and hurteth the stomacke if too much of it be eaten, and procureth loosenesse in the belly: whereupon it is requisit for such as are of a cold constitution, in the eating thereof to put vnto it a little Ginger or other spice." source

There's a wonderful article which was written by Jules Janick in 2002 at Purdue University. The lecture titled The History of Horticulture speaks to the Horticulture, Politics, and World Affairs: Bananas and the Banana Republics (there is also an image of Johnson's woodcut) Below is an excerpt from the lecture:

The history of the banana industry began in Latin America during the last half of the 19th century. Captain Lorenzo D. Baker and Minor C. Keith introduced the first bananas to Boston and the Northeast between 1870 and 1889. The fruit was an immediate success and American entrepreneurs sought to control both banana production and trade. The subsequent exploits of North American sea captains, railroad builders, and adventurers became the precursors and then the founders of the United Fruit Company in 1899, a company that became a plantation and shipping monopoly. These efforts were to make the banana one of the first fresh foods to be internationally commercialized...The early years of the industry were marked by the aggressive action of the United Fruit Company in the unstable frontier environment of Central America. The industry was unique because no other perishable produce was carried such a long distance to market, and was available without regard to season. The industrial and market structure was called "industrial colonialism" and became the subject of constant and bitter controversy. The United Fruit Company was accused, often justifiably, of monopoly exploitation, political manipulation, abuse of native labor, disregard for human hardships, and peremptory management tactics...

Thomas Johnson, has been called "The Father of British Field Botany" he has been describe as a "learned, amiable, brave man." Unfortunately, it has been difficult for biographers to record the time line of his life especially since the name Thomas Johnson is a popular name. As a matter of fact, Wikipedia notes, "There were two Thomas Johnsons who were both botanists." I did find a minimum amount of information about him at the website cited below. #1 in resources

Johnson was an interesting figure, highly esteemed as a herbalist and physician, who died as a result of wounds he received during the siege of Basing House during the Civil War...A recent find by archaeologists excavating a pit in London makes in intriguing addendum to Johnson’s commercialising of the banana. A banana skin, dated at about 1500 was unearthed, tossed into what seems to have been a fish pond. The date probably means it came from West Africa, as the plant was only being introduced into the Caribbean at that time. Ed Note: see article Mystery of Tudor Banana

The following banana recipe is from a book titled Bull Cook & Authentic Historical Recipes & Practices (1969) by George & Berthe Herter. First, a bit of history on the recipe from the book.

Alexander the Great in his conquests in India saw banana trees for the first time. Bananas were called "pala" in India and still are around Malabar. He had bananas prepared for him with the following recipe and it is, I believe, the first banana recipe ever invented.
The Recipe: Take a bowl of fresh whole milk. Add one level tablespoon of honey. Stir the honey into the milk until it is dissolved. This takes quite a bit of stirring as honey does not dissolve easily. Then slice a banana into the honey-flavored milk and eat at once. This recipe makes fabulously good eating.

"Banana cake recipes did not become popular in homes until the end of the 19th century. Before this time a combination of unreliable shipping methods and a lack of refrigeration prevented the widespread use of bananas in home cooking. Only food stores in the major cities had access to bananas on a regular basis...Banana cakes had become common by the 1920s, and they became especially popular in the 1930s when enterprising grocers often provided their customers with free banana cake recipes in an attempt to sell the overripe bananas. Sometimes they could hardly keep up with the demand."classic banana cake recipes

Well, I finished my bowl of Rice Krispies quite a while ago. So what's my next best favorite banana dish? Bananas' Foster, of course. Simply Delicious. Banana flambé is a mouth watering dessert made from caramelized bananas and creamy vanilla ice cream. The sauce that tops it is made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur. The butter, sugar and bananas are cooked, and then the alcohol is added and ignited. The bananas and sauce are then served over the ice cream. The dramatic presentation of the dish is often served tableside.

In 1951, Chef Paul created Bananas Foster. The scrumptious dessert was named for Richard Foster, who, as chairman, served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission, a civic effort to clean up the French Quarter. Richard Foster, owner of the Foster Awning Company, was a frequent customer of Brennan's and a very good friend of Owen. the recipe

The scanned recipes below are for bananas au gratin, banana rice savory, vegetable plate with bananas, and banana meat loaf. Hey, I don't make this stuff up!
Resources

  • 1. The Origin of Bananas
  • 2. The 10th of April 1633 AD, Bananas go on sale in UK for 1st time
  • 3. Thomas Johnson @ wiki
  • 4. Mystery of the Tudor banana
  • 5. The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes
  • 6. Prize Winning Banana Pudding Pie

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

National Empanada Day

Today I would like to share a few recipes which I have gleaned from a recipe book titled Empanadas & Other International Turnovers by George & Sherry LaFollette Zabriskie published by Clarkson N. Potter Inc. 1983. First, a little history about these little bundles of goodness.

What is an Empanada?

In its simplest form, an empanada is a crescent-shaped pastry which is filled with any variety of ingredients. Usually, an empanada is made by folding a thin circular-shaped dough patty over the stuffing, creating its typical semicircular shape. Think stuffed won ton. They are natives of Spain but are also known by a wide variety of regional names. The name empanada reveals why they are indeed the quintessential "finger food". Empanada means: "that which is covered with bread" In Spanish pan is the word for bread ada translates as "ed" and em is the same as the English im, therefore em-pan-ada is literally "im-bread-ed." Think stuffed sandwich. This ever popular street food began its travels in Spain and arrived in the New World via the Spanish conquistadors. Here is a nibble from the above book.

The empanada, like flamenco dancing, bullfighting and paella, comes from Spain. We can be certain because in a twelfth century cathedral honoring Spain's patron Saint James in Santiago de Campostela in the province of Galicia is a statue of a man eating an empanada.

The Galician Empanada (Empanadas Gallegas) is traditionally baked large in a round or square shape. They are cut into individual pieces and served. Usually they are filled with fish, meat or chicken that has been smothered with lots of red and green peppers and tons of onions. In Spanish speaking countries, empanadas are sold everywhere!

I have been known to indulge on empanadas at many a New York City street fair. The infinite varieties and fillings available in Manhattan are as diverse as the people themselves. At home, empanadas are the perfect leftover pouch. They can be presented as a "gourmet" meal and no one will ever know you cleaned out the fridge. The best part is you can use anything from store bought won tons to pizza dough as your pastry. Heck, I've even used those refrigerator rolls you find in the dairy aisle in a pinch. I "Italianize" them by sauteing ground up sausage meat, (not ground pork it doesn't have the same flavor for this) in home made pasta sauce (which is always in the freezer.) I add hot & sweet peppers and tons of onions. You would be surprised how well they stay together with a bit of coaxing and straining. My version has to be baked but you can fry empanadas also. Of course, my in a pinch way, doesn't produce the desired light, puffed up crust which is traditionally hoped for but, the leftovers are eaten and no one is the wiser. I suppose, that's why I'm a big fan of Empanadas. Sometimes, I go on an empanada kick concocting all sorts of fillings and pastries. They are just so versatile. I can't tell you how many times they saved dinner when I was working outside the home. A quick trip to the grocery store salad bar provided me with most of the ingredients and a mixed salad to boot! In my book, empanadas and salad are a perfect marriage.

Entertaining with empanadas is also quite rewarding. The smaller turnovers, empanadillas, are a wonderful addition to an evening tapas. They can be garnished with assorted sprigs and glazes and placed proudly among the other bite-sized treats. If you are worried about them not being warm enough, try a dessert empanada. Filled with fruits and dusted with powdered sugar the pastry turnover becomes a delicious dessert. Whether you prefer an English Cornish pasty, a Polish pierogi, tiny half mooned Russian piroshkis or an Indian samosa there's an infinite global variety of empanadas to experience.

The following recipe from the Empanada book mentioned above is for the pastry used to prepare the turnover. The authors claim that after years of experimenting with a number of different pastry recipes, the following recipe "is as close to perfection as they will ever get." It is also quick and easy to make only requiring about 10 minutes. The dough is elastic and tolerates a lot of handling without becoming either tough or brittle. Once baked, it stores and freezes well.

Quick & Easy Pastry
1/4 lb. unsalted butter or margarine @ room temp.
1/4 lb. (4oz) cream cheese @ room temp
1-1/2 c. unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. coriander (optional)
1/4 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tbs. very cold water or milk
1 tbs. vegetable oil
1 large egg beaten with 2 tbs. water (glaze)
  1. Preheat oven 400 degrees
  2. Using fork, combine butter or margarine and cream cheese
  3. Sift flour over this mixture. Add the baking powder, coriander if desired, vinegar, and water or milk and combine with fork.
  4. With generously floured hands, work the dough until you have a smooth, resilient ball, 3 to 4 minutes. At first the dough will stick to your fingers but keep working the flour into the other ingredients until the dough suddenly hold together.
  5. Flour both the work suface and your rolling pin, then roll out the pastry dough to about 1/8 to 1/16 inch thickness. Entree size should be thicker, hors d'oeuvre size thinner. Cut disks the desired size and set aside.When you have cut as many as possible, gather up the scraps and roll out again. Continue this process two or three times until there is not enough left to cut a disk. If you do not have at least 8 entrees or 20 hors d'oeuvre disks, you have not rolled out the pastry thin enough.
  6. Oil a large cookie sheet. Spoon 2 tbs. filling for entrees or 1 heaping teaspoon for hors d'oeuvre size empanadas on the disk, making sure the filling is in the center. Moisten the edge of the disk with the egg glaze. Carefully fold the pastry over the filling and crimp the edge seam with a clean, dry fork.
  7. Glaze the top of the pastry with the beaten egg mixture.
Bake in preheated oven 10-15 minutes for hors d'oeuvre, 15-20 minutes for entrees, or until golden brown. Cool on racks. Ed Note: Most filled empanadas can be made in large quantities, baked and frozen. To reheat, place frozen empanadas in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. No need to defrost them first.

Okay, so I have to include the following recipe for Baba Gannoujh Empanada. 

1) I'm a HUGE eggplant fan. 2) I'm even a bigger Baba Ghanouj fan. 3) I didn't know Baba Gannoujh meant "spoiled old papa" in Lebanese. The recipe link above provides a charming story as to why...

Baba Gannoujh Empanada
1 large eggplant
3 tbs. finely chopped onion
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 c. chopped parsley
Fresh ground white pepper to taste
  1. Bake whole eggplant 1 hour at 350 degrees or until cooked through. Cool and set aside
  2. When eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut in half and scoop out pulp with a spoon into small mixing bowl. Discard the skin.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mash together.
  4. Now you are ready to roll out and fill disks. Sprinkle with dried parsley, dillweed or paprika after you glaze.

I just couldn't resist including this recipe for Rumtopf Renouf Empanada also from the Empanadas book above.

revised March 2013

Resources
1. Empanadas al Cafayate
2. How to make Colombian Empanadas
3. Baked Beef Empanadas
4. Empanada Potpie with Cream Cheese Crust
5. Quick Chicken Empanadas with Olives & Raisins (uses won tons)
6. Chicken & Spinach Empanadas
7. Coco's Not Quite Australian Meat Pies

Monday, April 7, 2008

National Coffee Cake Day

I can't believe I almost missed National Coffee Cake Day today. That's what I get for "coffee clotching" all day. You see, it was one of those dark, cloudy, damp, dismal Mondays in New York and the phone just wouldn't stop ringing. Who says it's National Coffee Cake Day anyway? It appears it's another one of those days proclaimed to be a "national" food day with very little support as to explain why. Quite frankly, I'm delighted! The notion of giving coffee cake a day of its own sits just fine with me. There's even a chance that a whole month is dedicated to coffee cake. Isn't that just wonderful! I'm still checking but, it seems that May, may just be Coffee Cake Month. We'll have to see. In the mean time, let's see what few little crumbs we can salvage to celebrat the rest of coffee cake day.

I don't know if I ever mentioned this before but, I'm not much of a baker. I suppose, I consider myself a sort of a "freelance" cook which to my taste simply means, I don't like following recipes. I know what you're thinking. She doesn't like following recipes but she has so many cookbooks. What gives? Nothing really. I have been known to follow a recipe or two in my day especially around the holidays. Like most families, we have traditional dishes we associate with personal milestones, holidays, celebrations and anything in between. Baking Panettone is one of those times when I must follow a recipe. Panettone is an Italian Coffee Cake prepared with yeast and a host of other ingredients. The sweet rich yeast dough is studded with raisins, filled with nuts and candied fruit. "Panettone" derives its meaning from the Italian word "panetto," a small loaf bread. With the addition of the "one" at the end, the meaning translates to "large bread." Nonnalina's Kitchen gives this definition:

A tall, fat cylindrical egg-rich cake studded with candied fruit and served traditionally at Christmas and Easter. A specialty of Lombardy. source

Where’s the Coffee in Coffee Cake?

Since I'm not much of a baker, I decided it was time to brush up on my coffee cake lingo while trying to scoop up a few links and recipes for all to share. Thank goodness is was fairly easy, there's some very informative sites readily available on the history of coffee cakes. I even found a site that defogs the steaming question; Where’s the Coffee in Coffee Cake? I was somewhat surprised to discover that the "definition" given to coffee cake is simply a cake that is served with coffee. Coffee cakes come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and flavors. They can be pound cakes, sponge cakes, yeast risen batter cakes or leavened by baking powder cakes. They can contain nuts, fruits or spices individually or all combined. They can be plainly decorated, glazed or streuseled. The one common denominator is {drum roll} they all go GREAT with a hot cup of coffee or a sweetly brewed cup of tea. A perfect example of a coffee cake is the traditional King's Cake baked for the official opening of Carnival Season in New Orleans. A nice thick piece of King's Cake and a hot cup of chicory coffee, oh my, it doesn't get much better than that; or does it? I think June Meyer who wrote the Hungarian cookbook titled June Meyer's Authentic Hungarian Heirloom Recipes now in its third printing, would claim title for her Hungarian Coffee Cake recipe. The recipe is on her website which I have provided a link for below. Just like the Italians have their coffee cake steeped in Panettone history, coffee cakes are as diverse as the countries they have travelled from.

The German as well as the Holland communities were prominent in New York, Delaware and in New Jersey and were well known for their coffee cakes in the colonial days. Their recipes are very similar to the recipes for the pastry that are used today. The Scandinavians were advocates of the coffee break and they desired something sweet with their coffee and thus contributed to the evolution of their tasty cake. The Scandinavians were just as proud of their abilities to produce the tasty cake and other varieties of pastries as the people who emigrated from Central Europe to America. In the book Listening to America, the author claims that in the year 1879 coffee cake became a well known term in America. Historians have gone through old cook books and have concluded that recipes for coffee cake were being published for everyday American homemakers during the late eighteen hundreds. There are numerous varieties of this type of cake and a couple of the popular varieties are the streusel version and the crumb cake and streusel variation. source
Coffee cakes are baked by every ethnic group and each has their own specialties... American coffee cake recipes (as well as European recipes) vary vastly from regions reflecting a melting pot of recipes brought from immigrants the world over. Interesting to note, is that many older recipes changed with the advent of commercial baking powder in the 1850's. Prior to that many of the treasured older coffee cake recipes were leavened by yeast, especially cake yeast. exellent resource

If you minus the cake, add an extra helping of gossip, and shave a few morning hours, I was pretty much coffee clotching all day today. Hence, the slow delivery of this post. ”An afternoon kaffeeklatsch (coffee-and-cake gossip session) is one of Germany’s most cherished traditions. According to Evan Jones in American Food: The Gastronomic Story, German women brought to America the concept of the kaffeeklatsch, a break in the day to meet for some coffee, a sweet, and a little gossip. He also notes, the Scandinavians were probably more responsible than anyone else for instituting the idea of the American coffee break that featured sweets, since so many of their simple pastries were called coffee breads, coffee cakes, or coffee rings. I have to say, all this gossiping around a pot of coffee sounds much like a kettledrum except, a kettledrum beverage of choice is tea and the sweets are usually baked dainties or sandwiches.

As a child of the 60's, growing up on suburban Long Island, I have vivid memories of afternoon coffee clotches. All the neighborhood mothers would gather at one house, drink pots of coffee, smoke tons of cigarettes and nibble on Entenmann's cake. those were the days when Entenmann's was still family owned and operated and you could go to the bakery factory in Bay Shore and buy "damaged" cakes for half price!) The words coffee klatch or coffee klatsch come from the German root word kaffeeklatsch German, from Kaffee (coffee) + Klatsch gossip defined as "an informal social gathering for coffee and conversation." I venture to guess, if I accused my daughter of participating in a coffee clotch at the neighborhood "play date" meeting at the park, she would vehemently disagree. After all, she doesn't drink coffee. Well, the sewing circle may be at the park, and the coffee cake may have been replaced with a quick trip to Cinnabon, the concept, is pretty much the same.

I have gathered quite a batter full of recipes and links to share below but first, I would like to mention some highlights of my discoveries and also offer a recipe for a coffee cake filling which I found quite intriguing. IMHO, the most comprehensive source, which I noted above as an excellent resource, for everything coffee cake related can be found at baking 911. It's the second listing below. Not only does the article go into the history of coffee cake, there is also an extensive list of traditional coffee cakes from all over the world. Resources #6 & #7 are from The Fresh Loaf. I singled them out because the notion of baking cheese pockets, which I believe can be frozen, would certainly be a charming addition to an at home modern day play group. I can just imagine those little ones getting their sticky fingers into those pockets. For all you tea lovers out there, I have included a recipe link for mini tea cakes carefully baked by T.W. over at Culinary Types. I only have one contribution to National Coffee Cake Day. It's from one of my kitchen shelf cookbooks titled The Best of Everything Cookbook (1971) Published by The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, it truly is the best of everything compiled with over 500 recipes from more than 60 of the world's best cookbooks. The list of authors is a Who's Who of Cooking." There are recipes from James Beard, Julia Child, Helen Brown, Roy Andries de Groot, Dione Lucas, Ann Serrane, Mimi Sheraton and a host of others. I doubt the book is still in print but if you do happen upon a copy, give it a good look through. It really is a wonderful book and worthy of a place on the kitchen book shelf. I feel safe in making this claim, it's why I don't link to retail book stores to make money:)

The following recipe for coffee cake cheese filling is listed under the included recipe for the "cake" but I compared the recipe to the above recipe for Basic Coffeecake Dough and they are the same except for the one included in The Best of Everything Cookbook Makes 2 very large coffee cakes. The Cheese Filling recipe is from The Art of Good Cooking by Paula Peck.


Coffee Cake
Cheese Filling
2 tbs. yellow raisins
1 tbs. cognac
1 C. cream cheese or cottage cheese or 1/2 c. of each
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbs. flour
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. melted butter
1 tbs. sour cream
1/2 tsp. lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix raisins with cognac. Cream together cheese, sugar, and flour. Stir in egg yolk, then melted butter, sour cream, lemon rind and vanilla. Add cognac soaked raisins.

Resources (follow the numbered links)

  • 1. National Coffee Cake Day (Apple Nut Coffeecake)
  • 2. Where's the Coffee in Coffee Cake
  • 3. Basic Coffee-Cake Dough
  • 4. Basic Yeast-Risen Coffee Cake
  • 5. Coffee Cake Dough (German family recipe)
  • 6. Coffee Cake (yeast)
  • 7. Cheese Pockets
  • 8. Raised Almond Coffee Cake @ Cream Puffs in Venice
  • 9. Pecan Coffee Cake (why not bake this Pecan Coffee Cake for Pecan Day. 
  • 10. Mini-Bundt Coconut Tea Cakes with Cardamom & Rum Cream Glaze (T.W.'s mini tea cakes would be perfect with coffee or tea)
  • 11. Italian Coffee Cake (Panettone)
  • 12. June Meyer's Authentic Hungarian Heirloom Recipes (now in 3rd. printing)
  • 13. Coffee Cake Wreath (lots of fillings)
  • 14 What is King Cake?