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Archive for the ‘Food Finds’ Category

 

Raindrop Cake

Raindrop Cake (Tim Ireland)

I don’t see the appeal of the “Raindrop Cake”.  Pretty presentation aside, the dessert tastes like barely sweetened spring water. It is pleasantly refreshing, but I take umbrage with calling it a ‘cake’. (And that $8 price tag.) When I reminisce about the best cake I ever ate, a tepid watery blob that jiggles like a breast implant does not come to mind. How did such a misnomer come to be?

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New Flours, New Flavors

I’m bored with baking, baking with wheat flour that is. Last year, I stumbled upon a case of faro and chestnut flours in my work kitchen and played around with pound cakes, muffins, and sponge cakes. As wheat flour has formed with basis of baking traditions in the United States, it was hard to find reliable recipes and baking information. (It was even harder to explain to a dining public cultured on wheat flour that chestnut flour contains neither nuts nor gluten…never mind its name). Although I’ve experienced more frustration than success, the challenge of baking with alternative flours has made baking fun again as intriguing flavors and unusual textures breathe new life into old recipes.

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A “New” Macaron

Apparently the pastel, sandwiched macaron that we’ve come to love is a recent innovation. The Basque macaron, a denser chewier single cookie version, claims to be the true, original macaron and predates the macaron parisien, popularized by Laduree, by three centuries. Even if this is mythology, it’s interesting to have another style of macaron besides Mad Mac and Laduree, the two major players in the macaron game. (http://www.grubstreet.com/2014/03/lena-opening-introduces-new-kind-of-macaron.html)

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Citrus Fruit Salad

As much as I enjoy experimenting with unusual ingredients and pastry techniques during my off-time, I can think of no better way to end a meal than with a fruit dessert. I keep at least one fruit dessert on my menu year-round because I love how it refreshes and revives the weariest of palates. Northeast winters create a unique challenge for pastry chefs because, other than citrus, fruit is sparse. Even so, Chef Deborah Racicot manages to delight with her citrus fruit salad. I love this composition because she goes beyond the usual citrus suspects of orange and grapefruit. Rather she layers many flavors of citrus, such as cara cara, satsuma, and bergamot, which she further contrasts with an orange blossom granita and rose petal jam. The description on its own made me salivate. Fruit: 1. Chocolate: 0. (http://www.grubstreet.com/2014/03/narcissa-citrus-fruit-salad.html  )

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Apples at the market (Photo by thetbone under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0)

Apples at the market (Photo by thetbone under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0)

Apples are one of the most widely cultivated fruits in the world and a staple of the dessert menu that transcends culture and time: apple sharlotka from Russia, apple strudel from Vienna, Alsatian apple tart and tarte tatin from France, and apple pie from America.  The beauty of apples is, unlike most fruit, an apple exists for every purpose. Honeycrisp apples are great for eating, as are Northern Spy, Gala, Pink Lady, and Mutsu. Golden Delicious apples make succulent apple pies while Empire apples make tart, rosy-hued applesauce.  Winesap and Arkansas Black apples benefit from a brief storage and are best savored when cold weather takes hold and fruit pickings are slim. (Yes, apples can be aged!) Along with the Newton Pippin, these apples can also be fermented into hard cider. With such diversity, it’s not surprising that America dominated the global apple trade for most of the 20th century.  But the modern apple industry was not founded on such diversity. If you peer into most kitchens and the produce section at the supermarket, you are likely to see one of three apples: Granny Smith, Golden or Red Delicious.

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Bees make many kinds of honey that vary by color, aroma, and texture.  The variation comes from the kind of nectar the bees harvested to make the honey.

Bees make many kinds of honey that vary by color, aroma, and texture. The variation comes from the kind of nectar the bees harvested to make the honey.

Cloyingly sweet and nondescript, honey was just another ingredient for desserts and ice creams. At least, this was true until I finally got around to opening the jar of lavender honey that I bought in France a few years earlier.

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