20 November 2007

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth

Here's a recently published cookbook that's especially appropriate for this time of year. For your own sweet tooth, or as a gift. Use at your own risk. From Jessica's Biscuit, a morsel more about it:

"Chocolate Caramel-Pecan Soufflé Cake . . . Cinnamon-Donut Bread Pudding . . . Double-Crumble Hot Apple Pies . . . Giant Coconut Cream Puffs . . . Here's a collection of desserts that gives more than 75 sticky, chewy, messy, gooey reasons to stock up on napkins. In addition to each sugary favorite, the author has included simple techniques and tools to help home cooks recreate each decadent treasure again and again. Sprinkled throughout are tips on using phyllo dough, toasting nuts, and making a heavenly ganache, so every over-the-top treat tastes as irresistible as it sounds. For the serious sweet tooth, pour a tall glass of milk and get ready to bite into all that's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey!"

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth
by Jill O'Connor
168 Pages
Publisher: Chronicle
Pub. Date: Aug 08, 2007
Color Photographs

Available online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

15 November 2007

Yams; sweet potatoes

Many of you will be preparing yams (sweet potatoes) for Thanksgiving. But did you know it's only a distant relation to the potato? And do you know how nutritious it is? Here's some background from Wikipedia and whfoods.org. First from Wikipedia:

Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical parts of the Americas, and were domesticated there at least 5000 years ago. They spread very early throughout the region, including the Caribbean. They were also known before western exploration in Polynesia. How exactly they arrived there is the subject of a fierce debate which involves archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence.

Sweet potatoes are now cultivated throughout tropical and warm temperate regions wherever there is sufficient water to support their growth.

According to 2004 FAO statistics world production is 127,000,000 tons. The majority comes from China with a production of 105,000,000 tonnes from 49,000 km². About half of the Chinese crop is used for livestock feed.

Per-capita production is greatest in countries where sweet potatoes are a staple of human consumption, led by the Solomon Islands at 160 kg per person per year and Burundi at 130 kg.

In New Zealand, sweet potato is known by its Māori name, kūmara. It was a staple food for Māori before European contact. Today, it is still very popular, although less popular than regular potatoes. There are about 85 commercial kūmara growers, with 1,220 hectares producing 20,000 tonnes of kūmara annually.

North Carolina, the leading U.S. state in sweet potato production, currently provides 40% of the annual U.S. production of sweet potatoes.

Mississippi is also a major sweet potato producing state, where they are grown on approximately 8,200 acres. Mississippi sweet potatoes contribute $19 million dollars to the economy of the state and around 150 Mississippi farmers presently grow sweet potatoes. Mississippi's top five sweet potato producing counties are Calhoun, Chickasaw, Pontotoc, Yalobusha, and Panola. The National Sweet Potato Festival is held annually the entire first week in November in Vardaman, which proclaims itself as "The Sweet Potato Capital"...

...Nutrition and health benefits

Besides simple starches, sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene (a vitamin A equivalent nutrient), vitamin C, and vitamin B6.

In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fiber content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. According to these criteria, sweet potatoes earned 184 points, 100 points over the next on the list, the common potato.(NCSPC)

Sweet potato varieties with dark orange flesh have more beta carotene than those with light colored flesh and their increased cultivation is being encouraged in Africa where Vitamin A deficiency is a serious health problem. Despite the name "sweet", it may be a beneficial food for diabetics, as preliminary studies on animals have revealed that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and to lower insulin resistance. Some Americans, including television personality Oprah Winfrey, are advocating increased consumption of sweet potatoes both for their health benefits and because of their importance in traditional Southern cuisine.

And a bit more from whfoods.org,

...Yams' complex carbohydrates and fiber deliver the goods gradually, slowing the rate at which their sugars are released and absorbed into the bloodstream. In addition, because they're rich in fiber, yams fill you up without filling out your hips and waistline. And one more benefit, yams are a good source of manganese, a trace mineral that helps with carbohydrate metabolism and is a cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. You've just got to hand it to Mother Nature; when She brings forth a food, She makes sure it integrates everything needed to contribute to your health and vitality...

...Yams are a good source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is needed by the body to break down a substance called homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls. Individuals who suffer a heart attack despite having normal or even low cholesterol levels are often found to have high levels of homocysteine. Since high homocysteine levels are signficantly associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke, having a good supply of vitamin B6 on hand makes a great deal of sense. High intakes of vitamin B6 have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease...


Cranberry Tart

Babbo’s tart with whole cranberries; Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Everyone knows how to prepare the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc. for Thanksgiving, so let's skip to the finale, dessert. And there are as many desserts prepared for this meal as there are dinners prepared. But how about a couple more choices for you from The New York Times Dining and Wine section, For the Finale, a Perfect Pie (or Two), by Florence Fabricant, published: November 14, 2007:

"THE three pillars of the Thanksgiving dinner are turkey, cranberry sauce and pie. Pie baking, happily, allows more room for variation than the other tried, true and perennially required dishes do. Pies and tarts also represent a great contribution to the dinner for a guest who, when asking, “can I bring anything?” receives a resounding 'Yes!'"

For the whole article, go to For the Finale, a Perfect Pie (or Two). And one of the recipes from the article:

Recipe: Cranberry Tart

Adapted from “Dolce Italiano: Desserts From the Babbo Kitchen,” by Gina DePalma (W. W. Norton, 2007)

Time: 2 hours plus 1 hour’s chilling

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup instant or fine polenta

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced

1 large egg plus 3 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup light corn syrup

3 cups (12-ounce bag) fresh cranberries, picked over

1/2 cup heavy cream

Confectioners’ sugar, optional.

1. Place 1 1/4 cups flour, polenta, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and lemon zest in a food processor and process to blend. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. In a small bowl, beat whole egg with oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Uncover processor, pour in liquid ingredients and pulse until a ball of dough forms. This may take 20 or more quick pulses. If necessary, sprinkle in a little water if mixture does not come together. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.

2. In a 3-quart saucepan, melt remaining sugar over low heat. Stir in syrup and bring to a boil. Add cranberries and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes, until they begin to release juice. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool about 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to an 12-inch circle and fit into a 10-inch loose-bottom tart pan. If dough tears, it can easily be pressed together.

4. In a bowl, whisk together cream and 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk in three egg yolks, remaining vanilla and a pinch of salt. Pour over cranberries and fold together. Pour into tart shell, place pan on a baking sheet and bake about 40 minutes, until filling bubbles but is not yet firm, and pastry browns. Cool in pan before removing sides; if desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

05 November 2007

1973: Teddie’s Apple Cake

Another "retro" recipe appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine this week, one worth passing on:

"For reasons that elude me, cakes have come to represent long hours in the kitchen, when anyone who actually makes cakes knows that cookies are the time suck. Cookies require measuring and multiple batches. Cakes get mixed up and go into the oven all at once. The most lovable ones even cool in their pans and require no icing. Which is why if you look back in The Times archives at recipes from 30 or more years ago, when most people cooked every day, there were many more cake recipes. Cake was something you whipped up every couple of days, after the previous one vanished to crumbs."

Go to 1973: Teddie’s Apple Cake for the whole article. The recipe is below:

1973: Teddie’s Apple Cake

This recipe appeared in The Times in an article by Jean Hewitt.

Butter for greasing pan

3 cups flour, plus more for dusting pan

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups peeled, cored and thickly sliced tart apples, like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins

Vanilla ice cream (optional).

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.

2. Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until combined.

3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, if desired. Serves 8.

Fun food quotes

Time for a more light-hearted blog, on food of course. Some famous, and some not so well- quotes for you:

- Part of the secret to life is to eat what you want and let the food fight it out inside. - Mark Twain

- There are 4 basic food groups: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles. - Unknown

- Vegetables are a must! I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie. - Garfield / Jim Davis

- I can't cook. I use the smoke alarm as a timer. - Carol Siskind

- Everything you see I owe to spaghetti. - Sofia Loren

- I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage. - Erma Bombeck

- Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into 4 pieces with your bare hands and then eat just one of the pieces, - Juduth Viorst

- My mother's menu consisted of 2 things: take it or leave it. - Buddy Hackett

- I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immedietley instead of at 3 o'clock in the morning. - John Barrymore

- Chemicals; n, : notorious substance from which modern foods are made. - Unknown

- In Mexico we have a word for sushi: bait. - Jose Simmons

- Condensed milk is wonderful. I don't see how they can get a cow to sit down on those little cans. - Fred Allen

- Ham and eggs: a day's work for the chicken and a lifetime commitment for the pig. - Unknown

- I love Thanksgiving turkey. It's the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts. - Arnold Schwarzenegger

- Ever wonder about those people who sepnd a fortune on bottled water? Try spelling Evian backwards. - George Crlin

- I put instant coffee in the microwave and almost went back in time. - Steven Wright

- If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However - if life gives you pickles, you might as well give up because pickle-ade is disgusting. - Clifton J. Gray