Between the two of us, M has the stronger love of pumpkin spice, and every Fall he has to get his fill of this seasonal flavor. What Americans now call pumpkin spice – a variable mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove – is similar to many spice blends around the world, and we just learned of another international pumpkin spice cousin: Neapolitan Pisto (Italian Wikipedia). The key ingredients of the Pisto spice blend are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, and coriander. Pisto is a key component of the popular Roccoco and Mostaccioli (below) cookies, which are eaten around the Christmas holidays. Mostaccioli [recipe] are diamond-shaped spicy cookies coated in chocolate, and Roccoco [recipe] are ring shaped with candied fruit. Other Neapolitan holiday cookies like susamielli use Pisto as a major component. You can buy pre-blended Pisto in Naples, but we have never seen it for sale in the US. Fortunately, you can find recipes online like this one from SBS / Italian Street Food.
Category Archives: Pastry Post-Poc
I came across this intriguing bit of ephemera in a scrapbook dating to the 1930s, and I became curious about its origin. Turns out this “Optimist’s Creed” is a longstanding advertising campaign of Mayflower Donuts. It seems equally at home in the Great Depression as it does in 2020, doesn’t it? Mayflower Donuts was founded by Doughnut impresario Adolph Levitt in New York in 1931, and eventually blossomed into a chain of Mayflower Doughnut shops across the US. Levitt had previously invented an automatic doughnut fryer, which he sold to other doughnut shops around the US, eventually opening up his own Mayflower chain. Mayflower featured prominently at World’s Fairs throughout the 1930s, including Chicago in 1933-4 and New York in 1939-40, as the company tried to drum up publicity. You can see the Optimist’s Creed hung on the wall of a Chicago Mayflower shop circa 1949, from Calumet 412. Despite its former popularity, as of this writing in 2020, the Mayflower chain seems to have disappeared. If you are a fan of the Optimists’ Creed you can buy a mug or print from Vintage Menu Art.
September 7th is an important day in Brazil: it is both Brazilian Independence Day and a festival day for Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. It is traditional to serve white foods for Yemanjá, including creams, hominy-like canjica, and rice pudding (info link in Portuguese). One popular dish for Yemanjá is Manjar Branco / Manjar de Coco (coconut pudding, not to be confused with Peru’s Manjar Blanco, which is similar to Dulce de Leche). This Brazilian flan-like cream is flavored with coconut milk, and is super simple to make. Similar starch-thickened cream dessert dishes are found in Middle Eastern and European cuisines, including French Blancmange. In Brazil, Manjar Branco is traditionally served with a plum sauce, as you can see below. Check out Manjar Branco recipes from Olivia’s Cuisine, Mani Snacks, Ricardo Cuisine and Sabor Brasil. In addition to its presence at celebrations honoring Yemanjá, Manjar Branco is a popular dish to ring in the New Year! Odoìyá Yemanjá!
In our last CSA box we unexpectedly got some late-season rhubarb, which led us to think of more unusual ways in which to use it than our first instinct, pie. Globally, rhubarb is popular in Scandinavia, especially Norway and among Norwegian-Americans. Rhubarb entered Norway in the 18th century as a decorative plant, but made its way into the kitchen by the 1800s. It was also able to flourish in the harsh Norwegian climate, which added to its popularity. An iconic Norwegian recipe is for Rabarbrakake, or rhubarb cake, a simple cake filled with rhubarb and topped with almonds. Here is a recipe for Rabarbrakake from North Wild Kitchen (pictured below), and you can find other versions from Ramshackle Pantry and Outside Oslo.
Since the start of quarantine, many in America have been far away from their families, but paradoxically, many have also returned home and are closer to their families than ever. This includes photographer Eslah Attar, who moved home during quarantine to her parents’ house in Ohio. While there, she has learned a score of family recipes from her Syrian mother, which is especially significant during the celebration of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr is this weekend, and is marked with an especially large feast to mark the end of a month of fasting. This NPR article features Attar’s photographs of some of the many delicious, fast-breaking sweets her mother has taught her to prepare including Baklava, knafeh, and maamoul (as seen below).
Baklava (layered phyllo sweets with syrup and nuts), Knafeh and Maamoul (date cookies) are popular throughout the Middle East, and anywhere with a Middle Eastern diaspora, and every country and family has a slight variation. Baklava is definitely common in the US, and maamoul date cookies are not unfamiliar to the American palate, but Knafe gives and entirely different taste experience. We grew to like knafe (also spelled knafeh, kunafeh, and kanafeh) when we were in Egypt. This surprisingly hearty dessert is composed of crunchy, shredded Phyllo (semolina is also used in Egypt) with a cheesy center (typically Akawi cheese, though Mozzarella can be substituted), topped with a rosewater or orange blossom-tinged sugar syrup, and pistachios. I know this description is not doing knafe justice, but it really is delicious. Here are some Levantine knafe recipes from: Cook for Syria, Food 52, The Cooking Foodie, and Chef Tariq. Eid Mubarak!
Today is Haitian Flag Day, commemorating the official adoption of the Haitian Flag on May 18, 1803, just before the country’s declaration of independence from France on January 1, 1804. Haitian Flag Day is celebrated throughout Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, and remains a potent symbol of unity and identity. This festive holiday is the perfect occasion to dig in and try some Haitian recipes. And while not particular to Flag Day, this is a great time to try a Haitian dessert classic, Dous Makos (aka Haitian Fudge).
Dous Makos is a spiced fudge composed of different flavored layers arranged in stripes of tan, brown and red (which is somewhat reminiscent of a flag, though that was not the original intention). The major flavors in Dous Makos are vanilla, anise, nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa, though you may see other combinations. Fernand Macos, a Belgian entrepreneur, created Dous Makos in 1939 in the town of Petit-Goâve, and has spread in popularity since then. It is not hard to make on your own, and utilizes ingredients you may already have in your pantry including condensed milk. You can find recipes from versions from Haitian Cooking, L’Union Suite and Manje Ayisyen. Island Vibe Cooking, below, has a video on how to make mini Dous Makos in muffin tins. If you need a quick fix, you can even buy some Dous Makos pre-made from Bonbon Lacay in Brooklyn!
Yesterday at sunset marked the start of 2020’s Ramadan, which will be quite a different celebration given that large gathering are not allowed in many countries. One of the most important parts of Ramadan is usually communal, the nightly breaking of the fast with a special meal known as Iftar. Even though we are not able to gather together, we can still make some pretty tasty treats for fast-breaking celebrations. One cookie reserved for special occasions like Ramadan is the flower-shaped Moroccan chebakia (also spelled shebakia or known alternatively as mkharka) that is deep fried, and glazed with honey and sesame seeds. The preparations for chebakia start in the weeks before Ramadan because it is so labor-intensive, and large quantities are required for Iftar celebrations. In French, the name for these cookies is la rose des sable, which translates to “rose made out of cookie.” The shape of the cookie is pretty intricate, so we found it helpful to watch Cooking with Alia’s video demo. You can find recipes for Chebakia from Spruce Eats, Cooking with Alia and My Moroccan Food. Maroc Mama even has a gluten-free recipe. At Iftar, chebakia is traditionally served with harira, a tomato soup, giving a really interesting sweet/savory twist.
M’s request for the pie of the month was a Lemon Shaker Pie (aka Ohio Shaker Pie). We live in Ohio now and this custard pie with slices of whole lemons is something of a regional specialty. However, once we added a picture of our pie to our Instagram we got a lot of bewildered comments. Turns out, most people had never heard of this type of pie! One unusual part of this recipe is that it is attributed to the near-extinct fringe religious sect, The Shakers. Another is that it uses whole lemons – rinds and all. According to legend, the Shakers were prolific pie-makers and gardeners, and could make almost any kind of fruit grow in Ohio, except lemons, which were the first fruit they had to purchase. Being famously frugal, the Shakers then made sure to use literally the entire lemon for their pies. That still doesn’t really answer why this version, above all of the Shakers’ pies, now persists, but indeed it does. Cut to 2020, when this old-fashioned pie is now only really found in Ohio, or in home cooks’ kitchens.
We enjoyed the version we made, using the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for filling, and Smitten Kitchen’s Ultra flaky all-butter crust. We sliced organic lemons extra-thin on a mandolin for the pie and let them sit with sugar for over 24 hours to remove some of the bitterness. According to the Joy of Cooking, the longer, the better. This still produced a super-tangy pie (which we like), so if that is not your cup of tea, we imagine that this pie would also be great with Meyer lemons, as some more modern recipes call for. Or if you want to go old school, check out this vintage recipe from a former Shaker community in Kentucky.
Inadvertently, this is an appropriate post for Poisson D’Avril / April Fool’s Day, but the recipe is no joke! Cartoon-fish-shaped Taiyaki may be the cutest dessert there is. Originating in Japan, Taiyaki has a waffle-like base, and is traditionally filled with red bean paste. The hand-held snack has a centuries-long history and the fish shape, tai, symbolically conveys wealth. We first experienced Taiyaki at Japanese restaurants in the US, and in frozen packets at the Mitsuwa grocery store. Fortunately, in the past few years more restaurants in the US are taking cues from the Taiyaki’s homeland of Japan, and are making these fish waffles fresh to order (we have had them recently at Taiyaki NYC and Mini Mott). However, my sister gave us a Taiyaki iron for Christmas, so we have been able to recreate Taiyaki at home for the first time. Though the fish shape is intricate, Taiyaki are really no harder to make than waffles (albeit with a hand-held iron instead of an automatic one).
There are many Taiyaki recipes out there, and we started with one from Just One Cookbook. This recipe called for cake flour, which was easier to come by pre-pandemic. If you don’t have it, here is way to substitute All-Purpose Flour + Corn Starch. You may be able to find canned or jarred red bean / azuki paste in a local Asian supermarket. If not, you make your own red bean paste with some of your pantry reserves. Or for even more variety, you can fill these with custard or even Nutella! The only tricky part is the timing of cooking the Taiyaki, we have a gas oven, and it took us a while to find the right cook time, which may also vary for your oven. If you make extra Taiyaki, you can freeze them and then reheat in a 350 oven for a few minutes. Enjoy!
How to make your own Taiyaki (recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook).
- 1¼ cup cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 5 Tbsp red bean paste (about 1 Tbsp per Taiyaki, or substitute with Nutella, Cream, etc.)
- 1 Tbsp vegetable / canola oil
Happy Diwali! Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, started yesterday, October 27, 2019, but it is not too late to get in on some delicious treats to celebrate this holiday. Today, for Diwali, we will be making Soan Papdi (aka patisa, son papri, sohan papdi or shonpapdi), a North Indian confection with an amazing melt-in-the-mouth texture. Really, it is unlike anything I have had before, somewhat like cotton candy, but with flaky layers, often formed into cubes. You definitely have to experience it for yourself! This treat was first introduced to me by my friend from Delhi, who brought the treat back directly from a favorite sweet shop. Soan Papdi is popular throughout India, especially during festivals. With a base of ghee (clarified butter), gram flour and sugar, soan papdi is often flavored with cardamom, but you can now find it flavored any number of ways, including mango, pistachio or chocolate. Check out Steemit, The Times of India and Awesome Cuisine for Soan Papdi recipes.
It is no secret that we love babka, the twisted brioche bread with ribbons of tasty fillings ranging from cinnamon to chocolate and beyond. We have sampled many babkas in the past few years, especially in New York, but were a little disheartened by the lack of exemplary options in Chicago. However, now Chicago has an AMAZING babka purveyor: Masa Madre. Masa Madre is a two-woman babka-making operation in Pilsen that bakes babkas ready-to-order and pick up right from their apartment. Masa Madre is run by Mexico City-born Tamar Fasja Unikel and Elena Vázquez Felgueres, and the babka is inspired by Unikel’s Mexican-Jewish heritage. Some of their special-edition babkas, like the churro or dulce de leche are a fun spin on combining these two cultures. Masa Madre offers chocolate, cinnamon and matcha green tea every week. On holidays, there are even seasonal baked goods like pan de muerto and sufganiyot for Hanukkah. You place an order through their Facebook page a few days in advance and pick up your loaves in Pilsen, which is a small price to pay for the freshest of babka. One loaf is $20, and you can get mini babka muffins for $3.50. Our favorite is definitely the ooey-gooey chocolate – check out those delicious swirls!
So we definitely are more familiar with King Cakes and paczkis, but the reach of the Mardi Gras fried doughnut also extends to Germany with Fasnacht. Fasnacht is a type of fried doughnut used to celebrate the holiday of Fasnacht, from where it gets its name. Fasnacht/Fastnacht (as it is called in Germany, Austria and Switzerland) means “Fast Night” and is the day before Ash Wednesday, where the last decadent treats (like the sugar and oil in doughnuts) are supposed to be eaten before the austerity of Lent kicks in. Fasnacht doughnuts may be square-shaped or more round like paczkis. I have never seen Fasnacht for sale, but outside of German-speaking Europe you can find them in small pockets, especially in places with Amish populations! Here are some recipes from All Recipes, Eve of Reduction, and PA Dutch Country (recipe circa 1936).
Remember those cutout paper snowflakes you used to make in grade school? Icelandic Laufabraud is kind of like that – but in bread form! These intricately patterned, paper-thin breads feature intricate geometric designs cut by hand or with special brass rollers. Once designed, the dough is then fried. This bread is said to have originated in northern Iceland in the 18th Century, and was made so thin because grain and provisions at the time were scarce. Even in lean times, the Laufabraud was a special holiday treat, and it is still enjoyed at Christmas now. Check out this lovely version and recipe from Icelandic Knitter. Bakestreet has a recipe and a step-by-step video. Gleðileg jól!
Christmas is almost upon us, which means it is time to get our favorite Christmas dessert, Panettone! Panettone is an Italian yeasted sweet bread/cake that originates in Milan. However, Panettone is now popular worldwide and is seen on Christmas tables throughout Europe, North and South America. In fact, some of the best panettone we ever had was from the Bauducco panettone company’s “Casa Bauducco” company store in São Paulo, Brazil, the chocolate chip version was sold sliced and toasted… nothing better. Panettone is notoriously difficult and time-consuming to make, with several days of raising, resting and baking needed. So, this is one treat that even self-respecting Italian chefs will usually buy from a bakery or store. While the traditional filling of panettone is candied fruit, and chocolate chips have been on the scene for a while, more unique flavors have popped up in recent years including fig, black cherry, pistachio and orange and chocolate (which is what we picked this year).
Though panettone may be more famous, there is actually another Italian Christmas dessert that deserves some of the spotlight: the Pandoro. Pandoro means “golden bread” in Italian, and is native to Verona. Both panettone and pandoro date back to prior to the middle ages, and have been enjoyed as holiday treats ever since. Pandoro is similar to panettone in that it is a sweet, yeasted cake, however it comes in a tall, 8-pointed star shape (said to be reminiscent of the Alps) instead of the cylindrical panettone. There are also typically no fillings or mix-ins of any kind on a pandoro, but it is topped with vanilla powdered sugar. So which one is better? It’s all a matter of personal taste. While panettone adds more variety in terms of filling, there is something to be said for minimalism of the pandoro. You can find a good selection of both panettone and pandoro at Eataly or World Market. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have even gotten in the panettone game in recent years!
We love hearing about treats that are a result of cross-national food pollination. One of the most fascinating examples of this is the Castella cake from Japan aka Kasutera (カステラ). Castella is a simple, light sponge cake often served in rectangular loaves and sweetened with honey. Intriguingly, the history of this simple-seeming cake is a lot more complicated: it actually arrived in Japanese via Portuguese traders in the 1500s! Unlike Macau, I don’t really think of Japan as having a lot of Portuguese influence. However, it turns out the Portuguese were in Japanese port of Nagasaki by the 16th century, and the cake, known by the Portuguese as Pão de Castile (literally “bread from the region of Castile”), was brought on these early ships. This Western-style cake really caught on in Japan, and the rest is history. We have tried Castella cake a few different places – but a good place to get it in the Chicago area is at Handsome Bakery (204 E Golf Rd., Schaumburg, IL). if you are hankering to make your own Castella, check out the instructional video below from Just One Cookbook.
Sorry for the long absence… I meant to post this at the beginning of Ramadan, which was May 15. So, clearly this post is a bit late, but fortunately I managed to write this post before the end of Ramadan, this upcoming Thursday, June 14. One of the most important parts of Ramadan is the nightly Iftar, or breaking of the day’s fast after sunset. We of course have an eye to the sweet, so we decided to share one of our favorite Ramadan desserts, which is enjoyed throughout the former territories of the Ottoman Empire, Tulumba. Tulumba is a fried, extruded churro-like pastry dipped in a sugar syrup. We thought immediately of Indian jalebi when we first had them. A sweet tooth is definitely required for this recipe! You can find Tulumba throughout North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, under a variety of names (it is known in Iran as Zoolbia/Zolobiyah Bamieh, in Egypt as balah ash-sham and in the Middle East as asabe Zainab), though it may be most associated with Turkey. Given the geographical range of Tulumba, you can be sure to find regional variations from country to country. The Spruce has a recipe from Turkey (seen below), and here are other versions from Greece, Egypt, Iran, and the Middle East.
Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, which led me to wondering – other than chocolate – are there really any desserts associated with Valentine’s Day (I couldn’t find any)? This search led me further afield to the intriguingly named “Wife Cake” (aka Sweetheart Cake). Wife cake is a traditional Chinese cake, made with a flaky pastry surrounding a sweet, candied winter melon center. I have seen a ton of different names for this same cake, but according to Wikipedia, the literal translation from the Cantonese lou po beng is “Old lady cake” with “old lady” being used in the sense of “wife” (get it!?). Winter melon (despite the name) is actually a squash and can be prepared in both sweet and savory ways. Candied winter melon alone is a popular snack around Lunar New Year and you should be able to find it in a well-stocked Asian grocery. Since these cake are filled with winter melon, it is no surprise that they are also particularly popular around Lunar New Year – which is coincidentally 2 days after Valentine’s Day in 2018. If you are looking for a treat to celebrate Valentine’s Day OR Lunar New Year, here are recipes for Wife Cake from My Kitchen Snippets, Gwai Shu Shu and More than bread.
Over the years we have discovered that one of the most universally beloved foods is the fried dough ball. In the Netherlands, fried dough balls are a traditional New Year’s food called Oliebollen (which translates to “oil balls” – the singular is oliebol). They have been variously known in the US as “Dutch doughnuts” and are called smoutebollen and croustillons in Belgium. Oliebollen have a long history in the Netherlands and were part of Germanic Yule celebrations, and the first written recipes date from the 1660s. The painting below, “Meid met oliebollen,” by Aelbert Cuyp is from 1652.
The legend behind Oliebollen is actually more morbid than I was expecting. According to Paste Magazine:
Eating oliebollen was considered a surefire way to ward off the whims of a cruel pagan goddess named Perchta. Her Teutonic name meant bright or glorious, but she was not always friendly. During the 12 Days of Christmas the goddess was said to fly around with evil spirits looking for something to eat. In her quest she might even use her sword to slice open the stomachs of those who’d already eaten to get at their food. Tradition said that eating oliebollen protected you because the fat absorbed from the cooking oil made Perchta’s sword slide off of her victims.
Oliebollen doesn’t stick to its fearsome origins anymore, and is mostly sold on the streets, accompanied by fireworks! There are tons of recipes for Oliebollen online including The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, Allrecipes and The Dutch Table.
Can you believe that it is already December 1st? I know I can’t. Today the first of our holiday decorations went up, and I am scheming about which holiday recipes to make first (maybe something with gingerbread?) In conducting a search for holiday recipes, I came across a Christmas classic from the Philippines: Bibingka. Bibingka is a coconut cake made with rice flour and topped with coconut, duck eggs and even cheese. In the Philippines, you will see bibingka sellers peddling these cakes on the street around the holiday season. The traditional way to make bibingka is in a terracotta pot lined with banana leaves, cooked over open coals. However, bibingka has now adapted to the contemporary kitchen, and you can make it in a conventional oven. The following bibingka recipes vary a bit, but the rice flour is a must: Kawaling Pinoy Recipe, Panlasang Pinoy Recipe, New York Times Recipe, Zestuous Recipe. Asian in America Mag has a version of mini bibingka that are cooked in muffin tins with banana leaf “liners.”
There is a new show streaming on Netflix called “Zumbo’s Just Desserts” which is a Cupcake Wars/Top Chef-esque cooking competition focused on – as you may have guessed – desserts. In one of the episodes the hosts mentioned Pikelets – and we had never heard that word before! It turns out that Pikelets are a type of mini, thick pancake found in Australia and New Zealand. These are based off of the English Pikelet, which is similar to a crumpet (A crumpet in the US is known as English muffin). The main difference between the two is that Pikelets are free-form, while crumpets are baked in a ring, making them perfectly circular. It seems like there is some debate as to whether UK and Australian Pikelets are one and the same. In each case, the recipe seems akin to a simple pancake batter. You can try your hand at Pikelets with recipes from Taste.Au, Genius Kitchen and Sweetest Kitchen in plain and chocolate chip varieties (seen below).