Desserts

337/365: National Apple Pie Day*

Today’s food holiday is about as American as baseball, hot dogs, and Chevrolet. December 3 is National Apple Pie Day!

And also National Peppermint Latte Day. I love a good latte, but find peppermint flavor a little strong for my liking in a coffee drink. And since we have options, we decided to celebrate National Apple Pie Day instead. Call it our ode to patriotism in the month of December.

While apple pies are viewed as a quintessential symbol of America, recipes date back to the 14th century – long before our country was even “discovered.” English apple pies consisting of good apples, good spices, figs, raisins and pear were popular around this time. They were baked in a cofyn – a casing of pastry – and the filling was colored with saffron. American apple pies took awhile to catch on; it was the 17th century when recipes first began to appear. This is primarily because there were no native apples in early Colonial settlements; apple trees had to be brought in from Europe and planted. And then, they had to mature – several years would pass before they could bear fruit. By the end of the 19th century, apple pie had become a symbol of American prosperity and national pride. A 1902 newspaper article declared, “No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.” During World War II, when soldiers were asked why they were going to war, the popular answer became “for mom and apple pie.” And, of course, who can forget this classic commercial? 

My mom baked an apple pie and shared it with us, and if that isn’t fitting – something about mom’s apple pie – then, I don’t know what is. Granted, she baked it last summer and had it stored in the freezer, but she defrosted it just for us. Aww…thanks, mom. It sure was delicious!

National Apple Pie Day

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Categories: Desserts, Pastry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

334/365: National Mousse Day

Those fond of hair gel, large antlered deer-like creatures, and foamy desserts all have reason to celebrate. November 30 is National Mousse Day!

OK, in reality, we’re only celebrating one type of mousse, and it’s not the kind that walks on four legs or keeps your hair neatly in place. Food blog, remember? Mousse is a classic dessert that has the distinction of being light yet rich. It is French for “foam” or “froth” and gets its consistency from folding in beaten egg whites or whipped cream. Mousse is usually made with chocolate, though the first mousses to appear were savory creations in 18th century France. Dessert mousses, often made with fruit, became commonplace in the latter half of the 19th century. One of the earliest recipes for chocolate mousse was printed in the Boston Daily Globe in 1892, but this was more of a pudding-like dessert. Foamy, airy “modern” chocolate mousses didn’t appear until the 1930s, when electric mixers were invented.

Mixing the mousse.

Mixing the mousse.

By the way, we already celebrated a National Chocolate Mousse Day earlier in the year, so this holiday is redundant. It doesn’t specifically mention chocolate, though. But when I mentioned this to Tara, she said, “what other kind of mousse is there?” That wife of mine, she’s got a point. And just like she did in early April, she again made a homemade mousse from scratch. This time she tried a recipe other than Julia Childs’. Tara actually liked it much better this time around. I have to admit, this one was lighter than the last. Delicious!

National Mousse Day

Categories: Dairy, Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

331/365: National Bavarian Cream Pie Day

If you’re a pie fan, you’ll enjoy today’s holiday Bavaria much. November 27 is National Bavarian Cream Pie Day!

The day before Thanksgiving isn’t ideal for celebrating a pie, but there’s nothing we can do about that pesky calendar. In a perfect world, we would at least be honoring pumpkin pie, but nope. That one’s coming up later in the year. On Christmas Day, as a matter of fact, which is going to be all sorts of fun because we traditionally have cheesecake that day. Ahh well, by then we’ll just have a few days left in the challenge, and will probably just be glad that it’s nearly over!

Bavarian cream is a gelatin-based pastry cream invented by Marie Antoine Carême, a legendary French chef (he’s a dude; don’t be fooled by that name) who is considered the forefather of haute cuisine and is often called “the chef of kings, and the king of chefs.” He was sort of the Gordon Ramsay of his day, I suppose, only minus a few thousand f-words. It was named after Bavaria, a state in Germany, of course. The first recipe in an American cookbook appeared in D.A. Lincoln’s Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking in 1884. Fannie Farmer got in on the action in 1896, with her own recipe. While Bavarian cream is delicious on its own, it has since become a popular pie filling that requires two hours of refrigeration and nothing more. Other than the ingredients, time, and labor used in preparing the cream itself and the pie crust, of course. But other than that – easy peasy!

To celebrate, I made a miniature pie, a trick I learned early this year. The Bavarian cream was a simple mixture of cream cheese, instant vanilla pudding mix, milk, and Cool Whip. I used refrigerated pie dough and lined a mini tin with that, baked it (in the toaster oven, no less) and topped with the Bavarian cream filling. It was surprisingly delicious!

Tara couldn’t resist digging into it with her fingers. 🙂

National Bavarian Cream Pie Day

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330/365: National Cake Day

Today’s food holiday is a piece of cake! Literally. November 26 is National Cake Day!

Hardly the first time this year we’ve celebrated cake. There have been cupcakes, shortcakes, spongecakes, pound cakes, angel food cakes, devil food cakes, applesauce cakes, cheesecakes, hazelnut cakes, coffee cakes, carrot cakes, and even – though this may be a stretch – pancakes. I haven’t done the math, but I think only pies have been better represented this year. Here’s a great chart I found detailing the history of many different types of cakes. Credit goes to a website called Foodbeast for this. Hey, at least I don’t have to type very much today!

caked-up-infographic

To celebrate, we shared a slice of lemon cake with vanilla frosting from the bakery at Fred Meyer. It was light, airy, and delicious!

National Cake Day

Categories: Desserts, Pastry | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

329/365: National Parfait Day

If you like to dress in layers, you might also be fond of eating in layers…and if that’s the case, today will be right up your alley. November 25 is National Parfait Day!

It’s also National Eat With a Friend Day. But without a specified food to share, we’re going to have to stick with parfait, even though we have already honored this sweet dessert twice – with chocolate parfait in May and strawberry parfait in June.  Both times previously we made our parfait from scratch, but since then discovered that one of our favorite local grocery markets (and sources for our challenge) carries fresh parfaits in their bakery section. Never ones to look a gift horse (or in this case, a gift parfait) in the mouth, I was keen on simply picking one up and celebrating that way. Thanks, WinCO, for making the third go-round on this particular challenge nice and easy! We had a rainbow parfait made with Jell-O and whipped cream.

National Parfait Day

Categories: Desserts | 2 Comments

317/365: National Indian Pudding Day

If today’s food holiday doesn’t sound at all native to you Americans, don’t be hasty: it’s actually a Colonial classic that dates back to the 17th century. November 13 is National Indian Pudding Day!

This holiday popped up earlier in the year, but it shared the date with National Orange Blossom Day, and this cocktail made with gin, vermouth, and orange juice sounded more appealing (and considerably easier to make), so we opted for that at the time. The drink actually didn’t impress us all that much, and then John – our East Coast Food Correspondent, as I dubbed him early on in our challenge, left the following comment.

Maybe after this year…. or even next year. And you can just eat what you want again, and not everyday is an elaborate food adventure, you should really try making Indian Pudding. It’s really good! Worth it down the road.

Needless to say, that intrigued us. I did not realize, at the time, that there would be another National Indian Pudding Day, so I’m kinda glad we had a second shot at this holiday – even if making it is an arduous process.

Indian pudding is a variation on British hasty pudding, a pudding or porridge of grains cooked in boiling milk or water; instead of wheat, it is made with cornmeal, which was indigenous to Native Americans (and its name, Indian meal, gave rise to the name Indian pudding). Colonialists added a sweetener such as molasses or maple syrup, spices (typically cinnamon and ginger), and other ingredients like butter, eggs, raisins, and nuts for flavor and texture. It was then baked in an oven for several hours, until the consistency was more custardy than porridge-like. It became a popular dessert during the cold New England winters, and was traditionally associated with Thanksgiving meals during the late 19th century. When commercial puddings hit the market in the 1900s, few home cooks bothered anymore with the laborious process of creating Indian pudding from scratch, and the dish basically disappeared from dinner tables.

There was no escaping the fact that this would be a time-consuming dessert to prepare, but we were ready for the challenge, and followed this recipe. The end result? Pretty interesting. The texture of the custard was grainy, but the flavors were delicious, and matched well with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. We both liked it, but agreed that we probably wouldn’t go to the trouble of making one again. No doubt, if it weren’t for the food challenge, this is one dish we would never have tried!

National Indian Pudding Day

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315/365: National Sundae Day

Sundae, bloody sundae. Again. I know you’re supposed to scream for ice cream, but when you’re on your third go-round celebrating the same food holiday, you’re more likely to want to scream in frustration instead. November 11 is National Sundae Day…

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good ice cream sundae. Of course I do. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there are so many other deserving foods that don’t have their own holiday yet, it seems unfair to simply regurgitate different variations of the same thing. Actually, I think I’m more irritated over the fact that I have nothing new to say, but feel like I’ve got a certain amount of white space to fill before I can hit “publish.” I watch that word count carefully, believe me! And since we’ve already done hot fudge sundaes and strawberry sundaes, well…

…same old dilemma.

Not to mention the fact that sundaes are much more enjoyable in the summer months. Not November. It’s like drinking hot chocolate in July. Who’d want to do that?

But I really shouldn’t complain. We’re entering the home stretch now. And really, I’m bellyaching because we have to eat an ice cream sundae?! Oh, woe is me. First world problems indeed. 🙂

So of course, we made sundaes. And we licked our spoons when we were finished.

National Sundae Day

Categories: Dairy, Desserts | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

314/365: National Vanilla Cupcake Day

If today’s a little frosty, well, that’s no real surprise. After all, it’s November 10. And National Vanilla Cupcake Day, to boot!

Cupcakes again, eh? It seems we’ve celebrated these a dozen times this year, but in reality, there has only really been one other day specifically devoted to cupcakes: October 18 (National Chocolate Cupcake Day). But there have been several cake holidays where we opted to make or buy cupcakes instead, just to save us the trouble (and calories) associated with leftovers. Click on the link for a history of what the British refer to as “fairy cakes.” By the way, one alternate explanation for the name cupcakes has to do with the fact that the ingredients are typically measured out in cups: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, one cup of milk. And four eggs and one spoonful of baking soda. Commit that ratio to memory, and you’ll be able to whip up homemade cupcakes wherever you go!

To celebrate, we stopped by Freddy’s on the way home and picked up some miniature vanilla cupcakes. Same kind we had on our chocolate cupcake day. These little bite-sized treats lent the perfect sweet finish to our dinner!

National Vanilla Cupcake Day

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296/365: National Boston Cream Pie Day*

Once you’ve finished pahking the cah at Hahvahd Yahd, settle in for a slice of today’s tasty treat. October 23 is National Boston Cream Pie Day!

It’s also National Canning Day. I’m not sure whether that means you’re supposed to can something today, or eat something that you’ve canned. I had a slice of toast with huckleberry jam I canned myself, so technically both food holidays are in the books today.

Many good things come from Boston. Cheers, the Red Sox, the original Tea Party – and the official dessert of Massachusetts, Boston Cream Pie (which is actually a cake and not a pie). It consists of two layers of spongecake filled with vanilla custard and topped with a chocolate glaze. It may also contain powdered sugar and a cherry, if your chef or bakery is particularly flamboyant. Boston Cream Pie was created by chef M. Sanzian at the Parker House Hotel  in 1856, when they first opened for business. The Parker House was the first hotel in Boston to feature hot and cold running water, an elevator, and a French chef with an initial for a first name. It’s also where Parker House soft dinner rolls were invented. This place has history! The dessert was originally called a Chocolate Cream Pie and, alternatively, a Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie. But it’s still not a pie, folks!! It is believed that the first Boston Cream Pie was baked in a pie tin, which at the time were more common than cake pans, and because it was cut into wedges, was called a pie. On December 12, 1996, a civics class from Norton High School broke into raucous celebration when the bill they sponsored – declaring Boston Cream Pie the official state dessert – was passed into law, beating out other candidates which included toll house cookies and  Indian pudding.

Unlike most of the food holidays we’ve celebrated this year, we’re taking today’s a little less literally (try saying that 5 times fast). Yoplait makes a Boston cream pie-flavored yogurt that actually does taste like the real thing. We figure, repurposing some of these foods makes for a more interesting interpretation. For instance, on National Almond Day, we added slivered almonds to a chicken teriyaki dish. Doesn’t get much more creative than that! Call it creative, call it lazy, whatever…today, we called it breakfast!

National Boston Cream Pie Day

Categories: Desserts, Pastry | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

294/365: National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day*

Today’s food holiday would make even a Jack-o-lantern smile: October 21 is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day!

It’s also International Day of the Nacho, but there’s a National Nacho Day coming up in a little over two weeks, so we’ll be honoring cheese-covered tortilla chips then. And some calendars list today as National Caramel Apple Day, but the majority say that one’s celebrated on Halloween, which seems pretty fitting to me. Today, it’s all about sinfully creamy and delicious pumpkin cheesecake.

Pumpkin cheesecake is a seasonal treat that takes the best of two desserts – pumpkin pie and cheesecake – and combines them into one heavenly treat. I’ve written about the history of cheesecake in previous posts, so follow the preceding link if you need to get caught up to speed. (The fact that stands out most to me: cheesecake was served to athletes during the first Olympics ceremony in ancient Greece. Interesting concept of “health food,” huh?). It’s unknown when the first pumpkin cheesecake was created, or who invented it, but I remember trying it for the first time about six years ago. Nowadays, it’s an autumn favorite at places like The Olive Garden.

Neither of us had ever made a cheesecake before, and neither of us wanted to make a whole cheesecake, you know? That’s a lot of high-calorie leftovers. Luckily, we were able to find individual slices at New Seasons Market. I have to give a shout-out to this local grocery chain that specializes in fresh, locally grown, organic, and specialty foods. They’ve been a lifesaver for a number of challenges (bagels and lox, cherry cheesecake, etc.) and often have hard-to-find food items we can’t get anywhere else. Once again, they came through for us! We shared a slice of pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake that was like the most decadent pumpkin pie ever…and then some!

National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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