Pastry

National Chocolate Éclair Day

I do d’éclair, today’s food holiday is very rich and very sweet. Just like the citizens of its country of origin. June 22 is National Chocolate Éclair Day!

Last year on this date we celebrated onion rings. The summer months were full of sweets, and we jumped at the chance to indulge in something savory instead. Which is not to say we don’t love chocolate éclairs. After all…who wouldn’t?

Éclair is the French word for lightning. There are two theories over how it got its name: either because of the way it “sparkles” when confectioner’s glaze is sprinkled over the top, or the fact that it is so delicious it’s eaten quickly (in a “flash”). If that second fact were true, we might be calling pizza an éclair instead, so I’m not sure about that. The original name was pain à la duchesse, but this was a pain à la ass to say, so in 1850 it became simply an éclair. As with many foods, we don’t know exactly who invented the dessert, though many speculate it was the brainchild of Marie-Antoine Carême, a well-known pastry chef in France around the turn of the nineteenth century. A true éclair is a long, thin pastry made with choux dough, filled with cream or custard and topped with icing. There are many different flavors of cream and icing that can be used, but the most common one, at least in these parts, is filled with a vanilla cream and topped with chocolate icing. Hence, the name of the holiday. In some parts of the country éclairs are called “long johns,” but the only long johns I know are worn in the frigid winter months to protect your legs from freezing.

I was buying fresh produce from a market across the street today, and picked up an éclair from their bakery section. As you can imagine, it was all kinds of awesome.

National Chocolate Eclair Day

 

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

349/365: National Lemon Cupcake Day

Pucker up, baby! Today’s celebrated food is a little bit sweet, a little bit tart…and a whole lot delicious. December 15 is National Lemon Cupcake Day!

We’ve had multiple cupcake holidays this year, and on other occasions, have substituted cupcakes for cakes, saving us both calories and money. So we feel like we have paid due tribute to these small, individual cakes that – true to their name – really could be served in cups, if so desired. Most cupcakes tend to be very sweet, but I’ve always found the presence of lemon in baked goods to be a nice, light, tangy contrast to all that sugar. It’s no surprise that my favorite type of cake is lemon.

Not much else to say that hasn’t already been discussed elsewhere, so let’s just dive in! Tara made these from scratch. They were moist and delicious!

National Lemon Cupcake Day

Categories: Desserts, Pastry | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

343/365: National Pastry Day

You’ll need some serious dough in order to celebrate today’s food holiday. December 9 is National Pastry Day!

And if that doesn’t translate to a holiday that is wide open to interpretation, I don’t know what does! Pastries refer to various kinds of baked products made from ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder, and eggs. Small tarts and other sweet baked products are referred to as pastries. Alternatively, pastry may refer to the dough from which these baked products are made. Pies, quiches, and pasties all fall under this definition.

One thing we can agree on: pastries date back to ancient times. As far back as 2600 B.C., Egyptians were making pastries out of flour and honey, and dipping them in wine. As the recipe spread through the Mediterranean, the Romans, Greeks, and Phoenicians all made pastries out of filo dough. Pastry making became a skilled art in 16th and 17th century Europe, with a diverse array of types ranging from pastéis de nata in the west to pirozhky in the east.

To celebrate, we picked up some miniature cheese danishes and had one for breakfast. They were the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee!

National Pastry Day

Categories: Pastry | 1 Comment

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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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

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321/365: National Baklava Day*

If you know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em, you’re halfway to enjoying today’s food holiday already. November 17 is National Baklava Day!

It’s also National Homemade Bread Day. A tempting holiday to celebrate, especially given the fact that Tara makes a really good beer bread from scratch that I can never seem to get enough of. But baklava is more exotic, and with our food challenge rapidly winding down – seriously, only 44 days left! – we want to take advantage of some of the more unique foods we might not otherwise eat again for a long time. Or ever. So, baklava it is.

This classic Mediterranean dessert is made with layers of phyllo dough, nuts, butter, and sugar, and topped with syrup or honey. Assyrians have been baking similar sweet layered pastries since the 8th century B.C., though the exact origin of baklava itself is in dispute. Even the name itself is a mystery. It may come from the Mongolian root baγla meaning “to tie, wrap up, pile up” while baklağı and baklağu point to possible Turkish roots. Indeed, the oldest known recipe was found in a food and health manual printed in Turkey in 1330. Other claims include a Mesopotamian, Persian, or Byzantine background. This is just one of those foods that we’ll never really know for sure how or why it came about, but we can be thankful for because it’s so stinkin’ good regardless.

I searched for “baklava” and “Portland” on Yelp and got a bunch of good hits. After skimming through the reviews, we settled on a Greek deli called Ozzie’s. Grabbed some gyros for lunch on Saturday, and brought back baklava. It was wonderful – crispy, chewy, and sweet.

National Baklava Day

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309/365: National Doughnut Appreciation Day

You want the truth, the hole truth, and nothing but the truth? November 5 is National Doughnut Appreciation Day!

Some calendars list it as simply National Doughnut Day, but research shows this floating holiday is typically the first Friday in June, and landed on the 7th this year. What did we celebrate on June 7th? Chocolate ice cream, as a matter of fact. Because we had National Jelly Filled Doughnut Day the very next day! No doubt, we’ve celebrated doughnuts several times this year, most notably on our wedding day.  But there’s always room for one more doughnut holiday, right?

I’ll always have a soft spot for doughnuts…not just because they’re delicious, but because they were the inspiration for this food challenge in the first place. ‘Twas one of the doughnut holidays (I can’t remember which exactly, but I do think it was fall, if I remember correctly) when I was driving to work and the DJ announced it was National Whatever Doughnut Day. When I arrived at the office, somebody had brought in doughnuts. How cool! I thought. I wonder how many other food holidays exist? I laugh over my naivety now. The answer, my friends, is right here in this blog. MANY. LOTS. HUNDREDS. At least one for every day of the year. Sometimes, two or more. We have celebrated over 300 ourselves to date, with over 50 to go yet.

And it all started with doughnuts.

In order to appreciate doughnuts, we stopped by Tonalli’s Donuts Plus, just down the road from our townhouse. They’re one of the better doughnut places in the Portland metro area, and sure enough, did not disappoint.

National Doughnut Appreciation 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

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291/365: National Chocolate Cupcake Day

Today’s a sweet holiday if you’re a party of one. October 18 is National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

Cupcakes are miniature cakes designed to serve one person. In other words, they’re a marvel of modern baking! They are baked in thin paper cups or an aluminum muffin pan. Cupcakes were first mentioned in 1796 in Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery cookbook; one recipe called for “a cake to be baked in small cups.” They were originally baked in individual ramekins or molds, such as tea cups, from where they took their name. In England, they were (and still are) called fairy cakes due to their diminutive size (they tend to be smaller than American cupcakes). Australians refer to them as patty cakes. Cupcakes have been popular for decades, but in the past few years have become especially trendy thanks to Americans’ thirst for nostalgia, and their appearance on the popular television show Sex And The City. Which I’ve never seen, because I’m a guy, even though it’s got the word “sex” in the title. I’ll just trust that cupcakes played a role and move right along.

To celebrate, we picked up some two-bite miniature chocolate cupcakes from WinCo. They made a perfect after dinner palate cleanser!

National Chocolate Cupcake Day

Categories: Desserts, Pastry | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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