Pastry

286/365: National Yorkshire Pudding Day

You’ll want to pop over to the oven and bake up a fresh batch of today’s celebrated food. October 13th is National Yorkshire Pudding Day!

We’ve already celebrated this holiday twice. Sort of. American popovers are basically identical to Yorkshire pudding, and we’ve made them with blueberries and cherries. Both times, they were delicious. But the dish is native to England, so this is our chance to pay homage to our friends across the pond. The first recipe appeared in The Whole Duty of a Woman, published in 1737; this feminist manifesto was a guide for women, teaching them how to behave around men, among other topics. Because women belonged in the kitchen, recipes were included, such as a “dripping pudding” featuring a pancake-like batter. Ten years later Hannah Glasse – sort of a Victorian era Martha Stewart, if you will – published her own recipe in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple, renaming the dish Yorkshire pudding. It became a British staple, traditionally served alongside a Sunday roast, where it was used to scoop up gravy for the meat. In 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry declared, “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.” Many a London housewife has since been surprised by a ruler-yielding intruder in the kitchen who hands out citations for those puddings that don’t rise to tall enough heights.

I wanted to celebrate with a whole ode to the English Sunday roast. It was too perfect not to, considering that this holiday actually happens to land on a Sunday this year, so that’s exactly what we did. Roast beef, mashed potatoes, salad…and Yorkshire pudding for scooping up the gravy. I’ve gotta hand it to those Brits: they’re onto something. The Yorkshire pudding was bloody good, mate!

National Yorkshire Pudding Day

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260/365: National Apple Dumpling Day

We’re going to have to gang up on you if you don’t help us celebrate today’s food challenge. September 17 is National Apple Dumpling Day!

Whenever I think of apple dumplings, my thought automatically turn to The Apple Dumpling Gang, a 1975 movie starring Bill Bixby, Don Knotts, and Tim Conway. I don’t remember much about it, other than the fact that it features stagecoaches, gold, and orphans.

The original Apple Dumpling Gang.

The original Apple Dumpling Gang.

Apple dumplings aren’t traditional “dumplings” in the sense that they aren’t boiled – though apparently, the original recipe for apple dumplings (credited to Susannah Carter) actually did call for boiling. Apple dumplings are a Northeastern U.S. invention closely associated with the Amish, which means in order to properly enjoy them, they should be consumed by the light of a kerosene lamp. Apples are peeled and cored and placed on a portion of dough. The hollowed-out center is then filled with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, and the pastry is sealed. They are then baked until tender. This sounded both tasty and intriguing, so we decided to go ahead and make our own using this recipe from allrecipes.com.

The result? Well, they were a little overcooked. The apple inside the pastry was delicious, but the sauce caramelized and was too hard to really enjoy. I think with a little less baking time, these would have been really good.

National Apple Dumpling Day

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257/365: National Cream Filled Doughnut Day

Here comes the bride, all dressed in…well, not white. It’s a second marriage for us both, and we’re going very casual. September 14 is Mark and Tara’s wedding day! And, since this is a food blog and it ought to be pointed out, National Cream Filled Doughnut Day, as well.

Not all doughnuts contain holes, and it’s a good thing; otherwise, it might never occurred to some intrepid baker (or technically, fryer) to fill a doughnut with cream. I’m not going to go into a lot of doughnut history today – busy getting married and all – but I’ll leave you with a few interesting facts. In the U.S., 10 billion doughnuts are made every year…but Canada has more doughnut shops per capita. Nobody knows exactly where doughnuts originated, but many historians credit Dutch immigrants for bringing their olykoeks (“oily cakes”) to the U.S. in the 1800s.

Busy as we were today, we made time to not only celebrate today’s food holiday, but incorporate it into our wedding. Since our theme is casual and quirky – I wore a tuxedo t-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops – we stopped by Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnut to pick up cream-filled doughnuts in lieu of a cake. This doughnut shop is a must-stop tourist destination and there are long lines snaking around the side of the building at all hours of the day and night. They are known for their unusual doughnut flavors, such as the Bacon Maple Bar; others are topped with Fruit Loops, Cap’n Crunch, Oreos, Tang, and bubble gum dust, to name just a few. We negotiated in advance to get some heart-shaped doughnuts for the occasion. And then, when we went to pick up our order…they had no record of it.

But they went above and beyond to accommodate us, made up for their mistake, and only charged us for 2 doughnuts. Cheapest wedding “cake” ever!

National Cream Filled Doughnut Day

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254/365: National Hot Cross Bun Day

Today’s celebration may cost you one a penny, two a penny, or – with inflation – most likely a bit more. September 11 is National Hot Cross Bun Day!

Why this religiously significant meal is celebrated in September is beyond me. It’s usually eaten on Good Friday, but I suppose since that date fluctuates widely every year, 9/11 is as good a day as any. These small, toasted buns are decorated with a cross made of white icing to celebrate the Crucifixion. The ancient Greeks were the first ones to mark cakes with a cross, and the Saxons did the same to honor the goddess Eostre (most likely where the word Easter was derived). There are many superstitions surrounding Hot Cross Buns, including:IMAG1472

  • Sharing a hot cross bun with somebody else will ensure friendship throughout the year, especially if you say “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” at the time.
  • Hot cross buns baked or served on Good Friday will not spoil or mold during the following year.
  • Giving somebody who is ill a piece of a hot cross bun will help them recover.
  • Hanging a hot cross bun in  your kitchen will protect it from fire and will make all your breads rise perfectly.
  • Taking a hot cross bun on a sea voyage will prevent a shipwreck.
  • Because there is a cross on the buns, some people believe they should be kissed prior to eating.

Interesting! We were all ready to bake our own hot cross buns from scratch; we even dragged out the bread machine and put it on the counter. And then, my mom called. “Guess what I found in the freezer? A package of hot cross buns!” How fortuitous. She had purchased these from Safeway right before Easter – of course, because that’s when they’re traditionally eaten – and for some inexplicable reason tucked them into the freezer and forgot about them. Her oversight benefitted us, though. We went over for dinner tonight, and for dessert, had the hot cross buns. These were topped with lemon, which I had never seen before, but still pretty good.

IMAG1470

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244/365: National Cherry Popover Day

Pop on over to the oven today and bake up today’s tasty, puffy treat. September 1 is National Cherry Popover Day!

On a personal note, September is going to be an exciting and busy month for us. Tara and I are getting married on the 14th, and two weeks later, I’ve got a work commitment involving a four-day symposium that will keep me away from home for a significant portion of time. But we’ve come this far, and I’m sure we’ll persevere and cross another successful month off our list in 30 days, despite the other challenges headed our way.

We were excited for this holiday, because earlier in the year we celebrated National Blueberry Popover Day, and were pleased with the results. Not only did I bake them from scratch (a feat in itself, as I rarely baked anything at the start of this challenge), but they turned out fluffy, moist, and delicious. Popovers are the American equivalent of Yorkshire pudding. I talked about that (and a lot more) in our earlier post, so click on the link if you want to read up on the history of the popover.

Once again, we decided to make these from scratch. We used the same recipe as before, but substituted (canned) cherries for the blueberries. They turned out just as good!

National Cherry Popover Day

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240/365: National Cherry Turnover Day

No need to toss and turn trying to decide what to eat today. August 28 is National Cherry Turnover Day!

Turnovers are essentially portable pies filled with sweet or savory ingredients. I talked about their history when we had apple turnovers in July, so click the link for a refresher course. Pasties are considered another form of turnover. I’ll remember that the next time I hit a gentleman’s club. Empanadas and spring rolls are also closely related (but not nearly as interesting, as they have nothing to do with strippers).

Cherry turnovers are traditionally made with puff pastry stuffed with a cherry filling and baked until they are golden brown. And, at some point, presumably turned over.

Cutting right to the chase, we grabbed some cherry turnovers from the grocery store. You know how they say Wheaties is “the breakfast of champions”? Wrong. It’s cherry turnovers and coffee. 

National Cherry Turnover Day

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192/365: National Blueberry Muffin Day

There’s a song that goes “you ain’t seen nothin’ ’til you’re down on a muffin,” and while I doubt very much that Steven Tyler was singing about pastries, we’ll just go ahead and “dream on” today. July 11 is National Blueberry Muffin Day!

Muffins are semi-sweet cakes or quick breads that are baked in individual portion sizes. Today’s “American style” muffins are made without yeast and have been popular since the end of the 18th century, but “English” muffins – made with yeast – date back much further, to the 10th or 11th century, where they originated in Wales and were cooked on a griddle. Muffin rings were used to shape English muffins, while muffin tins are used as molds to shape American-style muffins. Cupcakes, which are like muffins’ sweeter cousin, appeared soon after, around 1828.

Blueberries are one of the most common muffin ingredients; their juicy tartness is the perfect foil for the sweet muffin batter. Plus, they’re tiny enough to fit easily inside an individual muffin. Try sticking an apple or a pear in a muffin – ha! Bet’cha can’t do it. Blueberries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, low in calories, and taste friggin’ delicious, too. Minnesota knows: they made the blueberry muffin their official state muffin in 1988, leaving Massachusetts to grumble over their choice, the corn muffin. (“What were we thinking?!”). They can still pahk the cah and grab some blueberry muffins from the corner Piggly Wiggly, I’m sure.

Which is exactly what we did. Only there are no Piggly Wigglys out here, but there are coffee shops galore. Starbucks it was!

National Blueberry Muffin Day

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165/365: National Strawberry Shortcake Day

Today we celebrate a redheaded doll and her cat, Custard!

Oopsie. Scratch that. We celebrate a dessert, not a cartoon character. June 14 is Flag Day…and it’s also National Strawberry Shortcake Day! And how fitting, because few dishes are as American as strawberry shortcake.

Shortcake is named for the butter, or shortening, added to dough to soften it up. It’s actually a European invention that dates to the 16th century. And even though strawberries were enjoyed in ancient Rome, putting the two ingredients together was an American concept that occurred in the 1840s. When transcontinental railroads were built during that decade, strawberries – which before had only a limited local following – were shipped all over the U.S., and became an extremely popular summertime fruit. An early American colonist was quoted as saying, “Doubtless the almighty COULD make a better berry, but doubtless he never did.” The first strawberry shortcake recipe was printed in Eliza Leslie’s 1847 cookbook Lady’s Receipt Book: A Useful Companion for Large or Small Families. Soon, strawberry shortcake parties became all the rage as a celebration of summer’s approach. This recipe has stood the test of time, and remains popular to this day.

Tara and I met up for lunch at Burgerville, which sells fresh, seasonal, individual strawberry shortcakes. We split one, and wow, was it good!

Coming tomorrow: we asked, and you shared. Our readers describe their klutziest kitchen moments ever. Stay tuned!

National Strawberry Shortcake Day

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162/365: National German Chocolate Cake Day

Don’t even think about saying auf weidersehen without trying a slice of today’s celebrated food. June 11 is National German Chocolate Cake Day!

Despite the name, this cake has no ties to Germany whatsoever. It’s actually an American cake consisting of chocolate layers and topped with a coconut-pecan frosting. In 1852 Sam German, a chocolate maker, developed a dark baking chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company. It was named Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate and was a popular ingredient in cakes. It would take another century for the cake we recognize today to catch on; in 1957 the Dallas Morning Star printed a cake recipe submitted by Mrs. George Clay using the baking chocolate and a sweet coconut-pecan topping. Called German’s Chocolate Cake, the pastry was an immediate hit. General Foods, which now owned Baker’s Chocolate, distributed the recipe to newspapers across the country, dropping the possessive (‘s) and renaming it German Chocolate Cake. Baker’s Chocolate saw sales increase by 73%, and the cake became a nationwide staple.

Next you’re going to tell me french fries aren’t really from France.

Anyway, I’ve always been a big fan of German Chocolate Cake, and used to request it for my birthday, so I was certainly not complaining about “having to” celebrate this food holiday. German chocolate cake is notoriously difficult to make from scratch – eggs need to be separated and beaten, chocolate needs to be melted – so we took the easy way out and used a dark chocolate cake mix and coconut/pecan frosting. You know what? It still tasted pretty good! Even if it isn’t really German engineered.

National German Chocolate Cake Day

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160/365: National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day

Today we’re enjoying something a little bit sweet, a little tart, and closely associated with summer. June 9 is National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day!

I’ve already talked about the kajillion and one pie holidays celebrated this year (20, to be exact). For some of these we’ve taken the easy way out. But, I promised that when June rolled around, I would make a strawberry-rhubarb pie from scratch. And I had every intention of doing so. Until I happened upon a strawberry-rhubarb pie at the grocery store for $2.99. Adding up the cost of the ingredients I’d need – fresh strawberries and rhubarb, flour, sugar, etc. – not to mention the time and labor involved – and I quickly realized that I’d be a fool to pass up the $2.99 all-the-work-is-already-done-pie from Fred Meyer.

I’ve already talked about the history of pie and discussed strawberries, so let’s delve into rhubarb, shall we? It’s such an interesting food: a giant celery-like stalk that is really, really sour. It’s actually a vegetable that originated in China, where it was used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and was brought to the U.S. by Benjamin Franklin, the same dude-who-was-inexplicably-never-President-but-played-a-huge-role-in-American-history. It’s a member of the buckwheat family, but you have to be careful with it: only the stalk is edible. The leaves and roots are poisonous and should be avoided. Typically, the stalks are cut into pieces and stewed with sugar, then used for cooking in dishes like…well, pies. I don’t think I’ve ever had rhubarb any other way. It matches well with strawberries because the sweetness and tartness balance each other out.

In case you’re wondering how the grocery store strawberry-rhubarb pie tasted, it was pretty good! I suppose homemade would have been better, but I’ll just have to save that for a future pie day. We have a few left, you know. Pumpkin pie, for sure…mark my words.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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