Posts Tagged With: Baking and Confections

234/365: National Eat A Peach Day*

If you’re a lover of sweet and juicy summertime fruit, you’ll be quite keen for today’s holiday! August 22 is National Eat A Peach Day.

It’s also National Pecan Torte Day. But we just celebrated National Pecan Pie Day last month, and though a torte is technically more like a cake than a pie, it’s still close enough to give us a serious case of deja vu and want to branch out and try something new. Something not-desserty. So, a peach it is!

Think peaches, and chances are, Georgia pops into your head. But the fruit actually originated in China, where it was a favorite of emperors and kings, and dates back to 2000 B.C. Cultivation spread throughout Persia and Greece, and when Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he introduced the fruit to Europe, where it quickly gained favor, especially with Romans. Archaeologists digging through the remains of towns decimated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. found wall paintings depicting peach trees (along with the curious discovery of Kilroy was here in spray paint). Spanish explorers brought peaches to England and France in the 17th century, where they became valuable and expensive treats. English horticulturist George Minifie brought the first peaches to the North American colonies in the early 17th century, planting them at his Virginia estate. Commercial production began some 200 years later, centered in Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, and Virginia. Peach trees are kind of finicky; they require both cool winter temperatures for proper chilling, and intense summer heat to mature the crop. For this reason, their range is fairly limited.

Peaches and nectarines are the same species, though they are considered different fruit. The fuzzy skin of the peach is dominant, while the smooth skin of the nectarine is the result of a recessive gene.

I love both fruits, and was eager to celebrate today’s holiday – especially since fresh peaches are very much in season right now. If I had my little way, I’d eat peaches every day!

Celebrating this holiday was a breeze, but I’m a little bummed out. Last week I had fresh peaches from the farmer’s market, and they were amazing: perfectly sweet and juicy, just the right consistency. Since we were out of town last weekend we couldn’t make a trip to the farmer’s market, so we settled on peaches from the grocery store. Which paled in comparison. If you ever think farmer’s markets are “too expensive” (hi, dad!), I’m telling you, the little bit extra you’re paying is well worth it. You get quality produce and are supporting the local community.

National Eat A Peach Day

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216/365: National Chocolate Chip Day

You’re like a chip off the old block if you appreciate today’s food holiday. August 4 is National Chocolate Chip Day!

At least, I think it is. Don’t you just love discrepancy? I originally had today listed as National Lasagna Day, and while a few websites concur, most showed that on July 29, so we celebrated it then. Which left the “real” food holiday for August 4…umm, a bit of a mystery. Occasionally, we’ll come across a day where consensus is lacking, or there just isn’t a lot of information. Today is like that. But several sources list it as National Chocolate Chip Day, which is good enough for me! (Further confusing matters: May 15 is/was either National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day or National Chocolate Chip Day, depending on whom you believe). Sheesh. Can you pass the Excedrin?20130804_094949

I discussed how chocolate chips were invented in my previous post in May, so we won’t rehash that. The fact is, I’m loathe to rehash anything we have to celebrate twice, but when it comes to chocolate chips, it’s hard to think of making anything else with them but cookies. Still, a quick online search netted some rather unusual chocolate chip recipes. The non-adventurous need not apply.

20130804_100002We were fresh out of crickets, so to celebrate, we decided to make banana bread with chocolate chips. Since Tara did all the work, I’ll let her talk about the recipe…and also her super cool new mixer!

Hi there!  My recipe is there on the left.
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As you can tell from all the splatters, this page sees a lot of use.  The recipe is from a Fanny Farmer cookbook that was given to me on my 18th birthday.  The cover is long gone, one corner is chewed up from one of my dogs, there are lots of scrap pieces of paper used for bookmarks, along with quite a few bent corners.

My super cool mixer was purchased yesterday at the local Value Village thrift store.  We had a few items to donate and decided to take a quick look inside.  I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it and wide-eyedly asked Mark if I should get it.  A little bit of hopeful expectation in my tone of voice.  He said absolutely and suggested I plug it in to make sure it worked.  It did…and does wonderfully.  It’s a Sunbeam Deluxe Mixmaster Mixer, circa 1975, and a steal at $24.99.  I have a feeling this is going to be a staple in our cooking from now on.

National Chocolate Chip Day

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190/365: National Sugar Cookie Day

Is today’s food holiday sweet? You’d butter believe it! July 9 is National Sugar Cookie Day.

While chocolate chip cookies may be more popular, sugar cookies have a long and rich history dating back hundreds of years. Cookies themselves are believed to have originated from small batter cakes that Persian bakers used to test the temperature of their ovens around the 7th century before committing to baking an entire cake. Rather than throw these often hardened scraps away, they were sold as miniature cakes, and quickly caught on in popularity. Because texting hadn’t been invented yet, it would take nearly 1000 years for word of these treats to spread to Europe. “Sugar cookies” is a boring name considering some of the early monikers for this cookie, which included jumbles, crybabies, plunkets, gemmels, gimblettes, and cimbellines. The name may have varied, but the main ingredient remained the same: chocolate.

Kidding. The main ingredient in a sugar cookie is sugar.

Depending on how fine the granules are, sugar cookies can be either thin and crispy, or plump and chewy. They are one of the simplest cookies to make and, despite a lack of fancy ingredients, one of the tastiest…at least in my opinion.

We picked up some sugar cookies with frosting. That’s right. We like to kick things up a notch whenever possible!

National Sugar Cookie Day

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186/365: National Apple Turnover Day

You’re going to flip over today’s food holiday. The 5th of July is National Apple Turnover Day!

A turnover is nothing more than a portable pie – one that you can take with you wherever you go. How convenient is that? They date back to the end of the 18th Century; in 1798, the Oxford English Dictionary defined them as A kind of tart in which the fruit is laid on one half of the rolled out paste, and the other half turned over it. Turnovers can be either sweet or savory; that same year, Sporting Magazine wrote, It is occasionally used for savoury fillings, such as meat, but a sweet fruit filling is the norm, and…most turnovers are in fact apple turnovers. Alright, then. Most recipes call for tart apples like Granny Smiths, which help to offset the sweetness of the other ingredients. As for the dough, it can be made from homemade or store bought pie or puff pastry, depending on how lazy (or talented) you are.

To celebrate, we picked up some apple turnovers from the Fred Meyer bakery. They were flaky, fruity, and worthy of celebration!

IMAG1057

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

157/365: National Applesauce Cake Day

Today we’ve got a golden delicious treat for you: June 6 is National Applesauce Cake Day!

Cake has been around for eons, and applesauce dates back to the Middle Ages. But the two never co-mingled until fairly recently: during World War I, when a shady sugar shortage shocked the country. Cooks were urged to display patriotism by substituting applesauce for the sugar that cake recipes called for. The concept wasn’t entirely unheard of; Medieval European fruitcakes sometimes called for fresh or dried apples. Applesauce adds sweet flavor to a cake and makes it impressively moist. The cakes grew in popularity through the 1920s and 30s, before falling off the radar for a while. They were rediscovered in the health-conscious 90s, and seen as a healthier, low-cholesterol and low-fat alternative to a traditional cake. They are typically spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and make a perfect autumn treat.

But it’s June.

Nevertheless, we soldiered on (pun intended) and completed our challenge. We kept it simple with a yellow Duncan Hines cake mix and chocolate frosting. When you substitute applesauce for oil, you keep a 1:1 ratio, so it was easy enough to switch that out. Oh, and the cool thing is, last fall Tara and I went out to Hood River for bushels of fresh apples, and I made homemade applesauce. That’s what I used in the recipe, so in that sense, the cake is sort of “from scratch” too. And I have to admit, it turned out tasting pretty good! Just a hint of cinnamon-y spice.

Applesauce Cake

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139/365: National Devil’s Food Cake Day

Today is one hell of a delicious food holiday. May 19 is National Devil’s Food Cake Day!

Devil’s food cake is a moist and rich chocolate layer cake that was created in the late 19th century. Its name was a sarcastic response to angel food cake, which was the complete opposite: light (both in color and texture) and airy. Interestingly, devil’s food cake was originally more like a red velvet cake. It was actually dyed with red food coloring and topped with white frosting. It didn’t become the sinful chocolate dessert we associate it with until the 1970s. In fact, in many turn of the century cookbooks, the names are used interchangeably. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel claims to have invented devil’s food cake, but has been unable to back up this claim with any proof other than “we did, too!” They still serve a red velvet cake similar to the original devil’s food cake recipe.

Nowadays, what distinguishes devil’s food cake is its decadent chocolateness. (My computer says “chocolateness” is not a word. I’m using it anyway). Typical recipes call for cocoa and, sometimes, coffee. It is usually frosted in chocolate, as well.

We had a long drive home and a busy afternoon, so there were no fancy made-from-scratch cakes today. But that’s why they invented Duncan Hines, right?

Devil's Food Cake

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97/365: National Coffee Cake Day

Pour yourself a hot cup of joe, dish up a pastry, and celebrate today’s food holiday before morning gives way to afternoon. April 7 is National Coffee Cake Day!

Coffee cake isn’t an invention so much as an evolution. Any sweet cake meant to be eaten for breakfast and paired with coffee is considered a coffee cake. It may also be eaten on a coffee break, or served to guests on a coffee table. Bonus points if it’s dished up by psychic, medium, and spiritual counselor Chip Coffey. The Danish were the first to come up with the idea of eating cake for breakfast, alongside coffee. Funny, you’d think they’d prefer a danish instead. Most coffee cakes are single layers, square or rectangular, and many feature a crumb-like topping. They often contain fruit, nuts, and cinnamon. Contrary to the name, they do not taste like coffee. Unless, of course, you dip them in coffee. In which case, yes – they taste very much like coffee. Scandinavian, German, and Dutch immigrants brought their favorite coffee cake recipes to America, where early Colonialists often took a break from killing indians to indulge in a delicious, sweet coffee cake and a steaming hot mug of java before it got too hot for murder.

Fortunately, coffee cake is pretty simple to find, even when you’re traveling. Virtually any convenience store in America is going to have it. We picked up a marionberry (no relation to the disgraced former mayor of Washington D.C.) coffee cake from the Fred Meyer in Bothell, and enjoyed that as part of a delicious homemade breakfast.

Marionberry Coffee Cake

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

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