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Saturday
Jul172010

Ask CakeSpy: How Are Oreos Made?

Best use of Oreos: as a s'mores base!Dear CakeSpy,

First off, I'd like to suggest that you start a column called "Ask CakeSpy". First question: How are oreos made? I've been contemplating this for a while.

Sweetly Inquisitive in Santa Cruz

- - - - - - - -

Dear Sweetly Inquisitive,

Do you want the short answer or the long one? How 'bout both?

As for the actual production process, no, they're not made from the leftover bits of other cookies, as one urban legend would have you believe. As I discovered,

According to a statement from Kim McMiller, an Associate Director of Consumer Relations, a two-stage process is used to make Oreo cookies. The base cake dough is formed into the familiar round cookies by a rotary mold at the entrance of a 300-foot-long oven. Much of current Oreo production is done at the Kraft/Nabisco factory in Richmond, Virginia. 

and also, as for the design, it is "stamped out by brass rollers passing over sheets of chocolate dough". (source: NY Times)

However, if you want to get a little more philosophical about how it is that Oreos came to exist, well, let's touch on that too. 

When was it invented? The Oreo, which was originally known as the Oreo Biscuit, made its debut in 1912 from the Nabisco Company in NYC (now the site of the Chelsea Market, btw).

Where does the name come from? Per Wikipedia,

Oreo comes from the Greek root for appetizing as in orexin or orexigenic (appetite stimulating) or anorexic (loss of appetite). There are many theories pointing to the origin of the name 'Oreo', including derivations from the French word 'Or', meaning gold (as early packaging was gold), or the Greek word 'Oros', meaning mountain or hill (as the original Oreo was mound shaped) or even the Greek word 'Oreo', meaning beautiful or nice. Other theories are that the 're' from cream was 'sandwiched' between the two Os from cookie, or the word 'just seemed like a nice, melodic combination of sounds'. A TV spot for the Got Milk? campaign showed a false etymology where, when at a board meeting to decide the name of the cookie, one of the members is asked for his opinion; the member, who just ate a cookie and does not have any milk to wash it down responds "I don't know," which is heard by the board member as "Oreo."

Why and how was it made? Some say that the cookie was developed to sell to the British market, whose cookies (biscuits, to them) were seen by Nabisco to be too humdrum. Originally, Oreo was mound-shaped (perhaps not unlike the cakester?) and available in lemon meringue and cream flavors. They were originally sold in novelty tin cans with glass tops, allowing customers to see the cookies. But, as I learned here, the recipe was changed before they became the oreos we know today:

A newer design for the cookie was introduced in 1916, and as the cream filling was by far the more popular of the two available flavors, Nabisco discontinued production of the lemon meringue filling during the 1920s. The modern-day Oreo was developed in 1952 by William A Turnier, to include the Nabisco logo.TKO: That's French for "Expensive Oreo".

A couple of other facts worth mentioning: 

  • If your mom, like my mom, insisted that Hydrox were "just as good", maybe you should have believed her: apparently, Hydrox cookies, which I'd always assumed to be an Oreo ripoff, were actually invented in 1908--before the Oreo (!).
  • The original Oreo cookies were made with lard in the cream filling; these days, it's made with vegetable oils, or, in some countries, coconut oil.
  • How did I miss this? Banana Split Creme Oreos were available for a limited time in 2008, consisting of cream with a light yellow color and banana flavor.
  • Knew it! Vending machine packs of Oreo cookies from vending machine 6-packs are smaller diameter Oreo cookies with about 10% less mass than regular Oreo cookies.
  • There was a Post cereal called Oreo O's. The cereal was discontinued in 2007.
  • Oreo is on YouTube. No, really.
  • At fancy bakery Bouchon, there is a fancy version of the Oreo called the TKO, "reinterpreted using...chocolate sable dough and a sweet white chocolate ganache filling." One cookie costs about as much as an entire bag of Oreos. I've totally bought one and had no regrets.
  • There is a place in New York called Oreo Way. It’s on 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th streets and was the site of the first Nabisco factory.
  • Oreos are a great s'more base. S'moreos!

Want more? Visit the Wikipedia page on Oreos, or the official Oreo website--you'll also find more on the European Oreo site. You'll also find plenty of lore on The Food Timeline. Got a pressing cake or sweet-related question? Email cakegumshoe@gmail.com!

Friday
Jul162010

Sweet Art: A Masterpiece by an 8-year Old

What else can be said? The force is strong in this one.  (thanks to Denise for sharing!)

Friday
Jul162010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Totally sweet! It's friday! Fire up Facebook, click on these links, and while away the work day, sweetly! (I won't tell your boss, promise.)

Cake Revival: In Los Angeles, almost-extinct desserts get new life.

Sweet cream: Jeni's Ice Creams are "the best I've ever tasted" says Cake Gumshoe Margaret, who says her favorite is the salty caramel.

Sweet fancy: here's a reason to wish you were in Chicago right now: The Baked Escape.

More sweet TV: DC Cupcakes is coming to TLC!

Cream Cheese and Paula Deen: They're teaming up to help us get fat with a $500 per day recipe giveaway starting July 19!

Best Book Tour Ever: Jennifer Weiner is doing a book tour for her newest novel, and at each reading, there will be cupcakes from a local cupcakery (including Love at First Bite in Berkeley, Sprinkles in Los Angeles, Betty's Tasty Buttons in Philadelphia, and Society Bakery in Dallas!).

Ice Cream Sundae Brownies? I love you, Picky Palate.

Toffee? Pretzels? Beer? Why decide? In Chicago, a confectioner combines all three. (via NY Times)

Whoopie! If you're in Seattle, you're in for a treat, with the upcoming Whoopie Pie Bake-Off at Oddfellows Cafe.

What did you do over your summer vacation? In the Seattle area, an 11 year old is making cupcakes (and bank!). (Thanks Suzette for the tip!)

Sweet sisterhood: new show DC Cupcakes is hosting a blog essay-contest giveaway.

Pie Irons. Yeah! In double, square, and round. Thanks to Kristin at Meringue Bake Shop for the tip-off!

Sweet Memories: Remember the CupShake?

Thursday
Jul152010

CLOSED: Cake Byte and Giveaway: Cupcake Plates by Michelle Miller Now Available at CakeSpy Shop!

Cake plates are awfully pretty...

...but cupcake plates are freaking adorable.

And why not put it on a pedestal? It's like a shrine to the sweetest type of experience there is, the cupcake: a treat you don't have to share with anyone else.

And now, the cutest individual cupcake plates in the world, made by the super-talented Michelle Miller, are available at CakeSpy Shop (both online and in the retail store!).

Giveaway Alert!! One lucky reader will win one of these plates, in a sweet summery light green! Just leave a comment below saying what type of cupcake you'd use first on this pretty little plate.

The giveaway will close next Friday, July 23, at noon, and the winner will be contacted shortly after. US entrants only this time, please!

Shop available colors here, or come visit the store at 415 E. Pine Street, Seattle WA 98122!

Thursday
Jul152010

Milk Maid: A Fudge Q + A and Recipe from Swiss Maid Fudge

You've never met Jane Heller, but you'll probably like her as soon as I tell you this one thing about her: she has a company, Swiss Maid Fudge, that specializes in making delicious...well, you know. This Wisconsin-based company offers many options beyond the expected vanilla and chocolate, by the way--anyone care for some banana split fudge?

Anyhow. Ready to hear more? Thought so. 

Q: How did you first get involved with making fudge?
A: I began making fudge in high school when I would work summers in the candy store. I would spend my summers doing the same techniques we use today which really sparked my love of the business.  Making fudge has been a large part of my life and I have really grown with this company.

Q: How has Swiss Maid Fudge changed since you first started there?
A: We began with just 3 flavors of fudge – chocolate, vanilla, and maple fudge and have expanded to over 24 flavors!  We have also expanded our homemade products to include several caramel and brittle varieties, salt water taffy, caramel apples and hand-dipped chocolates. We have also expanded nationally through our Web site and started selling all over the country. As a company, we wanted to keep the traditional way of making our homemade fudge, but update our business through our online presence.  
 
Q: What are the top tips you can give someone attempting to make the perfect fudge?
A: The top three tips I can give are:
  • Wash down the sides of your pan with a brush dipped in water to prevent the formation of sugar crystals. 
  • You must use a candy thermometer and cook it to the correct temperature specified in your recipe – a degree here or there will make a big difference in the final outcome. 
  • Let the mixture cool a little before mixing – this will result in a creamier consistency.
 And now that you're armed with that expertise, howsabout a recipe? Jane was kind enough to share one:


Jane’s Chocolate Fudge Cake Recipe
(Video of Jane making this recipe can be found above, or here)
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Milk
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Corn Syrup
  • 6 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 2 T. Butter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
In preparation
  1. Finely chop or grind the unsweetened chocolate.
  2. Prepare your marble slab or countertop by sprinkling with water.
  3. Spray your ring molds with cooking spray. You may select any size mold you prefer. Have a small greased container ready to put the remaining fudge in after you fill the molds.
Procedure
  1. In a saucepan, combine milk, sugar, corn syrup and butter stirring to combine all ingredients well. Wash down the sides of the pan and the stirring spoon with a pastry brush dipped in water. Insert a candy thermometer making sure it doesn't sit on the bottom of the pan. Cook to 238 degrees. Do not overcook.
  2. Promptly remove from heat and slowly pour onto your work surface. Sprinkle the surface of the candy again with water and sprinkle the unsweetened chocolate evenly over the top. Let cool until the cooked mixture holds a slight indentation when your finger is pressed into it-mixture should be warm not hot. This should only take a few minutes.
  3. Using a scraper begin mixing from the outside edges into the middle making sure to get well underneath the candy. Mix swiftly as setting will occur quickly. Once mixed, place the fudge into each mold and the remainder into a pan.
  4. Fudge should immediately be ready to remove from the molds. Sprinkle the tops and sides of each layer with coarse sugar and stack. To make each section stick together melt a little chocolate and put in the middle of each layer before stacking the next.
  5. Package in a cellophane bag and tie with a bow or store in an air tight container. Makes approximately 2 lbs. of fudge.

To learn more, visit the Swiss Maid Fudge website; for a virtual tour of their factory, click here.

Wednesday
Jul142010

Cake Byte: Seattle Square Brings Sweetness to Pioneer Square

Guess what? There's a new weekly outdoor festival called Seattle Square coming to Pioneer Square, starting this Saturday, June 17th, and continuing through the summer. This is totally sweet for a few reasons. First, it's an incentive to go down to Pioneer Square at a non-artwalk time, now that Elliott Bay has moved up to Capitol Hill (probably to be closer to my shop).

But second--and perhaps most importantly--there will be totally sweet vendors. From the figuratively sweet--that is to say, cool artists and designers--to the literally sweet, with delicious snacks available from vendors like Parfait Ice Cream, Streat Treats, Tweet Toffee, and Marilyn's Nut Butters (quit tittering, you).

Go check it out! You can find the information on Seattle Square here.

Tuesday
Jul132010

O' Delicious: O'Henry Bars Recipe

Dear Oatsies,

I'm sorry to have to say this, but it's over. I've found another oat-based bar cookie to love.

And that other oaty treat? The O'Henry Bar. We met accidentally--when I was chatting with Sabrina, a shopper at the Urban Craft Uprising, she told me about the O'Henry Bar, a treat her mom frequently made for her growing up. At first, this bar sounded kind of like you, Oatsie--an oat, butter, sugar, and corn syrup-based confection which is baked, and then topped...and this is where it changes...with chocolate and peanut butter.

Oh, Oatsie, what was I do do? Your topping of chocolate and chopped nuts is tasty, but who can resist the smooth, salty-sweet deliciousness of peanut butter and chocolate?

Nobody, that's who. And after baking a batch, I can say with no hesitation that it was love at first bite.

It's not me...it's you. I hope you'll be well. Really.

Love,

CakeSpy

P.S. Here's the recipe.

O'Henry Bars

Adapted from Sabrina's mom

Ingredients 

  • 4 cups quick cooking oatmeal
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup  Karo syrup (light, not dark)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla

 For the topping

  • 6 ounces chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter (a more smooth variety)

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Melt butter, karo syrup, sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the oats and stir, still over heat, until fully coated and incorporated.
  3. Press firmly into 9"x13" greased pan (I'd recommend putting a piece of wax paper down and roll with rolling pin/can so it doesn't stick) and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
  4. While this cools, make the topping. Melt together 6oz chocolate chips & 2/3 cup of peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter and Co.'s Dark chocolate Dreams for extra chocolaty richness) in either a microwave-safe bowl or over low heat.
  5. Spread over oatmeal bars and let cool. Cut into yummy morsels & enjoy!
Tuesday
Jul132010

Battle in Seattle: A Whoopie Pie Bake-Off at Oddfellows Cafe

The first thing that you'll notice about the Whoopie Pie scene in Seattle? There is none. Aside from the occasional sighting at Oddfellows Cafe or at a handful of other spots around town, they're relatively unknown in the Emerald City.

Until now, that is. Whoopie Pies are making their debut as a weighty contender in the Seattle baked goods scene at 11 a.m. on July 21, 2010, when Oddfellows Cafe hosts the great Whoopie Pie Bake-Off!

Interested in entering your prized pies? Here are the instructions:

Instructions for Whoopie Pie Bake Off

 

  • Bakers may have two whoopie pie submissions, a classic whoopie pie and/or a variation on a classic whoopie pie, which must still be identifiable as such. Both pies will be entered for the grand prize, Whoopie Pie Champion!
  • Each baker must submit by July 18th in email (to tallulah@lindashq.com) the following:
1) Your name as you would like to see it on the ballot for the judges (this may be your real name or another name such as a nickname or the bakery you represent)
2)A few details about your whoopie pie: what kind it is (red velvet, rainbow, etc.), if you have a special name for it (Marta’s Magical Pie, etc), anything else you want us to know or include about your pie. We will use this information for a write up to be given to the judges in addition to other TBA purposes.

Submission of Whoopie Pies on day of event.
  • Whoopie pies are to be baked at home and brought to Oddfellows at 10:30AM; that’s 30 minutes before the event is scheduled to start.
  • We request that you bake at least 7 whoopie pies (6 for eating, 1 for display), however you may bake more than 7 (especially if your pies are on the smaller side!)
Judging
  • There will be 5 official judges as well as an open vote among customers for crowd favorite. 
  • The official judges will pick one whoopie pie for each category. The categories being:
1) Best Classic Whoopie Pie
2) Most Interesting Take on a Whoopie Pie
3) Whoopie Pie Champion
  • Whoopie Pie Champion is the grand prize but there will also be prizes (umm, CakeSpy art included!) for winners in the sub-categories of best classic and most interesting.

This awesome event will be open to the public on July 21 at 11 a.m. at Oddfellows Cafe + Bar, 1525 10th Ave., Seattle.

Tuesday
Jul132010

Cool and Sweet: Homemade Pudding Pops for Serious Eats

rowing up, in the 80's, I was pretty sure what made Jell-o Pudding Pops so delicious: every batch had been lovingly made by Bill Cosby, naturally.

Now that I'm older and (arguably) wiser, I know that the secret behind that singular texture and flavor isn't Bill's secret family recipe. But what I didn't know was that these sweet summertime treats are--seriously--the easiest thing ever to make.

Even better? At-home varieties also offer the freedom to showcase less-celebrated pudding flavors (butterscotch or rice pudding pop, anyone?), or to create your own new flavor by making two-tone pops in complementary flavors--I had great success with the chocolate-pistachio combination shown above.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Jul122010

Taste the Rainbow: Kaleidoscope Cookies Recipe

Sure, you could get a sweet thrill from checking out the pretty patterns in a kaleidoscope.

But it's much more delicious to taste the rainbow--delivered via crumbly, buttery, colorful Kaleidoscope Cookies.

These cookies were a hit at Crafty Wonderland when Sara Bir served them to go along with Joe Ryckebosch's colorful tape art, and so I knew they'd be the perfect choice to serve at this past weekend's Urban Craft Uprising.

Plus, they were from my BFF cookbook, Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. Yes!

They were a nice echo to the colorful melange of t-shirts with my artwork, and the crowds--no pun intended--ate them up. I made a big batch--perfect for a big crowd. Here's the recipe.

Kaleidoscope Cookies

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book  

Makes many (like 60)

 Ingredients

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pound 6 ounces (about 4-½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • Various colors of food coloring paste or gel
  • 1 cup or so sprinkles or colored decorating sugar

 

 Procedure

  1. In an electric stand mixer, beat the butter with a paddle attachment until it is creamy. Add the confectioners' sugar and salt and beat for several minutes, until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and no lumps of powdered sugar remain. Beat in the vanilla extract, then add the flour and beat until a soft dough forms.
  2. Divide the dough into 3 parts. Incorporate the food coloring or gel of your choosing into each color--be sure to make the colors quite vibrant, as they will slightly fade in the oven (not much, but a little), and knead until the color is evenly distributed. I left one part white, used a little red food coloring for a pink section, then more red for a red section for mine.
  3. Roll each tinted segment into a log about a foot long. Then squish the three logs into one long log and roll until they form one roll (I got a nice wavy design when I did this).
  4. Gently roll and squish the finished log until it’s about a foot long. Then cut it in half to form two logs and roll each one of those until you have a number of logs that are 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter--it will be quite a few. If desired, place the sprinkles or decorating sugar on a large, shallow plate and roll each log to coat. Wrap the logs in wax or parchment paper and chill overnight or freeze up to a month.
  5. Remove the dough from chilling--if it was in the freezer, let it warm up just until you can handle it, but not until it is soft Preheat oven to 375 F.
  6. Unwrap the logs and, with a sharp knife, slice them into coins about 1/3-inch thick. Place on ungreased cookie sheets (the cookies will not spread much as they bake).
  7. Bake two sheets at a time for about 7-9 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until the cookies have firmed up but are not browned. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

 

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