Testing recipes? Follow pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon's wise guide.
Chocolate ravioli: need we say more? (thanks Leslie for the tip)
Testing recipes? Follow pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon's wise guide.
The holiday season may be just beginning, but this month's Cake Poll is now closed. The entries have been logged, and if we do say so ourselves, you've all given us some fantastic ideas for holiday baking--as well has having introduced us to some sweets we'd never heard of before! In fact, we're even toying with printing up a small booklet of our favorites--stay tuned!
But first things first--who won the sweet stuff?
But we digress. Back to the prizes--who won the rest of the prizes?
Thank you to everyone who entered--and who shared their favorite recipes and holiday sweets preferences! And thank you again to the great prize donors, Penguinbot, Hachette Book Group and Cakespyshop.com. Til next month's Cake Poll...stay sweet!
Some of you may trouble yourselves mysteries of the natural universe: What is the meaning of life? If a tree falls in the woods, can anybody hear it? Why on earth is Paris Hilton famous?
But we Cake Gumshoes choose to ponder a much bigger (and more delicious) mystery: why is the princess cake green?
First things first though. For those of you not acquainted with the princess cake (or princess torte), we'd like to clarify that we're not talking about the "Princess Cake" that has a severed Barbie doll stacked atop a dome of frilly buttercream (though that one has its moments). No, we're talking about the Princesstårta, a cake which hails from Sweden, where it was invented in the 1930s by cookbook author Jenny Åkerström, who is said to have made it in honor of Sweden's three princesses at the time--Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid. While it's not as common in bakery cases as say, Red Velvet, it's not an exceedingly rare cake either--most urban areas will have at least a couple of bakeries that offer the sweet confection, which is made of alternating layers of light, airy cake, thick pastry cream, and jam, all topped with a sweet jacket of marzipan--often in a dome shape. But perhaps the most striking thing about this cake is how it's nearly always green.
Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, famed Los Angeles restaurant Scandia offered a chocolate-topped version back in the day (which, with the help of pastry chef Chris Jarchow, we made it recently; see above); some bakeries will offer an off-white or pink version. However, it seems to us that most frequently--or at least frequently enough for us to have noticed-- it's an attractive and very signature pistachio tone of green.
So what gives?
Unfortunately, this proved to be quite the challenge. Here's a summation of our epic journey to discover the truth:
First, we hit up the library, where we consulted the serious tome of a book The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg, in which we found the following passage:
"I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I do not have a definite answer as to why is the marzipan on top of a Princess Cake traditionally colored green. This is a question I have been asked time after time, and believe me, I have tried to find out. It would at least make more sense to me if the cake were flavored with mint or pistachio. Princess Cakes are often made with other colours..."
Our buddy over at ReTorte referenced Friberg's quote too, adding that "My fancy French pastry books do not even mention Princess cake..my only theory is that, as with a lot of stuff in the pastry world, it's green because of tradition. They do A LOT of stuff just out of tradition, even though it makes no sense otherwise!"
P.S. Wanna try to make the Princess Cake? A fantastic recipe can be found on Tartelette, as well as some seriously beautiful pictures!
Halloween and the election are over...whew! And now, we're at the cusp of the sweetest season of the year, that series of two months where we eat copious amounts of delicious pumpkin pie and christmas cookies. That's right--November is the point of do not pass go, do not diet until New Year's.
And in celebration, we're offering a seasonal sweets poll! It's a bounty of five sweet prizes--for five separate winners! The following prizes are being offered:
What do you have to do to enter? Don't worry, it's easy. All you have to do is answer the following two questions.
1. What is your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?
2. What is your favorite Christmas cookie?
But wait, there's more! If you copy and paste (or include a link to) a recipe for either of your responses, you'll be entered into the drawing twice! That's right...double your chances of winning!
SORRY--THE POLL IS NOW CLOSED!
To discover the real meaning of the twice-baked cookie, you've got to start with the biscuit. In terms of etymology, "biscuit" means "twice cooked"--and acording to John Ayto's book An A-Z of Food & Drink, "its name reflects the way in which it was once made. The originl biscuit was a small flat cake made of wheat flower, sugar, egg yolks, and perhaps a little yeast. It was intended for long keeping, so to dry it out it was returned to the oven for a while after the initial cooking process had finished". The signature hard texture and long shelf life has endeared the twice-baked cookie to seafaring voyagers, teething babies, and lends itself quite nicely to dunking in sweet wine.
In the United States, the term "biscuit" refers to something else these days, but the concept of a twice-baked cookie is still very much alive. To Americans, the most famous example is probably the Italian version, biscotti. It's arguable, but our theory for its preeminence is that it grew in popularity with the coffee-house revolution that hit the US in a big way, in which biscotti was a common food to be offered.
Beschuit met muisjes: In this Dutch version, which translates to "biscuits with little mice", a twice-baked bread not unlike the rusk (below) is characterized mostly by its garnish: according to Wikipedia,
They are spread with butter (or margarine) and the muisjes (lit. 'little mice') are sprinkled on top. These muisjes are sugared aniseed balls. They are sold in a mixture of two colours: White and pink. In 1990 a new mixture was introduced: white and blue, and it has become a custom, but not a universal one, that the latter (blue) are served when a boy is born, and the former (pink) for a girl. When a child is born in to the royal House of Orange, orange muisjes are sold.
Mandelbrodt (also known as Mandelbread, Mondelbrodt, Mondel bread, and probably more that we've missed!): Never heard of it? No surprise. As our foodie crush Arthur Schwartz writes, "Isn't it ironic? It used to be that biscotti were explained as Italian mandelbread. These days, mandelbread is explained as Jewish biscotti." While mandelbrodt shares similarities to biscotti, it is not the same: unlike biscotti, which gets its fat primarily from eggs, mandelbrodt will generally contain oil as well. And while nuts are common in biscotti, they're a key ingredient in mandelbrodt, which literally translates to "almond bread". If you're curious, you can buy some via mail-order at marlasmandels.com (photo above); also, you can find a recipe here!
Paxemadia (or biskota): In this Greek version, from what we can gather, the main variation here is with spices--one informative biscotti recipe posting suggests that you could make a biscotti recipe into the Greek variation by adding "a flavor mixture of 1/4 cup flour mixed into 1 tablespoon crushed coriander seed, 1 tablespoon crushed anise seeds, 2 tablespoons grated orange peel, 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel; and 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted walnuts."
Rusks: Like the term "biscuit", "rusk" seems to be more of a concept, with all sorts of different cultural variations, from long, slender versions to small rounds to toast-shaped versions. Like Mandelbrodt, the rusk differs from biscotti in that it will often contain an added fat--oil, or sometimes butter. One thing seems certain though: more than any other variation, the Rusk seems to be attached to seafaring culture--Swedish recipe books and John Ayto's book (referenced above) both refer to it as a cookie that accompanied naval officers and sailors on long voyages. Here's a recipe.
Sukhariki: The Russian term also seems to be a catch-all, referring to any type of crispy bread, from more crouton-esque variations to sweetened ones. Here's a hazelnut variation.
Zwieback: Per Wikipedia, the name comes from German zwei, meaning "two", and backen, meaning "to bake". This is the only variation in which we saw recipes that called for yeast, and indeed, this would be in keeping with it sometimes being referred to as "zwieback toast". Of course, this is not to be confused with Russian Mennonite Zwieback, which is more like a roll. More than any other variation, we associate this one as a baby's toothing snack. Most notably, however, we have to say, zwieback certainly takes the cake when it comes to cultural references. here are just a few:
Cakespy: Why did you start your site?
Cannelle et Vanille: I left work to take care of my son and the first year after he was born, I realized I had not been baking enough and something was missing in my life. I didn’t really know what blogs were until a friend of mine introduced me to Cupcake Bakeshop and then I found Tartelette. One Sunday afternoon, I just started a blog out of the blue and I haven’t stopped since.
CS: There's no delicate way to say it: your site is food porn. How does it feel to know that all over the world, people are drooling over your site?
CV: It feels great! I never thought so many people would follow my blog but I love thinking that every dessert I make and every photo I take can make one person smile. It still amazes me.
CS: It seems like a lot of people who begin blogs / sites dedicated to their passion find that it really changes the way they look at the world. How has your site changed life / the way you look at baking?
CV: It really hasn’t changed the way I look at baking. I really just bake what comes to me naturally. But what I have found is that I have struck friendships with people that I would have never met in any other way.
CS: If pressed, what would you say the next big thing will be in baking or baked goods?
CV: I think small and delicate will stick around. I like the idea of a small treat. I like leaving wanting more. I also think a natural and rustic approach to food is necessary. I don’t think this is a new idea at all, but I see a lot of focus on it once again.
CS: Does your family ever get pissed off that they can't eat dessert til your photo shoot is over?
CV: Yes and they drive me insane! The pressure is always on. I sometimes have to hide things in unexpected places so they don’t disappear before the photo shoot.
Bmoresweet bakes cupcakes for her candidate. Delicious!
So sweet: new silkscreened cards from Bethany Schlegel Art + Design.
Grown-up candy bars that we're in love with at bonbonbar.com.
We definitely need more event planners like Amy Atlas: she does dessert parties!
After reading about them in Vogue and Coolhunting, all we can say is when, when will you open, oh soon-to-be darling of Greenwich Village, Sweetiepie? When we went by last month, all we saw was construction!
How to serve dainty desserts? How 'bout on sweet monogrammed plates by LA Plates? We love the solid pink style!