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:
- One lucky winner will receive a cupcake tote bag from Penguinbot! Love is in the details with this sturdy, durable vinyl tote--it's delicately reverse-appliquéd with an adorable cupcake, with the an inner lining of bright, contrasting pattered fabric. It's an extremely well-made bag which would usually retail for $50 (and would be worth every penny). Even if you don't win, you should probably buy one (you know, to help the economy); you can get one here.
- Two lucky winners will receive Elisa Strauss' new book, Confetti Cakes for Kids. Even without kids, these recipes are super fun and the pictures are amazing to look at!
- Two winners will receive a pack of Cakespy Holiday notecards! Each pack includes an assortment of cards which are guaranteed to make this the sweetest holiday season ever!
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:
- In an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer the Smithers", the character Smithers remarks to his boss Mr. Burns, "...I've alphabetized your breakfast. You can start with the waffles, and work your way up to the zwieback."
- In the 1991 classic film Doc Hollywood, when Ben Stone (Michael J. Fox) first arrives in Grady, nurse Packer tells him there is Zwieback and Vitamin C in the cabinet.
- In "Dear Mildred", an episode of the TV series M*A*S*H, Radar O'Reilly compares his first days with Colonel Potter to visiting summers with his prim-and-proper aunt; "You can't dunk your zwieback in your Bosco."
- In her song "Caving In", Kimya Dawson sings that she is "just a piece of zwieback toast getting soggy in a baby's aching mouth."
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: You're from Basque country. What foods do you miss from home?
CV: So many to count… little tiny green peppers from Gernika, fresh fish, red beans from Tolosa, great produce, mamia and my uncle’s puff pastry!
CV: “Repulsive” is a harsh word… I wouldn’t say repulsive. I think there are many people in this country who enjoy fine food. I don’t mean expensive food per se, I mean people that know how to identify fresh fish, how to smell bread or pick great fruit. But I think that the masses are still way behind of how food is viewed in other countries such as my own.
CS: Following up on that point, a while back you actually sent us some of your delectable lemon-olive oil madeleines. Well, I (Head Spy Jessie) personally would like to admit that I hoarded them and shared only one with Mr. Cakespy. Does this make me a bad person?
CV: No, it makes me laugh! It reminds me of myself when I was 7 years old and my grandmother gave me a small white chocolate Nestle bar. I was holding the chocolate bar when my brothers entered the room and I stuffed it all in my mouth, all at once, so I didn’t have to share it with them!
CV: It would definitely be my grandfather Angel who was also a pastry chef. A fine one if I may say so. He retired when I was about 9 years old so I never had a chance to work with him.
CS: You have pretty much the cutest son, like, ever. What's his favorite dessert?
CV: He loves everything and it can be a problem sometimes. He particularly likes my banana bread but will try anything I give him.
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.
CV: It’s hard to say. Baking is almost like an impulse for me. Sometimes I feel like an idea comes over my body and I must transform it into something sweet. It’s like purging, otherwise I go insane.
I think as of now, my goal is for me to become a better photographer. That’s where I am at the moment.
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!
The Dutch Oven Bakery, 219 Duff, Ames, Iowa, (515)232-9244; online at dutchovenbakeryiowa.com. (Note: The bag in the photo says Boone, (not Daniel's hometown) but that is the other location. Boone is only a few miles from Ames.)
Our Cake Gumshoe and her assistant moved on to the local home of great seasonal favorites at the Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge, Iowa. Now as Cakespy knows, this Gumshoe has spent her life seeking out the perfect Apple Cider Donut and she thought it lived at Delicious Orchards in New Jersey, but another award winner was found! These donuts have all of the requirements of a great apple cider donut, they were light and spongy with great texture, covered with cinnamon and sugar and WARM!!! They are well worth the trip to Iowa! (As a note, said Gumshoe is on Weight Watchers and held off at only eating three.) My little assistant got his baby nibble and smacked his lips for more. He was only enticed away by taking him out to the pumpkin patch!
Center Grove Orchards, 32835 610th Ave., Cambridge, Iowa, 1-888-2-APPLE-I; online at centergroveorchard.com.
It's been proven in horror movies again and again: when you dabble in mad science, there will be casualties. Suddenly, people and things change into something else...something evil. Case in point: Frankenstein; Night of the Living Dead; Pet Semetary.
It was in this state of mind that we decided to go all mad science on a bowl of Halloween candy. Our weapon of destruction? The Microwave. We microwaved various Halloween treats in 30-second increments to see which would last the longest--and which ones would succumb easily and quickly to their fate, by popping or exploding or bubbling up. Why did we do this? Well, why do we watch horror movies? Morbid curiosity, the desire to feel alive...and you know, for entertainment.
Here are the scary results:
Our love affair with Carol's Cookies began in an unlikely way.
It all began when the Starbucks (a local company, you may have heard of them) marketing people sent us a coupon to try out their new Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Not prone to turning away free stuff, we ventured over to the 'Bucks, where we sampled the goods. The hot chocolate has a nice flavor--with the slightest salty aftertaste to balance the sweetness--but it's rich as all get-out, and gave a delirious sugar-high after about 6 of the 12 ounces of a small--er, "Tall". Unable to sit still and draw cupcakes after that jolt, our spy ended up taking a long walk and idly looking at the Whole Foods bakery case: it was there that Cakespy encountered the $2.99, 8-ounce (yes, we weighed it) chocolate-walnut deliciousness made by Chicago-based Carol's Cookies. Clearly, it was time to prolong that sugar high.
It is said that Dulce de Leche was first created on a battlefield in Argentina in 1829. The story goes that two opposing generals were to meet to sign a war-ending treaty. While a serving woman was making sweetened milk ("La Lechada") for one of the generals, there was a scuffle and she forgot about the heating milk. When she finally remembered the milk, it had cooked down to a jelly-like consistency, turned a dark brown, and was absolutely delicious. Dulce de Leche was born, and was enjoyed by the brave and very hungry soldiers.
Fact or fiction? Either way, a wonderful story about a sweet treat that can't be beat.
Til next time, stay sweet!