History in the Making

Author: Kirsten K., Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Sweets

History in the Making 1Readers of this blog know that I’m a chocolate lover, but I am simply carrying on a long-standing American tradition. Cocoa trees have been grown in the Americas for thousands of years, although it wasn’t until Cortés observed the Aztecs drinking chocolate in 1519 and introduced the custom to Europe that it began to take on the form we enjoy today. Brought to the east coast of North America in the 17th and 18th centuries by British colonists who imported it from Europe, chocolate was a favorite drink of the Founding Fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. At the birth of our country, these men all had a connection to Williamsburg, Virginia, and it was on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg several years ago that I first came across American Heritage Chocolate.

History in the Making 2Created using authentic recipes from the 1750s, American Heritage Chocolate includes spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, orange, vanilla, and even chili pepper. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued, but when I saw that the chocolate was produced by the MARS candy company, I was a little dubious. I associated MARS with the kind of chocolate typically found at 7-Eleven, not with pricier artisan brands, but I was intrigued enough to purchase a block of it. I’m glad I did, because this is a truly unique—and uniquely American—product.

History in the Making 3

Illustration by Melissa Elliott

The chocolate comes in sticks, bites, and blocks, or finely grated to make a hot beverage. The sticks and blocks, which are lightly dusted with cocoa powder, have a look and texture that is best described as “rustic.” The flavor is fruity up front and finishes with a slight kick from the pepper, but the consistency is somewhat coarse and chalky. Part of the charm of this chocolate is that it’s made using 18th-century methods, so it doesn’t have the glossy sheen and smooth texture you expect from modern production techniques. For this reason, I feel that American Heritage Chocolate is best enjoyed in the colonial manner, melted in hot water for a traditional, full-bodied drink or mellowed with the addition of a little milk (or coconut milk), but I have snacked on the bites and taken a chip off ye olde block to use in recipes calling for semisweet chocolate. For a treat that’s an American original in more ways than one, chop the block or sticks into chunks and use them in chocolate chip cookies.History in the Making 4

It is often said that everything old is new again. The Historic Division of MARS was formed in 2006 “to educate consumers on the history of the Americas through the unique lens of chocolate.” While others are taking chocolate into the 21st century with additives like bee pollen, espresso powder, and craft beer, American Heritage Chocolate is looking to the past to give modern-day palates a taste of history in the making.

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American Heritage Chocolate

 

Visit the American Heritage Chocolate website to scroll through an interactive History of Chocolate and to find a merchant near you, or purchase directly from the Williamsburg Marketplace.

See more artwork by Melissa Elliott and read about her process on her blog, The Slipcover.

Mad for Madeleines

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Sweets

Some people are born to sing or paint or play music. I was born to feed people. When I have friends over for dinner, I can’t help but make everything from scratch. I love orchestrating an evening from start to finish: flowers, table setting, music, cocktails and the food—lots of food. Planning a dinner party fills me with happy excitement. I get giddy poring through cookbooks and files of recipes; pairing dishes that complement each other, that will look pretty together on the plate and, most of all, will taste amazing.

Mad for Madeleines 1I spend more time on the dessert than anything else. Sometimes I wish I could just go to Costco and get one of their giant pies. They are delicious and pretty and no one would care that I didn’t make it. But I am a Sugar Nerd and buying a prefab dessert would be tantamount to lip syncing on SNL. Even though the dessert is the most time-consuming element of my dinner parties, it’s my favorite part.

Then one day, everything changed. I came across a recipe for Daniel Boulud’s madeleines. A madeleine is a miniature French butter cake baked in a shell-shaped mold. I had never been a big fan of them—the ones I ran into were usually dry and bland. But the thought of serving warm little cakes, hot from the oven and dusted with powdered sugar, tantalized me. So I made them the next time we had friends over for dinner.

Mad for Madeleines 2I have to add an “Ooh la la!” for emphasis here. We all kind of lost our minds. They were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside—lusciously buttery and not too sweet. The four of us ate every last one. We didn’t care. Everyone got a kick out of getting something hot from the oven and the house smelled so good! The best part: they took me ten minutes to make and I got just as many oohs and aahs as I do when I spend two days making dessert. I was liberated! These little babies are now my go-to dessert. Sometimes I serve them with fresh berries, other times with whipped cream. Most of the time, I already have the ingredients on hand—no more searching out hard-to-find things like almond paste or powdered egg whites! It’s also the perfect dessert for guests who are gluten-free. Just substitute the all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour. They are just as delicious. Please indulge me one last time: “Ooh la la!”

Now, when people are coming over for dinner, the only dessert decision I need to make is if the madeleines should have lemon, orange or grapefruit zest. Take that, giant Costco pie! I dream of you no more! Well, maybe I do when I take that nap with all the free time I have now. Those French know how to live! I truly get to have my cake and eat it, too. Ooh. La. La.

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MADELEINES (adapted from Daniel Boulud)

Mad for Madeleines 3INGREDIENTS
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp finely grated lemon, orange or grapefruit zest
6 Tbsp (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted and warm

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Powdered sugar

Special Equipment: 1 madeleine pan (with 12 cake molds)*

INSTRUCTIONS
Whisk baking powder, flour and salt in a small bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, brown sugar, honey and zest in a medium bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients and whisk until just smooth. Whisk in melted butter. Pour batter into a large plastic resealable bag and chill for at least 1 hour. (DO AHEAD: Batter can be made the day before. Keep chilled until ready to use.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray madeleine pan with oil spray and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Snip end off one corner of the plastic bag and pipe batter into the madeleine pan, filling molds two-thirds full.

Bake madeleines until the edges are golden brown and the centers are puffed up and spring back lightly when touched, about 7-8 minutes.

Release each cake gently with a toothpick or chopstick. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Makes about 18 large Madeleines.

Receive tribute from guests.

 

*I like this madeleine pan, which can be purchased from Amazon.

This Galette Is Plum Delicious

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Sweets

Galette 1We at The Swoon Society like to eat and we love making food for friends. I made this fantastic plum galette for a dinner party last Saturday night. A galette is basically an open-faced pie where you pile the ingredients into the center of a pie crust and then fold the edges over the filling and—voilà—a quick, easy dessert that has so much damn rustic charm, your guests suspect you also churn your own butter.

When my husband Aaron proclaimed, “This is your best galette yet,” I knew I needed to share the love. Take it as your own, Swooners, and good luck with that butter churning.

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Galette 2PLUM GALETTE (adapted from Food & Wine magazine)

INGREDIENTS

Pastry:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water

Filling:
¼ cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp ground almonds or almond meal (available at Trader Joe’s)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 ½ lbs plums, halved, pitted and cut into ½ slices
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ jar apricot preserves, slightly warmed

INSTRUCTIONS

Pastry:
Combine the 1 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ sticks of butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times (resist the urge to pulse more!). Add the ice water and pulse a few more times. You should still see chunks of butter in the dough. Gather dough into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 16×18-inch circle about 1/8” thick. Roll dough around a rolling pin and transfer to a large, flat cookie sheet. Chill 30 minutes in the freezer (you can also make the night before, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in the refrigerator). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Filling:
In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of sugar with the ground almonds and flour and spread over the center of the pastry, leaving 2” around the edge. Arrange the plum slices in a decorative circular pattern, starting at the outside edge, and dot with the 3 small pieces of butter. Sprinkle all but 1 tsp of the 1/3 cup sugar over the plums. Gently fold the 2” edges of the pastry up over the fruit (if dough is too firm, let thaw about 10 minutes until pliable or it will break). Sprinkle the border with the remaining 1 tsp sugar.

Bake the galette on the middle rack in the oven for about an hour. The crust should be nicely browned. If any juice has leaked out onto the baking sheet, slide a knife under the galette to prevent it from sticking. Brush the apricot preserves over the fruit and crust. Let cool to room temperature and serve with freshly whipped cream, if desired.

That’s My Jam!

Author: Kirsten K., Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Snacks, Starters, Sweets

That's My Jam 1I have a problem with condiments. It’s not the taste (although, don’t get me started on relish), it’s the loitering. As a single person, a bottle of ketchup can sit on the door of my refrigerator for months. And yellow mustard? That’s once or twice a year, tops. Spying the partially used bottles every time I look in the fridge is almost as upsetting as watching the contents wash down the drain when I finally decide to dump them.

Jams and jellies tend to go faster, but they can still overstay their welcome—with one notable exception. Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam is so delicious that I have trouble keeping it on the shelf. It is, quite possibly, the most swoon-worthy thing I have written about on this blog to date.

That's My Jam 2My good friend Mika, a pastry chef and foodie extraordinaire, turned me on to this sweet and spicy spread several years ago when she discovered it at a local farmer’s market. While the label recommends serving the jam as a condiment or glaze for meats, we at The Swoon Society like to spoon it atop baguette slices that have been heaped with Saint-André triple-crème cheese. If you serve this as an appetizer, be prepared for guests who are too full to do more than pick at the main course.

Not content to take a supporting role, the fiery, smoky flavor of Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam shines when paired with simple foods. For an unexpected treat, heat a little of the jam and pour it over vanilla ice cream. The casein protein in dairy products helps to neutralize the spiciness of the chipotle pepper, while the cold ice cream cools the fire. (Vegans can enjoy Jimmie’s on non-dairy cream cheese and coconut milk ice cream, but these foods do little to soothe the burn.)

That's My Jam 3Uncle Berch’s Foods only sells Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam in packs of three, four, or five jars, but don’t let that discourage you from trying it. You will tear through those jars and find yourself ordering more to give away to friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors alike. Keep some on hand to use as host/hostess gifts, but make sure to always hold back a jar or two for yourself, or you’ll inevitably dip into your stash.

I’m not sure who this Jimmie is (or Uncle Berch either, for that matter), but he knows his way around a pepper. In addition to the original, he makes three other Chipotle varieties, as well as versions with Red Fresno Chili, Habañero and Ghost Pepper. The label quotes Jimmie as saying, “It’s easy to make things hot. It’s hard to make it taste good.” You can’t exactly set it to music, but his flavors completely rock. Jam on!

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Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam

 

Saint-André triple-crème cheese can be found at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and many gourmet cheese shops.

Going Native

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Recipes, Sweets

Going Native 1I rarely consume dairy milk, but I wasn’t crazy about most of the alternatives until I discovered the wonders of coconut milk. I’m not talking about the highly diluted version sold in Tetra Paks that you can find on store shelves next to the almond, soy, and hemp milks. I mean the thick, creamy coconut milk sold in cans that is located in the ethnic foods section of most supermarkets.

I found my way to canned coconut milk when I was looking for a natural, non-dairy creamer to use in my morning coffee and brewed chocolate. I like to control the amount and type of sweetener I add, but all of the soy and coconut creamers I’ve come across contain sugar, and the milk alternatives are too light to replace creamer. When I decided to try canned coconut milk, I went…well…coconuts!

Going Native 2Over the years, I’ve tried many different brands and grades of coconut milk, and Native Forest is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. It comes in three varieties, but I’ve only seen the Classic and Light versions at my local market. The Light Coconut Milk has a beautifully smooth texture and a mild, sweet flavor that mixes well with coffee and tea. It can be thinned with water and poured over cereal or used in any recipe that calls for milk. I use the full-fat Classic Coconut Milk to make non-dairy ice cream and whipped coconut cream. Melt a bar of dark chocolate in a pan of hot coconut milk for the most swoon-worthy cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

All of Native Forest’s coconut milks are organic and come packaged in BPA-free cans. Once opened, the milk should be consumed within four days, but I get around this by freezing it in ice cube trays. I just pop a few cubes out every couple of days and let them thaw in the fridge until I need them. The cans are shelf-stable for years, so I always keep several on hand.

This past week, I saw Native Forest coconut milk at Trader Joe’s, where they were selling it for half the price I normally pay. Previously, I’d only found the brand at health food stores and high-end markets, so I asked an employee about it. He said that Trader Joe’s is repackaging its own coconut milk and sourced the Native Forest brand to offer as an alternative in the meantime. I have no idea how long the situation will last, so I suggest you look for this fantastic deal and milk it for all it’s worth.

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Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk

 

Native Forest coconut milk is sold at Whole Foods and some health food stores. It is available at Trader Joe’s for a limited time.

 

Update 7/20/16:

Native Forest Coconut Milk PowderNative Forest now offers a convenient Coconut Milk Powder. Just like their canned coconut milks, the powdered version is vegan and gluten-free. It dissolves instantly in hot water, making it ideal for use as a non-dairy creamer. It also comes in a resealable pouch that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it’s great for travel or if (like me) you don’t have a fridge at work. Mix with cocoa powder and a little xylitol for a quick and easy sugar-free hot chocolate. That may not sound appealing in the midst of this heat wave, but fall will be here before you know it, so enjoy your summer vacation and be sure to take the powder when you take a powder.

Native Forest Coconut Milk can be purchased at Sprouts, the stores mentioned above, or online from AmazonEdward & Sons, and Thrive Market.

 

Join the Popsicle Revolution!

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Snacks, Sweets

Popsicle 1Popsicle. A happy little word that conjures memories from childhood summers, when there wasn’t anything else to do but sit on the porch with the neighborhood kids and fight over who got the last cherry one. We didn’t care that we were sticky or that it was blazing hot outside. Give a kid a popsicle and all is right in her world.

Today, popsicles have been enjoying a renaissance. I first encountered this Popsicle Revolution when People’s Pops took Brooklyn by storm with their handmade pops made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. With flavors like Raspberry & Basil, Blueberry & Buttermilk, and Apricot & Lavender, I was on board with this Frozen Confection Train.

Popsicle 2Shortly after that, I heard of a place tantalizingly named Suck It Sweets in Studio City.* Oh, my. I could drive there. And I did. And it was Awesome.

I had their Cherry Cobbler pop and, may I say, it was not disappointing. SO not disappointing.

Sometime later, while cruising the frozen section at Whole Foods, I stumbled upon paletas. These are Mexican ice pops made from Mangoes and Chilies and Hibiscus and Coconut and a myriad of other wonderful, regional ingredients. ¡Muy deliciosos!

The signs were unmistakable. My mission became clear. I promptly ordered the following gear: pop molds, sticks, and the bible of frozen confections—the People’s Pops recipe book. I started out classic…trying out Straight-Up Raspberry for a visiting relative. Then I attempted their Blackberry & Rose. Both were Crazy Good.

Popsicle 3

Monin Violet Syrup

My latest fave is Cucumber & Violet. When I saw that recipe in the book, I gasped out loud.** It was serendipitous, because I had just bought some Monin Violet Syrup and was itching to try it. This violet syrup has the truest violet flavor I’ve tried. I can’t wait to experiment with it more. And I have always loved cucumber in spa water and cocktails—I couldn’t wait to try these pops!

They are super easy to make. The only ingredients are:

cucumbers
simple syrup
lemon juice
violet syrup

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Simple. The taste? Fresh Floral Deliciousness. Neither flavor is overpowering, and they aren’t overly sweet, just really refreshing—perfect on a hot afternoon or even as a palate cleanser during a dinner party. Seriously, friends, who would not be absolutely delighted by a Cucumber & Violet frozen pop between courses on a summer night? Anyone who wouldn’t is not invited to my dinner parties! Even my husband Aaron, who is continually barraged by my floral flavored food, loved them.

I admire the gang from People’s Pops for taking a common treat and turning it into something unexpected and innovative. I’m happily working my way through their recipe book—Vive la Révolution!

 

CUCUMBER & VIOLET POPS (adapted from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop)

Popsicle 41 ¼ lbs cucumbers (about 2 or 3), peeled
2/3 cup simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup violet syrup (preferably Monin), or to taste

SIMPLE SYRUP

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water

Simmer sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes about 1 cup.

Purée the cucumbers in a food processor and add to a medium-sized bowl with a pouring spout. Add the lemon juice and simple syrup. Add the violet syrup, tasting as you go, until you reach delicious violet goodness.

Pour into ice pop molds, leaving a bit of room at the top, since the mixture expands as it freezes. Insert sticks and freeze for at least 4 to 5 hours.

Popsicle 5

Unmold the pops by running warm water over the mold until they release easily. Give an adult a popsicle and all is right in their world.

Popsicle 6

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People’s Pops

 

Monin Violet Syrup is available from the company’s website. You can purchase pop moldswooden popsicle sticks, and the People’s Pops recipe book from Amazon.

 

* This location has unfortunately closed. Come back to me!

**For more violet goodness, see previous posts on The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur and Kusmi Violette tea.