Category Archives: dessert

The Great Pudding Debate

Have you and your friends/family quarreled over which version of a product on the market today is better?  It would be harder to imagine not having the occasional tiff than not with the multitude of versions of food products out there.  Such a debate sucked me in recently.

I can take or leave a store bought instant pudding mix any day.  They never seem to sit on the palate as well as the original thing.  However I do not always want to play around with heating milk – or dealing with my old, occasionally temperamental friend – chocolate, as this occasion would have required.

To once and for all settle the instant chocolate pudding debate it was decided upon that three brands would be purchased.  Using the same carton of milk and blind taste testing system a group of us would taste and rate the pudding on several categories, finally tallying up the results and arriving at a designated winner.

The three puddings chosen were Jell-O, Royal, and Wal-Mart’s Great Value.  We purchase a brand new bottle of milk and returned home for the testing. 

To secure the test so no one knew what pudding was being eaten at any time the following measures were taken;

         One of us went into a room, opened up the packages and numbered the envelopes with the number 1, 2, or 3. 

After the envelopes were returned this person again left the room and another individual not knowing which number belonged to what product opened the envelopes and emptied them into an identical container which was marked A, B, or C – and then tapped the envelope number side up so no one could see the number.

         The pudding was mixed in front of all so that everyone could rate the ease of preparation factor (since it was instant pudding we thought this to be an important factor).

 

         Next the pudding was allowed to set and cool in the refrigerator while we made up ballots.

 

         The pudding was brought to the table and were judged from 1-10 on the following;

1.      Ease of Preparation

2.      Overall Taste

3.      Overall Look/Color of Product

4.      Texture

5.      Smell

6.      Finally we guessed which brand the pudding was

         After the tasting was done each ballot was tallied and then combined to come up with the following results.

Pudding B received the highest (averaged) score with a 38

Pudding A came in second with a (averaged) score of 25

Pudding B came in third with a (averaged) score of 23

We all guessed that pudding A was the generic Wal-Mart brand.  Most of us were wrong, however on which was Royal and which were Jell-O brand. 

                        Pudding B was Royal

                        Pudding A was Wal-Mart (a real surprise to us all)

                        Pudding C was Jell-O

The Wal-Mart pudding was a surprise to us because none of us picked it as our favorite in any category except ease of use.  It blended together the quickest and set up the fastest garnering high numbers from all.  The overall taste was sweet with no real discernable chocolate flavor.  We wondered if we thought it was “chocolately” because we knew it was supposed to taste that way.  The color was found to be a very plain and flat brown, but it was rated high in texture with creamy being a defining adjective used.

The Jell-O pudding after looking at the math came in last right behind the Wal-Mart based on its preparation issues.  It took the longest to come together of all three, and since we were basing it on the “instant-ness” of the product it rated low on all ballots.  However we believe that the extra whisking was a reason for the high numbers in texture with velvety being one of the adjectives used to describe it.  The taste seemed to be where most people veered – you either loved it or did not.  Some said it was a perfect blend of the sweet mixing with coco powder, hitting your tongue at the same time – while others felt that it was overall to strong with the coco powder and had the flavor of chocolate syrup right from the bottle.

The Royal pudding won out because it could be viewed as easy to use falling in between the two in preparation speed – most likely also helping it with its texture that was described as silky.  It was received the best in color and overall look by having a warm red tone mixed in.  With flavor it seemed to be as split as the Jell-O only this time between people who enjoyed the mix of sweetness and coco powder and those who thought it was slightly too sweet.

In the end did this end the great debate?

Well you could say that. 

You see we each now know what our favorite instant chocolate pudding is and trust me we all enjoyed the pudding we liked best.

Yet I’m sure that soon enough we’ll be trying to win each other over to “our” side of the pudding debate.

What was my overall pick?

Jell-O, and no matter what anyone says I’m sticking to it!

We all enjoyed this so much that we want to make it a regular event.  So if you have any thoughts on food you want taste tested let me know.

What to do With Mascarpone

This week mascarpone cheese was on sale and I knew that it must come home with me.  My mother fostered in me a love very deep for mascarpone whether sweet or savory.  It makes the simplest desserts with just some sugar and lemon zest sandwiched with Nilla wafers, or the moist decadent cheese cake.  

Enough with the dessert tangent.

I knew that I could purchase a tub and be able to use it for both a main dish and a tempting dessert.  So here is how I choose to use my cheese.

Chicken thighs were the meat of choice for my client’s dinner.  She really enjoys the flavor of dark meat and I enjoy the forgiveness it has toward me – sometimes I get distracted and a breast may not retain the same level of juiciness or tenderness that thigh meat can. 

I decided that I wanted to make a rich and silky chicken with vegetables that could be served alongside or on top of a starch.  At first egg noodles crossed my mind but the soft texture would offer no contrast in textural context so I decided on couscous – smaller than rice but same multi piece action. 

I went toward flavors my client likes and that I know meld with chicken, fresh rosemary, the trinity of carrots, celery, and onion, and I used red wine to draw out the depth of the meat flavor in the dark meat, and the mascarpone went in at the end to help finish the dish and give it its silky texture.

 

When it was all done I was proud of my humble dish.  It made me think of a simple supper my grandmother might have made in my youth.  When Amanda tasted it she remarked that it was great and tasted like the inside of a chicken pot pie – not what I was aiming for but from her it was high praise.

So here is my recipe for today.  I call it Rich Chicken, but Amanda calls it Inside Out Chicken Pie

Ingredients

 

1 Chopped Spanish Onion

1 Carrot Peeled and Diced

1 Stalk of Celery Diced

1 Pepper Diced

5 Cloves of Garlic Minced

1-2 Teaspoon(s) of Fresh Rosemary (depending on your taste preference)

2 Tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley Chopped

¼ Cup Cubed (small) Pancetta

3 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (breast meat could be used if you prefer a lighter flavor)

1 cup Mascarpone Cheese

2 tbsp Olive Oil

¾ cup Red Wine

¾ Cup Chicken Stock

Flour to Dredge Chicken

1 pinch of Red and Pepper Flakes

¼ Tsp Sugar

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions 

In a large pan (I prefer a heavy Le Creuset) heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and render for 4-5 minutes till they are browned and crispy.  Remove the pancetta from the pan and hold. 

Salt and pepper the thigh meat and dredge in flour while the pancetta is rendering.  Add the meat to the pan after pancetta removal and brown for a few minutes a side.  Move the cooking chicken to the sides of the pan and add the carrots, celery, onion, peppers, and mushrooms to the middle of the pan with a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Cook two minutes add garlic and rosemary, sauté over medium-low heat for approximately five minutes.  Add salt and pepper and mix all together.

  

Add ¾ cup red wine to pan and stir the bottom of the pan for brow bits.  Reduce the wine in half.  Add chicken stock, and stir to combine all together.  Bring the liquid to a boil and drop heat to a simmer for ten minutes to condense liquid.  Stir in 1 cup of mascarpone the parsley, and sugar.  Simmer 4-5 minutes.

Season to taste.

Reintroduce the pancetta.

I also know that it reheats well because Amanda ate it for supper last night – that’s always important in today’s world.

PS I even incorporated the marscarpone into my “Blondies” that I made yesterday.  So I got to use it for both of my fav ways. 

Happy Blonde Brownie Day!

Happy Blonde Brownie Day!

Blonde brownie up close

Did you know that there was a blonde brownie day?

 

Neither did I, but there it is and it happens to fall on today – January 22.

 

I found this tid bit of info out while surfing around the web looking for random food intell.  While it is not a national holiday I thought celebration of the brownie in either form to be wonderful inspiration for a morning of baking and a chance to learn some food history. 

 

“Blondies” are thought to have been baked and enjoyed before the brownies full of chocolate flavor we love today.  Food historians believe this based on cookbooks.  I bet you have never considered your collection of cookbooks to be a contemporary historical of the gastronomical enjoyments of our time – but it truly is. 

 

These aged cookbooks show the major ingredients of “blondies” were butter, and brown sugar – like the components of butterscotch candies which were well enjoyed in the mid nineteenth century.  There were cookbooks whose directions showed a mixture of butterscotch candy ingredients mixed with flour and a leavening agent.

 

Historians seem to agree that chocolate flavored brownies came into popularity in the twentieth century’s start when mass production of cocoa and chocolate became widely available and much more affordable. 

 

Knowing all of this I sat down this morning and wrote a recipe for Blonde Brownies that I really like.  The smell was delicious in the house and the taste was fantastic. 

Blonde brownie1

Blonde Brownie Day Brownies 

Ingredients

6 Tbsps of Unsalted Butter

2 Tbsps of Mascarpone Cheese

1 Tbsp of Milk (I used Skim)

1 Cup of Light Brown Sugar

1 Egg Beaten

1 Cup of Sifted Flour + 1 Tbsp (I used All Purpose)

½ Tsp Baking Powder

2 Tsps of Vanilla

½ Cup of Finely Chopped Walnuts

1/8 Tsp Salt

4 Tbsps Chopped Hershey’s Chocolate Bar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

 

Butter and flour (I use the Crisco + flour spray) an 8×8 cake pan and set aside.

 

Combine the butter, mascarpone, and milk in a sauce pan over low heat (I use a heat diffuser to ensure that the dairy products won’t scorch) till butter and mascarpone melts.  Once this happens remove from heat.

 

Add the light brown sugar (you can use dark but I enjoy the light color maintained by the light color of the sugar), beaten egg, and vanilla until combined thoroughly. 

 

Combine the flour (minus the one extra tablespoon), baking powder, and salt into the now wet sugar mixture.

 

Take the extra tablespoon of flour and toss with the walnuts (I picked this up from Ina Garten that this will help suspend the nuts or chocolate evenly throughout).  Now incorporate the nuts and flour into the mixture.  Stir well.

 

Pour into the 8×8. 

 

In half of my brownies I placed the chopped chocolate on the top of the brownie for my friend who enjoys chocolate mixed into her “blondies” as many people do.  I wanted mine “pure”.

 

Bake for 25-29 minutes based on your oven – of course check for a clean toothpick or knife.

 

Let the pan cool and then slice into bars or 2x2s.

Blonde brownie 2

So make brownies blonde or otherwise and enjoy – after all it is a holiday.

 

Thanks to http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq.html#blondies – for the history facts.