Back to previous post: E Pluribus Hugo: Out of Many, A Hugo

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: The gone, growing in number

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

June 9, 2015

Posted by Teresa at 05:18 PM * 310 comments

A while back, an Italian cooking blog, Il dolci di Caia, ran a contest for fellow Italian food bloggers: come up with recipes for dolce della tradizione americana — that is, “desserts in the American tradition.” Scroll down the page there for a list of links to the results.

It’s interesting to see them wrestle with the American food thing: cake pops, Naples biscuit S’mores, torta di fango del Mississippi, Whoopies Pie al lemon curd, and a momentarily puzzling panettone americano that turned out to be lemon chiffon cake.

Notable absences: pineapple upside-down cake, dump cake*, icebox cake, Key Lime pie, pecan pie, prune whip, Nilla Wafer pudding. Understandable absences: Grape-Nuts Pudding, Jello Poke Cake, Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie.

Biggest divergence from the results an American food blog would have gotten if it ran the same contest: only one of the entries is red-white-&-blue, and none of them are ironic. I have to assume that Italian cooks have less trouble than we would believing in an identifiable tradizione americana.

Comments on USA Sweet USA:
#1 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 06:03 PM:

I can't quite get the pieces to line up, but there's something here about "American" traditions versus regional traditions (is your Nilla Wafer/banana pudding warm with meringue, or cold with whipped cream? Coconut cake anybody? Black and white cookies?), as compared to the regions of Italy that have very strong and distinct culinary traditions...many of which were crushed together into "Italian-American" during the early 20th century.

#2 ::: Karen Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 06:41 PM:

Will @#1-- I wouldn't say that regional desserts were crushed together into Italian-American. What Americans have thought of as Italian desserts are almost all Neapolitan or Sicilian (Southern Italian). Tiramisu, and sorbet in citrus shells, arrived later (in the 1980s).

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 06:52 PM:

It's like, until relatively recently, 'Chinese food' meant Cantonese, or somewhere in that province (I've heard it's actually based in a particular village).

#4 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 07:32 PM:

Tiramisu - I think I can gain weight just from thinking about it. :)

#5 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 08:02 PM:

P J Evans: what kind of Chinese food is your default varies, though Cantonese is common in the US.

In Toronto it's Szechwan, to the point that anything BUT Szechwan is marked on the sign (as anything but Cantonese is in Chicago).

#6 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 08:13 PM:

I think that I need to explore American food more - I had not even heard of a lot of the entries both in the original list and on the list of missing ones...

#7 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 08:20 PM:

None of those were a standard in our family (some were disdained for reasons that smack, when I remember them, of some nasty classism), though we did have some 'classically American' terrifying traditional dishes in the savory side, like green bean casserole.

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 08:28 PM:

Historically, 'Chinese' in the US was nearly always Cantonese, up until about the 60s.

#9 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 08:41 PM:

Would candle salad count?

#10 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 08:56 PM:

Allan Beatty #9: Yeah, I think candle salads are an American innovation.

There's also stuff like Miracle Whip and Cool Whip to account for, and the mass-market cakes (Twinkies, Ring Dings, etc.) and candies.

Hey, didn't ice cream cones have an American origin? And of course, apple pie didn't originate here, but we still made a tradition of it, thanks to the colonists' enthusiasm for apples (and cider).

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 09:14 PM:

NYC area Chinese cuisine was mostly Cantonese. I remember when Szechuan dishes & restaurants started showing up. Nice and spicy by comparison.

(Growing up, the horrible stuff that came in cans -- La Choy? -- was considered Chinese. UGhgggg.)

* * *
Banana bread is "American?" Seems like such a universal thing.

I love the idea of nutella on banana bread muffins.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 09:24 PM:

Will @#1: Where I come from, Nilla Wafer pudding is served cold, with Cool Whip or whipped cream.

I thought of adding coconut cake to that list because I have a sense that it's significant, but I don't know how or where or to whom. Tell me more about it?

Karen @2: I can mostly tell where Italian desserts originated when it's in their name: Torta Mantovana, Panforte di Siena, et cetera. I have no idea where tiramisu came from. If I had to guess, I'd say Naples on account of the biscuits, but I know they're an export item and thus not a reliable clue.

My gross generalization about Italian food sites is that if they have one dessert recipe, it's tiramisu, and if they have three, the other two are cassata and torta di nonna.

Annie @6, what's your background, and what are your traditional desserts?

Elliott @7: When you talk about class issues, I'm guessing you mean Nilla Wafer pudding?

Green bean casserole is depraved and irresistible.

#13 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 09:30 PM:

In my family, Jello cake (I'd never heard the term "poke cake" until today) is a birthday tradition. Another is blitz kuchen, although my family's version, which involves dense yellow cake, whipped cream, meringue, and strawberries, is different from the "official" version.

#14 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 09:40 PM:

Speaking of "candle salad" reminds me of a Hilaire Belloc poem, "On Food": British, of course, from the 1930s, but featuring Russian edible candles and some comments on Italian food. I memorized this while a child, and still recite parts of it for amusement (though I can no longer rattle off the whole thing).

#15 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 09:48 PM:

Teresa, the Oxford Companion to Food says tiramisu is Venetian.

#16 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 10:08 PM:

My mother would have offered Ambrosia, which was the high dessert of her youth (American South in the 1940s and 1950s.). She always served it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with other desserts. Her variant was canned fruit including grapes, mandarin orange segments, crushed pineapple, and maraschino cherries. She mixed it with marshmallow fluff, or sometimes Cool Whip, and added raisins and shredded coconut on top.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 10:45 PM:

Thank you, P J Evans.

Olivia: Ambrosia! How could I have left it out? I know that dish very well, though our version used snipped marshmallows instead of marshmallow fluff, and never included raisins.

#18 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 10:53 PM:

Coconut cake was one of my mother's standbys for taking to family dinners (Texas, 1960s). Pecan pie. Fudge Pie, which was basically a rich brownie baked in a pie plate. Homemade fudge sauce to go over vanilla ice cream.

#19 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 11:39 PM:

Teresa @12: The only reason I even know about any of this is Alton Brown's Good Eats, but I'm given to understand that coconut cake, basically a white layer sponge cake with coconut in basically every particular, is a traditional Southern dessert.

Brown's show is also how I know that northern banana/vanilla wafer pudding is the cold whipped-cream version, while southern has meringue and is served warm.

My comment wasn't about Italian desserts, but "Italian food" of the American form. Again cf. Brown, in the home of meat sauce (Bologna, where it's ragu alla bolognese), you could never get meat sauce over spaghetti--they don't really work together. And yet, it's an everpresent American "Italian food" option.

The point I was making is that 100 years ago, Americans took in Neapolitans, Venetians, Romans, Sicilians, and the like, standardized them to "Italians," and ended up unifying their food the same way--and now, the Italians have an idea that there's one "American" traditional food style, whereas we Americans subdivide by region.

#20 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 11:40 PM:

Yikes, I must be tired, I used "basically" twice in one sentence. Ugh.

#21 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 11:53 PM:

Peanut butter fridge rolls! Bonus points for peanuts being a New World crop: They may have been replacing similar groundnuts in (IIRC) Africa and Asia, but our own George Washington Carver was a big force in popularizing them. (q.v. candy bars, peanut and peanut-butter varieties.)

Hmm. Would Cotton candy count? According to WP, we didn't invent the process, but we mechanized it and made it practical.

#22 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:22 AM:

oliviacw, #16: In my mother's family, ambrosia was called "Five-Way Salad" and was made by mixing equal proportions of sour cream, shredded coconut, mini marshmallows, drained crushed pineapple, and drained mandarin orange slices. Sometimes it was garnished with maraschino cherries, but they weren't an ingredient per se.

OtterB, #18: Chess pie, which AFAICT is pecan pie without the pecans. Also, red velvet cake!

#23 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 01:10 AM:

How about taffy apple salad? For Italian American recipes--there's the frosted Italian spice cookie that my family always called "chocolate rocks." I've never been able to locate the Italian name, and all I remember about the recipe itself is that the list of ingredients was two and a half pages long and included orange juice. Anyone?

#24 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 01:45 AM:

The first dessert that comes to mind as American for my family would be a fruit [either apple or rhubarb] crumble. Also, probably, the first dessert I learned to bake, because it's the simplest recipe I know. (1c flour + 1c brown sugar, 1 stick butter, combine, dump on prepared fruit, bake 1 hour at 350F, cool just enough to nom).

I made one last week with a two pound bag of frozen marionberries. Tasty. Soupy.

#25 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 02:06 AM:

Teresa @ 12

I am Bulgarian - lived there until a few years ago. The usual desserts - rice pudding (milk and rice only without making it almost hard; with cinnamon on top of it), baklava, banitsa (both the traditional with butter, eggs and cheese (the savory kind) and with muscat yellow pumpkin for the sweet variety - although in different parts of the country you will see it done with pretty much anything else), creme caramel, pudding (which as sold with the consistency of flour and all it needed was warm milk or water and steady hand to make the pudding -- it is our version of the jello in a way - this was the easiest dessert everyone was making), pudding cake (made with a special kind of biscuits that were getting softer with the pudding without getting mushy), different kind of baking goods based on eggs, yoghurt and flour.

However - Mom is a professionally trained dessert chef/pastry chef (I am never sure what is the correct term) - the kind that went to a special 4 years school for it (under the high school split back home into professional schools and high schools), then went for numerous qualifications, won a competition or two, got called for almost any big party dinner in the region (pre-1989 so that was what you got if you were a good chef of any kind). Because of that, I grew up with professionally done desserts in additional to the usual ones - although once I was old enough to be able to make it, if you wanted a dessert around the house, you were taught how to do it with Mom just sitting and telling you what to do :)

#26 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 03:38 AM:

Benjamin@24: my father called that "apple turd." Affectionately. Then again, my mother called tapioca (made with raisins at our house) "fish eyes in glue."

I remember an extended internet discussion years ago about ambrosia--by me it is sliced citrus and shaved coconut, period. A tickle of sugar might be allowable under duress. Pineapple is not anathema.

I did read a history once. My kind of ambrosia is older.

#27 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 06:17 AM:

I'm interested (though, given history, proximity, and ethnic interpenetration, not especially surprised) to discover how many of Annie Y's traditional Bulgarian desserts @25 are recognizable as traditional Turkish desserts as well. (Wondering whether the reverse is true: what about baked quince and baked pumpkin?

#28 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 06:43 AM:

Will 'scifantasy' Frank @ 19:
Brown's show is also how I know that northern banana/vanilla wafer pudding is the cold whipped-cream version, while southern has meringue and is served warm.

That gave me pause as I checked and double-checked my memories. I grew up in the south, my mother made banana pudding with meringue, and we ate it cold (definitely cold: that was when I first noticed that the center of bananas is sort of tangy and tastes vaguely of Coca Cola to me). My mother's from Oklahoma, which is neither "north" nor "south," so maybe that accounts for it.

Watergate salad is another distinctly American dessert.

#29 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:08 AM:

Ah. I said "Oklahoma" and I meant "Omaha." I've been doing that periodically for 25 years now....

#30 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:45 AM:

I have nothing much to add to a discussion of American desserts, but I am watching with great fascination.

We have fruit pies and fruit crumbles over the pond in England, but most of the rest is completely unfamiliar.

#31 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:47 AM:

warm banana pudding? never seen it.

in all the BBQ joints around me (here in NC), it's Nilla wafers and banana slices in banana-flavored pudding, sometimes with crushed Nilla wafers on top. whipped cream if you're lucky.

#32 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:50 AM:

Teresa @12: No, almost all of those were coded as "lower-middle class or worse" in my childhood homes'★ taxonomy of Not Our Kind Dear. My mother's household-of-origin viewed its class as upper, because my grandmother spent most of the 60s throwing swanky Manhattan cocktail parties for the movers and shakers. My father's household-of-origin included a member who grew up rural working-class but proud and now a doctor, and a member who came multigenerationally from a professional (lawyers, architects, etc), though interestingly my dad's generation ended up claiming a bunch of South-Side-Chicago working-class markers patriotically.

Both sides disliked nearly any food item whose recipe includes as a major factor a pre-made, branded thing (Cool Whip, Nilla wafers, Jell-O, etc)❄ disqualified itself automatically from Fancy territory. It might be made when a gaggle of kids came over, once in a while, to be silly, but would NEVER have been served at a formal function or a big family meal.

On one side, the "fancy meal" desserts in my family included carefully-accessorized ice cream sundaes, lemon meringue pie (and other things with meringue, both baked and soft, in them), puddings, pies, cheesecakes, fruit-and-pastry tarts, and fancy cookies. Generally "fancy" cooking was French cooking,in that household.

On the other side, the desserts that meant it was REALLY a get-all-fifty-of-the-family-at-one-table dinner included a variety of the most popular pies from Baker's Square (pecan, apple, pumpkin in season, Boston creme, cheesecake).

It's weird retroactively realizing what snobs your childhood households were, but the more I think about it as an adult, the more I see the barbed-wire lines drawn between "us" and "those weirdo outsiders", not always in the places I would expect them drawn.

★ Plural because divorce early in my life. The assumptions when I was at Dad's house were subtly different than at Mom's.
❄ I wonder if the rest of the world had as pervasive a set of "cookbooks published by premade-food manufacturers"? Quite a few of my childhood recipes were copied out of various company cookbooks; I still use the Chicken-Of-The-Sea tuna souffle recipe, though the original printed-on-construction-paper novelty cookbook long ago disintegrated.

#33 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:53 AM:

Regional or country differences in "the standard cookie assortment" have fascinated me since I started watching Australian Masterchef. If you're going to serve a variety plate of five cookies to a mass of children, which are the default "of course" choices in your region?

In Chicago I'd expect definitely chocolate chip, some form of iced sugar cookie, oatmeal-raisin, peanut butter (now plastic-wrapped and segregated for allergy reasons), and which one is fifth is a less settled matter. Maybe one of the spiced dark brown ones (snicker doodles, ginger snaps, and their allies).

Specifically, Australia has quite a few "but of course this is the default" cookie choices (and other desserts) I'd never even slightly heard of, which led to some very fun googling. Anzac biscuits, melting moments, etc.

#34 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 08:25 AM:

Elliott Mason #33: I've made ANZAC biscuits from a recipe that IIRC I got here, they went over quite well with my family.

For the cookie assortment: All they types you cite are easy to home-make, but in my childhood world, if somebody was making cookies, they'd be making just one type (or two related types, like oatmeal with/without raisins).

But the "standard" cookie assortment I had growing up wasn't homebaked, it was bought from Mr. Cookie (apparently now RIP -- and I'd thought they'd actually gone to franchises! :-( ) Trying to remember the line-up: it was dominated by sugar cookies in various shapes and variations: Leaf-shapes with sugar, chocolate dipped and/or sandwiched (some with sprinkles), also jelly thumb or jelly sandwiched. But there were also prized lace cookies and small Napoleons with bright green/yellow/red layers.

#35 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 08:32 AM:

Elliott Mason: Chocolate chip, peanut butter (probably the kind with a Hershey's Kiss in the center), a sugar cookie (not iced), brownies, and I dunno about five.

Maybe one of the spiced dark brown ones (snicker doodles...: Amusingly, in my house snickerdoodles were a sugar cookie variant--the recipe includes all the spicy-sweet spices, but it's definitely not "dark brown".

TNH @#12 said "torta di nonna"...I admit I'm going on context and cognates here, but doesn't that mean "grandma cake"?

#36 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 08:51 AM:

Elliott Mason @33:

Regional or country differences in "the standard cookie assortment" have fascinated me since I started watching Australian Masterchef. If you're going to serve a variety plate of five cookies to a mass of children, which are the default "of course" choices in your region?

In Chicago I'd expect definitely chocolate chip, some form of iced sugar cookie, oatmeal-raisin, peanut butter (now plastic-wrapped and segregated for allergy reasons), and which one is fifth is a less settled matter. Maybe one of the spiced dark brown ones (snicker doodles, ginger snaps, and their allies).

I wouldn't, I'd make a giant plate of chocolate chip cookies. Nobody'd make more than one type of cookie for a kid's party.

But for a "what are the five types of cookies you'd most expect to see at a bake sale" type question, having grown up in South Dakota I would say

* chocolate chip
* oatmeal raisin
* peanut butter
* sugar cookies (not iced, unless it's Christmas)
* snickerdoodles, maybe, or a variant on chocolate chip using some other candy. Snickerdoodles for us were much more like sugar cookies than gingersnaps; the only spice is cinnamon, and that only in the sugar they're rolled in before baking.

We traditionally had a very clear separation between regular cookies and Christmas cookies - in addition to the "shaped, with colorful sugars/sprinkles or icing" sugar cookie variant, the peanut butter cookies decorated with a chocolate kiss were only for Christmas, as were the chocolate cookies rolled in powdered sugar. We'd never make "regular" cookies as Christmas cookies (which caused a bit of bafflement when I started celebrating Christmas with my wife, and they'd say "we're going to bake Christmas cookies" and pull out the recipe for chocolate chip or snickerdoodles.)

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 08:58 AM:

Praisegod Barebones #27: I suspect that they're also traditional Greek desserts as well (and traditional Lebanese/Syrian/Palestinian in the case of baklava).

#38 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:14 AM:

Regional desserts.
I am not from Maine (I am from Away), but I married local and in addition to the traditional classic Whoopie Pies (chocolate shell, vanilla-frosting interior, and don't you mess with it!) his family also makes something called "hermits" which I have never encountered anywhere else.

Best I can describe them is a sort of dense spice-cake made in a flat pan, like brownies, with nuts and raisins mixed in. I find them slightly dry and if I ever get my hands on the recipe I think I am going to adjust it in the "less flour, more butter" direction.

Is this a general New England thing, a Maine thing, or just a my-in-laws thing?

#39 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:25 AM:

Elliott Mason@#32: I wonder if the rest of the world had as pervasive a set of "cookbooks published by premade-food manufacturers"?

Doubt it. Blame the Mad Men for that one--those cookbooks were the product of '50s advertising, selling the condensed/processed foods (like, say, Campbell's Soup) as space-age foods that could make real food fast.

This time, I have a cite...

#40 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:38 AM:

Thena @38

I'd heard of hermits before (though I don't think I've had them). I just searched online for

hermits baked good

and found a number of recipes, including this one that says it's a classic New England recipe. That led me to search for

hermits new england

This is some information from a site with New England recipes.

So there you have it.

#41 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 10:08 AM:

Elliot @ 33: Somewhere around the house I have recipes for both Reese's peanut butter cups and York peppermint patties. So far as I know, neither recipe is immediately sourced from a Brand-Name Cookbook, but that doesn't mean they weren't originally. The York peppermint patty one seems particularly weird: it makes something like twelve dozen patties . . . I don't make it often.

Does anyone else remember making Marshmallow Fluff "Never Fail" fudge, from the recipe on the jar?

#42 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:01 AM:

I don't see a Jello Mold on the list, though that requires a number of American-specific things that might be hard to find in Italy.

This reminds me of the time I visited Italy when my sister-in-law was studying there for the semester. We happened to be there for (American) Thanksgiving. I remember the Italian invitees being most unfamiliar with pumpkin pie (we'd been the ones to fly over a few cans of pumpkin puree.) It wasn't a dessert, but the kind of cranberry sauce that shplorps out of a can was also a novelty.

The dessert/snack in my family that I've always thought of as a regionalism is dates stuffed with peanut butter and rolled in white sugar. The basic principle must be lifted from elsewhere, but the peanut butter's pretty American.

#43 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:08 AM:

Rhubarb! And peanut butter. Not together.

The conflation of 'American' and 'lower-class American' is interesting to me. Not surprising, exactly, but I'm looking at how I think of things. As someone noted above, the name-brand recipes feel both.

For cookies, I'd say that a bake sale will/must have chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin for people who like their cookies to lie, sugar cookies, double chocolate chip (that's related to cookie stores and their chocolate-chip variations), and maybe monster cookies or scotcharoos*. (Per footnote, I wonder where rice krispie treats fall in the American dessert classification. I think they're really American, but I don't know Europe except from fancy things.)

For cookies, that means what my mother puts on her Christmas plates: sugar cookies, chocolate powdered-sugar cookies, snickerdoodles (not like Aunt Betty's because hers are soft and Mom's are not and YES SHE KNOWS but it's tradition to ask now), chocolate chip brownies from the edge pan, drizzle cookies (very flat almond things with chocolate on top), Oreo truffles, and peanut butter kiss cookies.

Wow, I kind of did not expect that many parentheticals explaining things my family does and ways my family talks about them. That, I guess, is what makes them genuine. Like my great-grandmother's rhubarb pie recipe, which includes 'eat a slice for Grandma'.

*Monster cookies involve oatmeal and M&Ms. I stay away from them because of the oatmeal. Plus it's all the food touching and I can't see all of it. Scotchies are peanut butter rice krispie treats with chocolate on top.

#44 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:15 AM:

#43 ::: Diatryma

Are there any distinctive upper class American desserts?

Making no claims about class level, but should baked Alaska be on the list? I've seen a number of mentions of it, but never eaten it-- I think it was out of fashion by the time I was eating in restaurants.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:16 AM:

johnofjack, #28: "Watergate salad"? The name obviously dates from the late 70s, but this is the first time I've ever heard it. Expand, please?

Elliot, #33: I know I've had Anzac biscuits here, but they weren't called that and I don't remember what they were called -- IIRC, they were just sitting out on a table full of potluck desserts.

I'm pretty sure I've also had an approximation of melting moments, but my memories on that are much hazier.

(Also, I've never seen dark brown snickerdoodles either. To me they're thick sugar cookies with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.)

Thena, #38: That "hermits" recipe sounds to me as though it may have started out as a fruitcake variant.

#46 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:21 AM:

Another big omission: Rice Krispies treats.

#47 ::: Jenora Feuer ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:31 AM:

This all reminds me of one of the classic Italian 'import' desserts: Zuppa Inglese (English Soup) which is basically an Italian import version of Trifle. So, yeah, Italians have been playing with other countries' dessert traditions for a very long time.

There's a place near here that does a good Zuppa Inglese gelato.

#48 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:31 AM:

praisegod barebones @#27

Baked pumpkin is a very welcome guest on the table in the autumn and winter :) baked quince - nope. Canned quince is a different story... Or any canned fruit really.

Bulgarian desserts are a mix of Greek, Turkish (and from there Persian) and local (with a few French things thrown in and some Russian fare). History and Geography had conspired to ensure that. And the more south you go, the closer the traditional shifts to the neighbors for some things (I am from Northern Bulgaria). It's a small world around the Balkans :)

#49 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:39 AM:

Thanksgiving (in Memphis) featured Sweet Potato Pie (never ever pumpkin), Coconut Layer Cake (minimum 5 layers, sometimes 7), Mince Meat Pie (with real meat and suet), Banana Pudding (served cold because it was prepped ahead of time, but always with meringue and never whipped topping of any sort), and Pecan Pie.

We also made Coke Salad which, if I remember correctly is cherry jello made with Coke instead of water, chopped pecans, small balls of cream cheese, and topped with whipped topping. This was not a dessert; it was a side dish.

#50 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:06 PM:

To the title of the thread - I got some recipes from a CA friend a decade ago, and was surprised at how many of them are basically "take a lot of sugar and heat it with some stuff to give it flavour, then bake it in the oven". Compared to the older, british recipes as seen in the Be-Ro cookbook*, or the general lack of sugar in many of my gran's# recipes, it was a bit obvious. The ones I made tasted nice mind you, but it was clearly a different school of baking.
I get the impression from this thread that this more sugar is better approach isn't just from one persons collection of recipes, and is a bit more widespread.

* which obviously being produced by a flour company would have a certain bias
# Born around 1920 or so, thus heir to some rather older recipes and also the wartime restrictions on food supplies.

#51 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:10 PM:

In the Bake Sale Assortment, nobody's mentioned Lemon Bars?

Cookies my family baked 11 months of the year were almost always chocolate chip (from the Tollhouse recipe on the bag), and occasionally brownies. Except for Christmas. Christmas was definitely Its Own Thing, and had Its Own Cookies. We wouldn't put chocolate chip cookies on a Christmas cookie plate; it would be Wrong.

Christmas cookies included sugar cookies cut out with the special tin cutters Grandma had (the angel's arm was always in danger of breaking off) and decorated with sugar and nonpareils. There were also "Mexican Wedding Cakes" which were kind of like rum balls without the rum and with chopped nuts, thumbprint cookies with fruit on them that would try to take your fillings out, peanut butter and Hershey's Kiss cookies, and the all-important Spritz cookies, which are a very buttery shortbready cookie that are extruded in fancy shapes (especially including children's initials and Christmas wreaths) from what amounts to a cookie caulking gun. I'm sure there were a couple of others, but I can't remember them offhand; we kids helped with the sugar cookies, but the rest were made by Grandma.

#52 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:22 PM:

cyllan, #49: There are a lot of Jello salads, intended to be side dishes, that I will happily eat as desserts. Your Coke Salad sounds like one of those.

guthrie, #50: American desserts are often overwhelmingly sweet compared to those in much of the rest of the world. When I first tried some Indian pastries, I was struck by them not being particularly sweet; this moved me to ask an Indian friend whether, when he first came to the US, he found all the desserts to be sickeningly sweet. His response was, "Oh, yes."

Does anyone else find that vanilla can substitute for sugar in the sense of making things taste sweeter? (Example: making a licuado, which is fresh fruit and milk run thru a blender. If I add a slug of vanilla extract, I don't need to put in any sugar; it tastes sweet enough.)

#53 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:23 PM:

Will "scifantasy" Frank #39: Ooo, that Good Eats program is hilarious! (I hadn't encountered it before.)

Diatryma #43: The conflation of 'American' and 'lower-class American' is interesting to me.

Consider that much of what we Americans consider Italian, German, Russian, and even Chinese food are based on the respective "peasant food" for the regions, albeit amped up for American wealth and meatlust. Of course, most of those dishes came in with immigrant laborers....

There are counterexamples, of course, but I get the impression that European upperclass cooking was simply dominated by French cuisine, for long enough to rather flatten the culinary terrain until recently (WW2 or so?).

#54 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:33 PM:

Standard Christmas plate: Iced Cutout Sugar Cookies, Russian Teacakes, Molasses Cooki Reindeer,* Meringue Wreaths, Date Balls, Chocolate Chip Cookie

Family specialty: Burnt Sugar Cake

*Decorated to look like Rudolph

#55 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:34 PM:

My mother had a Bisquick recipe box. Some of the recipe cards were used. Generally the pre-made-ingredient recipes (I keep wanting to write 'ingrediment: Pogo colors my youth) were written or glued on a card.

I don't think my mother ever had a written version for 'hamburger gravy', which was the important part of 'stroganoff' (brown onions and crumbled hamburger, ad a can of cream-of-mushroom soup, plus milk, maybe a can of sliced mushrooms or some sour cream, serve over carb-of-choice).

#56 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:34 PM:

Cally Soukup @51, you're missing the Christmas cookie I always called "log cookies" - that was a childish coining; I have no idea what the real name was. It was an extruded stick (somewhat ridged; that's how I know it was extruded) of brown cookie perhaps two inches long; glossy either with glaze or just because it cooked that way, with lumpy green blobs dusted with chopped-up nuts (pistacios, at a guess) on both "cut" ends.

I don't know if Grandma made them or if they came in a tin. I never ate them; they looked vaguely scary to me.

You also forgot meringue cookies; basically a "drop" (maybe an inch or two in diameter, shaped like a Hershey's Kiss) of meringue, baked crisp. Usually white; sometimes they had green or red dye in them. Those were always my favorite; they'd melt away in your mouth.

#57 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 12:40 PM:

Lee @ 45: According to Wikipedia, it goes by a few names (the article's kind of a mess, though, and I'm not inclined to do the research necessary to clean it up).

This recipe seems like it might be exactly the one my mother made; if not, it's very close. Tying back to the discussion of class: no one would confuse it for fancy dining.

It was definitely a Christmas dessert when I was a child; I can't remember if it was also served at Thanksgiving.

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 01:09 PM:

My brother makes pies for Thanksgiving (and bakes for other occasions). Apple, pumpkin, and generally another one. No pineapple or coconut: he hates both. (And no Cool-Whip.) His chocolate-chip cookies are good, and he makes a fruitcake that even fruitcake-haters like.

#59 ::: Q ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 01:24 PM:

I don't know how easy the main ingredient is to find in Italy (or, I should say, how easy it is to get enough at an affordable price), but I'd put good blackberry cobbler, with homemade vanilla ice cream, up against any dessert in the word. Tastes better if you're all scratched up from blackberry thorns, of course.

If you want to be super-American, do Chess pie, which is pecan pie without the pecans. Personally not my favorite (put in pecans or don't do it at all) but it was and still is a very American (Southern) dessert.

Cookies have been mentioned, but I'm not sure chocolate chip cookies have been explicitly put forth as an American invention (with their half-sister, blondie brownies).

Are milkshakes/frappes known in less enlightened places, or are they an American tradition?

#60 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 01:33 PM:

Red velvet cake. Proper red velvet cake. A rich devil's food, with a bottle of red food coloring (or beet juice). Not the heretical version of tasteless white cake with red food coloring. ("What flavor is this?" "Ummm ... White?")

Made from scratch carrot cake, with proper cream cheese icing. German chocolate cake. Hummingbird cake. Coca Cola cake. Pineapple upside down cake. Authentic church lady coconut cake.

Watergate Salad may be technically a dessert (whipped topping rather than mayonnaise), but back in the day, it was placed with salads and side dishes on buffets. Either way, I'll eat it.

As far as upper class desserts go, the everyday ones were cakes, pies, puddings, custards, ices, etc. Pretty much what would be served in many middle class homes. Elaborate desserts such as baked Alaska were for special occasions, parties, and high end restaurants. I have no idea what contemporary upper class and/or upper income households eat for dessert, or how often they even sit down for a meal at home.

Is dessert still a common part of everyday home meals? My grandmother always served a dessert, but my mother not so much, and it was usually ice cream. Prepared desserts like cake or pie were for Sunday or special occasions. Jell-O was for congealed salads, which were pretty sweet but definitely side dishes, not desserts. I only make dessert when I'm feeding guests.

#61 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 01:38 PM:

The chess pie discussion reminds me that I don't think anyone has mentioned shoo-fly pie yet. Nor the famous pecan slices, a.k.a. angel slices, from the old Joy of Cooking (a Christmas staple at our house).

#62 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 01:39 PM:

I've seen 'blue velvet cake' mixes, along with mixes for red velvet cake. (Probably white cake with a lot of blue dye.)
I've heard that read velvet is supposed to be chocolate with baking soda (and coloring to heighten the redness).

#63 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 02:04 PM:

Data points:

My mother's family is from northern Italy. Both grandfathers* and my grandmother immigrated, ran a restaurant** in Greenwich Village.

My grandmother was a wonderful cook -- think gnocchi and ravioli and chicken catchatori -- but desserts? Not great. I only recall some disappointing dry cakes (with cherries baked in?). Desserts were something you bought from a bakery down Bleeker street, or on Arthur Avenue. Cookies and connolli (sp). And nougat candy.

My paternal grandmother was Irish/Welch or something. Not well educated. A solid American Fare working class cook: I'm recalling Thanksgiving and Easter dinners, with turkey and hame and mayonnaise "salads."

But her cakes?

Oh, man.

My father said the stove she bought in the 1950s came with cooking classes, and she learned how to make wonderful layer cakes from scratch. The icings (frostings?) were splendid. Probably loaded with lard, but some may have used cream cheese, with tart fruit flavors.

* Is stepgrandfather a thing? Grandstepfather?

** For name, fill in: "Stale Beer afternoons in desolate ____"

#64 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 02:28 PM:

I just got a Croatian cookbook out of the library, and the thing is, the other chapters average around 35 pages, with a range of 35-45, but the dessert chapter is 75 pages. That's just sort of puzzling, because do we really eat dessert often enough to get restless? I mean, I think I could eat a blackberry plop or plum tumble anytime it was put in front of me. Whereas I'm always looking for something new to do with the standard vegetables that are seasonally overabundant (and thus free to people like me). I was so excited to learn how to make parsnip casseroles and then I ate so many of them I couldn't do it any more the next winter.

If you look at very old cookbooks, and then successively newer ones, the amount of suger that goes into recipes increased dramatically in the early-mid 20th century, I think just because sugar became quite cheap due to improvements in manufacturing and transportation and also the devastatng expansion of colonialism in sugar-growing areas.

#65 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 02:42 PM:

Lucy, I don't know how much the wild variety of desserts is the result of eaters getting tired of the same old dessert vs. the desire of cooks to explore and/or show off.

#66 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 02:47 PM:


But you can make so many different things with whipped cream and some colors or with a different set of ingredients in a pastry than you can with green beans. :)

I am biased - most of the cookbooks around the house were either for desserts or with more desserts than anything so I am always surprised when I see one with only a few desserts in it.

#67 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 03:18 PM:

re 64: In one of our vegetarian cookbooks (which is not vegan, BTW) the dessert section begins with the enthusiastic observation that very few dessert recipes include meat!

We also have an Austrian cookbook in which "tortes" is its own section, separate from desserts as a whole.

#68 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 03:20 PM:

Annie Y, that sounds like a challenge, but it might be less interesting to other folks than to me, so I'll refrain from making a list. It would be fun though.

#69 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 03:53 PM:

johnofjack #57: Reading the text at the site: It may well be the recipe your mother made... but I rather doubt the chef at the Watergate Hotel would have let flavored instant pudding mix (inter alia) into his kitchen. ;-)

#70 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 03:58 PM:

Lee @52: Woe if your Indian friend ever turns up at the dessert table in Eastern Europe! Polish and Russian desserts that I remember were almost entirely white cake and whipped cream. Georgia was the same, with even greater excess of cream. I'm not sure whether the Georgians count churchkhela as a dessert or a lembas-like magically sustaining substance, but at least it's not terrifyingly sweet. Hungary, with a whiff of both the Balkans and the Habsburgs seems to have gotten the best of both worlds dessert-wise.

#71 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:00 PM:

johnofjack, #57: Thanks! No, I still don't recall having encountered this before, under that name or any other. Looking at the recipe, I would classify it as (very broadly) a variation on ambrosia. And if I were making it, I would definitely add some dried cranberries!

Tracie, #60: Also, proper red velvet cake must have cream-cheese frosting. I've had it done with buttercream frosting, and that Just Does Not Work. There's a local place called Dessert Gallery here in Houston which makes the absolutely best red velvet cake I've ever had.

Tangentially, one of the new Starbucks Frappucino flavors is Red Velvet Cake. I tried it; it's not bad in and of itself, but it really doesn't taste like red velvet cake at all.

#72 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:13 PM:

Red velvet cake is incomprehensible to me. Cake with enough red dye in it to contribute to the flavor and color your excreta like beets do? Why?

For that matter, beets are sweetish, I wonder what a cake made from them would be like.

#73 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:23 PM:

Originally, it was cocoa with buttermilk (or milk clabbered with vinegar); the acidity apparently brings out the red anthocyanins in the cocoa. The red food coloring just heightens it.

#74 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:29 PM:


Read lots of tweets today linking to an article in Slate noting that the glop found in cans of chickpeas can by whipped into a convincing meringue.

Lots of potential there for vegan baking and cooking, I imagine.

#75 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:33 PM:

I've seen mentions of prune whip, but never eaten it.

I got curious about its history, but haven't been able to turn up anything. Anyone know where/when prune whip got started?

#76 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:34 PM:

David Harmon @ 69: I am also skeptical of that claim, but I don't have any real knowledge of the matter. (Before today it never even occurred to me that there are probably entire books about what is or has been served at the White House. And Worldcat assures me there are a few dozen at least.)

#77 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:50 PM:

Actually -- the famed Red Velvet Cake traditionally had a Boiled Seven-Minute Frosting, which can be a bitch to make in humid weather. Somewhere between the 1950s and 1990s someone figured out it's easier to make Cream Cheese Frosting, and you still get the lovely color contrast.

#78 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:51 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer @ 72

I never got the taste for the thing. I tried it a few times in different places because everyone seemed to find it the best cake and... I still do not get it.

P J Evans @ 73

Now that actually makes sense and explains why and how someone decided to make the cake red. Vinegar in a dessert is a pretty common occurrence :)

#79 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 04:51 PM:

Poland is the only place I’ve ever had desserts sweeter than here in the US!

I thought (and maybe I was misled) that Red Velvet Cake was originally notable for the “velvety” crumb – and the redness caused by the reaction between the cocoa and the acid (vinegar? Buttermilk?) and nothing else. It was more of a brownish-maroon color, red only in comparison with other chocolate cakes, and not this terrifying Red #5 stop-sign hue that characterizes the dessert these days. Or maybe my mom was just out of food coloring when she taught me how to make it.

I agree with C. Wingate that Rice Krispie Treats should be included in Distinctly American Desserts. Also, there’s a no-bake cookie that involves cocoa, peanut butter and oatmeal (sub any plain cereal in for part of the oatmeal) with a generous dose of sugar and butter that is one of my favorites. I have no idea if it has a common name, but I have termed it The Cookies of My Ancestors, as it showed up in pretty much every mimeographed relief society cookbook we had growing up. I have also found others raised in the intermountain west who are immoderately fond of these cookie-blob things.

And now I’m wondering if I have all the ingredients to make some species of molasses cookie when I get home.

#80 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 05:14 PM:

johnofjack, #76: ObSF: In "Food of the Gods", Clarke mentions that the White House maintains a list of menus from official state dinners that goes back for (at the time the story is set) centuries. It doesn't sound that far-fetched to me; that's the sort of thing someone would probably do in the interest of "recording history".

nerdycellist, #79: Red velvet cake made from a devil's-food base is definitely burgundy/maroon, not stop-sign red -- that would be the white-cake abomination mentioned upthread. And no, it doesn't make you pee red, there's not that much food coloring in it!

Do Coconut Haystacks count as traditionally American?

#81 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 05:35 PM:

Lee @52: I find your Indian friend's experience quite interesting; the Little India in my city has many restaurants, often run by recent immigrants, and oh my are the desserts sweet there. Like, even in my "pancreas begging for mercy" sweet tooth stage I found them sweet.

But then, it all depends what part of India you're talking about. Two grad students in my department from India, and each said the restaurants the other praised as completely authentic were "crap, not authentic at all." And don't get them started on how to make proper chai...

Also, this article from 2014 would seem to indicate that your experience of Indian pastries - and your friend's heritage - are not universal. gist: diabetes is reaching epidemic status in India. (World stats: most cases India, next China, next US)

Coming from Canada, I don't have much to contribute to the "typically American" thread, but I will add that my first experience of hermits was from a recipe in a Canadian Living cookbook that celebrated regional Canadian cooking.

Also, I have been reading and drooling. *g*

#82 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 05:48 PM:

More regional cookies: Boston has slighty salty soft molasses cookies called "Joe Froggers"; Pittsburgh has soft, cakey "orange cookies" in which the actual orange content may be sequestered in an icing made with powdered sugar, butter, and the juice/zest of one orange.

Not entirely related but perhaps of tangential interest: the origins of the Blue Willow dish pattern. Is it really limited to the Anglosphere?

#83 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 06:31 PM:

Besides cotton candy, another popular state fair food is funnel cakes. (We won't go into fried anything on a stick, which is not dessert.)

#84 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 06:43 PM:

There are now other-color variants of the Red Velvet cake, trotted out for the holidays.

I picked up a few, very cheaply, from the Walmart grocery up the street, after their designated holidays had passed. There's a Green and Red mix in one box, and an Orange and (forgot) combo in another.

The box depicts a layer cake with two colors. I think I'll slice the layers and alternate further. Red-green-red-green.

#85 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 06:44 PM:

Julie L, @ #82, thanks for that link. I am gobsmacked to discover that "kaolin" is actually a Chinese name (kao lin, "high ridge"). All my life I've pronounced it "KAY oh linn." It's mined near where I grew up. (It's also the "kao" in "Kaopectate", the other ingredient of which is pectin.)

#86 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 06:47 PM:

I could puzzle out most of the ingredients on the Italian recipes, but I have a question: Are chocolate chips something commonly found overseas?

I know the most popular entry in that category is made by Nestle, but maybe they're only mass-marketed here?

#87 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:21 PM:

"the dessert chapter is 75 pages"

I posted on the book of faciness a while back thus: "Just received an eBay order: Favorite Recipes from Sharon, Wisconsin, compiled in 1951 by the Ladies' Aid and the Harmony Circle of Christ Lutheran Church. This is one of the cookbooks I grew up with (my grandmother and great-aunt being from Sharon). There are 19 pages of cake recipes, 17 pages of breads and pancakes, 11 pages of cookies, 8 pages of pastries, 4 pages of confections, and 3 pages of vegetables. Admittedly there are 8 pages of salads, but as they include things like "Yummy Salad/1 pt. thick sour cream/20 marshmallows (cut fine)/1 No. 2 1/2 can fruit cocktail," well. (But it's served on a lettuce leaf!)"

#88 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:22 PM:

Oops, and I left out the follow-up comment: "I left out the 12 pages of desserts and the 3 pages of deep fat frying (latter is all doughnuts and crullers and such)."

#89 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:35 PM:

Lee @ 80: I think that's funny, but I'm having a hard time not feeling patronized by it. I thought it was clear from my comment that I'd realized I should have thought about it sooner, and felt foolish about it.

#90 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:49 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer et seq. I thought that the original idea for red velvet cake was that it was sweetened with beet juice. Before refined sugar started flowing in from other colonies, the American colonies apparently had desserts sweetened with fruit juices and/or sweet root vegetables (see also; carrot cake, and later banana bread).

#91 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 07:56 PM:

My mother is from the Potteries, so I grew up hearing the lore of English porcelain*. Willow pattern is inextricably associated with the old manufacturers. I believe it was a Wedgwood invention, but the others have adopted it - I have just eaten toast off a rather lovely black-and-white willow patterned Burleigh plate. I would be surprised if it had been widely adopted eslewhere. It came from a particular mixture of orientalism with local tastes, and because it fit those tastes, and was made by high-class businesses whose wares were a status symbol, embedded itself into the local culture. There's a weight of tradition behind it now. And unlike some of the fancy porcelain coming out of the Potteries, willow pattern was (usually) functional, so if you were middle class you could buy it and use it and feel the happy glow of buying from the same manufacturers that sold screamingly impractical display objects to the gentry.

*In teashops, when presented with a cup that in any way interests me, or that appears to be of high quality, I automatically turn it upside down to look for a maker's mark**. I suspect this habit is a reliable identifier of pottery geeks.

**The maker's mark is specific to the manufacturer, but in handmade or handfinished ware, especially the older stuff, may be accompanied by painted or pressed marks which are specific to the craftsman. This is to facilitate accounting, because the pottery workers were paid by the piece.

#92 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 08:53 PM:

My grandmother's china cabinet had a willow-pattern tureen sitting on top, that was from her mother's father's mother. One of my uncles apparently tracked it down by the markings to Spode, in the 1830s. (Which makes perfect sense: very-great-grandma Phoebe was born early in 1805.)

#93 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 08:59 PM:

I went to Italy a couple of summers back. I've been trying to remember what we had for desserts.

Except for an evening in which we split a box of pastries (very familiar treats for NYC area bakery goers for the most part) dessert was "gelato, gelato, gelato, gelato . . ."

#94 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:01 PM:

David: sugar beets aren't red!

Last I drove down by Spreckels, they were still growing sugar beets there. I knew a guy who worked in the sugar refinery: they rappelled (I think that's the right word) down into the tanks to clean them. He went to night school and became a lawyer...

Anyway, I am embarrassed to admit I had read about the vinager and cocoa origins of the red velvet cake and forgot all about it. All I remembered was reading a recent recipe with horror.

#95 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:12 PM:

They sure aren't! I've seen the trainloads of sugar beets in the Salinas valley: very large brown roots, not at all like the beets in the produce section.

#96 ::: JAB ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:13 PM:

Ooh, ambrosia! It's my grandmother's staple. The canned ingredients are orange juice concentrate, peaches, and pineapple. The bulk of it is honeydew, cantaloupe, and seedless red grapes. It's extensible to taste -- sometimes she'd slice bananas into our bowls (not the serving dish because they get mushy). I bet pitted fresh cherries would work in season. I don't like apples in it because of the texture differences.

I wonder why her version is like fruit gazpacho and most of the other versions here are so different? Also, it's nice to see that other people have heard of it. So few people I've met have heard of it that I classify it as "really obscure".

Local bake sale assortment (SWE fundraiser):

Chocolate chip
Double choc. chip
Rice Krispie treats
Puppy chow

Catered cookie platters are different. They usually have chocolate chip, oatmeal (raisins optional; fancy versions add cranberries, nuts, or even chocolate chips), sugar cookies or snickerdoodles, and white chocolate macadamia nut. I wonder why that last is so rarely baked at home.

#97 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:35 PM:

David Harmon @90: Don't forget maple. The reason why the lightest and least maple-y maple syrup was called "grade A", was that it was the most like refined sugar.

Anyone ever heard of Gooey Butter Cake? I hadn't, until I visited my birth father in St. Louis. Apparently it's a Thing there.

#98 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 09:49 PM:

Lucy @72 A restaurant in my town offers Beet Cake, with walnuts in the mix, and orange cream cheese icing on top and between the two layers. The colour was lovely, but it tasted pretty much the same as good carrot cake to me.

#99 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 10:05 PM:

johnofjack, #89: Oops, sorry, that wasn't my intent at all. I think my brain must have gone off on a tangent related to the story or something while I was writing the comment.

JAB, #96: Puppy chow?!!

Ooh, that's cross-breeding with the Hugo and Worldcon threads...

#100 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 10:44 PM:

JAB @96 - If you've ever tried crushing macadamias, you'll understand why the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie isn't a home-bake commonality.

Here's a hint: macadamia kernels are largely spherical, and very dense. I had to crush some once for a curry, and wound up using a hammer to do it (they quickly dropped off my list of "essential ingredients" for that particular curry - they were only in there to provide texture and thickening anyway). One of the standard dirty tricks of Australian supermarkets in their Christmas Nut Assortments is dropping in a few unshelled macadamias, because the shell is also spherical, and also extremely smooth and glossy. There are retailers who sell specialist macadamia nut crackers, which look like nothing other than large-ish thumbscrews.

(Need I mention Macadamias are native to Australia? Even the plant-life gets nasty!)

#101 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2015, 11:00 PM:

I'm a bit surprised cashews aren't native to Australia; after all, their shell is caustic and evil. (But the nut is so, so good....)

#102 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 12:01 AM:

nerdycellist @79:

The "velvet" part of the name is indeed based on the expected texture. 19th-century velvet cakes used pure starches (like corn starch) to soften high-protein flour and make them more velvety. Today we can get soft wheat "cake flour" for the same effect. Compare this against the chewy "kings cake" that was typical of yeasted cakes of the time and you'll get it.

There are multiple theories as to how the red color got into it, which seems to have happened sometime in the very early 20th century. Several sources say that it started with the reaction between baking soda and cocoa, which caused a reddish brown color. Others say that it was from using beet juice to improve the moistness of the cake. In any case, by the Great Depression, a major vendor of food dyes seized on the Red Velvet cake as a promotional recipe and papered the country with the recipe.

#103 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 12:01 AM:

Puppy chow! Not something I grew up with, but suitable for less sticky snacking when a kiddo can handle a recipe of more than three ingredients (a la rice krispie treat). It's... Chex, peanut butter, chocolate, powdered sugar?

#104 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 12:27 AM:

In south central Nebraska, "puppy chow" was local vernacular for pfeffernusse.

#105 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 12:34 AM:

Sigh. Now I've looked up a bunch of different things and ended up at the Shop Goodwill auction site, definitely not buying china.

#106 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 01:23 AM:

Thena @38: My mother* made "pecan hermits" containing raisins and pecans, but they were cookies, not a cake-like object.

*Her heritage was Texan post-Civil War, various southern states before. OTOH, she learned to cook after she was married, so mostly in the style of my dad's family, which was ganz Deutsch.

#107 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 02:34 AM:

@Nancy Lebovitz no. 44: I read a lot of public domain American cookbooks. It seems to me that for at least a hundred years, the dividing line between upper-class and middle- and lower-class desserts has been whether a particular recipe has a foreign name in a language that is not that of the current immigrant bogeyman. The expense of the ingredients--wine and spirits especially, but also other foods--is another long-standing marker. Also, if it has to be plated individually instead of being served from a common dish, it is at least middle class if not higher.

Down at the other end, the humble desserts of pre-mass-market tradition were not necessarily desserts at all. Most of them are variations on "combine fruit with flour and fat and cook slowly," and they were designed to use up summer gluts and winter barrelfuls. As such, they might be eaten at any meal. Consider the custom of serving apple pie with a piece of cheese. And of course there are cobblers, grunts, slumps, crumbles, buckles, Brown Betties, pandowdies, etc., which are different recipes involving layering fruit with dough or crumbs in a pan. I am told that these are easy to do in a covered shallow pot at the edge of an open fire.

As for cookies, local bake sales usually include two or more varieties of chocolate chip cookie with brownies, Rice Krispies bars, peanut butter cookies, and either sugar cookies or snickerdoodles.

#108 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 04:09 AM:

Here's a link to that history of ambrosia. And I'm thinking about how variations in ambrosia are like variations in haroseth.

#109 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 06:07 AM:

Lee @ 99: Fair enough. I was feeling particularly vulnerable last night for some reason; I'm sorry if I overreacted.

Another US dessert my mother made was divinity. I loved it as a kid, but as an adult I recoil just thinking about it.

#110 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 07:57 AM:

Lucy Kemnitzer #94: WP confirms my intuition that sugar beets weren't even developed until after cane sugar came around. Colonial-era bakers would have been working with the beets they had, meaning mostly red beets.

#111 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 08:12 AM:

David Harmon @110: Powdered chocolate has only been around since 1828, so colonial-era bakers don't enter into it.

#112 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 08:57 AM:

johnofjack @109, looks like your "divinity" is what my family called "meringue cookies". But we didn't put nuts in them that I recall. Hard-ish crunchy outside, slightly softer inside, melt-in-your-mouth-because-it's-nearly-pure-sugar?


#113 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 09:50 AM:

My grandmother was a superb baker, but being from Eastern Europe, made those types of desserts (cakes, pies, cookies, croissants) as well as what most Ukrainians call compote: dried fruit cooked with a little sugar and water, served either warm or cold. Her cookie range was varied, but we usually had chocolate chip (with nuts and raisins); oatmeal raisin, lace cookies (anyone else know those?), and the pastries that we called Danish. Essentially, they were from the same dough as the croissants, but rolled out and then cut into smaller shapes with filling such as farmer cheese (with lemon and raisin) or apricot jam, cinnamon, and crushed walnuts. I didn't meet snickerdoodles (aka peanut butter cookies with a Hersey's Kiss in the middle) until much later. However, her next-door neighbors had the most scrumptious peanut butter cookies -- mainly peanut butter and sugar -- that were enrobed in dark chocolate.

And here I sit with a bag of German cookies (biscuits and wafers) and my tea, thinking of her.

Oh, there was one dessert that she called Turosh Peretz (which is Hungarian for "cheese pretzel"), but the Hungarian recipes are completely different to hers. I think I finally found a Ukrainian/Polish recipe that matches her fried cheese dough with confectioner's sugar dusting. Those were addictively good.

#114 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:01 AM:

nerdycellist @ 79

The cookies of your ancestors are formally/actually called "No Bake Cookies." If you do a web search, you'll find pages and pages of recipes.

When I'm craving a quick dessert, I'll do a low-sugar, non-setting version that is really just "loaded oatmeal".

1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp brown sugar
(combine and cook until oats are done)
add 2 tbsp of peanut butter
1/8 cup chocolate chips
stir until everything is melted and gooey.

#115 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:19 AM:

I keep meaning to look up (or improvise) a purple velvet cake recipe based on subbing purple yams into a regular sweet potato cake, except that the pH adjustments might get fiddly-- like blueberries, purple yams turn a nasty green when alkaline, so any baking soda would need to be overbalanced with sour cream or such.

Also wrt overseas versions of US desserts, there's the Knickerbocker Glory... which modern Americans mostly know of because of "Harry Potter".

#116 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:19 AM:

Cassy: not quite: meringues are also basically egg white and sugar, but they're baked. In divinity, the hot sugar cooks the egg.

And I forgot kolochkes, which are kind of a cookie and kind of a micro-pie. Essentially pie crust, cut into squares a couple-three inches on a side, with apricot or other jam spooned into the middle and a pair of opposite sides folded in to overlap, and baked.

#117 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:24 AM:

Cally @116, kolochkies have a lighter crust than a pie crust, if memory serves. Although perhaps it's just rolled out thinner. (My husband's family has the exact same pastry in their family, but they call them "Hungarian Pastries". Apricot jam is, of course, absolutely required as the filling.)

Thanks on the meringue/divinity disambiguation; from the picture, they looked the same, and I've never made either one so I was unaware of the differences. Do you remember those "log cookies"...?

#118 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:55 AM:

Ginger @113:

I didn't meet snickerdoodles (aka peanut butter cookies with a Hersey's Kiss in the middle) until much later.

That's the third definition of snickerdoodles on this thread!

For me in South Dakota, and for my wife in Delaware, they were more or less "sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon-sugar before baking".

For Elliott in Chicago, according to #33, they are "dark spiced cookies" in the same family as ginger snaps.

And for you they're peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's Kiss; we had those too when I was a kid (but strictly as a Christmas cookie), and called them "peanut butter blossoms". Where geographically were you when you encountered this one?

(Wikipedia acknowledges only the cinnamon-sugar variant, so it's no help.)

#119 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:59 AM:

Yes, I remember the log cookies. They looked a little like mini cannollis. I suspect they were just piped chocolate/nut cookies with some nuts at the ends.

My husband's families canonical Christmas cookie is Lebkuchen, which (their version) is a dense brownie-like cookie that seems to consist largely of finely chopped nuts with a gingerbready seasoning.

#120 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:08 AM:

Julie, #115: Based on a quick Google, that Knickerbocker Glory looks a lot like what I'd call a parfait -- alternating layers of vanilla ice cream and fruit/jelly/other colorful stuff, in a tall fluted glass.

#121 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:08 AM:

David Harmon @34: in my childhood world, if somebody was making cookies, they'd be making just one type (or two related types, like oatmeal with/without raisins).

I just flashed on a very odd memory from my high school years. My friend Patti came over to our house one evening (not unusual), but somehow got onto a baking binge. I went to bed around 10pm; apparently she kept at it into the wee hours.

When I got up the next morning, I found out that she had made one hundred and twenty-five dozen cookies, of various sorts. (I'd had no idea we even had that much flour and sugar in the house.)

I never did find out what motivated her to do that; we were giving cookies away, it seemed like, for weeks.

#122 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:24 AM:

My mother had a divinity recipe that's flavored with jello. The jello goes into the egg whites.

#123 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:39 AM:

My grandmother was an excellent cook but now I realize that it was very simple, old-fashioned yankee plain cooking, and I think it also reflected her experience of making do with very little in the Depression. Most of the American desserts listed here are strange to me. But boy were we happy with her apple pies, blackberry pies, chocolate cake, angel-food cake, cookies, and ice cream with hot fudge sauce. I just baked a double-batch of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies in her honor.

#124 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:59 AM:

Jacque #121: And you never asked her *why*?

I can' t get the link now (I'm on my iPad, but the link probably came from here anyway), but that makes me think of the commentary from a guy who set out to determine The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, by experiment. He described cookies stacked all over the house, with his wife vainly attempting to tell him "NO MORE COOKIES!"...

#125 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 02:11 PM:

I don't know if it's American, per se, but our family's strawberry pie is not something I've seen anywhere else (fresh, homemade whipped cream, please--Cool Whip is anathema).

Come to think of it, I remember seeing a dessert (?) mentioned in a list of recipes in, I think, an L.M. Montgomery book. But Googling "velvet whip" these days doesn't go well. Of course, if I have the author right that would be a Canadian dessert.

#126 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 02:17 PM:

I am reminded of Alton Brown's variations on chocolate chip cookies. I would recommend them to my mother, but since I got her the edge pan, she's abandoned cookies entirely and does brownies all the time. I am so okay with this.

At Wiscon, the lemon bars were completely delicious. The meringue was actually worth putting in my mouth, even. (My practice regarding the desserts is to check the menu, take whatever lemon thing looks most promising, take a bite while still in the line, and either move on or grab another immediately.)

#127 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 02:28 PM:

Diatryma (126): since I got her the edge pan, she's abandoned cookies entirely and does brownies all the time

I've never understood edge pans for brownies. That is, I understand the concept, but I like the center pieces the best. Why would I want a pan that made only the inferior pieces? ;)

#128 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 02:40 PM:

Quill @125:

What's unique about your family's strawberry pie?

My current recipe is pretty basic. (All-butter crust, fresh strawberries with just a little sugar, cornstarch for the thickener.) No whipped cream of any sort; if I want that I'll just have some with the fresh raw strawberries.

#129 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 03:31 PM:

I don't know, but I've found a couple of recipes in my mother's wartime GH Cook Book: one baked, and one chilled. Prunes (pureed or sieved), egg whites, sugar (not much), and a little lemon juice, served with a custard sauce made with the egg yolks. It sounds like something that could have been done with apples.

#130 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 04:09 PM:

Unsorted notes follow.

I came into this thread to stoutly defend the Chocolate Chip Cookie, but I'm a hundred posts or so late. My sister lives in France and food gets transferred back and forth every time someone visits. I think we get the better part of the deal, but that is the basis of trade. Chocolate chips have recently become available in near-Paris suburbs, but peanut butter apparently remains too American. [Last trip we brought Wnpx Qnavryf brand BBQ sauce, by specific and aggressive request from the teenage contingent. Presumably not for dessert.]

Are beignets/crullers/"old fashioneds" more American than not? I suspect they're popular everywhere that has dough and deep fryers, but I have no actual idea. Not usually dessert as such, but related.

My idea of upper-class dessert often involves "rich and light and fluffy". Mousse, meringue, etc. I don't know if that's a useful contribution [Jenny Islander @107 has a lot more expertise than me.] I feel like there's a definite class marker with heavy, gooey stuff out of cans.

#131 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 04:47 PM:

The weird thing about the edge brownie pan is that the edges it makes aren't the same as the ones in a regular pan. I'm used to the edges being crunchy and dry, and the centers being soft and moist and homogenous (which is actually why I don't like the edges-- I want that homogeneity) but the edge pan makes edges that are very similar to the middles. They're just poofier, the way edges get in chocolate chip brownies. They aren't dry or crunchy.

With any other brownie, though, I am a center person.

#132 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 04:51 PM:

Re snickerdoodles: The peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's Kiss in the middle were originally a Pillsbury Bake-Off entry. The creator, Freda Smith of Ohio, called them black-eyed Susans, after a native flower, but Pillsbury renamed them peanut blossoms. Authentic black-eyed Susans/peanut blossoms have sugar crystals on the cookie for that sweet-salty-savory combo that is so loved by Americans.

Actual snickerdoodles appear to be an East Coast invention. They may be an Americanization of something German or Dutch that means "snipped off" (i.e. pinched off a mass of dough, not rolled out and cut) or "snail" (again, rolled into individual balls that flatten during baking, not flattened beforehand and cut). Or a New England housewife may have decided to try making a sugar cookie--that is, cream together sugar and butter, beat in eggs, gradually stir in flour and leaven with a little salt, chill a while, pinch off bits, roll into balls, roll in sugar, and bake--with the addition of cinnamon to the final coating of sugar. There is a tradition of playing around with the names for foods in New England, so maybe when her kids asked her what she was making, she grinned and said, "Snickerdoodles!" Some cooks put a little nutmeg into the dough as well.

#133 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 04:56 PM:

Diatryma (131): Interesting! So they're not really "edge" pans, they're "all middle" pans.

#134 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 05:01 PM:

My mother (Kentucky overlaid with Texas) makes a thing we call Pink Pie: graham cracker crust, frozen strawberries processed with strawberry jello and a little Cool Whip, with more Cool Whip on top. Her best friend makes something her son always referred to as Decadent Pink Stuff: similar to my mother's, but with cottage cheese (and possibly mayo, godknowshow) in there somewhere.

When I was a child, we were at least as likely to make fudge as we were cookies, and the favorite house dessert (aside from ice cream) was a Spanish Bar Cake from the A&P: super spicy cake with raisins and nuts and a cream cheese frosting.

We do a bunch of Christmas baking, but much of it doesn't really qualify as Christmassy, sable' cookies, madeleines, triple-ginger gingersnaps.

My husband used to make potato candy every Christmas, adding as much confectioners sugar to a baked potato as it could possibly hold, rolling it out, spreading with peanut butter, and rolling it back up. If he was feeling particularly vile and dastardly, he'd add food coloring.

I made some bourbon balls for the first time in honor of the Kentucky Derby a few weeks ago for a social event, and was somewhat surprised to discover that all the available recipes seemed to say "start with a box of crushed-up Nilla Wafers ..."

#135 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 05:10 PM:

Jenny Islander @132, I've never made a snickerdoodle, but I do eat them from time to time. We get them as part of Christmas-cookie plates made up by work colleagues. The ones I'm acquainted with are flat, thin, rather crunchy (not soft) cookies, that are a middling brown color or darker, with a very distinct spice taste. (Not "spicy=hot"; I mean spice=aromatic.) There's cinnamon in there, certainly, but I'd not be even slightly surprised to find there are other spices, like nutmeg, in there as well. They're moderately sweet, but not as sweet to my palate as a standard sugar-cookie. All of which is to say that I agree with my fellow Chicagoan Elliott Mason as to what a snickerdoodle is.

I could probably get the recipe from my husband's coworker....

#136 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 05:20 PM:

As for non-cookie deserts, my mother fought a rear-guard action all her life against chocolate. (She didn't care for it; all of her daughters AND her husband loved it.) She used to make home-made hot caramel topping for vanilla icecream -- as I recall, it was nothing but butter and sugar in a pan, heated until the sugar caramelized.

On one memorable occasion when I was perhaps seven or eight years old, she accidentally let the topping cook too long. (Perhaps there was a phone call; I do not remember.) When poured over the irregular lumps of icecream in our bowls, it instantly hardened to rock-hard caramel candy, in loops and arches and arabesques.

I remember eating the icecream out from under the topping, then admiring the resulting sculpture...

#137 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 05:28 PM:

@Sandy B. no. 130: Any dessert that takes a lot of hands-on time and attention to timing and temperature, including scratch-made mousses, meringues, etc., is definitely considered to be a high-class food, especially if it has to be individually prepared or artistically composed. I have a Gilded Age cookbook for employees of robber barons open in another tab. (It's The Table by Alessandro Filippini, available at archive dot org.) Although simple dishes such as sweet pancakes or baked apples are included, most of what Filippini recommends on his daily menus is quite fussy. It isn't rice pudding, if you please; it's rice pudding with stewed apples on top on a pre-baked flaky pastry crust with apricot-flavored sauce poured over the whole thing and a browned meringue added at the last minute.

When something that used to be fussy becomes more accessible to the masses, it loses its cachet. Consider Jello. Early advertising portrays Jello as a way to eat like the swells, who enjoyed elaborately prepared (and apparently nearly all alcoholic per Filippini) "jelly" desserts. You had to drain the things in jelly bags for hours before they even went into the mold, then chill them in the icebox. Jello changed all that, and within a decade gelatin desserts had become hopelessly plebeian in the U.S. Ice cream followed a similar, longer arc. Originally it was a treat for the rich because you had to plan ahead for months in order to enjoy it in the appropriate season and have the time and money to keep an icehouse. The easier it became to cut, store, and transport ice, the cheaper ice cream became. Mass transport of milk to ice cream factories made it even cheaper, and shipment of frozen products cheaper still. You still see ice cream desserts on high-class restaurant menus, but it's nearly always an unusual flavor, or an unusually sourced common flavor, or it's handmade on the premises, or in some other way the restaurant indicates that extra fuss and bother were put into preparing it.

#138 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 06:15 PM:

Sandy B. #130: Are beignets/crullers/"old fashioneds" more American than not?

Well, for those first two, the French names kinda argue against that. ;-)

#139 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 06:24 PM:

I'm looking at his Delmonico Cookbook, though, and the recipes are very much in the Joy of Cooking vein. For instance, he provides a slew of standard American pies, of which the pumpkin pie would immediately be recognized (modulo the need to start with a fresh pumpkin in his case).

#140 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 06:24 PM:

Mary Aileen, it's still an edge pan, but it's an edge ambassador pan. Now I see why my mother likes edges. Or maybe chocolate chip brownies are just meant to be made in three-inch serpentine strips.

A question for the historians: in many historical romance novels, there's Gunter's and ices. I cannot find a clear definition for this, though I admit I have not looked into many dictionaries, just sources about the Regency in general. Anyone know?

#141 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 06:34 PM:

When I was younger, dessert was always part of the family meal. The things my mother fixed for us (as opposed to things to take to larger get-togethers) included apple pie (in a paper bag, still the only kind I know how to make), pecan pie, occasionally lemon meringue pie, cookies (usually chocolate chip) with ice cream, homemade fudge sauce with ice cream, or cake (usually just a boxed mix yellow cake, but with homemade chocolate frosting). Or, in summer, watermelon.

My husband and I had a difference of opinion on suitable desserts when we got married. My position was that jello was not a dessert for grownups.

#142 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 06:43 PM:

Diatryma @140

I presume you had seen this: ?

I looked it up the first time I saw the term - the Gunter's in any regency novel/history text refers to it :) And if I had been wrong for so many years, someone will correct me of course.

#143 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 07:06 PM:

David Harmon @124:

I'm pretty sure the story you are talking about can be found at Food Lab: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by J Kenji Lopez-Alt.

#144 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 08:18 PM:

Buddha Buck #143: Yup, that's the one all right....

#145 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 09:45 PM:

I suddenly remembered that there's a dish called 'apple snow', and it's very similar to prune whip: fruit puree, sweetened and mixed with well-beaten egg whites.

#146 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:12 PM:

Cassy B. @ 112: They do look similar, but the consistency is very different: meringue is light and airy; divinity is dense and heavy and has the consistency of fudge.

Sometimes it has chopped nuts, sometimes chopped cherries. Just thinking about it I feel like I've had enough sugar for the next week or two.

#147 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:16 PM:

johnofjack @146 Divinity is dense and heavy? Interesting; I'd not have known that. Thank you! A very different thing, then. I've never had divinity; the meringue "cookies" (not really cookies, but that's what we called them) crunched and then melted away to nothing in your mouth. I was misled by the appearance to think they were the same.

#148 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 10:46 PM:

YOUR divinity MAY be dense, but mine isn't -- Mom's name for that recipe is "Sea Foam" and it's not as light as meringue but it sure isn't as dense as fudge!

And it is tooth-aching sweet...

#149 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:06 PM:

As far as I can tell, the density of divinity is highly dependent upon the humidity of the day when it's made. My mother, being from Mississippi, favors a somewhat denser versions and often adds nuts to it. Cherries isn't something I'd heard before, but it sounds tasty.

#150 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:10 PM:

I got the impression from my mother's stories that she and her friends often made fudge when she was growing up. That's the kind that you cook chocolate and sugar to a soft ball stage, cool, and then beat butter into. I remember us making that when I was little, but once the easy "heat sweetened condensed milk and stir in chocolate chips" recipes came along, she never looked back.

She also had a recipe that combined whipped cream cheese, cool whip, and melted chocolate chips. This was piled into a graham cracker crust, and frozen. I thought it was delicious when I was a child. Now it just makes me want a flourless chocolate torte. (Something unheard of in my childhood.)

My mother's cookie jar was always full of chocolate chip cookies (a variant with a little oatmeal included), and she served dessert every night. Chocolate sheet cake, chocolate meringue pie, chocolate upside down cake, ... If there was no time to bake, we had ice cream. There was Hershey's chocolate syrup, or homemade caramel sauce.

I learned Schnickerdoodles in Pennsylvania. It was sugar cookie dough, rolled into a ball, dipped in cinnamon sugar, then flatted onto the cookie sheet and baked. It should be fairly thin, with a crispy outside and soft in the middle. Best eaten within hours of being baked.

Cally Soukup @ 51: You have precisely described my family's cookie baking. The Spritz cookie caulking gun was remarkable.

HelenS @ 61: Does anyone actually like shoo-fly pie? As a teenager in Amish Country, I sold it at a tourist trap bake shop, but I didn't know anyone local who actually ate it.

Stefan Jones @ 86: When my family lived in Belgium in the early 70s, the stores did not carry bags of chocolate chips. When I was in Brussels in 2000, I saw them in the grocery store there, but that city is full of foreigners, so it may be atypical. We made chocolate chip cookies by buying a big bar of semisweet Côte d'Or chocolate, and breaking it into chunks (leave it in the wrapper, put it on a sturdy cutting board, attack it with a hammer). The results were superior to anything you can get with a bag of chocolate chips!

Will "scifantasy" Frank @ 19: I also learned about "cake lady" coconut cake from Alton Brown's Good Eats. I have used his recipe several times -- skipping the part about making your own coconut extract -- and recommend it highly. I do find actual coconuts very unreliable in providing the necessary coconut water, and make sure to buy some bottled coconut water to supplement.

#151 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 11:28 PM:

janetl @150 : Canadian here, but my family discovered shoo-fly pie in the mid-nineties and ate it not irregularly, to great enjoyment.

#152 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 12:46 AM:

Basically, I want to know if an ice is the same as ice cream, sherbet or sorbet, a sno-cone, things like that. I haven't gotten a completely good answer, though I have seen some incredible sculptures.

#153 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 07:19 AM:

Elliott Mason, #33: "the standard cookie assortment"

In Sweden that'd be "seven kinds of cookie" ("The minimum amount etiquette prescribes for a coffee rep*. Often, serving less than seven was seen as a sign that the hostess was misely, more that she was haughty."). Most of the canonical cake types are sweetcrust pastry/shortbread variants, often including nuts (almond/hazel).

*: A Swedish thing. "Coffee social", kind of. One of the few ways for women to meet without men or children present during late C19-early/mid C20.

#154 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 07:56 AM:

Diatryma @152 I am pulling myself out of the rabbit hole that is searching on regency food, but I sugggest as a search term "Joseph Bell's A Treatise on Confectionery in all its Branches", published in 1817. This post on a Regency cookery class mentions a "cream ice" frozen in a sorbetiere. This one on To Make a Hedge Hog makes a different recipe from Bell. Not, alas, an ice. But the post does make the point, discussed earlier here, that fancy upper class desserts required a great deal of time.

#155 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 07:56 AM:

Lori Coulson @ 148: YOUR divinity MAY be dense, but mine isn't

cyllan @ 149: the density of divinity is highly dependent upon the humidity

Ah. I was incorrectly generalizing from my own experience. Sorry about that. I grew up in Florida* and we didn't have air conditioning, so it was almost always humid inside. Based on recent events** I think that even in winter it was probably still humid enough for outsiders to consider noteworthy.

*Not on the beach, so not in range of a reliable breeze.

**John Scalzi was in town at the end of April and commented about the humidity, which I hadn't really noticed; certainly it hadn't yet impressed me the way it does in mid-summer when it's in the 90s.

#156 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 08:04 AM:

Now I am missing vacuum cleaners. Eh, I mean 150-Ohm resistors...

Let me back up a bit. In Sweden, there's a confectionary, often eaten with coffee, called "punsch roll". It is made from broken-up cookies, cocoa, punsch (Indian subcontinent arrac, water, tea and sugar) and butter. This is then rolled up in a green (traditionally) marzipan wrap and the ends are dipped in chocolate.

It has the shape of one style of old vacuum cleaner (thus that nickname) and would be a -+25% 150 Ohm resistor, if the colour coding is to be trusted.

#157 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 08:06 AM:

cd@153: You remind me of another fixture of my childhood, tinned "Royal Dansk" brand cookies, which are almost all variants of some kind of shortbread or butter cookie, sometimes run through a spritz caulk-gun (I own two, btw). My grandfather loved them; I found them to be yet another small sweet butter cookie after a while.

The tins were a fixture of my grandmother's craft and utility organization because of the way grandpa went through them. It sometimes shocks me to open a tin of them at someone else's house and see COOKIES inside, instead of screws or sewing thread. :->

#158 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 08:10 AM:

Cally Soukup @ #101: cashews are closely related to poison ivy and contain similar irritant chemicals (urushiols). There was a nasty outbreak of dermatitis from cashews in the '80s.

P.J. Evans @ # 145: my Elizabethan cookbook (Sallets, Humbles and Shrewsbury Cakes) has an "apple moye" that sounds very much like your apple snow.

When my mother was a very young Georgia bride transplanted to St. Louis in the late 1930s, she attempted a Lady Baltimore Cake. The first batch of icing failed and pretty much sank into the cake, so it got a second batch of icing on top. The St. Louis crowd were duly impressed by this shining example of the famed "Southern cooking". (According to both my parents, my mother could barely boil water when she married.)

The Charleston Receipts, published in 1950 by the Junior League of Charleston, complete with embarrassing dialect "quotes" from the "help", was pretty much the go-to reference for the Southern Cooking I grew up with.

#159 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 09:10 AM:

Since the conversation has drifted to regional dishes, I have to mention something I've never seen outside my family and the area where I grew up in the Great Plains; sour cream raisin pie, which was our must-have Thanksgiving pie. (For large family Thanksgivings - upwards of 20 people if all my mom's sisters and their families were there - we'd easily have half a dozen pies, which varied, but no matter how small the group there would always be one pumpkin and one sour cream raisin.) I've started calling it 'raisin custard pie' for people who didn't grow up with it, which is a more user-friendly name; the filling is egg yolks, sour cream, raisins, sugar, and cinnamon, cooked and poured into a pre-baked crust. The egg whites are, of course, used to make meringue for the topping.

#160 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 10:24 AM:

Sour cream raisin pie - sure, I remember that one! Not meringue on top, though.

#161 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 10:44 AM:

Diatryma, #152: My take on "ice" as a dessert item is that it's similar to the authentic Italian lemon ice that was available in the Italian bakery when I was growing up, which was more like a sorbet than anything else in your list. Shaved ice / Sno-cones are a completely different thing, and even sherbet has a different texture.

#162 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 12:47 PM:

@C. Wingate no. 139: Delmonico's was a restaurant that served a well-heeled but not necessarily self-conscious crowd, though--Tesla used to eat there. The Table, and for that matter his International Cook Book, were for cooks employed by people who were trying very hard not to let anybody remember that they or their parents had started with pushcarts. Every day includes three elaborate menus for six.

#163 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 01:23 PM:

Elliott #157:

Those cookies are, if I've not had time to do baking before going off on a trip, my standard treat for the cat-sitter, left on the kitchen island next to kitty's record book. Her latest comment was, "those cookies are *evil*. Thanks!"

#164 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 01:27 PM:

Another thing on snickerdoodles: I'm not sure if I read it here, some years ago, or just what, but ISTR that snickerdoodles won their place in the standard 8th-grade home-ec curriculum because there are any number of failure modes, each of which can tell the observer quite clearly about what step (measurement, mixing, baking time, etc.) the student baker messed up. Grade-by-numbers.

#165 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 02:09 PM:

Drat! I had several cookbooks mixed up. Filippini's The Table is a later edition of his Delmonico and the one I was thinking of that has historic menus from Delmonico's but no daily bills of fare is another book entirely. Mea culpa.

Sometime I need to compare the D and T versions of the cookbook to see whether there is more fuss and less pie in the T.

#166 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 03:56 PM:

Lorax @ 128: I don't know if it is unique, but it's sliced strawberries in a homemade strawberry gel very similar to the (scrumptious) strawberry jam my mother makes. I think it's got mashed strawberries, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice. She got the recipe from her mother, who was a child in Minnesota and an adult in California.

If I get really lucky, Mom will make strawberry tarts in individual tartlet pans, using a shortbreadish butter crust instead of standard piecrust. Possibly my most favorite dessert ever, but using all the little pans makes it labor-intensive (and they all have to be scrubbed afterwards, too).

#167 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 03:59 PM:

Elliott Mason #157: We had those too, mostly as gifts. My opinion on them pretty much matches yours. There were different brands or collections; some had a few thumb cookies or other variants.

#168 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 08:00 PM:

Oh man, I have some insight into the Cookie Hierarchy that people may find interesting.

I participate in a guerilla charity organization known as the Cookie Brigade. We give out cookies at a small selection of conventions. I've done this for YEARS, with an incredibly wide variety of cookies... I've seen every single variety listed here, even the obscure not-typically US-oriented ones. Here's the cookie demand hierarchy, from the perspective of hungry American convention nerds mostly aged 18-59.

Chocolate chip is king, of course
Rice Krispy Treats (the breakfast cookie)
Peanut Butter (with & without chocolate equally popular, but among different people)
Oatmeal Raisin
Snickerdoodles (most-frequently specifically asked after)
Sugar Cookies (frosted get grabbed quicker)
Lemon Cookies (various types are equally popular)
Peanut-butter Sriracha (outlier: someone made ten dozen of these one year, and everyone remembers them)
Brownies (annoying, because EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. makes the SPECIAL BROWNIES "joke")
Ginger snaps/gingerbread/Spicy/molasses-y

Beyond the Sriracha peanut-butters, the following oddball cookies are set firmly in people's memories - I still get asked for them years later!

Combustible Lemons (lemon butter cookies with cayenne icing, sometimes presented as a sandwich)
The Super Cookie (an oreo baked inside a chocolate chip cookie. Yes)
Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip

One of these days, I want to try making a batch of chocolate chip cookies that use bacon fat instead of shortening.

#169 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 08:38 PM:

Not sure whether my favorite cookie is chocolate chip or the brown sugar cookies from an America's Test Kitchen recipe.

I will note that the reason I bought two largeish cookie sheets, several cooling racks, and a 10-inch "conventional" skillet is so that I could make the brown sugar cookie recipe.

(One of the keys is that the recipe uses browned butter. Which is harder to do correctly with a nonstick skillet.)

#170 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 08:53 PM:

Leah Miller #168: Fascinating, and surely worty of further experimentation. <

The Super Cookie (an oreo baked inside a chocolate chip cookie. Yes)

So let me see... cold butter, and dollops of dough on both sides of the Oreo?

So did popular demand get the sriracha peanut butter cookies into your rotation? (For that matter, I wouldn't mind the recipe myself.)

I thought of a wiseass response for the "special brownies joke", but discretion prevails.

#171 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 09:05 PM:

Google is your friend, possibly:

#172 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 09:25 PM:

Leah Miller: I remember years ago when a rec.arts.sf.fandom member brought paprika snaps to a convention. They were very good, and I was able to handle half of one.

#173 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 09:59 PM:

Dave #170, The Brigade shares cookies, so we can all have more varieties - I didn't bake the Peanut-butter Sriracha ones (I know the recipe linked in 171 is one that has been used, though there have also been ones that had chocolate chips in them).

Funny story: the first year we had them, they just sat in a corner for most of the first day, sealed in little gladware boxes. If you opened a container, the whiff of garlic and peanut butter would suffuse the immediate vicinity, and the capsaicin would make my eyes water... even though the cookies were individually wrapped inside the boxes. The baker had dropped them off for other people to give out, and we had SO MANY, so I took a box with me to see what I could do.

My sales pitch went like this: I'd do my normal spiel, listing out the more ordinary varieties I had. Then I'd look conspiratorial and say "And then there are the bad cookies. The dangerous cookies. I do not recommend them. They terrify me. They are sealed in this box to keep the other cookies safe."

The first dozen were gone within the hour. The next few went quickly after that, and then we had to start rationing them. People were stopping cookie brigade folks to ask them if they had the danger cookies, the Sriracha ones. I'm a spice wuss, so even all these years later, I still don't know what they actually taste like. People seem to love them, though.

Honestly, there has never been any weird cookie that nobody wanted. There have been a few times where someone tried a recipe that didn't quite "work" (home-made gummies are notoriously difficult to master), but any quality cookie, no matter how odd, eventually finds a home.

(BTW, if any bakers here live in Seattle or Boston, and would be interested in charitable baking once a year, let me know, and I'll give you less mysterious information.)

#174 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 10:30 PM:

Leah, #168: One of these days, I want to try making a batch of chocolate chip cookies that use bacon fat instead of shortening.

That would work, but you won't get much in the way of bacon flavor unless you use the translucent stuff in the bottom of the container. The transparent bacon fat that rises to the top is essentially liquid lard, and lard is pork-based shortening.

I want the recipe for the Combustible Lemons!

#175 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 10:37 PM:

I see that I'll be doing those PB/sriracha cookies tomorrow. I have all the ingredients on hand.

(I may, later, try a version which uses a non-garlicky hot sauce. I think that would appeal to more of my social circle. But the straight recipe first.)

#176 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 10:48 PM:

Weird cookies I have made:

Double-chocolate cookies with pink peppercorn. (Or brownies with pink peppercorn.)

Basil pesto shortbread. (Fresh basil ground in olive oil, and ground walnuts, but no garlic or cheese.)

Tahini shortbread. (Straight out of one of the Moosewood cookbooks, really.)

Black-sesame tahini shortbread. (Now that's getting weirder.)

#177 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 11:11 PM:

@Leah Miller, 168: "One of these days, I want to try making a batch of chocolate chip cookies that use bacon fat instead of shortening. "

Is the goal "lard" or "bacon flavor"? The 1975 Joy Of Cooking suggests parblanching bacon to get it back to basically porkfat. I tried this once and it seemed to work pretty well.

@ 162/139 [Delmonico's Discussion] I was under the impression that Delmonico's was the first, or nearly the first, "eat there on purpose" restaurant in America (which would make it a natural to put out a cookbook.) This is *just enough* information to make me want more. There's considerable propaganda on these great interwebs, but I don't know if any of it's accurate. AKICIML?

Jenny Islander @137, interesting! I had no idea that jellies used to be high-end labor intensive things. A roast is fancy (these days?), and about as easy as anything I've ever cooked, but that's probably a matter of "First, get the best ten pounds of meat from a 1400-pound cow."

#178 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2015, 11:36 PM:

I've put diced green chilis in brownies. One 4-ounce can is almost unnoticeable; one 7-ounce can is definitely there.

#179 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 12:13 AM:

I wish I could read the comments to the various contest-entry recipes. Are they "Gee, that sounds hideous!" or "That sounds wonderful!" or both?

#180 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 01:55 AM:

Leah Miller, do you need anyone in Iowa City?

#181 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 08:06 AM:

Super Cookie (an oreo baked inside a chocolate chip cookie. Yes)

My daughter bakes these. She calls them Inception cookies.

Also, going back to regional specialties, family desserts, etc.: Strawberry shortcake.

#182 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 08:55 AM:

P J Evans #171: Thanks!

#183 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 10:15 AM:

Michael I #169:

We also make the brown-sugar ATK cookies. Definitely a favorite.

Weird cookies department: rosemary potato tuiles that you bend around a rolling pin.

#184 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 11:21 AM:

Indian pudding. Apparently Durgin Park, bargain restaurant of my college days, is still in business!

Wax on Snow: Unless you've gone sugaring, you don't know this treat. As the maple sap is boiled down to a concentration suitable for making maple sugar, you drizzle some of it over fresh clean snow. The thick syrup supercools to a taffy-like consistency. Eat it right away, before it crystallizes and becomes "ordinary" maple sugar.

I thought Seven-Layer Cake was a New York thing, but apparently it's actually Dobostorte. The very similar Smith Island Cake, however, is the State Dessert of Maryland.

#185 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 11:42 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 179: Well, my Italian is weak and out-of-practice, but they seem to be largely positive (and as much fun to read as the recipes)--lots of "deliciozi!" and "bellissimi!" popping up. My favorite comments, though, are the ones from people adding insight into the true "American" versions of these deserts. The lemon chiffon cake gets called "angel food cake" fairly frequently, and one commenter informed fellow readers that this would be called a "Bundt" cake in America. They generally seemed very appreciative, amazed, and polite--several said that they were going to try various recipes "subito!" (I didn't run across anyone posting the results of such an attempt) and thanking the blog for running the contest.

#186 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 11:45 AM:

Mary Frances @185: Interesting. In my idiolect (and how I was trained in the kitchen), "Bundt" is a shape of pan into which a variety of batters may be poured for baking. It is toroidal and often has sculpture of some kinds up the edges (not just the flat-bottomed-with-corners one you use for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake).

Angel food is a very specific white cake, flavored with vanilla, that is leavened with whipped egg white. Sometimes served with a dusting of powdered sugar, sometimes glazed with a pour-over sauce.

Lemon chiffon is a very specific thing unto itself, IMO, and since I've never liked it (me and lemon, not buddies), I haven't eaten a lot of it to have opinions.

#187 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 12:40 PM:

#185: Thank you!

"Bundt" is actually a . . . copyrighted? Patented? . . . pan. If you look on boxes of cake mix, there's generally a . . . well, let me look:

"Bundt(r) is a registered trademark of Northland Aluminum Products, Inc. Minneapolis, MN."

#188 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 12:43 PM:

I occasionally get into a baking mood:

#189 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 12:55 PM:

Nordic Ware, in everyday life.

#190 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 03:06 PM:

I wish I could come up with a workable way to do a Cookie Exchange of Light, but my logistical creativity fails me. The best model I can think of -- which would be pretty unwieldy -- is the old APA system of mailing X+1 copies (dozen) of your fanzine (cookies) to the official editor, who would repackage them and send out one copy (dozen) to each member. Worked with paper (OEs were rarely tempted to eat the zines); would be problematic and expensive with baked goods. Maybe local/ regional/ convention in person exchanges, with pictures? Anyone have any ideas?

#191 ::: tracie ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 03:14 PM:

And just as I hit post, I thought "virtual cookie exchange." A collection of favorite cookie recipes. Pick an official day, weekend or week and bake. Post pictures and recipes.

I'm thinking springerle, with my grandmother's springerle pins, or maybe one of these.

#192 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 03:15 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 187: "Bundt" is actually a . . . copyrighted? Patented? . . . pan.

Good heavens, is it really? Still? My Bundt cake pan (and yes, we always used the uppercase B; should have been a clue) has to be close to 70 years old and is cast iron; I had no idea it was patented (or whatever) any more. I wonder if lamb cake pans are also patented? No, they can't be. Can they?

The things I learn at Making Light . . .

#193 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 03:17 PM:

For those who are going to Sasquan, perhaps an in-person cookiefest at the ML party (if there's going to be one, which AFAIK has not yet been determined)?

#194 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 03:21 PM:

Mailing baked goods works surprisingly well - I'm fond of Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes as a preferred shipment method. This would get problematic if we wanted to ship cookies outside the US, but within the US, it'd work fine.

I've mailed quite a few Incorruptible Pound Cakes over the years, very successfully.

#195 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 04:01 PM:

Incorruptible Pound Cake is my next garage band name.

#196 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2015, 04:53 PM:

This thread and an upcoming picnic have led me to attempt brandysnaps. I followed a recipe that apparently comes from a cookbook put out by Cottolene, which I had to look up and which was an early vegetable/animal shortening. I'm glad I halved the recipe for a test batch -- it did not come out. I'll try the BBC website's version next, I think -- they've never steered my wrong.

#197 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 03:08 PM:

(One of the annoying things about getting (cough) elderly can be a deterioration in motor-control, resulting in hitting the wrong keys -- especially the "D" one -- more often. So: a re-try.)

Spending the first ten years of my life in Northern Ohio (semi-rural suburbs of Toledo) with a mother who was 2nd-generation Swiss, but grew up in Kentucky, my Idea of "Traditional American Desserts" was formed mostly by my paternal grandmother, who was a terrible cook, but Adventurous, & born a few generations later she'd have been an enthusiastic participant in the SCA and Revolutionary War Re-Enactments.

So: "Traditional" mostly meant "local fruit, in season, sliced (or pitted, for cherries) in the bottom of a cast-iron Dutch Oven, with enough water or juice to cover, plus a little honey if wanted. Simmer, stirring frequently, for a while, add a topping of biscuit dough (slightly sweetened, maybe) or a crumbly mix of something like flour & rolled oats, with some butter cut in. Cover, heap coals on the top, and cook until done. (In my time, Boy Scouts still did this, though perhaps using something like canned peaches as the base.)

Also: pies. Almost any fruit, No meringue on top, though, and not often whipped-cream, for reasons I wot not of. Raisin pie came a bit later (Depression-era Government Surplus food distributions often included raisins, beet sugar, cornstarch, and flour). Apple pie, cold, with cheese, was a Staple for breakfast, not a dessert.

Corn bread, slightly sweetened, cooked in a cast-iron frying-pan, served hot, with butter. Indian pudding. Any kind of reasonably-sweet cooked fruit (including reconstituted dried).
Boston Brown Bread (steamed, and thus convenient in the summer when the cook didn't want to build the stove fire up enough to heat the oven) served cold, with butter on it. (This also served sometimes as a snack = cookies, for kids between-meals.) Doughnuts -- more like modern American Indian Frybread, a yeast-risen soft bread dough, deep-fat fried then topped with honey or jam. (Why, yes, now that you mention it, the Fitches & Staceys _did_ move out to the Northwest Territory from Vermont and Upper New York State.)

I suppose Jell-o/gelatine-based desserts (or half-that & half salad, in the old tradition of serving Salad towards the end of the meal) are a bit too new to qualify, but I still count them as desserts. (No marshmallows for me, thank you very much.)

#198 ::: Rail ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 03:57 PM:

Lee @22 Chess pie is indeed pecan pie without the pecans. Sometimes, depending on the family recipe, it's closer to schadenfreude pie.

cleek @31: Same here. (TN native, NC resident.) Banana pudding has always been cold with whipped cream.

Something that I think was unique to our family was our fruit cobblers, which were pastry crusts top and bottom with cobbler-style fruit between. We never had the biscuit dough kind.

Jell-O salad, of course. The occasional upside-down cake or bundt cake.

But most common would be corn bread crumbled into a tall glass of cold buttermilk.

Elliott Mason @33: We didn't do cookies. What I would suggest today: chocolate chip, "cowpies" (chocolate whole oat drop cookies), sugar cookies flavored with Jell-O (no icing), Tollhouse cookies sans chocolate chips with lemon pudding mixed in, farmer's cookies (kitchen sink version of oatmeal raisin).

#199 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 04:07 PM:

I noticed I'm having visceral reactions to the sweets we're mentioning--some viscerally positive, some viscerally negative. I think it's interesting I should have such strong reactions to descriptions of desserts nobody's suggesting I actually eat right now. I'm not listing which ones. That doesn't matter.

Is anybody else finding that some of these desserts sound heavenly and some sound hellish?

#200 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 05:50 PM:

Lucy: Oh, yes.

#201 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 06:01 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer #199: Most of them sound pretty good to me, though a few are things I might not make on a dare. I've been reading the thread and getting sugar cravings. <discards candy-bar wrapper>. :-)

#202 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 07:01 PM:

There are few desserts I wouldn't try, but given a huge potluck-style spread there are always some that scream "wny waste your calorie allowance and dish space on me when there's a brownie ice cream sandwich with walnuts and flaming cherry sauce?"

#203 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 08:42 PM:

Lori @ 148: Was your sea foam this stuff: brown sugar divinity?

My grandmother's sea foam was something entirely different: this amazing stuff, which has a bunch of other names, they say, like honeycomb and cinder toffee.

Both things are called sea foam by different people, which once resulted in me getting very much not the thing I was expecting to get, and being very sad. (They're nothing alike to eat.)

I like the sea foam / cinder toffee because hey, it's got a vinegar/baking soda reaction as the basis for making it at all.

#204 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 09:09 PM:

I followed some of the links on the contest page and note that the angel food cakes made by contestants were--well--flat. I would have thought that something so elaborate as angel food cake was an upper-class cross-Atlantic import, but Wikipedia traces the first recipe for something like it to The Kentucky Housewife in 1839. So it's not only American, but also such an elaborately and uniquely American thing that a newbie in Italy can't quite grok in on the first try?

#205 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 09:41 PM:

Elise -- yep, that's what I remember...wonderful stuff. (I'm a sucker for anything brown sugar based.)

The other recipe my family would have called "fairy food" and Fanny Mae Candies used to sell a chocolate covered version that they called Molasses Sponge candy.

Jenny, there's a real trick to beating the egg whites to JUST the right texture to give the angel cake it's spring. If you screw it up, it becomes a VERY sad cake. (Note: I do not have the gift, so I stick to simpler things like pound cakes.)

#206 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 10:19 PM:

The spice angel food cake that I made for my father (from a Joy of Cooking recipe) came out splendidly. I think it's the only angel food cake I ever made, so it may have been beginner's luck. They suggested using the "two forks" method for cutting it -- something I'd never tried either, or even seen, but that description was enough to tell me how to do it. It doesn't crush the cake, which is a major problem for angel food. Just insert two forks, and pull in opposite directions: the cake separates along a fairly clean line, and isn't compacted.

#207 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 10:23 PM:

Jenny @204: I agree, those are some sad, fallen angelfood cakes.

In one case it's because they replaced all the wheat flour, on purpose, with cornstarch (Italian: maizena). That's ... never going to work. They claimed they liked it because it gave a lighter result.

Someone else describes the right steps towards doing the egg whites and folding, but the cake they got was flat as a board and then they cut it into layers and filled it with chocolate and hazelnut and covered it in ganache. Which is ... not angelfood cake. Sorry. **THEY** said they disliked the "height" and texture some people's cakes are. So they dislike the main point of the cake, ok. Um. I guess.

#208 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 10:50 PM:

Reading more of the contest entries, this one purporting to be red velvet cake ... is NOT RED VELVET CAKE. It is ... a puddingy pound cake with as much yogurt in the batter as flour+sugar, frosted with a frosting that has equal amounts cream cheese and mascarpone, done to a pipeable consistency.

And then they bake it thin, cut out rounds, and serve it like a whoopie pie (cake, layer of piped filling, another cake layer, decorate top with more frosting and such).

Oh, and they deliberately left out the cocoa powder. And put in A WHOLE TABLESPOON of Wilton's red gel food dye, AND THEN EXTRA LIQUID RED.

That's ... that's pooping-red-for-days red. That's nearly a Wilton's-flavored cake.


I must say, every one of these I've read, the cook has done something to remove any light or fluffy texture, in favor of something puddingy (or made of nutella, that's popular too). The cupcakes, they scoop the centers out and fill them with ganache. They deliberately deflate their angelfood. They turn their "red velvet cake" into a puddingy wet glop on purpose.

They must like that texture. Better than a fluffy texture, anyway.

Is the sponge cake alien to Italian food culture, I must wonder? I've never been.

(still reading, because I am fascinate)

#209 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 11:24 PM:

I have made the sriracha cookies. (First batch out, second batch baking.)

They're decent. Not garlicky per se; there's a general air of savoriness which goes well with the peanut butter. I'm sure that chocolate chips would have improved them, because -- peanut butter and chiles -- I trust this is self-explanatory.

I will eat them. I don't think I'd bring them to a party as-is. But I'm considering a cayenne chocolate ganache for frosting.

#210 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2015, 11:25 PM:

They seem to think it's supposed to be like genoise. The kind of sponge that can be filled and rolled, which is more European than US.

Angel cake with strawberries, or other fresh fruit: summer!

#211 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 12:03 AM:

It is also surprising to me how many of the things labeled "cheesecake" are simply set tarts of yogurt, sometimes with mascarpone, often with no cream cheese at all, and almost never a baked one with flour.

I learned as a child that "no-bake cheesecakes" are cheating but tasty, and shouldn't be regarded in any way as "real" cheesecakes, which contain some flour and are basically baked custards, firmed with baking and containing primarily cream cheese, plus some egg and other things.

#212 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 12:16 AM:

Speaking of melt-in-your-mouth candies... my grandmother used to buy peppermint balls that were like that. They were large (about 1" diameter), red-and-white-striped, and what they tasted like was effectively peppermint-flavored air because they dissolved immediately and completely on being put into your mouth. I'm pretty sure the brand name was King Leo, and you can still get King Leo peppermint balls that look like that, but they do not have the same texture. Probably a recipe change somewhere along the line.

#213 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 12:19 AM:

Chocolate chip cookies were the main homemade variety when I was growing up. Sometimes there were oatmeal cookies or peanut butter cookies. Iced rolled sugar cookies in seasonal shapes were a Christmas thing.

Then there were measles cookies - drop sugar cookies with cinnamon red hots mixed into the dough. They may have been peculiar to my family.

I'm not a member of any formal cookie conspiracy, but I've brought cookies for the OVFF consuite sometimes. Usually rose-almond cookies, my own recipe. I did some almond shortbread skulls one time.

#214 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 01:30 AM:

I have made many many cheesecakes and I have never ever put flour in them. They come out magnificently solid, less "wet" than commercial ones. My cheesecakes are made of several types of cheese, and eggs, a very small amount of sugar, and the flavorings of the day (most often lemon peel, almond extract, and very very tiny smidgeon of cinnamon: often vanilla and nutmeg also). I most often give them a bottom of ground nuts rather than graham cracker crumbs, but that's because I like nuts and not because there's anything wrong with graham cracker crumbs.

Jelly roll is sponge cake rolled up with jame and it used to be a big deal in the US. Must have been, otherwise why would the old folks sing about it so much?

(I know, I know, it's all double entendre, but still)

#215 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 02:39 AM:

204ff, angel food cakes.

There's a reasonably familiar old-fashioned cookie in Australia, perhaps of Italian origin, that basically has a failed angel food cake as the intermediate step.

You whip egg whites with sugar, then and plain flour (and no raising agent) and whole almonds. The eggwhite collapses under the load, and when you bake the mixture in a loaf tin you get this unappealing beige rubbery object.

The redeeming feature is that when it's cold you can slice it extremely finely, and then re-bake the slices in a low oven until they're off-white and crunchy: a sort of ultra-thin almond biscotti variant. Perfect with icecream and other squishy desserts.

#216 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 06:59 AM:

Lee #212: I actually have a bag of soft peppermints in my closet, though the brand is "Bob's". It hadn't occurred to me that the texture really wasn't quite as soft as I remembered, but they're still something you can chew without getting shards in your mouth or danger to your fillings.

#217 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 08:50 AM:

I didn't go back to look at the Italian angel food cakes, but it occurs to me to wonder, did they have an angel food cake pan? Because that extra support in the middle is really important for preventing a collapsed cake, not to mention baking a cake that is basically a giant thermal insulator all the way through.

#218 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 09:15 AM:

That crunchy airy brown sugar seafoam looks amazing. My dad's friend makes a peanut brittle that is in that direction - thicker and airier than the usual for that candy, and less tooth-shattering. I know there's baking soda involved but he refuses to divulge the recipe.

I still need to do some experimentation to try to recreate my grandmother's "brown sugar candy". Some sort of brown sugar-based fudge (if you can call something without any chocolate fudge), I think. Cloyingly sweet but my dad adores it, and nobody got grandma's recipe so none of us have had it in the ten years since she died.

#219 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 09:57 AM:

lorax @218 try looking in Mexican food cookbooks for the brown sugar candy - that's my immediate association, anyway, dimly-recalled from my Texas childhood.

#220 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 10:19 AM:

Not your grandmother's brown sugar candy, but this woman was evidently determined to make sure her fudge recipe was not lost with her death; or perhaps just couldn't resist the idea of getting a fudge recipe with the directions "pour on a marble slab" engraved on a tombstone.

#221 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 10:32 AM:

Update -- I started looking around for more details on the gravestone, since almost every post about it shows the same photo. According to Find a Grave, it's a family tomb in Logan City, Utah, and Kay may not actually be buried yet. Hope she's enjoying her recipe's internet celebrity.

#222 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 11:21 AM:

So what's a fancy dessert?

I asked my father, a retired caterer, and he promptly replied, "charlotte russe."

So now we all know.

The family firm was better known for its ice cream. (The butterfat level was literally off the scale. I grew up being offered vanilla ice cream for dessert, and declining it, because it was hand-packed, and prying out each tiny spoonful was a real pain.) They provided molded ice creams (from the largest collection of ice cream molds in the world), either in appropriate fancy shapes and colors/flavors (chocolate for bears for Brown University functions, elaborate bells in vanilla for weddings, flowers with lime sorbet leaves, and lemon, orange, or raspberry flowers), et cetera, or the classic melon mold (also called a bombe). I have a melon mold, and a bird's nest, with the matching egg mold.

There were also the petit fours -- not the kind totally enclosed in that plasticy frosting. There were a lot that used yellow cake: the basic cube with a layer of currant (?) jelly in the middle, the Carr's Cream with a round of cake topped with a double pouff of... frosting whipped with cream (?), a cube of about seven tiny layers of cake alternating with layers of custard, all topped with royal icing, then with a decorative swirl, or bit of cherry. The marzipan fingers had a pecan on top of the icing, while the chocolate marzipan squares were a thick layer of chocolate marzipan between two layers of chocolate cake, with chocolate icing, and a special squiggle to distinguish it from the basic cube in chocolate icing. There were the nut rounds, made with white cake, and solid with chopped... black walnuts (?), and mini-eclairs, and chocolate macaroons spread with chocolate frosting and dipped in chocolate jimmies, and...

So, yeah, I guess I grew up with fancy.

#223 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 12:04 PM:

Try looking at recipes for 'penuche' - it's a kind of brown-sugar fudge. (There's also a frosting version which goes well with spice cakes.)

#224 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 03:14 PM:

Lorax, the local paper here had a recipe for honeycomb candy that might help you out. Theirs was sugar, honey, water I guess, and right at the end you dump a surprisingly small quantity of baking soda in and pour the froth out to cool. It ends up all bubbly and weird, and if I had a big marble table I would totally try making some. Probably not eating, though.

Who else saw the candy-cane-making video in December, or last December? It looked so fun. Again, for want of a marble table....

#225 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 04:31 PM:

Lee @212: What you are describing are Whitman's Air Bons. The came in peppermint and spearmint

The company apparently stopped making them, I don't know why...

#226 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 04:40 PM:

Here's a Scots version of brown sugar candy:


I have made it, and it's delicious.

#227 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 06:01 PM:

Lori, #225: Thanks! That was indeed the name; I must have been confused because when I started looking for them as an adult, the King Leo ones were all I could find.

#228 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 07:32 PM:

Diatryma @224: pulled hard taffies like candy canes are easy enough to make without marble tables -- you actually don't want to get them cold too fast, unlike fudges that you want to instant-crystallize.

Most taffy-pulling I've done happens in midair anyhow (though I work over a large buttered cookie sheet in case I drop it, because, well). If you're doing it at non-industrial scale then the distance your hands go apart is adequate to the task -- though one of my aunts used to cover her kitchen island with heavy-duty extra-wide restaurant aluminum foil (to contain the mess) and she'd do eight-foot pulls with her sisters, just to prove they could.

#229 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 08:05 PM:

Cally Soukup @ 217:

Good question. (I don't know the answer either.)

But I do know my mom is very particular about her angel food cake pan*. The bottom must be removable (yes, there are fiends who sell single piece angel food cake pans), there should be small prongs on the ends to support the pan when inverted (although resting it on a glass Coke bottle is preferred), and it must never, ever come into contact with any kind of fat, oil, or grease.

This is not a case of "don't grease the pan or else the cake will fall". This is "wash the sink immediately before you wash the angel food cake pan lest it acquire grease and never be useful for angel food cake again".

Yes, I follow the same rules with my angel food cake pan. Then cut the cake with a bread knife, and serve with fresh fruit (berries or peaches) and whipped cream. From a can - which has got to be a very American sort of thing to do.

*AKA, a tube pan. Like a Bundt pan, but with straight sides and sharp corners. Absolutely NOT interchangeable.

#230 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 08:15 PM:

Singing Wren, Cassy, et multi alia in re the Italians and angelfood cake: One of them specifically said they greased the pan to keep it from getting "so high" as they found the texture of it when it was high, unappealing.

But this is also the blogger who had a cupcake recipe where the step after "bake and remove from the tins/molds/silicone muffin pan" was to slice off the entire top and a conical section of the cake, then slice the cone off the bottom of the 'lid' and fill the entire cupcake with applesauce. Put lid back on top. Discard "unappealing" cake piece.

#231 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 09:41 PM:

P J Evans @ 223:
Try looking at recipes for 'penuche' - it's a kind of brown-sugar fudge. (There's also a frosting version which goes well with spice cakes.)

Ooh, when I was in middle school a friend's mother made a cake with penuche icing. Yum.

#232 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2015, 10:01 PM:

Och, now I feel like writing a long screed about how fluffiness is the point and if we want pudding we make pudding and if we want a jelly roll we just go ahead and make a jelly roll TYVM--to a blog that hasn't been active in two years!

#233 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2015, 03:13 AM:

Had to poke around for a while to find the "Watergate Salad" recipe. (I'd understood that someone would want something fancy to celebrate the demise of Richard Nixon's Presidency, but didn't know what :-) It turns out to be a dish that I thought of as my friend Cathy Good's evil Cool-Whip and Pistachio Pudding dessert, which I'd assumed belonged in the category of evil North Central / Midwestern Jello-and-stuff concoctions, mainly brought out for church potlucks (this was the mid-70s) or occasionally made at home.

My mom had a fairly basic ambrosia recipe, aka 5-cup salad, sour cream, canned mandarin oranges, canned pineapple, coconut, marshmallows (small or chopped up.) When I was about 5, the kids next door were over for lunch, and wouldn't eat it, because their mom didn't make it and they didn't eat unfamiliar foods. First time I'd encountered that concept, and it didn't make sense, but more ambrosia for me :-)

The classic American dessert we've been having the last week or two has been watermelon. It's not really in season here, but the grocery stores have started getting it from Mexico and somewhere in California, and we'd had a long break after last summer's watermelon binge. Almost never got real ripe melons, but at least it's not bad for pink seedless imitations. No recipes needed, though I have had a watermelon, feta cheese, and mint salad once that was pretty good.

#234 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2015, 03:36 AM:

One other dessert my mother occasionally made used store-bought chocolate cookies (not sure the brand, but 3" square, roughly the consistency of the cookie part of an Oreo), whipped cream, and sweetened coconut flakes. The cookies get stood on edge, alternating with 1/4" layers of whipped cream, and the coconut either gets mixed in with the whipped cream or poured over the top, or both. Let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight so the cookies soften, cut servings diagonally.

#236 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2015, 10:44 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @235, I didn't watch the whole thing, so perhaps there are effects at the end I missed, but at least for the first few minutes the effect could be relatively easily achieved with a plain white background, lighting and camera firmly affixed to the boards the jellies are on, and someone vigorously tipping the boards. The light would remain consistent and the background would give no clues.

#237 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2015, 12:23 PM:

Bill S., #233: (1) You and I had the same response to the name "Watergate Salad", forgetting both that the hotel's existence long predated the scandal and that "signature dishes" named after a hotel were a fairly common thing for a while, back when hotel food was worth what you paid for it -- I think Waldorf salad was also originally a hotel's signature dish. (2) Your family's ambrosia is exactly the same as mine.

#238 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2015, 12:50 PM:

Singing Wren @ 229

My mom's favorite angel food cake is frosted with whipped cream that has toffee pieces mixed in. It's better the second day, actually.

When she was a kid, her mother made the toffee herself, but one can get toffee pieces from Skor or Hershey and save a lot of trouble these days.

#239 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2015, 09:53 PM:

Bill Stewart, that is not a basic ambrosia, that is an elaborate ambrosia. Basic ambrosia is oranges and coconut and maybe sugar, depending on the oranges. Notice I am not questioning its right to be called ambrosia, just saying it's a pretty fancy kind of ambrosia.

#240 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2015, 11:55 AM:

"Dump cake" has an asterisk for a missing footnote in the original article?

Dump cake is one of the few desserts I've made myself (I'm mostly a savory cook; Pamela was an established baker when we started living together, so I haven't expanded much in that direction). Also one of the few recipes really based on packaged ingredients I've made. Though I think I've only made it once. The version I vaguely remember is you dump a can of pineapple and a can of something else (fruit) into the pan, and then dump a lemon cake mix over it. I think butter on top—melted maybe? It was good enough to eat, but not good enough to become a regular for me (made for curiosity originally, basically).

I have some prejudice against packaged ingredients; possibly somewhat class-based (academic family, English somewhat upperish father, Californian mother). But I do not make my own tomato sauce or paste (but strongly distinguish using those from modifying canned spaghetti sauce), Campbell's soups are acceptable as soups but only VERY rarely as ingredients, jams are nearly always commercial, frozen veggies are common but canned are right out.

And if you want to go literal on the term, I'll confess to not grinding my own flour or refining my own sugar, either. Or milking my own cows. But nobody really means that stuff when they object to "packaged" ingredients, do they?

#241 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2015, 01:30 PM:

David Dyer-Bennet, the asterisk has mouseover text to go along with it.

A friend of mine recently read a book called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter that was an analysis of which things were worth making yourself.

#242 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2015, 01:59 PM:

Re things that are worth making yourself... I once made an angel food cake from scratch (egg whites, etc.) and for me it wasn't noticeably better than a boxed mix. On the other hand, the boxed mix is clearly better than the grocery store prebaked angel cakes. But YMMV.

#243 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2015, 03:50 PM:

@OtterB no. 242: Mixes that call for whole eggs can be improved greatly by using the biggest, freshest eggs you can find and adding one extra egg (except for fudgy brownies). My late mother-in-law taught me that trick. People raved about her fantastic homemade cakes; they were all from Betty Crocker!

#244 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 01:12 AM:

Me @ 209: "Not garlicky per se; there's a general air of savoriness which goes well with the peanut butter." (re the PB-sriracha cookies)

...But also, now that I've tried a few, a bitter aftertaste which does not go well with anything. Mneh.

I haven't put on frosting yet. That'll be tomorrow. I can foist them off on hackers this weekend, anyhow. ("...they'll try anything!")

(Some of them in a thoughtful and discriminating way, of course.)

#245 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 01:17 AM:

I've gotten the bitter aftertaste with some pretzels - freshly baked, so I suspected it was whatever they used to keep them from sticking. It's something I'll keep in mind if I make these cookies.

#246 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 07:46 AM:

PJ Evans @245:

Pretzels frequently have some sort of alkaline wash brushed on them before baking, ranging from baking soda to a lye solution; since alkaline often parses as bitter in the mouth that could explain the pretzels (if some of the baking soda remained on the pretzel after baking), though I'm at a loss to explain it for the sriracha cookies. (My own sriracha cookie recipe is different; no peanut butter, but honey and pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

#247 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 01:09 PM:

So I was thinking about what the contestants who tackled American cakes were missing about, well American cakes, and I got stuck on "panettone Americano." It just didn't seem right. I flipped through my copy of The Joy of Cooking and discovered that the editors don't even classify panettone as a dessert cake. It's listed in the chapter on breads and coffee cakes, under the heading "About Yeast Coffee Cakes." Other recipes in this category include stollen and kugelhopf. And then there was the misunderstanding about what a Bundt cake might be.

So I think that an all-purpose American cookbook would have come in handy. The cooks would have known that traditional enriched sweetened yeast breads served on special occasions, as well as powder-leavened baked items that resemble them, are considered to be variations on plain breads, while chiffon cake is part of a large class of desserts that can be sorted by the types of fats and leavens used. This is just obvious to me, but I'm sure there's a ton of information about the proper treatment of pasta and gnocchi that I don't even know that I don't know.

For non-American readers, here's the basic breakdown of American cakes. Note that local variations and exceptions abound.

ANGEL (FOOD) CAKE: No fat at all, not even in the pan; leavened solely with beaten egg white--the classic recipe calls for 11 of them! Very sweet, dry, and lofty; a natural foil for whipped cream, pastry cream, and fresh fruit. Getting a large, lofty, evenly cooked cake requires a very tall cylindrical pan with a tube running up the middle. I am told that you can get a lot of small angel cakes out of an 11-egg-white recipe if you use some clean, dry metal cans, but I have never tried it.

CHIFFON CAKE: The fat is always oil; the leaven is beaten egg (whites generally separated first) plus a powder. Lovely fluffy tender cake, not very sweet, that can be baked as cupcakes, layers, or one big sheet that is served directly from the pan. Most cake mixes sold in supermarkets are chiffon cakes. Note that the oil keeps it tender even when you freeze it.

BUTTER CAKE: American descendants of pound cake or quatres-quarts, these cakes are at their best with the very best butter you can find, but some people use vegetable shortening. Beaten egg and powder provide the leavening. More tender than the original pound cake, butter cake is still solid enough to bake in molds of many different shapes.


A Bundt cake is any cake baked in a Bundt pan, which was inspired by the type of pan used for kugelhopf. It is a metal pan shaped like a ridged ring with a large open space in the middle.

Devil's food cake is an extra-chocolaty butter cake. It gets its name because enjoying chocolate that much must be sinful. (Whatever!)

German chocolate cake is a less intense chocolate butter cake that originally used a kind of sweet baking chocolate invented by a Mr. German.

Red velvet cake is yet another chocolate cake, this one tinted red as part of a sales campaign by a food coloring company. There was a fad for color-themed dinner parties at the time.

#248 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 01:37 PM:

So Victoria sponge (four ounces flour, four ounces sugar, four ounces butter, and two eggs) would be a... butter cake? I'm not entirely clear on what a pound cake is, so descent from that isn't helping me much. Victoria sponge is the archetypal cake to me - small variations on vicky sponge gets you chocolate sponge, lemon sponge (but not lemon drizzle, which is ideally heavier), light fruit cakes, fairy cakes (cupcakes, but smaller), coffee sponge, cherry cake...

Other standards for me are rich fruit cake, whatever kind of heavier cake becomes lemon drizzle, swiss roll, chocolate fudge cake, and assorted baked goodies like scones (twice as much flour as fat, baking powder, milk to mix it, fruit or cheese optional) , teacakes (actually sweetened bread rolls with fruit in), crumpets, and bread pudding, which is not to be confused with bread-and-butter pudding. Bread-and-butter pudding is a pudding, meaning a baked dessert served hot, ideally with custard, of a working-class reputation. As, in fact, is sponge, which is different from sponge cake.

Teasing out the names and histories of cakes would be a fascinating project for someone with a sweet tooth and a time machine.

#249 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 01:43 PM:

For me, the main difference between "German Chocolate" cake and any other "Chocolate" cake is that horrible, horrible frosting. Traditionally it's a cooked frosting, which wouldn't be too bad except that it's loaded with shredded coconut. Blech. German Chocolate cake frosting is a great way to Cally-proof any cake.

#250 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 02:15 PM:

duckbunny@248: "So Victoria sponge (four ounces flour, four ounces sugar, four ounces butter, and two eggs) would be a... butter cake?"

Yes. The traditional pound cake is equal parts (by weight) of flour, sugar, butter, eggs -- thus the term "quatres-quarts" which Jenny Islander mentioned. (A term which I hadn't heard, but of course.)

I thought devil's-food cake was named as a direct opposite of angel's-food cake. I also thought it was literally angel's-food plus chocolate, but this appears to be wrong.

#251 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 02:19 PM:

Jenny Islander @247:

Devil's food cake is an extra-chocolaty butter cake. It gets its name because enjoying chocolate that much must be sinful. (Whatever!)

And here I had always heard it was because as a dark, dense, chocolate cake it was the opposite of the light, airy angel food cake. Ah well.

#252 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 03:29 PM:

A less cynical person would believe that explanation, but considering how the themes of indulgence, guilt, decadence, naughtiness, and sin are woven throughout modern U.S. food culture...

#253 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 03:54 PM:

The Puritans have a lot to answer for.

#254 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:07 PM:

@Cally Soukup no. 249: Yes, German chocolate cake is traditionally filled and frosted (top only--sides are bare) with this...sweet...coconutty...sort of...failed toffee...thing? I know that American desserts are traditionally very sweet, but that stuff is just too much!

Give me a good basic buttercream filling/frosting any day. Or stabilized whipped cream, not too sweet.

#255 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:11 PM:

Jenny Islander: Or a nice rich ganache. And I'll put up with fondant if the cake is moist. But NO GERMAN CHOCOLATE ICING.

Why yes, I do have an opinion on the subject. Why do you ask?

#256 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:24 PM:

I can eat German chocolate cake, but the icing, while not repelling me, doesn't do much for me. My childhood requested birthday cake was always devil's food.

#257 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:25 PM:

Jenny Islander (247): So the cakes my family makes are butter cakes, and most cake mixes are chiffon cakes? That explains a lot, actually. I had always thought that the difference that our recipe* uses whole wheat flour and wheat germ, instead of white or pastry flour. Makes for a much more substantial (and flavorful) cake, which I prefer.

Cally Soukup (249): The icing** I hate is that nasty cream-cheese frosting** that is traditionally put on carrot cake. I thought I hated carrot cake until I had some with a plain white frosting instead.

*the basic recipe from Adele Davis's Let's Cook It Right, aka "the Adele Davis cookbook"

**I know some people distinguish between 'icing' and 'frosting', but as far as I'm concerned they're merely different words for the same thing.

#258 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:29 PM:

For some reason the recipe wasn't in my grandmother's recipe box when I inherited it, but my childhood most-requested birthday cake was always chocolate (from a mix, but doctored), with a chocolate cream-cheese frosting she made that was lovely. It wasn't too sweet! I've had, since the earliest stirrings of my preadolescence, a problem with sensitive teeth. Anything too cold or too sweet, and my teeth hurt. But I could eat half a bowl of her cream-cheese chocolate frosting, because it was nommy and not too sweet.

I know it involved a package of Philly and a bag of Toll House-type semisweet chocolate chips, and very little additional sugar, but I don't remember what-all else in any detail.

The "cream cheese" frosting put on grocery store carrot cakes is ridiculous, it's their lard-based "buttercream" in cream-cheese drag. Not very good drag, either, like fratboy-party joke.

#259 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:29 PM:

@Mary Aileen no. 257: I can't stand traditional cream cheese frosting either, but I had one once that was part cream cheese, part sour cream, with a little lemon peel in it and not a lot of sugar. It was awesome with a spicy carrot cake. Unfortunately I didn't write down the recipe.

But leave the raisins out of the cake, because ICK. Soaking raisins turns them into tiny blobs of nastiness.

#260 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:30 PM:

Argh. I see, one ohnosecond too late, that I didn't mention the chocolate chips (or baker's chocolate, she used a lot as well and it was EVEN BETTER -- this is before widely available extra-dark bars for cooking) were melted, so the frosting was smoothly chocolate, not chunky.

#261 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:40 PM:

Elliott Mason (258): These were homemade carrot cakes (a variant of our usual recipe) with homemade cream cheese frosting. Basically, I just don't like cream cheese all that much.

Jenny Islander (259): That does sound like it could be quite yummy.

#262 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 05:04 PM:

I think that a citrus-flavored icing (orange, in particular) is good on carrot cake. Try a glaze, as an option. (Carrot cake was fairly common as one of the cakes we got at work. It could be remarkably good: heavy on carrots, nuts, and raisins.)

#263 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 05:45 PM:

There is a difference between yer basic chocolate cake and devil's food cake. The latter is made with sour cream, and the result is so firm that you can pick up a layer of it in one hand and wave it around. A chocolate cake layer won't stand up to that.

Yes, devil's food is very much the opposite of angel food in color and density.

#264 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 05:47 PM:

@Pfusand: Or buttermilk--and ISTR a variation with yogurt instead. I think the point of any of them is to intensify the taste of the chocolate without putting in so much chocolate that the batter breaks down.

#265 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 07:08 PM:

Jenny, #254: You may have just cleared up a mystery for me. I had long been of the opinion that German chocolate cake included caramel -- an impression I may have formed based on eating German chocolate ice cream -- but my partner is emphatic that it doesn't. OTOH, if it does include something that might be described by the term "toffee", that probably explains it. Toffee and caramel are closely-related flavors to me -- impossible to mistake in isolation, but sometimes confused when they're mixed in with other stuff.

Mary Aileen, #257: I'll take all your unwanted cream-cheese frosting, especially if it's on red velvet cake! As I believe I mentioned upthread, I've had red velvet cake with white buttercream frosting and it's just wrong.

#266 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 07:34 PM:

@Lee no. 285: The recipe, as given by Betty Crocker, calls for evaporated milk, butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla in addition to the coconuts and pecan. So it tastes like toffee but it's kind of like a butter-toffee-flan thing. With nuts. I'm sure the right taste buds appreciate it. Mine...are not the right taste buds.

#267 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 07:51 PM:

I just wandered through several cookbooks, and the only one with German chocolate cake (Beard's American Cookery) says either chocolate butter cream or coconut frosting.

#268 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 07:55 PM:

Fanny Farmer (which is fairly canonical for American Household Cookery, because several generations of new housewives were given it to work from) lists the canonical icing for German Sweet Chocolate Cake as their "Coconut-Pecan Frosting," whose ingredients are evaporated milk, sugar, 2 egg yolks, butter, vanilla, coconut, and chopped pecans.

It looks to be a kind of flan thing, cooked in a saucepan and then you stir in the coconut and pecans.

#269 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 08:01 PM:

What I figure is, if it's so sweet you get a sour aftertaste, it's too sweet.

#270 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 08:37 PM:

Thanks - my Fanny Farmer (reprint of 1896) is In One Of The Boxes (along with the reprint of the Settlement Cook Book). I did check Three Meals A Day, Betty Crocker, and my mother's Good Housekeeping Cook Book, none of which include it. It might have been more a regional thing in the past.

#271 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 09:14 PM:

Lee (265): You're welcome to it!

#272 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 09:18 PM:

I'm making two pecan pies to take to a solstice party this weekend. I've found there are 3 secrets:

1. An excellent crust. I farm this out to Karen, who found a mixed butter-and-crisco-with-vinegar recipe that makes a superb crust -- good flavor and easy to manipulate.

2. I toast the pecans, with butter, and use about half-again what the recipes recommend -- they remain firm, and there are enough of them.

3. I finish with a light sprinkling of allspice. It's possible to overdo spicing a pecan pie, but it tastes much better with some spice.

And it probably would be too sweet for many, but I like it.

#273 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 11:39 PM:

Have started at the bottom and scrolled up, reading backwards in time. Have just reached the discussion of very-sweet Polish desserts, circa comment numbers in the low 70s.

I'm interested, because this is the opposite of my experience with Polish desserts baked by my best friend's mother, who emigrated from Poland as an adult in the early 1980s. She made a poppyseed cake for special occasions that was really mostly composed of poppy seeds (as opposed to just having them sprinkled on), and was sweet-ish but not nearly American-dessert sweet. She also made a szarlotka -- essentially apple meringue pie -- with unsweetened apples and unsweetened, or barely-sweetened, pastry and meringue. I always liked it for the lack of super-sweetness. (I confirmed the lack of sugar when I asked for an English translation of the decades-old handwritten szarlotka recipe from her grandmother.)

Am now curious whether her family was just particularly non-sugar-happy, or whether it's a regional thing (she's from Wroclaw IIRC), or what.

#274 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 07:43 AM:

Tom Whitmore @272: One thing the Italian foodbloggers universally misunderstood (or mal-achieved) was proper piecrust.

Most of them ended up like some kind of crumbly cookie dough. Even the ones who made something with what I think of as piecrust proportions kneaded it AT LENGTH by hand, which is not going to give the appropriate result.

They're right by France! How can they NOT know what proper piecrust is meant to be?!?

#275 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 09:35 AM:

Tom Whitmore (272): For me, the secret to proper pecan pie is simply to use enough pecans. Rather than just on the top, they should be all through the pie, with just enough filling to hold them together. That way, the slightly bitter pecans counteract the too-sweet filling*, making for a delightful balance. Many recipes call for one cup of pecans; I have a recipe that calls for three cups, which is too much to fit into the pan. I usually use two to two-and-a-half cups. I successfully converted a friend's mother to pecan pies with my recipe; she had always thought them too sweet, because she had only had the not-nearly-enough-pecans version.

*Earlier in the thread, there was a mention of chess pie being basically the pecan pie filling. That sounds way too impossibly sweet to me, and I adore sweet things.

#276 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 11:57 AM:

Mary Aileen @275 -- couldn't agree more on the extra pecans. I'm using about 2 cups per pie, which seems the right proportion to me (basically the Culinaria recipe, modified as mentioned).

Elliott @274: that's why I let someone else do it, who does it well!

#277 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 01:09 PM:

On piecrust: I punt, and buy the ready-made ones. I have successfully made a crumb-and-butter* crust, but the actual pastry ones are beyond my skill.

*like a graham-cracker crust, except this one was made with wheat germ (for allergy reasons)

#278 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 02:48 PM:

I am the office Cake Man.

Before the manufacturing wing shut down, Germans chocolate cake what they guys in blue gowns (and the shipping department) always asked for.

(This was cake-from-a-mix, frosting-from-a-tub Germans chocolate cake, mind you.)

Several people over here in development thought the idea of coconut in a frosting was utterly disgusting. So here I bring in chocolate layer cake or an occasional Bundt cake.

#279 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 02:50 PM:

275 & 276,

When making pecan pie, I fill the crust with the nuts, then add the filling/custard. It's somewhere between 2 to 3 cups of nuts, depending on how whole the pieces are.

I also mix some cocoa powder (along with extra butter) in the filling/custard to cut the sweetness.

#280 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 02:53 PM:

Pecan pie secrets: I've cut the amount of sugar by a third (keeping the Karo syrup the same), and had a lovely non-too-sweet pie. I also use approximately 2 cups of pecans, and have been known to add chocolate (Baker's dark) or whiskey. The last time I made a chocolate pecan pie, I had some folks indicating extreme pleasure during consumption of said pie.

#281 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 02:58 PM:

Particularly festive birthday cakes in my childhood were checkerboard cakes. It's a 3-layer cake. You use batter in 2 colors and then there's an insert of concentric rings that you use to pour batter into the pans in colored rings. Stack the layers up after baking, alternating colors, and they slice as a checkerboard. Like this. The two colors can be either chocolate and vanilla, or a white cake mix with part of the batter colored with food coloring. I bought a pan set when my kids were little but, alas, it wasn't their thing.

#282 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 04:33 PM:

@Mary Aileen no. 257: I replace a quarter of the all-purpose or cake flour in any chiffon cake, butter cake, bar cookie, or drop cookie with whole wheat flour myself.

#283 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 05:03 PM:

Count me among those revolted by coconut in cake frosting.

#284 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 05:15 PM:

You can make a very pleasant ganache with coconut cream, which might work nicely as an icing.

But dessicated coconut? Not making me leap up to try it.

#285 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 05:46 PM:

Crumb crusts, like those usually made with graham cracker crumbs, can be made with crushed gluten-free cereal, like Corn Chex, to make a crust for someone who is gluten intolerant or has similar issues. Cinnamon Chex in modest proportion is even better, if it goes with the filling - I've used it for a cheesecake.

#286 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 06:30 PM:

David Goldfarb (283): And me. It's part of my general dislike of coconut.

Magenta Griffith (285): Good to know. In this particular case (a pumpkin pie), the wheat germ worked out very well.

#287 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 06:35 PM:

For gluten-free desserts, also consider angel pies. These are pies made using a meringue crust. They are restricted to types for which the crust and filling are prepared separately and the pie is put together right before serving, but that's still a lot of pie! You can dress up the meringue with cocoa powder, nuts, etc.

#288 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 06:48 PM:

Something I once made:

Put a bunch of chocolate graham cracker squares on a foil lined sheet.

Mix up powdered sugar, condensed milk, shredded coconut until you've got a very stiff paste.

Scoop the paste onto the graham crackers. Neaten up with a spatula / scraper.

Top with an almond.

Coat with coating chocolate. All over. Top, bottom.

Almond Joy cookies!

One of these is basically enough. Likely way more than enough.

Should also work on chocolate wafer cookies, which are smaller.

#289 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 12:20 AM:

Most cakes I've had were either my mom's, or from the grocery, or from restaurants. (Or fruitcake or cheesecake, which I think of as different categories.) My mom's tended to be cake mix plus homemade icing, usually a dense thin confectioner's sugar + milk + flavorings type, unless the cake called for something different (e.g. canonical German chocolate cake coconut icing, yum :-) I also like the standard carrot-cake frosting, when it's not too sugary.
The cake I really need to get Mom's recipe for was a cherry cake with a cherry icing, which she usually made for my dad's birthday.

I haven't had homemade angel-food cake, but I think of the commercial ones as really boring, somewhere between cake and cotton candy (which I don't care for that much.) No fat, and doesn't taste like cake.

#290 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 12:22 AM:

Oh, and one dessert I haven't seen mentioned here is strawberry shortcake - fresh fruit, whipped cream, and enough not-sweet cake to pretend it's not just whipped cream and fruit.

#291 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 12:27 AM:

My mother's shortcake was something like a large biscuit, sweeter and frequently with allspice added. It was good for soaking up fruit juices and melting ice cream or milk.

#292 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 07:49 AM:

Bill Stewart #290: strawberry shortcake - fresh fruit, whipped cream, and enough not-sweet cake to pretend it's not just whipped cream and fruit.

Actually, I meh'd out on strawberry shortcake as a kid, because the cake part was always those bags of mass-produced cake-cups. It wasn't until I grew up and moved around that I got to try strawberry shortcake with proper shortcake, and that's definitely not "just whipped cream and fruit"

#293 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 10:34 AM:

Bill Stewart @ 289

I've made angel food cakes from scratch and a box. There is a difference, to me. The scratch ones tend to be more moist with better flavor because of the non-rehydrated egg whites. It's also easier to control the sugar content. They're more work, but worth it.

With that said, the box mix angel food cakes are both easier and a lot of fun to play with. (plus you don't have to feel guilty for throwing out the egg yolks--I was raised in a waste-not-want-not household.) You can sift about two tablespoons of cocoa powder into the mix before re-hydration for a chocolate version. Add the cocoa and replace the water with strongly brewed (and cooled) coffee for a mocha version. And now I'm wondering what a coffee-only version would be like...

Over the weekend I made a banana cake using "dead" bananas (the ones typically used for banana bread) a box of jiffy cake mix (I live alone, so the "half-batch" cakes mixes are wonderful). It turned out really good. Between the extra egg and the milk, it was a very rich, very moist cake. I'm going to try it with strawberries next.

#294 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 10:42 AM:

Victoria @293:

Egg yolks freeze well. You can use them for custards or lemon curd or homemade mayo/aioli, or throw in an extra yolk if you're making an egg dish, or make homemade pasta, or lots of other options. I'd find it harder to use up whites, myself; what's left after meringue and angel food cake? (It's probably relevant that I have much more of a savory tooth than a sweet tooth.)

#295 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 10:56 AM:

Just-whites make decent omelettes or omelette additions (one whole egg, one white).

#296 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 11:58 AM:

Lorax @ 294

I didn't know egg yolks could be frozen. That's helpful. Mom always made home-made noodles whenever she made angel food cake, so one cake, meant 2-3 gallons of chicken noodle soup.(mine is a large family^) 12-16 egg yolks is a lot of pudding/custard/curd/mayonnaise for one person.

I tend to reduce things to a one-egg batch when baking. I haven't done that with angel food cakes. Yet.

^ Mom's bread recipe begins "Take one 25 pound bag of flour and pour half of it into a dish pan."

#297 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2015, 06:52 PM:

So this isn't a particularly American dish, but it seems that Thai sticky rice only comes in 5 lb bags (unless you pay the same amount of money for 1 lb at some place like Whole Foods), and mangoes are more or less in season, and really the only thing that's kept us safe from total overdose is that I ran out of coconut milk and the latest mangoes need another day or two to ripen (though the latter problem prompted me to finally make sweet red bean paste with the azuki beans I'd bought for that, so it's still dangerous to open the fridge.)

I haven't gotten the technique down yet; I don't have a rice cooker, and steaming in a sieve went half-ok, while cooking the rice in a pot went to the overly soft direction, partly due to differences in soaking. Most of the recipes say not to worry too much about it - the Thai perspective is that the sweet rice is something to present the mango on top of, but it's really about the mango.

The red bean recipes are extremely flexible - if you want it sweeter, add even more sugar, if you want it dryer for filling pastry, cook it longer, if you want it wetter for putting on stuff, don't cook it as dry, if you want it smoother mash it through a sieve before using a blender, etc.

#298 ::: Wyn ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 11:26 AM:

Elliott Mason @157: my mother's sewing room organization scheme is predicated upon 1960s/70s vintage Bendicks Bittermints boxes. My dad had a serious addiction to that particular treat for quite a few years.

We all love our mint chocolate things, and a much-loved present is peppermint patties from Rogers or Purdy. Rogers and Purdy both distribute here. The trouble is getting a box of *just* minty things. I must try hitting them up at Christmas, just in case it's now a seasonal thing.

#299 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 12:17 PM:

My child chose a recipe for "jelly biscuits" (simple sugar cookies with a dab of jam in the middle) from an American Girl cookbook based around Samantha (who's Victorian/Edwardian).

We are now making it, and I am reminded of this thread fairly regularly.

#300 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 02:06 PM:

I am told (though I haven't tried it) that ice cube trays are a convenient way to freeze egg yolks while keeping them separate so you can thaw out the desired quantity (once frozen, put them in a freezer bag).

I HAVE used a similar trick for tomato paste, since I seldom use more than a tablespoon at a time, and I got tired of throwing the rest away after it grew mold. After opening the can and using the first bit, I spooned the rest of it onto a plastic-wrap-lined cookie sheet, put it in the freezer, and then rolled the frozen dollops of paste up in the plastic wrap (to keep them from sticking together) and stuck the whole shebang in a freezer bag. Now I can easily grab one tablespoon of tomato sauce at a time from the freezer.

#301 ::: Elyse ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 05:14 PM:

Tomato paste -- look for the imported-from-Italy kind that comes in toothpaste tubes. It's a little pricier but much more convenient. I use Amore Double strength. Whole Foods carries it and so do some of the larger supermarket chains.

They have an anchovy paste that comes in a tube, too, which can be handy if you are trying a recipe that just needs a little anchovy to add complexity to the flavors.

I was so glad when I found the paste in tubes: all of my Nonna's recipes call for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste each.

#302 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 10:53 PM:

OH MY GOSH that "jelly biscuits" recipe was written by LYING LIARS WHO LIE. And also don't, apparently, kitchen-test their recipes before printing them.

It called for 2 cups of flour (among other things). After following all the steps up to the one that says "mix until it becomes a soft ball of dough," it was ... wet. Very wet. Gloppy wet. So I started adding a bit more flour.

A half cup of extra flour later, it still wouldn't hold in a ball -- it subsided and glopped and flowed.

Since this was meant to be a "roll-out cookies and use cutters" recipe, I tried sticking it in the fridge for a couple hours. Still very wet and very, very sticky.

More flour. Another half-cup. We're now at 3 cups total. Still far too wet to consider rolling out.

I said EFF THIS NOISE and greased muffin tins. I used two spoons to portion it into the wells, glopped a bowl shape of sorts out of the mess, and dropped the designated amount of jam into each before baking.

They ended up reasonably acceptable buttery mini-scones with jam on top, sort of.



#303 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 10:57 PM:

That reminds me of the lemonade recipe in 'Joy of Cooking', which uses something like four tablespoons of sugar per glass - I normally use about four teaspoons of sugar per glass, for the same amount of lemon juice. I don't know what they were thinking, or if it got tipioered somewhere between manuscript and first printing, and has never been fixed.

#304 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 11:25 PM:

#302, #303: I wonder if those recipes could represent "ringers", purposeful errors used to identify copyists?

#305 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 11:58 PM:

When I ran it through Google, I got a blog post where they'd made it with no problem, and they included the recipe. I wonder if there was a typo somewhen. (

#306 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2015, 12:00 AM:

I'd expect it to not be the same in each succeeding volume. They still haven't fixed it. (Or else they like extremely sweet lemonade.)

#307 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2015, 12:00 AM:

I'd expect it to not be the same in each succeeding volume. They still haven't fixed it. (Or else they like extremely sweet lemonade.)

#308 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2015, 12:07 PM:

PJ Evans @305: interesting. Their recipe is identical to the one I used in every respect, but their results match the picture and mine don't.

#309 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2015, 12:35 PM:

Elliott Mason @308, cooking with young children is always a little chaotic, so I'm told... is it possible that Becca somehow added more water to the batter while you weren't looking? Would that explain the disparate results? (Just blue-skying here; no real idea... and Ive never claimed to be a good cook...)

#310 ::: Hank Graham ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 05:23 PM:

How could they miss pineapple upside-down cake? I've sent them my dad's recipe, hoping to redress the balance.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.