Alice Arndt (Editor): Culinary Biographies: A Dictionary of the World's Great Historic Chefs, Cookbook Authors and Collectors, Farmers, Gourmets, Home Economists, Nutritionists, Restaurateurs, Philosophers, Physicians, Scientists, Writers, and Others Who Influenced the Way We
Penuche, on the other hand is an old friend. I’ve made it nearly every Christmas for years and years. Penuche, for those who don’t know it, is a brown sugar fudge. I make it with walnuts because their bitter edge helps balance the sugary sweetness of the candy.
Having penuche at Christmas is one of those traditions that snuck up on me. After a few years of making it, it was expected. People complained if I forgot. Now penuche is as traditional in my family as a tree or presents and as familiar as fruit cake.
Penuche was an old pal, but pralines were a tempting, romantic stranger. Pralines were a big part of the reason I wanted to go to New Orleans. So I went. I tasted. I was disappointed. So disappointed.
It’s probably that devil high-fructose corn syrup, but pralines are tooth-achingly sweet. The pecans they’re made with don’t help, since they have no bitter edge to them. And the texture of pralines is too compact and dense.
But the biggest surprise to me was their similarity to the penuche I take for granted. Pralines resemble penuche in flavor, but are nowhere near as good. To me, they’re nothing but a sappier, less interesting version of penuche.
I’ll take penuche over pralines anytime. Sometimes, old loves really are the best.
Here’s the recipe I use to make penuche. It’s the simplest I’ve seen and the best.
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cook the sugar and milk together until the mixture forms a soft ball when you drop a bit in cold water. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl.
Stir in the walnuts and keep stirring until the mixture sugars around the edge of the bowl.
Pour into an eight-inch buttered pan. Cut before it sets too firmly.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi) is in trouble over, of all things, ice cream. Specifically his favorite - pistachio ice cream. It seems his household spent $2700 on ice cream last year and people so upset about it that it’s front-page news. The Guardian reported, “Netanyahu ice-cream habit causes meltdown." In Jerusalem, AP noted that in response, “The country’s prime minister has frozen his annual ice cream budget.”
I know of many American politicians who would be only too happy to have a scandal over their ice cream budget rather than, say, their inappropriate on-line postings or extra-marital dalliances.
However, American politicians have long been passionate about ice cream. Most of our founding fathers – and mothers – were ice cream fans, even though at the time ice cream was an expensive dessert known only to the fortunate few.
George Washington was an early ice cream adopter. Shortly after the Revolutionary War ended, he bought an ice cream machine. Dolly Madison was such a fan that there’s an ice cream company named after her.
Thomas Jefferson loved his ice cream, especially vanilla. At the time, vanilla was comparatively rare since the vanilla bean was difficult to propagate. But when Jefferson was in France, he had vanilla ice cream and liked it so much that he wrote down the recipe and took it back to Monticello with him. He’s credited with making vanilla the popular flavor it is today. Previously lemon was number one.
Like Jefferson, Mrs. Netanyahu is said to prefer vanilla. I’m with Bibi, on pistachio if nothing else. I love pistachio ice cream, and I make my own. My secret is to steep the pistachio nuts in the ice cream mixture until they flavor it thoroughly. By then, they’ll be soggy, so I strain them out. When I churn the ice cream, I add a fresh batch of nuts at the last minute so they’ll stay crisp even after it is frozen.
Yes, you spend a bit more on the pistachios this way. But it will taste wonderful. And you’ll still be way under Bibi’s budget.
Pistachio Ice Cream
1 cup pistachio nuts, divided
1 ½ cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
Toast all of the pistachios briefly. Then set ½ cup aside. Chop the remaining ½ cup roughly. Combine the roughly chopped nuts and the milk in a saucepan and heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 15 or 20 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they’re thick and pale.
Half fill a large bowl with ice or ice water and set aside.
Strain the pistachio and milk mixture. Discard the nuts. Combine the milk with the sugar and egg yolk mixture and cook over low heat until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. Stir constantly and don’t let it come to a boil.
Remove from heat and set the saucepan in the bowl of ice. Be careful not to let any of the ice water get into the ice cream mixture. Stir in the cream, salt, and almond extract. Continue stirring until the mixture cools.
Pour into a clean bowl, cover with clear plastic wrap pressed again the surface so it will not form a skin. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Roughly chop the reserved pistachios. Churn the chilled ice cream mixture according to ice cream machine instructions. Just before it’s ready, add the reserved pistachios. Serve or store in freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it.
Makes one quart.
Pudding: A Global History by Jeri Quinzio: book review
Published on Friday January 18, 2013
Jeri Quinzio's Pudding: A Global History, Reaktion Books, 149 pages, $18
Ah! pudding, that versatile dish best served not cold, but sweet, warm and custardy. It wasn’t always so, however, as Jeri Quinzio explains in Pudding: A Global History, part of Reaktion Books’ Edible series.
Pudding can be traced to Homer’s Odyssey, where blood pudding was roasted in a pig’s stomach. And while we’re on stomachs, one can’t forget the chieftain of the puddin’ race, the much maligned and revered haggis that Scotland’s beloved poet Robbie Burns immortalized as political support for the common man in his 1786 poem, “Address to a Haggis.” Cadaverous stomachs, and the difficulty in cleaning them, is one reason why haggis is banned entry at international borders.
Still, Haggis is guest of honour at worldwide celebrations of Burns’ Jan. 25 birthday, and it’s washed down with copious amounts of “the amber bead.” The Oxford English Dictionary dates pudding to the 13th century as a stomach or entrails (e.g. lungs, heart and liver) of a pig, sheep or other animal stuffed with minced meat, suet, mixed with oatmeal and seasonings, boiled in a cloth, suspended over a fire or roasted inside the animal.
Clearly, the Scots didn’t invent haggis, or for that matter kilts, tartan or bagpipes. They all fall under manufactured or borrowed tradition. (Scotch whisky, however, has provenance and patent protection.)
Pudding was a way to preserve perishable blood, meat and offal. It started off life as peasant fare, originally served at the beginning of the meal in order to fill the stomach with as much roughage as possible and reduce the grocery bill for what came later — if anything.
Quinzio says savoury sausage-like recipes gradually morphed into sweet puddings, like plum duff or Christmas plum pudding, for the well-off. “Duff” was the Yorkshire pronunciation for dough and could mean any kind of pie, cake or sticky toffee pudding.
The author has filled her slim volume with entertaining food facts, memoirs and clever illustrations, as well as historical and contemporary recipes.
In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations and puddings as frivolous. It is said that Britain’s George I was so fond of the plum pudding he was served in 1714 that he became known as the Pudding King.
The city of Manchester has a World Black Pudding Throwing Championship, where blood sausages are stuffed into women’s tights and hurled at 20-foot-high stacks of Yorkshire puddings. This “sport” has its origins in the 15th-century War of the Roses, when soldiers ran out of ammunition and started throwing food at each other.
Variations abound for black or blood pudding. Alsace has Zungenwurst made from pigs’ tongues wrapped in bacon; Brittany adds prunes to its boudin noir.
An Egyptian version of bread pudding, called om Ali (Ali’s mother) was originally made by a poor villager for a sultan. Quebec’s pouding chomeur (Poor Man’s Pudding) is a Depression-era dessert with sweet dough and brown sugar sauce.
Renowned 17th-century chef Robert May, made a pudding from a heifer’s udder, adding almond paste, breadcrumbs, eggs, cream and minced beef suet, herbs, bone marrow, currants, saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon and diced preserved pears. He wrapped the mixture in a pudding cloth and steamed it, topping off the dish with almonds, dates, candied citron peel and doused with orange juice.
“Life’s a pudding full of plums,” sang Gilbert and Sullivan. In Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, it helps solve the crime.
For a dish that originally was a way to stave off hunger, today’s rich variations, from trifle to clafoutis, will pack on the pounds. I suggest you do, as Burns did, “Gie her a Haggis!” It’s gluten-free.
Joyce McKerrow, who has an MA in philosophy from the University of Glasgow Department of Scottish Literature, would never bring banned substances into the country.
“I smell bitter almonds,” the detective murmured as he bent towards the lifeless form slumped over the desk. “That means cyanide,” he continued, rising and pointing an accusatory finger at the widow, “and that tells me he was poisoned.”
Bitter almond tree in bloom
How often have you read some variation of those words in a detective story or heard them spoken in a TV show or film? Cyanide, with its revealing scent of bitter almonds, is a mainstay of crime fiction. Everyone from Agatha Christie to Alfred Hitchcock used the scent of bitter almonds to identify the cause of death and to reveal whodunit.
Bitter almonds themselves can be fatal if you eat enough of them, but they are seldom the culprits. In fact, they used to be as common in old recipes as they are in mysteries. Recipes for custards, puddings, and ice cream usually called for two or three bitter almonds along with a quarter pound or more of the sweet – non-poisonous – variety. The bitter ones make the flavor edgier, more complex.
Europeans can still buy bitter almonds, but the nuts are outlawed in the US. To identify their fragrance, sniff some almond extract. It’s made with oil of bitter almonds, but without the cyanide.
Apricot and peach pits have the same flavor. And the same poisonous potential. Peach pits nearly poison a character in John Lanchester’s macabre novel, The Debt to Pleasure.
I’m made a lovely bitter almond peach ice cream by steeping peach leaves in cream then straining them out. (Of course, you wouldn’t serve this to small children or anyone with a compromised immune system.) I’ve also made ice cream with bitter almonds a friend brought back from Sicily. But since trips to Sicily don’t happen often enough, I made a similar ice cream flavored with Disaronno (formerly called Amaretto di Saronno) liqueur, which tastes like bitter almond but is decidedly not poisonous. Everyone I've served it to enjoyed it and lived to tell me so.
Not-too-bitter almond ice cream
Half cup blanched almonds
Two-thirds cup sugar, divided
Two cups whole milk
Six egg yolks
One cup heavy cream
Two tablespoons Disaronno
Toast the almonds just long enough to bring out their flavor, but don’t let them brown. Cool, and then put them in a food processor with a third cup of the sugar and grind fine.
Warm the milk in a saucepan, stir in the almond-sugar mixture, and bring almost to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for 15 minutes or so.
Half fill a large bowl with ice and set aside.
Combine the egg yolks and sugar in another saucepan and whisk until thick and pale. Strain the almond and milk mixture and stir a little of it into the egg mixture. Gradually stir in the rest until it’s all combined. Cook over low heat, stirring gently until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. Don’t let it come to a boil.
Pour the mixture into a clean bowl, and set it in the bowl containing the ice. Be careful not to let any ice or water get into the ice cream mixture.
Stir the cream, Disaronno, and salt into the ice cream mixture and continue stirring until it cools down. Cover with plastic wrap pressed against the surface so it doesn’t form a skin on top. Chill for several hours or overnight.
Churn in your ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes one quart.
Add a half-cup of toasted, cooled almond to the ice cream just before it finishes churning.
It's here! See a review at--http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/Book_Reviews/about_food/EDIBLE/Puddng.html. And another at --http://downtonabbeycooks.com/2012/08/27/downton-downtime-pudding-for-breakfast/
Ask for Pudding: A Global History at your local bookstore or order online at www.amazon.com or www.reaktionbooks.co.uk. Enjoy.
Go to this link to see my story on fun English food terms in the G section of the July 25, 2012 Boston Globe.
As much as I like bread pudding, I seldom eat it. It’s too much after dinner – too rich, too heavy, too many calories.
For breakfast, though, it’s perfect.
Admittedly, this idea didn’t originate with me. While researching my new book, Pudding: A Global History, I discovered that bread pudding has long been served for breakfast. Not that anyone calls it bread pudding in the morning. For no reason I can explain, it travels under various aliases early in the day. It’s called baked French toast or breakfast strata or morning casserole. But like a rose by another name, it’s still bread pudding.
It’s still made with bread, eggs beaten up with milk, a flavoring like cinnamon or nutmeg, possibly sugar, and something else. The something else might be raisins, bananas, or coconut in winter. In early spring, it could be rhubard. In summer, strawberries, blueberries, sliced peaches or plums. Apples or pears take their place in autumn.
Some cooks tuck crisp bits of bacon or slices of ham and cheese among the bread slices making it a savory dish. But it’s still basically bread pudding.
I came up with this marmalade bread pudding for breakfast because it takes the idea of buttered toast and marmalade to a whole other level of deliciousness. Especially when it’s made with challah.
Not only is bread pudding more versatile in the morning, but it’s best at breakfast because you do all the work the day before. It tastes better when you let the soaked and seasoned pudding rest in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, you just pop it in the oven, put on the coffee, and enjoy.
So no matter how you slice it or what you call it, you’ll love bread pudding for breakfast.
Marmalade bread pudding
8-10 slices of bread with the crust removed. I like challah but any firm bread will do.
4 tablespoons softened butter
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup marmalade. Your favorite flavor. I like bitter orange.
Generously butter a one-quart baking pan. Cut bread into slices and butter them. Fit half of the bread slices into the pan butter side up, filling in any gaps with small pieces of bread. Spread with marmalade. Top with another layer of buttered bread.
Whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla together. Pour over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down to make sure all the bread is covered with the milk mixture. Refrigerate overnight or for several hours.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then remove the plastic wrap and put the pan into a larger pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan until it comes halfway to the rim of the pudding pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until the top is slightly puffed and browned. Remove bread pudding pan from the larger pan to serve.
Walking through a bakery to enter a restaurant is a sensuous experience. The scent of freshly baked breads, rolls and bagels makes my taste buds burst into blossom.
Granted, this doesn’t happen often. The bakery/bistro combination is not a common one. But I had the experience several years ago in Montreal and again this past week when I was invited to a dinner at Pain D’Avignon in Hyannis, Mass.
The Montreal restaurant was run by famed baked James MacGuire, who is as amazing a chef as a bread baker. Sadly, that restaurant is now closed.
Pain D’Avignon, on the other hand, is open and thriving. By day, it’s a lively, bustling bakery and café. Since it’s located next to the airport in Hyannis, lots of people stop there on their way to Nantucket to stock up on breads and pastries for their vacations. Locals pick up breads and bagels in the morning and go back for sandwiches and pizza for lunch.
In the evening, the ambience changes completely. The tablecloths come out. The lights dim and candles are lit. The café/bakery becomes a French bistro, but one with the fresh and fragrant scent of bread in the air.
This is not your typical Cape Cod clams and chowder joint.
On the night I ate there, I started with a Champagne and blood orange cocktail and
wonderful crusty bread served with French butter and sea salt. If there’s a better way to begin a meal, I don’t know it.
Next I had an amazing beef tartare with a spicy cognac aioli. Ordinarily I don’t order beef tartare because it’s just too much plain raw meat for me. But this was a small portion, perfectly flavored with the aioli. I’m still thinking about it days later.
The menu changes to suit the market and the season, but if the gnocchi are offered when you go, order them. They are so light they’d float off the plate if it weren’t for a bit of sauce to hold them down.
I also had a flavorful beef stroganoff with mushrooms and house-made noodles. Each course was paired with a superb French wine including a great minerally chablis and an excellent Burgundy. As I’m writing this, it sounds like way too much food and drink, but the correct portion size and the complex flavors combined to make this a memorable meal rather than an overly huge and hearty one.
Dessert was a delicate frangipane and blackberry tart topped with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heaven.
At the end of the meal, diners are given a loaf of bread to take home. It’s a wonderful touch, one that lets the pleasure of the evening spill over into the next morning’s breakfast.
Who is responsible for this impressive restaurant? Co-owners Vojin Vujosevic and Toma Stamenkovic came to this country from the former Yugoslavia and started out as a bread bakers. They built a reputation for their hand-crafted European breads and are celebrating their 20th anniversary in business this year. Everyone else here has an equally impressive and cosmopolitan backstory from executive chef Rebecca Arnold to executive pastry chef Else Rhodes, from Cleberson Lemos, the master baker to general manager Mario Mariani.
Together they’ve brought European artisan breads and - now - a sophisticated French bistro to Cape Cod.
To see Else Rhodes make her awesome blackberry frangipane tarts, go to