National Pizza Pie Day is Today, February 9!! Celebrate the Day!

February 9, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Posted in pizza | 2 Comments
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National Pizza Pie Day is Today, February 9!! Celebrate the Day!

A pizza just removed from an oven

A pizza just removed from an oven

Pizza is an oven-baked, flat, round bread typically topped with a tomato sauce, cheese and various toppings. Pizza was originally invented in Naples, Italy, and the dish has since become popular in many parts of the world. An establishment that makes and sells pizzas is called a “pizzeria”. Many varieties of pizza exist worldwide, along with several dish variants based upon pizza. In 2009, upon Italy’s request, Neapolitan pizza was safeguarded in the European Union as a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed dish.

 
In restaurants, pizza can be baked in an oven with stone bricks above the heat source, an electric deck oven, a conveyor belt oven or, in the case of more expensive restaurants, a wood- or coal-fired brick oven. On deck ovens, the pizza can be slid into the oven on a long paddle, called a peel, and baked directly on the hot bricks or baked on a screen (a round metal grate, typically aluminum). When made at home, it can be baked on a pizza stone in a regular oven to reproduce the effect of a brick oven. Another option is grilled pizza, in which the crust is baked directly on a barbecue grill. Greek pizza, like Chicago-style pizza, is baked in a pan rather than directly on the bricks of the pizza oven.

 
The bottom of the pizza, called the “crust”, may vary widely according to style—thin as in a typical hand-tossed pizza or Roman pizza, or thick as in a typical pan pizza or Chicago-style pizza. It is traditionally plain, but may also be seasoned with garlic or herbs, or stuffed with cheese.

 
The most popular cheeses to use on pizza are mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and parmesan. Romano and Ricotta are often used as toppings and processed cheese manufactured specifically for pizza is used in mass-produced environments. Processed pizza cheese is manufactured to produce preferable qualities like browning, melting, stretchiness and fat and moisture content. Many studies and experiments have analyzed the impact of vegetable oil, manufacturing and culture processes, denatured whey proteins and other changes to creating the ideal and economical pizza cheese. In 1997 it was estimated that annual production of pizza cheese was 2 billion pounds in the US and 200 million pounds in Europe.

 
Toppings
Myriad toppings are used on pizzas, including, but not limited to:
Anchovies
Bacon
Ground beef
Mushrooms
Olives
Onions
Pepperoni
Peppers
Sausage
Seafood
Sun-dried tomato
Tomatoes
Vegetables

 

In 1905, the first pizza establishment in the United States was opened in New York’s Little Italy. Due to the wide influence of Italian

New York-style pizza.

New York-style pizza.

immigrants in American culture, the US has developed regional forms of pizza, some bearing only a casual resemblance to the Italian original. Chicago has its own style of a deep-dish pizza. Detroit also has its unique twice-baked style, with cheese all the way to the edge of the crust, and New York City has its own distinct variety of pizza. New Haven-style pizza is a thin crust variety that does not include cheese unless the customer asks for it as an additional topping.

One of America’s Favorites – Chocolate

October 1, 2012 at 9:59 AM | Posted in cooking | Leave a comment
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Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacaotree. Cacao has been cultivated for at

Chocolate

least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America. Its earliest documented use is around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl [ʃo’kolaːt͡ɬ], a Nahuatl word meaning “bitter water”. The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor.

After fermentation, the beans are dried, then cleaned, and then roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.

Cocoa solids contain alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Some research found that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure. The presence of theobromine renders chocolate toxic to some animals, especially dogs and cats.

Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays: chocolate bunnies and eggs are popular on Easter, chocolate coins on Hanukkah, Santa Claus and other holiday symbols on Christmas, and chocolate hearts or chocolate in heart-shaped boxes on Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, to produce chocolate milk and hot chocolate.

Cocoa mass was used originally in Mesoamerica both as a beverage and as an ingredient in foods. Chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the deities and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute”.

The Europeans sweetened and fattened it by adding refined sugar and milk, two ingredients unknown to the Mexicans. By contrast, the Europeans never infused it into their general diet, but have compartmentalized its use to sweets and desserts. In the 19th century, Briton John Cadbury developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate, creating the modern chocolate bar. Although cocoa is originally from the Americas, today Western Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, with Côte d’Ivoire growing almost half of it.

The word “chocolate” entered the English language from Spanish. How the word came into Spanish is less certain, and there are multiple competing explanations. Perhaps the most cited explanation is that “chocolate” comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word chocolātl, which many sources derived from xocolātl [ʃokolaːtɬ], from xococ ‘sour’ or ‘bitter’, and ātl ‘water’ or ‘drink’. However, as William Bright noted the word “chocolatl” does not occur in central Mexican colonial sources, making this an unlikely derivation. Santamaria gives a derivation from the Yucatec Maya word “chokol” meaning hot, and the Nahuatl “atl” meaning water. Sophie and Michael D. Coe agree with this etymology.

Pointing to various sources dating from the time period of the Spanish conquest, they identify cacahuatl (“cacao water”) as the original Nahuatl word for the cold beverage consumed by the Aztecs. Noting that using a word with caca in it to describe a thick, brown beverage would not have gone over well with most speakers of Spanish due to the fact that caca means faeces in Spanish, the Coes suggest that the Spanish colonisers combined the Nahuatl atl with the Yucatec Maya chocol, for unlike the Aztec, the Maya tended to drink chocolate heated. The Spanish preferred the warm Mayan preparation of the beverage to the cold Aztec one, and so the colonisers substituted chocol in place of the culturally unacceptable caca.

More recently, Dakin and Wichmann derive it from another Nahuatl term, “chicolatl” from eastern Nahuatl, meaning “beaten drink”. They derive this term from the word for the frothing stick, “chicoli”. However, the Coes write that xicalli referred to the gourd out of which the beverage was consumed and that the use of a frothing stick (known as a molinollo) was a product of creolisation between the Spanish and Aztec; the original frothing method used by the indigenous people was simply pouring the drink from a height into another vessel.

Several types of chocolate can be distinguished. Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in

varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. In the U.K. and Ireland milk chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% total dry cocoa solids; in the rest of the European Union the minimum is 25%. “White chocolate” contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids. Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have some physiological effects in humans, but the presence of theobromine renders it toxic to some animals, such as dogs and cats. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Dark chocolate has been promoted for unproven health benefits, as it seems to possess substantial amount of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals.

White chocolate is formed from a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter and milk solids. Although its texture is similar to milk and dark chocolate, it does not contain any cocoa solids. Because of this, many countries do not consider white chocolate as chocolate at all. Although first introduced by Hebert Candies in 1955, Mars, Incorporated was the first to produce white chocolate within the United States. Because it does not contain any cocoa solids, white chocolate does not contain any theobromine, meaning it can be consumed by animals. It is usually not used for cooking.

Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls this “sweet chocolate”, and requires a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor. European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Dark chocolate has also been said to reduce the possibility of a heart attack when consumed regularly in small amounts. Semisweet chocolate is a dark chocolate with a low sugar content. Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes lecithin have been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking.

Unsweetened chocolate is pure chocolate liquor, also known as bitter or baking chocolate. It is unadulterated chocolate: the pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans impart a strong, deep chocolate flavor.

Raw chocolate, often referred to as raw cacao, is always dark and a minimum of 75% cacao. Because the act of processing results in the loss of certain vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium), some consider raw cacao to be a more nutritious form of chocolate.

Some people who purchase chocolate off the store shelf can be disappointed when they see whitish spots on the dark chocolate part. This is called chocolate bloom and is not an indication of chocolate gone bad. Instead, this is just an indication that sugar and/or fat has separated due to poor storage.

Roughly two-thirds of the entire world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa, with 43% sourced from Côte d’Ivoire, where child labor is a common practice to obtain the product. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, some 50 million people around the world depend on cocoa as a source of livelihood. In the UK, most chocolatiers purchase their chocolate from them, to melt, mold and package to their own design.

Chocolate is any product made primarily of cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Production costs can be decreased by reducing cocoa solid content or by substituting cocoa butter with another fat. Cocoa growers object to allowing the resulting food to be called “chocolate”, due to the risk of lower demand for their crops. The sequencing in 2010 of genome of the cacao tree may allow yields to be improved.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the dried and partially fermented seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), a small (4–8 m (or 15–26 ft) tall) evergreen tree native to the deep tropical region of the Americas. Recent genetic studies suggest that the most common

Chocolate is created from the cocoa bean. A cacao tree with fruit pods in various stages of ripening

genotype of the plant originated in the Amazon basin and was gradually transported by humans throughout South and Central America. Early forms of another genotype have also been found in what is now Venezuela. The scientific name, Theobroma, means “food of the deities”. The fruit, called a cacao pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (or 6–12 in) long and 8–10 cm (3–4 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighs about 500 g (1 lb) when ripe.

Cacao trees are small, understory trees that need rich, well-drained soils. They naturally grow within 20 degrees of either side of the equator because they need about 2000 millimeters of rainfall a year, and temperatures in the range of 21 to 32 °C. Cacao trees cannot tolerate a temperature lower than 15 °C (59 °F).

The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are criollo, forastero, and trinitario.

Representing only five percent of all cocoa beans grown, criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market, and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states. There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as criollo, as most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats and produce low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavor of criollo is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in “secondary” notes of long duration.

The most commonly grown bean is forastero, a large group of wild and cultivated cacaos, most likely native to the Amazon basin. The African cocoa crop is entirely of the forastero variety. They are significantly hardier and of higher yield than criollo. The source of most chocolate marketed, forastero cocoas are typically strong in classic “chocolate” flavor, but have a short duration and are unsupported by secondary flavors, producing “quite bland” chocolate.

Trinitario is a natural hybrid of criollo and forastero. Trinitario originated in Trinidad after an introduction of forastero to the local criollo crop. Nearly all cacao produced over the past five decades is of the forastero or lower-grade trinitario varieties.

Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage temperatures are between 15 and 17 °C (59 and 63 °F), with a relative humidity of less than 50%. Various types of “blooming” effects can occur if chocolate is stored or served improperly. Fat bloom is caused by storage temperature fluctuating or exceeding 24 C while sugar bloom is caused by temperature below 15 C or excess humidity. To distinguish between different types of bloom, one can rub the surface of the chocolate lightly, and if the bloom disappears, it is fat bloom. One can get rid of bloom by re-tempering the chocolate or using it for anything that requires melting the chocolate.

Chocolate is generally stored away from other foods, as it can absorb different aromas. Ideally, chocolates are packed or wrapped, and placed in proper storage with the correct humidity and temperature. Additionally, chocolate is frequently stored in a dark place or protected from light by wrapping paper.

If refrigerated or frozen without containment, chocolate can absorb enough moisture to cause a whitish discoloration, the result of fat or sugar crystals rising to the surface. Moving chocolate from one temperature extreme to another, such as from a refrigerator on a hot day, can result in an oily texture. Although visually unappealing, chocolate suffering from bloom is perfectly safe for consumption.

Some manufacturers provide the percentage of chocolate in a finished chocolate confection as a label quoting percentage of “cocoa” or “cacao”. It should be noted that this refers to the combined percentage of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in the bar, not just the percentage of cocoa solids.

Chocolates that are organic or fair trade certified carry labels accordingly.

In the United States, some large chocolate manufacturers lobbied the federal government to permit confections containing cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter to be sold as “chocolate”. In June 2007, as a response to consumer concern after the proposed change, the FDA reiterated “Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate.”

Many chocolate manufacturers have created products from chocolate bars to fudge, hoping to attract more consumers with each

A Hershey chocolate bar

creation. Hershey and Mars have become the largest manufacturers in the world. Other large manufacturers include Nestlé, Kraft Foods and Lindt.

The Hershey Company, known for their Hershey bar, Hershey’s Kisses and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America. Mars, Incorporated, one of the largest privately owned U.S. corporations, is a worldwide manufacturer of confectionery and other food products, with US$21 billion in annual sales in 2006. Mars is known for Mars Bar, Milky Way, M&M’s, Twix and Snickers, as well as other confectionery items, such Skittles.

Food conglomerates Nestlé SA and Kraft Foods both have chocolate brands. Nestlé acquired Rowntree’s in 1988 and now market chocolates under their own brand, including Smarties and Kit Kat; Kraft Foods through its 1990 acquisition of Jacobs Suchard, now own Milka and Suchard. In February 2010, Kraft also acquired British-based Cadbury plc, the world’s largest confectionery manufacturer. Cadbury is well known for its Dairy Milk range and Creme Egg; Fry’s, Trebor Basset, the fair-trade brand Green & Black’s also belong to the group.

The chocolate industry, a steadily growing, $50 billion-a-year worldwide business centered on the sale and consumption of chocolate, is prevalent on five out of seven continents. Big Chocolate, as it is also called, is essentially an oligopoly between major international chocolate companies in Europe and the U.S. These U.S. companies, such as Mars and Hershey’s alone, generate $13 billion a year in chocolate sales and account for two-thirds of U.S. manufacturers. However, Europe accounts for 45% of the world’s chocolate revenue.

Chocolate is one of the most popular holiday gifts. The International Chocolate Day is observed on September 13. On Valentine’s Day, a box of chocolates is traditional, usually presented with flowers and a greeting card. It may be given on other holidays, and birthdays. At Easter, chocolate eggs are traditional. This is a confectionery made primarily of chocolate, and can either be solid, hollow, or filled with other sweets or fondant. Many confectioners make holiday-specific chocolate candies, usually variants of their standard fare.

Cheese of the Week – Feta

June 8, 2012 at 9:27 AM | Posted in cheese, Food | Leave a comment
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Feta is one of the most famous cheeses in Greece. It is made in various sizes, often as a loaf-shape. Feta is solid, but crumbly with some fissures. Pure white, it has a milky fresh acidity. Feta was originally made with either ewe’s milk or a mixture of ewe’s and goat’s milk, but today most feta is made with pasteurized milk and tastes of little besides salt. Some people are put off by the strong salt content but the salt is intended only as a preservative and is not supposed to overpower the taste of the cheese. Feta can be soaked in fresh, cold water or milk for a few minutes or longer, if necessary, to make it less salty. It has a fat content of 40 – 50%.

Country: Greece
Milk: cow ewe and goat milk
Texture: soft

Feta is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. Feta is a crumbly aged cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g. the Greek salad and Shopska salad in Bulgaria), pastries and in baking, notably in the popular phyllo-based dishes spanakopita (“spinach pie”) and tyropita (“cheese pie”) and combined with olive oil and vegetables. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.

Since 2002, feta has been a protected designation of origin product in the European Union. According to the relevant EU legislation, only those cheeses produced in a traditional way in some areas of Greece (mainland and the island of Lesbos), and made from sheep milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goats’ milk (up to 30%) of the same area, may bear the name “feta”. However, similar white brined cheeses (often called ‘white cheese’ in various languages) are found in the eastern Mediterranean and around the Black Sea. Similar brined white cheeses produced outside the EU are often made partly or wholly of cow’s milk, and they are sometimes called ‘feta’.

Feta is a soft white brined cheese with small holes, a compact touch, few cuts, and no skin. It is usually formed into large blocks, which

Greek salad. Feta cheese, a traditional product, is usually sliced in small cubes or crumbled

are submerged in brine. Its flavor is tangy and salty, ranging from mild to sharp. Its maximum moisture is 56%, its minimum fat content in dry matter is 43%, and its pH usually ranges from 4.4 to 4.6.

Feta cheese is first recorded in the Byzantine Empire under the name πρόσφατος (prósphatos, “recent”, i.e. fresh), and was associated specifically with Crete. An Italian visitor to Candia in 1494 describes its storage in brine clearly.

The Greek word “feta” comes from the Italian word fetta (“slice”). It was introduced into the Greek language in the 17th century. Opinions vary whether it refers to the method of cutting the cheese in slices to serve on a plate or because of the practice of slicing it to place in barrels.

After a long legal battle with Denmark, which produced a cheese under the same name using artificially blanched cow’s milk, the term “feta” has been a protected designation of origin (PDO) since July 2002, which limits the term within the European Union to feta made exclusively of sheep’s/goat’s milk in Greece. According to the Commission, the biodiversity of the land coupled with the special breeds of sheep and goats used for milk is what gives feta cheese a specific aroma and flavor.

When needed to describe an imitation to feta, names such as “salad cheese” and “Greek-style cheese” are used. The European Commission gave other nations five years to find a new name for their “feta” cheese, or to stop production. Because of the decision by the European Union, Danish dairy company Arla Foods changed the name of their product to apetina.

 

 

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