One of America’s Favorite – Pie

April 23, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Posted in baking, dessert, Food | Leave a comment
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A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or

A slice of an apple pie

savoury ingredients.

Pies are defined by their crusts. A filled pie (also single-crust or bottom-crust), has pastry lining the baking dish, and the filling is placed on top of the pastry, but left open. A top-crust pie, which may also be called a cobbler, has the filling in the bottom of the dish and the filling covered with a pastry or other covering before baking. A two-crust pie has the filling completely enclosed in the pastry shell. Flaky pastry is a typical kind of pastry used for pie crusts, but many things can be used, including baking powder biscuits, mashed potatoes, and crumbs.

Pies can be a variety of sizes, ranging from bite-size to ones designed for multiple servings.

The need for nutritious, easy-to-store, easy-to-carry, and long-lasting foods on long journeys, in particular at sea, was initially solved by taking live food along with a butcher or cook. However, this took up additional space on what were either horse-powered treks or small ships, reducing the time of travel before additional food was required. This resulted in early armies adopting the style of hunter-foraging.

The introduction of the baking of processed cereals including the creation of flour, provided a more reliable source of food. Egyptian sailors carried a flat brittle bread loaf of millet bread called dhourra cake, while the Romans had a biscuit called buccellum.

The first pies appeared around 9500 BC, in the Egyptian Neolithic period or New Stone Age, when the use of stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding became common, the domestication of plants and animals, the establishment of permanent villages, and the practice of crafts such as pottery and weaving. Early pies were in the form of galettes wrapping honey as a treat inside a cover of ground oats, wheat, rye or barley. These galettes developed into a form of early sweet pastry or desserts, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses II, who ruled from 1304 to 1237 BC, located in the Valley of the Kings. Sometime before 2000 BC, a recipe for chicken pie was written on a tablet in Sumer.

With the knowledge transferred to the Ancient Greeks, historians believe that the Greeks originated pie pastry. Then a flour-water paste (add fat, and it becomes pastry), wrapped around meat, served to: cook the meat; seal in the juices; and provide a lightweight sealed holder for long sea journeys. This transferred the knowledge to the Romans who, having conquered parts of Northern Europe and southern Spain were far more adept at using salt and spices to preserve and flavour their meat.

The 1st century Roman cookbook Apicius make various mention of various recipes which involve a pie case. By 160 BC, Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 BC) who wrote De Agri Cultura, notes the recipe for the most popular pie/cake called Placenta. Also called libum by the Romans, it was more like a modern day cheesecake on a pastry base, often used as an offering to the gods. With the development of the Roman Empire and its efficient road transport, pie cooking spread throughout Europe.

Pies remained as a core staple of diet of traveling and working peoples in the colder northern European countries, with regional variations based on both the locally grown and available meats, as well as the locally farmed cereal crop. The Cornish pasty is an excellent adaptation of the pie to a working man’s daily food needs.

Medieval cooks were often restricted in cooking forms they were able to use, having restricted access to ovens due to their costs of construction and need for abundant supplies of fuel. Pies could be easily cooked over an open fire, while partnering with a baker allowed them to cook the filling inside their own locally defined casing. The earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns (the word actually used for a basket or box), with straight sealed sides and a top; open top pies were referred to as traps. This may also be the reason why early recipes focus on the filling over the surrounding case, with the partnership development leading to the use of reusable earthenware pie cases which reduced the use of expensive flour.

The first reference to “pyes” as food items appeared in England (in a Latin context) as early as the 12th century, but no unequivocal reference to the item with which the article is concerned is attested until the 14th century (Oxford English Dictionary sb pie).

A slice of pecan pie

Song birds at the time were a fine delicacy, and protected by Royal Law. At the coronation of eight-year old English King Henry VI (1422–1461) in 1429, “Partryche and Pecock enhackyll” pie was served, consisting of cooked peacock mounted in its skin on a peacock filled pie. Cooked birds were frequently placed by European royal cooks on top of a large pie to identify its contents, leading to its later adaptation in pre-Victorian times as a porcelain ornament to release of steam and identify a good pie.

The Pilgrim fathers and early settlers brought their pie recipes with them to America, adapting to the ingredients and techniques available to them in the New World. Their first pies were based on berries and fruits pointed out to them by the Native North Americans. Pies allowed colonial cooks to stretch ingredients and also used round shallow pans to literally “cut corners,” and create a regional variation of shallow pie.

Meat pies with fillings such as steak, cheese, steak and kidney, minced beef, or chicken and mushroom are popular in the United

Homemade meat pie with beef and vegetables.

Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand as take-away snacks. They are also served with chips as an alternative to fish and chips at British chip shops.

Pot pies with a flaky crust and bottom are also a popular American dish, typically with a filling of meat (particularly beef, chicken or turkey), gravy, and mixed vegetables (potatoes, carrots and peas). Frozen pot pies are often sold in individual serving size.

Fruit pies may be served with a scoop of ice cream, a style known in North America as pie à la mode. Many sweet pies are served this way. Apple pie is a traditional choice, though any pie with sweet fillings may be served à la mode. This combination, and possibly the name as well, is thought to have been popularized in the mid-1890s in the United States.

Coconut Custard Pie (Diabetic Friendly)

Serves: 8

Ingredients

Pastry for single-crust 9 inch pie
4 eggs
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup Equal® Spoonful or Granulated*
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup toasted flaked coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

* May substitute 24 packets Equal sweetener

Directions

Roll pastry on floured surface into circle 1 inch larger than inverted 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into plate; trim and flute edge. Set aside.
Beat eggs in large bowl about 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Whisk in milk and remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into pastry shell.
Bake pie in preheated 375F oven 30 to 35 minutes or until sharp knife inserted halfway between center and edge of pie comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving)
Calories:    194
Protein:    6 g
Sodium:     301 mg
Cholesterol:    115 mg
Fat:     11 g
Carbohydrates:     19 g
Exchanges:     1/2 milk, 1/2 starch, 2 fat

http://www.diabeticgourmet.com/recipes/html/987.shtml

Cheese

February 16, 2012 at 10:21 AM | Posted in cheese, diabetes, Food | 3 Comments
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Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging

Swiss Cheese

flavors, textures, and forms.

Cheese consists of proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. It is produced by coagulation of the milk protein casein. Typically, the milk is acidified and addition of the enzyme rennet causes coagulation. The solids are separated and pressed into final form. Some cheeses have molds on the rind or throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.

Hundreds of types of cheese are produced. Their styles, textures and flavors depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal’s diet), whether they have been pasteurized, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and aging. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring agents. The yellow to red color of many cheeses is from adding annatto.

For a few cheeses, the milk is curdled by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet completes the curdling. Vegetarian alternatives to rennet are available; most are produced by fermentation of the fungus Mucor miehei, but others have been extracted from various species of the Cynara thistle family.

Cheese is valued for its portability, long life, and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Cheese is more compact and

Cheese on market stand in Basel, Switzerland

has a longer shelf life than milk. Cheesemakers near a dairy region may benefit from fresher, lower-priced milk, and lower shipping costs. The long storage life of some cheese, especially if it is encased in a protective rind, allows selling when markets are favorable.

Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheesemaking originated, either in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, but the practice had spread within Europe prior to Roman times and, according to Pliny the Elder, had become a sophisticated enterprise by the time the Roman Empire came into being.

Proposed dates for the origin of cheesemaking range from around 8000 BCE (when sheep were first domesticated) to around 3000 BCE. The first cheese may have been made by people in the Middle East or by nomadic Turkic tribes in Central Asia. Since animal skins and inflated internal organs have, since ancient times, provided storage vessels for a range of foodstuffs, it is probable that the process of cheese making was discovered accidentally by storing milk in a container made from the stomach of an animal, resulting in the milk being turned to curd and whey by the rennet from the stomach. There is a legend with variations about the discovery of cheese by an Arab trader who used this method of storing milk.

Cheesemaking may have begun independently of this by the pressing and salting of curdled milk to preserve it. Observation that the effect of making milk in an animal stomach gave more solid and better-textured curds, may have led to the deliberate addition of rennet.

The earliest archeological evidence of cheesemaking has been found in Egyptian tomb murals, dating to about 2000 BCE. The earliest cheeses were likely to have been quite sour and salty, similar in texture to rustic cottage cheese or feta, a crumbly, flavorful Greek cheese.

Cheese produced in Europe, where climates are cooler than the Middle East, required less salt for preservation. With less salt and acidity, the cheese became a suitable environment for useful microbes and molds, giving aged cheeses their respective flavors.

Cheese factory in Holland

Until its modern spread along with European culture, cheese was nearly unheard of in oriental cultures, in the pre-Columbian Americas, and only had limited use in sub-Mediterranean Africa, mainly being widespread and popular only in Europe and areas influenced strongly by its cultures. But with the spread, first of European imperialism, and later of Euro-American culture and food, cheese has gradually become known and increasingly popular worldwide, though still rarely considered a part of local ethnic cuisines outside Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas.

The first factory for the industrial production of cheese opened in Switzerland in 1815, but it was in the United States where large-scale production first found real success. Credit usually goes to Jesse Williams, a dairy farmer from Rome, New York, who in 1851 started making cheese in an assembly-line fashion using the milk from neighboring farms. Within decades hundreds of such dairy associations existed.

The 1860s saw the beginnings of mass-produced rennet, and by the turn of the century scientists were producing pure microbial cultures. Before then, bacteria in cheesemaking had come from the environment or from recycling an earlier batch’s whey; the pure cultures meant a more standardized cheese could be produced.

Factory-made cheese overtook traditional cheesemaking in the World War II era, and factories have been the source of most cheese in America and Europe ever since. Today, Americans buy more processed cheese than “real”, factory-made or not.

A required step in cheesemaking is separating the milk into solid curds and liquid whey. Usually this is done by acidifying (souring) the milk and adding rennet. The acidification can be accomplished directly by the addition of an acid like vinegar in a few cases (paneer, queso fresco), but usually starter bacteria are employed instead. These starter bacteria convert milk sugars into lactic acid. The same bacteria (and the enzymes they produce) also play a large role in the eventual flavor of aged cheeses. Most cheeses are made with starter bacteria from the Lactococci, Lactobacilli, or Streptococci families. Swiss starter cultures also include Propionibacter shermani, which produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles during aging, giving Swiss cheese or Emmental its holes (called eyes”).

Some fresh cheeses are curdled only by acidity, but most cheeses also use rennet. Rennet sets the cheese into a strong and rubbery gel compared to the fragile curds produced by acidic coagulation alone. It also allows curdling at a lower acidity—important because flavor-making bacteria are inhibited in high-acidity environments. In general, softer, smaller, fresher cheeses are curdled with a greater proportion of acid to rennet than harder, larger, longer-aged varieties.

At this point, the cheese has set into a very moist gel. Some soft cheeses are now essentially complete: they are drained, salted, and packaged. For most of the rest, the curd is cut into small cubes. This allows water to drain from the individual pieces of curd.

Some hard cheeses are then heated to temperatures in the range of 35–55 °C (95–131 °F). This forces more whey from the cut curd. It also changes the taste of the finished cheese, affecting both the bacterial culture and the milk chemistry. Cheeses that are heated to the higher temperatures are usually made with thermophilic starter bacteria that survive this step—either Lactobacilli or Streptococci.

Salt has roles in cheese besides adding a salty flavor. It preserves cheese from spoiling, draws moisture from the curd, and firms cheese’s texture in an interaction with its proteins. Some cheeses are salted from the outside with dry salt or brine washes. Most cheeses have the salt mixed directly into the curds.
Cheese factory in Holland

Other techniques influence a cheese’s texture and flavor. Some examples:

Stretching: (Mozzarella, Provolone) The curd is stretched and kneaded in hot water, developing a stringy, fibrous body.
Cheddaring: (Cheddar, other English cheeses) The cut curd is repeatedly piled up, pushing more moisture away. The curd is also mixed (or milled) for a long time, taking the sharp edges off the cut curd pieces and influencing the final product’s texture.
Washing: (Edam, Gouda, Colby) The curd is washed in warm water, lowering its acidity and making for a milder-tasting cheese.

Most cheeses achieve their final shape when the curds are pressed into a mold or form. The harder the cheese, the more pressure is applied. The pressure drives out moisture—the molds are designed to allow water to escape—and unifies the curds into a single solid body.

A newborn cheese is usually salty yet bland in flavor and, for harder varieties, rubbery in texture. These qualities are sometimes enjoyed—cheese curds are eaten on their own—but normally cheeses are left to rest under controlled conditions. This aging period (also called ripening, or, from the French, affinage) lasts from a few days to several years. As a cheese ages, microbes and enzymes transform texture and intensify flavor. This transformation is largely a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milkfat into a complex mix of amino acids, amines, and fatty acids.

Some cheeses have additional bacteria or molds intentionally introduced before or during aging. In traditional cheesemaking, these microbes might be already present in the aging room; they are simply allowed to settle and grow on the stored cheeses. More often today, prepared cultures are used, giving more consistent results and putting fewer constraints on the environment where the cheese ages. These cheeses include soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, and rind-washed cheeses such as Limburger.

There are several types of cheese, with around 500 different varieties recognised by the International Dairy Federation, over 400

Colby Cheese

identified by Walter and Hargrove, over 500 by Burkhalter, and over 1,000 by Sandine and Elliker. The varieties may be grouped or classified into types according to criteria such as length of ageing, texture, methods of making, fat content, animal milk, country or region of origin, etc. – with these criteria either being used singly or in combination, but with no single method being universally used. The method most commonly and traditionally used is based on moisture content, which is then further discriminated by fat content and curing or ripening methods. Some attempts have been made to rationalise the classification of cheese – a scheme was proposed by Pieter Walstra which uses the primary and secondary starter combined with moisture content, and Walter and Hargrove suggested classifying by production methods which produces 18 types, which are then further grouped by moisture content.

At refrigerator temperatures, the fat in a piece of cheese is as hard as unsoftened butter, and its protein structure is stiff as well. Flavor and odor compounds are less easily liberated when cold. For improvements in flavor and texture, it is widely advised that cheeses be allowed to warm up to room temperature before eating. If the cheese is further warmed, to 26–32 °C (79–90 °F), the fats will begin to “sweat out” as they go beyond soft to fully liquid.

Above room temperatures, most hard cheeses melt. Rennet-curdled cheeses have a gel-like protein matrix that is broken down by heat. When enough protein bonds are broken, the cheese itself turns from a solid to a viscous liquid. Soft, high-moisture cheeses will melt at around 55 °C (131 °F), while hard, low-moisture cheeses such as Parmesan remain solid until they reach about 82 °C (180 °F). Acid-set cheeses, including halloumi, paneer, some whey cheeses and many varieties of fresh goat cheese, have a protein structure that remains intact at high temperatures. When cooked, these cheeses just get firmer as water evaporates.

Some cheeses, like raclette, melt smoothly; many tend to become stringy or suffer from a separation of their fats. Many of these can be coaxed into melting smoothly in the presence of acids or starch. Fondue, with wine providing the acidity, is a good example of a smoothly melted cheese dish. Elastic stringiness is a quality that is sometimes enjoyed, in dishes including pizza and Welsh rarebit.

Feta from Greece

Even a melted cheese eventually turns solid again, after enough moisture is cooked off. The saying “you can’t melt cheese twice” (meaning “some things can only be done once”) refers to the fact that oils leach out during the first melting and are gone, leaving the non-meltable solids behind.

As its temperature continues to rise, cheese will brown and eventually burn. Browned, partially burned cheese has a particular distinct flavor of its own and is frequently used in cooking (e.g., sprinkling atop items before baking them).

In general, cheese supplies a great deal of calcium, protein, phosphorus and fat. A 30-gram (1.1 oz) serving of Cheddar cheese contains about 7 grams (0.25 oz) of protein and 200 milligrams of calcium. Nutritionally, cheese is essentially concentrated milk: it takes about 200 grams (7.1 oz) of milk to provide that much protein, and 150 grams (5.3 oz) to equal the calcium.

Cheese is often avoided by those who are lactose intolerant, but ripened cheeses like Cheddar contain only about 5% of the lactose found in whole milk, and aged cheeses contain almost none. Nevertheless, people with severe lactose intolerance should avoid eating dairy cheese. As a natural product, the same kind of cheese may contain different amounts of lactose on different occasions, causing unexpected painful reactions.

A 2009 study at the Curtin University of Technology compared individuals who consumed three servings per day to those who consumed five per day. The researchers concluded that increased consumption resulted in a reduction of abdominal fat, blood pressure and blood sugar.

National Dish of the Week – Spain

September 21, 2011 at 4:57 PM | Posted in baking, Food | 2 Comments
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Spanish cuisine consists of a variety of dishes, which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country’s deep maritime roots. Spain‘s

A large Valencian paella

extensive history with many cultural influences has led to an array of unique cuisines with literally thousands of recipes and flavors. It is also renowned for its health benefits and fresh ingredients, as Mediterranean diet.

The first introduction of a product to ancient Iberia was that of wheat. Wheat was thought to be brought by Iberians from the south of the peninsula. It was perhaps brought from Aquitaine in the north of the peninsula, due to the difficulty of transporting from the south. In time, the wheat of Iberia came to be considered to be the best in the Roman Empire, and became one of the main commodities of foreign trade. The Romans’ early approval of the wheat led to the spread of wheat from Spain to Greece and Egypt and easterly parts of Russia.

There were two major kinds of diet in the peninsula. One was found in the northwest part of the peninsula, with more animal fats that correspond to the husbandry of the north. The other could be considered the precursor of the Mediterranean diet and was found in the southerly parts of the peninsula.

As early as Roman times, with the exception of products later imported from the Americas, many modern foods were consumed, although mostly by the aristocracy, not the middle class. Cooking references from that era discuss the eating habits in Rome, where foods from all of the Empire’s provinces were brought. Thousands of amphorae of olive oil were sent to Rome from Spain.[citation needed] Nonetheless, and especially in the Celtic areas, consumption of animal products (from lamb, beef, etc.) was more common than consumption of vegetables.

Already in that era, cabbage was well known and appreciated, and considered a panacea for various aliments. Other popular vegetables of that time were thistles (such as artichokes) and onions.

In Roman Spain the hams of Pomeipolis (Pamplona) had great prestige. The export of pork products became the basis of a strong local economy.

It is almost certain that lentils were already consumed in Roman Spain, because they formed a staple food for the army and because they are easy to preserve and transport. Fava beans were known from antiquity and were considered sacred by the Romans. In the Saturnalia, the later December festival in honor of Saturn, fava beans were used to choose the king of the festival. This custom is believed to be the source of the present day custom of hiding an object in the roscón de reyes (similar to the sixpence traditional in a Christmas pudding); until quite recently, that object was a fava bean. Garbanzoswere also popular, primarily among the poorer

classes.

Mushrooms were common and popular in the northern part of the country.

They mastered the science of grafting. According to Pliny, Tibur saw a tree that produced a distinct fruit on each of its branches: nuts, apples, pomegranates, cherries, pears, but he added that they dried out quickly.

Viticulture already was known and practiced by the Romans, but it seemed as well the fact that it was the Greeks who extended the vine across the Mediterranean region. This includes those wines that were most popular in the Empire.

In this era the wealthy typically ate while lying on a couch (a custom acquired from the Greeks) and using their hands, because forks were not used for eating. Tablecloths were introduced in the 1st century. They came to use two plates, one flat (platina or patella) and the other deep (catinus), which they held with the left hand. That hand could not be used for many other things while eating, given that they ate with their left arms while reclining in bed, so that only the right hand was free. They used spoons, which, like today, had different sizes, depending on what they were used for. The first spoons were made from clam shells (hence, the name cuchara), with silver handles.

The mode of flavoring and cooking was quite distinct from what is found in modern times.

"Bellota Oro", was elected as "Best ham in the world"

Among the multitude of recipes that make up the varied cuisines of Spain, a few can be considered common to all or almost all of Spain’s regions, even though some of them have an origin known and associated with specific places. Examples include most importantly potato omelette (“tortilla de patata”, “tortilla española” or just “tortilla”), paella, various stews, migas, sausages (such as embutidos, chorizo, and morcilla), jamón serrano, and cheeses.

There are also many dishes based on beans (chickpeas, lentils, green beans); soups, with many regional variations; and bread, that has numerous forms, with distinct varieties in each region. The regional variations are less pronounced in Spanish desserts and cakes: flan, custard, rice pudding (arroz con leche), torrijas, churros, and madeleines are some of the most representative examples.

The most famous regional dish is Fabada Asturiana, a rich stew made with large white beans (fabes), pork shoulder (lacón), morcilla, chorizo, and saffron (azafrán).

Apple groves foster the production of the traditional alcoholic drink, a natural cider (sidra). It is a very dry cider, and unlike French or English natural ciders, uses predominantly acidic apples, rather than sweet or bittersweet. The proportions are: acidic 40%, sub-acidic 30-25%, sweet 10-15%, bittersweet 15-20%, bitter 5%.[1]

Sidra is traditionally poured in by an expert server (or escanciador): the bottle is raised high above his or her head to oxygenate the brew as it moves into the glass below. A small amount (~120ml) is poured at a time (called a culín), as it must be drunk immediately before the sidra loses its carbonation. Any sidra left in the glass is poured onto a woodchip-strewn floor or a trough along the bottom of the bar.

Asturian cheeses, especially Cabrales, are also famous throughout Spain and beyond; Cabrales is known for its pungent odour and

Gastronomía manchega

strong flavour. Asturias is often called “the land of cheeses” (el pais de los quesos) due to the product’s diversity and quality in this region.Other major dishes include faba beans with clams, Asturian stew, frixuelos, and rice pudding.

Today, Spanish cooking is “in fashion”, especially thanks in part to Ferran Adrià, who in the summer of 2003 attained international renown thanks to praise in the Sunday supplement of The New York Times. His restaurant El Bulli is located in the province of Girona, near Roses. In a long article, the New York Times declared him the best chef in the world, and postulated the supremacy of Spanish cooking over French cuisine.

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