Friday, March 29, 2013

The Easter Bunny Returns

Easter is Sunday!  For those who are religious and Christian it is the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To a lot of kids and heathens, maybe, it is the day a bunny supposedly stops by and drops off a load of candy.  Religion aside it is more appropriate to cake hour to bring an Easter basket full of sweets courtesy of the Easter Bunny.  That's what happened today even though it is Good Friday which of course is the day that Jesus Christ was crucified.  No disrespect intended, we just ain't around on Sunday.
Look what the Easter Bunny brought!
The obligatory bunnies and Peeps!
White exterior for the milk chocolate!
And the dark wrapping guessed it!
Lots of Easter Candy classics!
Quite a selection embedded in the grass!
Thrilled with their Easter selection.
Can we dig in yet?
The basket was a very good size this year.  It was chock full of a lot of things including many of the favorites that we have become accustomed to.  These included: the obligatory chocolate bunnies this year courtesy of Dove Chocolate.  Robin's Eggs which are candy and chocolate coated malted milk egg-shaped candy. As you can see from the picture they can leave you with a very respectable blue tongue.
The complete offering!
Broken down into it's individual components.
Malted Milk Robin eggs.
The color comes off to say the least!
The addictive Cadbury Mini Eggs which are infinitely superior to the Cadbury Creme Eggs were in the basket. M&M Easter edition candies including the peanut kind and the peanut butter filled version.  These had some very nice colors including dark teal and lavender that we liked very much. There were also some Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups.  
Can you pick out each of the various treats?
Furthermore we had Dove Chocolate eggs in four flavors  - white, milk and dark chocolate and cocoanut cream. Hershey's Chocolate Eggs were included as were the obligatory jelly beans from Brachs. And last but not least we found the all too familiar and sometimes disconcerting Peeps. 
Why are Peeps disconcerting?  For some folks it is due to nutrition issues in that they are mostly pure sugar.  For others it is the radioactive looking colors that are used to color the exterior of sugar.  Nobody would ever make the case that these are "natural" coloring.  We noticed a few of them had the eyes in the wrong place.  On one of the blue ones it was unclear whether they were eyes or nipples.  Peeps used to especially disturb one of our former graduated students. Look who they reacted when they came across a picture or her.
Yellow Peeps are classic!
Cyan Blue and Purple are hanging around!
Add it some green and magenta and all we are missing is orange!
Eyes at chest level!
Eyes in the back of Peep's head!
The Peeps are missing someone!
Disconcerting or not majority of us that are more than happy to partake and get in the Easter spirit.
We thought the Easter basket was very diverse this year.  There was a milk chocolate bunny in a white wrapping and a dark chocolate bunny in a dark wrapping. A little bunny affirmative action so to speak. We also had an entire rainbow of peeps which fits in nicely with the whole inclusive and gay marriage thing that seems to be all over the place right now thanks to the Supreme Court and that red equal sign that is all over Facebook. From above the basket definitely brought to mind the rainbow flag.  Well, sort of!
Affirmative action chocolate bunnies!
Rainbow Peeps for inclusivity!
The whole business made us think to the origins of the Easter Bunny.  So we googled it. It turns out the tradition comes from - where else - the Germans.  The Easter Bunny or Easter Hare originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behaviour at the start of the season of Eastertide. According to Wikipedia in legend, the creature carries colored eggs in his basket, candy and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such shows similarities to Santa Claus, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holiday. The German Lutheran custom was first mentioned in Georg Franck von Frankenau's De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs) in 1682 referring to an Alsace tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter Eggs. I could go on to elaborate on the Easter Eggs or supposedly how the hare, believed to be hemaprhoditic, came to be associated with the Virgin Mary but I'll just leave it here. The role of the egg in the whole Easter business I will also leave for another time.
Historic image of Easter Bunny!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Banana Cheesecake and Matzos since it is still Pesach

It was about time that we used one of the Cheesecake Factory gift cards that we have been wracking up due to our expenditures with a specific company.  If you buy a certain amount per quarter you get a gift card for a amount determined by how much you bought.  The types of cards offered included amazon and similar gift cards. We said give us a card for somewhere where we can get a cake.  That's how we get the Cheesecake Factory gift cards!
Cheesecake and matzos!

Yes we've seen this box before!

Our frozen cheesecake for the day!

One floret per piece!

Cheesecake layer, banana cream layer and whipped cream!
We hadn't used one in awhile but since we had nothing signed up today we thought it would be a good alternative.  We also had someone with a car who was willing to pick it up.  He went and settled for a banana cream cheesecake.  We've learned that the typical construction of one of these cheesecakes is to have the New York Style cheesecake on the bottom and then have something to do with the theme on top of it.  In this case there was a banana cream on top of the cake which was finally embellished with whipped cream florets. There are eight florets intended to indicate the size of the slices. We know better, however, and usually offer a slice that splits the rosette down the middle lest we end up with close to 700 calories in one piece. We've had this cake before and we like it so we were quite content.
Dense and creamy with awesome banana taste!

Our recommended slice is about half what they recommend!
It is still Passover or Pesach which is much more fun to say.  That being the case one of our colleagues opted to bring in some Matzos for cake hour so that the observant people could also have a treat.  A number of people had never tried them before and we dutifully explained what they were and why they were.  Although they were willing to try they were probably not encouraged by the comment that the best tasting part is the box.  True they are flat, dry, bland and tasteless but they are tradition so you go with the flow.  Most people that hadn't tried them thought they were fine however a discussion did ensue as to how to give them more flavor. Salt was added which wasn't bad and it was suggested that butter, jam, peanut butter or cheese would probably go good with them. Those making the suggestions were not celebrating Passover and undoubtedly unaware of any restrictions on eating them. The suggestions were well taken and even attempted nonetheless.
Streit's Passover Matzos for all!
 A little flatter than that cheesecake don't you think!
The package was authentic and from the Lower East Side of New York. They were kosher for Passover, baked under the supervision of a rabbi and the laws of Challah are fulfilled. We don't know what that means.  If we are in NYC looking for Matzos we know that we can't go wrong with Streit's - Excellence in Kosher Baking.
All sorts of things we don't understand!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Two types of Tate's

We have Tate's cookies on several occasions.  These are made on Long Island somewhere in the Hamptons so you can imagine the clientele they must have at the original location.  They make several types of classic cookies. We tend to gravitate towards the chocolate chip with walnut and the macademia nut cookies.  These cookies are very, very good unless you are the type that likes squishy flaccid cookies along the lines of Mrs. Fields.  They are crisp, not terribly sweet and leave a taste in you mouth at the finish that makes you want to eat the whole bag. 
Two types of Tate's!
Simple plastic or more elaborate paper package.
We've had these before!

We've also had these albeit not from this package.
This time around though to get two types of cookies we ended up wiht two types of packaging. We usually go with the sleeve in the plastic cellophane wrapping.  We wanted to get the walnut chocolate chip but did not see them at first. Then we notices another batch of Tate's in a different type of package. This one was paper with picture and marketing text giving the story of Tate's and a paean to the cookies.  It sure made for a more interesting read than the plastic with the minimal writing. 
The story of Tate's!

A little plug for the other types on the package!

And a picture of the other paper packaged products!

The ingredients - just what you might expect for something made in the Hamptons!
The cookies inside were the same as we have had before so if you want to pick up some of these you can be confident you are getting something good in either type of packaging.  The only caveat is that the cookies due tend to break in the plastic sleeve. In the package they sit in a tray being more secure and with less chance of breakage. If cookie integrity is important to you the paper package would be better.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chocolate Banana Bread! What would Grandma Miller say?

Well maybe someone did think of this before but in all the years after all the banana breads that we have consumed it is interesting that this is our first encounter with chocolate banana bread.  It makes sense doesn't it?  Bananas and chocolate clearly go well together and there are a number of treats that feature the two. There are chocolate banana cakes so why not modify the ubiquitous banana bread to include chocolate?  That's what our baker today did and it was a very smart idea.
Something different for today!
They added chocolate to Banana Bread!

Nicely baked!

Granulated sugar on the top!
Out of the pan and ready to slice!
As you can tell from the picture it certainly looked good.  It was very well baked with the attractive split on the top making it look like a bread.  The large granulated sugar on the surface was a creative touch.  The chocolate flavor was achieved by adding cocoa powder to the banana bread batter.  (Everyone knows that you make this with almost rotten bananas, right?)  For added flavor the traditional walnuts and some non-traditional chocolate chips were added.
Walnuts, chocolate chips and a moist bread texture!

It was not too hard to eat a whole slice!
The final result was well appreciated. It is rare to find a banana bread that is dry and that was certainly not the case here.  The texture was what it should be - more reminiscent of banana bread than chocolate cake - and it was very moist.  Although it looked like it might be dense or heavy, it wasn't and a number of people who chose only half a slice came back for more once they realized this. It was needless to say very much appreciated. So the next time you are baking some banana bread consider throwing in some'll like the result.

Bad cutting job in the end!
During this cake hour we learned of the difficulty of getting back your data once your laptop dies.  One of our colleagues offered to help with data recovery.  The laptop in question is an old Dell that deserve the nickname we gave it - the world's biggest laptop. It was one monster laptop and our friend may miss the data but won't miss the computer. After developing back pain from carrying around the behemoth she went out and bought a Mac.

You could break your back carrying this!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy St. Joseph's Day!

Two days after St. Patrick's Day we have St. Joseph's Day.  Did you know that?  If you've read the blog consistently you probably did because we've discussed this before.  For St. Joseph's Day the traditional treat is a Zeppola or plural Zeppoli. These are an Italian pastry consisting of a deep-fried dough ball. This doughnut or fritter is usually topped with powdered sugar, and may be filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream or a butter-and-honey mixture. The consistency ranges from light and puffy, to bread- or pasta-like.  Zeppole are traditionally consumed during La Festa di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph's Day) celebrated every March 19, when zeppole are sold on many streets and sometimes presented as gifts. The custom was popularized in the early 19th century by Neapolitan baker Pasquale Pintauro.
We hadn't heard of this place!
And look what is in the box!

If it's Zeppoli it must be St. Joseph's Day!
Nice looking treats!

Plenty to go around!
That's real whipped cream!
The cherry is the finishing touch!

This year's selection came from a bakery that was new to us as we had not tried it before.  Can you believe there are still bakeries that we haven't tried yet...after all these years!  The name is certainly Italian enough Zaccagnini's Pastry Shop - It is in Cumberland Rhode Island and the Zeppoli certainly looked good! We like the ring of clearly real whipped cream on the top.  Inside was a very fresh pastry creme, as opposed to a custard or ricotta cream, that was lighter than what we have had before.  The pastry, which is described as deep fried above, in this case, we suspect, was baked so it was not at all greasy.  The light coating of powdered sugar was not overwhelming and the cherry was a nice final touch at least for those who are not freaked out about food coloring. These actually reminded a lot of us of the world's greatest pastry, the Paris-Brest, which is made from very similar ingredients.  All in all these were lighter than they looked and not overwhelmingly sweet.  We definitely decided that these from Zaccagnini's were better than ones that we had previously that were heavier and probably laden with more fat.  We are grateful for having been introduced to another good bakery in the Providence area and we look forward to trying a few other things.

These do not look like they were deep fried!

Real Pastry Cream was the filling!
It dawned on us as we were discussing the day that we couldn't think of who St. Joseph was and what he did to be sainted.  We've all heard of St. Patrick and St. Peter but what is up with St. Joseph.  Turns out that he is of all people the father of know the Joseph of Mary and Joseph.  Our bad!  We knew that a Joseph was the father of Jesus but clearly did not know that he was a saint in the Catholic church. That's what happens when you deal with people raised Protestant where you are not even told that there is a pope. Given the play the recent papal conclave got you would think it would be impossible to not know about the pope but after all he's part of the reason people protested and thereby became Protestants. 

Jesus's Dad...we didn't know he was a Saint!
We were very happy to welcome a new member of the center to her first cake hour IHO St. Joseph!  We don't think she had heard of him either as she comes from Turkey where they probably do not celebrate Italian festivals!
Welcome to your first cake hour!