How to Match Wines with Desserts

A full course meal ends with a delectable dessert that’s why it is important to serve something that will leave the palate satisfied. Usually, the dessert is paired with a glass of wine because they compliment each other. No wonder many people go to Walt Disney World between September and November so they can satisfy their sweet cravings. This is the time that the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is held – where people can indulge in a superb selection of desserts paired with the perfect wine. However, after this event there are some people who are often left clueless when it comes to wine and dessert pairing. You don’t need to be a sommelier like the award-winning wine critic Robert Parker to know what kind of wine to match the dessert. Just read below for some tips on how you can do that:

photo courtesy of Tobias Lindman

Matching the Color

The color of the wine usually matches the color of the dessert. If you’re having red fruits as the main ingredients of your dessert, then it is advisable to choose red wines like the Cupcake Red Velvet 2011. The Bordeaux Merlot 2010, on the other hand, matches strawberry shortcake topped with berries. White wines don’t go well with citrus, tropical, and berry-flavored desserts so avoid purchasing that when throwing a tropical-themed party.

Read the Wine Description

When choosing a wine, make sure to read the ingredients or description to give you a clue as to what kind of desserts will match it. For example, M&S described Moscatel de Valencia 2012 as “a really refreshing sweet wine – pale lemon with the scent of green grapes and peaches and a luscious, ripe flavor.” Just by reading its description, you will get an idea that the Moscatel will go well with fruit desserts. Actually this sweet wine was commended at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2013.

These are just some basic tips on how you can get that perfect dessert and wine combination. Just remember to try out different wines to see what works for you best.

The American Pie Council Presents Pies, Pies and More Pies In New Book Featuring 18 Years of Award-Winning Recipes

Since 1995, amateur, commercial, and professional bakers have competed in the American Pie Council (APC)/Crisco National Pie Championships to determine who makes the best pies in America.  America’s Best Pies: Nearly 200 Recipes You’ll Love (Skyhorse Publishing, October 2012, SRP $24.95) by the American Pie Council with Linda Hoskins is a collection of 200 delicious recipes that have won awards over the 18 years of the championship competition.  The book will be available for sale this October on www.piecouncil.org and through select national booksellers and online book retailers.

From the unusual like My Big Fat Italian Strawberry Basil Wedding Pie to classic Apple (America’s Number One flavor preference (Perishable News, 2012 Pie Survey), every recipe has been reviewed by judges and determined to be an award-winning pie.  The selections in America’s Best Pies are the best of the best from amateur and professional bakers from across the country.  Recipes include:

  • Silky, Rich & Smooth Chocolate Pie
  • Lemon Raspberry Twist
  • Island Breeze Pineapple-Blueberry Cream Pie
  • Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chunk Pie
  • Deep-Dish Deluxe Banana Split Pie
  • Oreo Peanut Butter Mousse Pie
  • Pumpkin
  • Californese Raisin and Nut Pie
  • Holiday Cranberry Mince Pie
  • White-Bottomed Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie
  • Vanilla Bean Brûlée Pie

America’s Best Pies showcases an abundance of color pie photographs, many of which are the actual pies entered in the competition.  Packed with clear and concise recipes, the book is for expert and future expert pie makers alike.  Whether it’s apple, custard, strawberry or raisin, there’s a pie for every taste bud.

The APC/Crisco National Pie Championships is a four-day event held annually in Central Florida drawing the nation’s top commercial, professional, amateur and junior pie bakers.  Bakers win prizes, but compete for bragging rights. Next year’s competition is scheduled for April 26-28, 2013 at the Caribe Royal Orlando.  For more information, visit www.piecouncil.org.

The American Pie Council® is the only organization committed to maintaining America’s pie heritage, passing on the tradition of pie-making and promoting America’s love affair with pie. The APC offers personal, professional, and commercial memberships and leads the nation in celebrating National Pie Day every January 23.  For more information, please visit www.piecouncil.org

About the Author

Linda Hoskins has served as the executive director of the American Pie Council since 2000.  Along with a strong board of directors, Linda has been responsible for organizing all aspects of the pie industry for the National Pie Championships, the Great American Pie Festival, and the Pie Industry Seminar. Linda has been a judge for the Food Network and the Travel Channel, and has been named to Baking Management’s Influential 20 in both 2009 and 2011.  Linda and her husband, Richard, have two children and three grandchildren and reside in Lake Forest, Illinois.

America’s Best Pies
Nearly 200 Recipes You’ll Love
By American Pie Council
With Linda Hoskins
Skyhorse Publishing hardcover, also available as an ebook
Available at select retailers nationwide and through www.piecouncil.org
On Sale: October 2012
ISBN: 978-1-62087-165-2
Price: $24.95

Introducing Starbucks Refreshers Beverages

Not everyone wants to fill up with the traditional cup of coffee when they wish to rejuvenate their energy levels, and the popular chain, Starbucks, is now offering three different ways to boost your ability to get-up-and-go. Harnessing the natural energy of green coffee extract, Starbucks is making a move in the energy drink market. While coffee extract is used in the making of the beverages, there is no coffee taste – so fruit lovers will certainly be pleased.

Fresh Handcrafted Drinks

A quick trip to Starbucks brings you closer to a handcrafted low-calorie beverage made with fresh ingredients, such as  fruit juice, whole blackberries (in the Very Berry Hibiscus), and real slices of lime (in the Cool Lime). With the addition of green coffee extract, the drink helps encourage a surge of natural energy.

Sparkling Beverages

Green coffee extract is added to a handful of flavorful sparkling beverages made with real fruit juice, B vitamins, ginseng, and antioxidants from vitamin C. You also don’t have to feel guilty about drinking a can because they are only 60 calories. Flavors to consider include Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Lemonade, and Orange Melon. Cans of the sparkling beverage cost as low as around $1.20 and can be purchased outside of a Starbucks coffee shop.

Instant Beverage Packets

The VIA brand of instant beverages that Starbucks produces also offers a line of Refreshers (Very Berry Hibiscus and Cool Lime flavors) for those times you can’t step out of the office or house. The packets are made with real fruit and green coffee extract – providing hints of citrus, apple and mint. This option is perfect for people on the go. All you have to do is open a packet, add to a glass of cold water, and mix. One carton of the VIA Refreshers consists of five packets and cost about $5.95.

What is Shortbread?

Quite popular around Christmas time and the Scottish New Year, shortbread emerges in many different forms, including festive iced cookies and drier accompaniments to your cup of coffee. Shortbread is a rich pastry usually made with four simple ingredients: butter, eggs, sugar and flour. After baking, the biscuit becomes tender-crisp treat with a crumbly texture. To avoid browning, shortbread is baked at a low temperature. When it comes out of the oven, it is nearly white or a light golden brown color.

Basic Vanilla Shortbread

Ingredients needed to make a basic shortbread include ¾  (1 ½ cups or 3 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, and ¼ teaspoon salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (that has a paddle attachment), mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, and then add the ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix the dough on low speed until it starts to come together. Once mixed, dump the dough onto a surface dusted with flour. Use your hands to bring everything together. Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten slightly. Wrap each piece in plastic and put into the refrigerator to chill.

This recipe will make about 48 small shortbreads.

What to Do with Shortbread Dough…

Some people will roll the shortbread dough and cut out shapes to bake as cookies. Others use the dough to make a range of sweet creations. There are plenty of variations you may consider when making a simple shortbread recipe. You can:

•    Cut into the shape of diamonds and dip an end in chocolate
•    Make thumbprint cookies topped with fruit preserves
•    Tea cookies dusted with confectioners (or powdered) sugar
•    Brushed with a lemon glaze and decorated with sprinkles

Chocolate Brulees Dessert Recipe

Recipe and image courtesy of our friends at Pillsbury.com.

INGREDIENTS:
2 containers (6 oz each) Yoplait® Thick & Creamy French vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons fat-free half-and-half
6 raspberries

DIRECTIONS:

1. Spoon 1 container yogurt into each of two 6-oz brulee dishes or small custard cups.

2. Place chocolate chips and half-and-half in small microwavable bowl. Microwave uncovered on High 15 to 20 seconds; stir until smooth. Spread over top of each dish of yogurt in thin layer.

3. Refrigerate brulees until chocolate hardens, about 15 minutes. Top with raspberries.

Photo courtesy of Pillsbury.com

Baking Essentials: Vanilla

With a distinct aroma that sweetly fills the air, vanilla is one of the most used flavorings found in pastries, cakes, cookies, candy, and other desserts. At one point in time, vanilla was so rare and priceless that only royalty had access to the flavoring. Today, nearly almost every kitchen uses the flavor in some form. While there are plenty of imitations on the market, the cheaper man-made vanilla extract cannot compare to pure vanilla. If you are interested in baking a masterpiece or creating something sweet in the kitchen, vanilla is certainly a baking essential.

Vanilla extract comes from vanilla pods (or beans). There are three common types that you may encounter: Madagascar or Bourbon- Madagascar, Mexican, and Tahitian. Vanilla is the fruit of a thick green orchid vine that comes from regions, such as the islands of Madagascar and regions in the Indian Ocean. The vine also grows wildly in Mexico – producing a thicker, darker bean with a strong flavor. Tahitian vanilla beans are the thickest and are nearly black in color.

The green pods of the vine are picked by hand in an unripened state and undergo a fermentation process that can take between two to six months. The beans turn into a dark brown color as they age. The vanilla pods are then dried and cured to enhance their flavor.

Vanilla is sold in many different forms, including the very popular extract, pods (beans), powdered, essence and vanilla sugar. The vanilla extract often used in the kitchen is made by steeping the vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution for several months. Some manufacturers will add sugar to produce a clear dark liquid with a rich flavor.

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

To experience the flavor of fresh vanilla extract, you can make your own by cutting one whole vanilla bean in half – lengthwise. Place the vanilla bean in ¾ cup of vodka, which equals out to 180 milliliters. Cover the contents tightly and let steep for six months before using.

When cooking, keep in mind that one whole vanilla bean equals two to three teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Baking with a Springform Pan

When you’re looking for the perfect pan to bake a delicious cheesecake – choose a springform. This type of pan comes in two pieces with a removable base and bottom, and a buckle-joined vertical surface (or rim). With the flick of a latch, the sides can open and close for easy removal of your sweet creations after they have completely cooked and cooled. The pan truly comes in handy when baking delicate sweet treats, flourless chocolate cakes, and creamy cheesecake desserts.

The traditional material used to make springform pans is tinned steel. The waffle-shaped bottom of the pan gives it strength to handle the relatively heavy weight of cheesecake and torts. The tin coating covers the steel of the pan and helps prevent rust from developing. It is important to thoroughly dry the pan after washing and place in the oven to remove all traces of moisture.

Choosing aluminum springform pans is an advantage in the kitchen because they don’t rust and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. The base is kept in place because the rim is curved inward at the bottom. They don’t have a lip that is locked so they are less likely to suffer damage over time. However, stainless steel springform pans are still popular and non-stick versions make it easier to remove cakes.

Springform pans can be used to make:

  • Traditional layered cakes with a moist texture, such as carrot cake
  • Cheesecakes with crumbly crusts
  • Graham cracker crust before filling
  • Flourless cakes
  • Quiches with their custard-like fillings

Minimize Springform Pan Leakage

To ensure proper use and care of a springform pan, you should know that all springform pans have the potential to leak, especially when baking a very light batter. Pans with a more intricate design are more likely to leak. To minimize leakage, you can place the pan in a water bath when in the oven or line the outside of the pan with aluminum foil. When storing your springform pan, put in a place where no one can reach to avoid any bending, which can lead to leakage.

 

 

National Pie Day and Laura’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Apple Pie Recipe

Throwing a pie baking – and pie tasting – party for friends or coworkers, or to raise money for a favorite charity, are all delicious ways to celebrate National Pie Day on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Why is National Pie Day celebrated on Jan. 23 or 1/23? Because celebrating the wholesome goodness of pie is as easy as 1-2-3!

Bakers of all skill levels are invited to enter the 18th Annual APC/Crisco® National Pie Championships® to be held April 27-29, 2012 in Orlando. Entry forms will be posted soon at www.piecouncil.org. Those who prefer to appreciate the nuances of pie without all the work won’t want to miss the APC Great American Pie Festival sponsored by Crisco®, featuring the Never Ending Pie Buffet, held April 28-29, 2012 in nearby Celebration, Fla.

Here is a winning recipe from last year, courtesy of The American Pie Council.

Laura’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Apple Pie
Linda Hundt, DeWitt, Mich.
Crisco® Innovation Best of Show
Professional
2011 American Pie Council Crisco® National Pie Championships


Pie Crust
1 ½ cups of flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup cold butter cut in small pieces
½ cup of refrigerated Crisco® shortening

Mix all above ingredients in Kitchenaid style mixer on medium speed swiftly until crust appears “pea-like.” Carefully sprinkle water in crust mix until it starts to become moistened and gathers together. Pat into a disc, wrap and refrigerate for at least one half hour. Roll out on to floured surface and make and crimp crust. Freeze until ready to use.

Apple Filling
Five medium to large Michigan Cortland, Ida Red Apples, peeled, thinly sliced, diced
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Cook above ingredients in large pan on medium heat until cooked halfway. Stir in 3/4 cup homemade caramel until melted.

Homemade caramel – recipe below
Praline pecans – recipe below

Sticky Toffee Pudding Filling
½ cup praline pecans
1 stick of butter softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 T heavy cream
1 T lemon juice
1 egg – beaten
½ cup self-rising flour
Mix above ingredients just until blended.

Crumb topping
¾ cup of flour
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter softened

Mix all together all crumb topping ingredients by hand or a pastry blender until fine and crumbly.

Directions:
Spread sticky toffee pudding mixture on bottom of crust. Put apple mixture over pudding mixture. Sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for one hour or until knife easily slides into center of pie with no resistance. If pie becomes too brown before done, turn down oven to 350 degrees to finish baking and cover with foil completely.

Top with a generous amount of homemade caramel and praline pecans.

Homemade Caramel
1- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ stick butter
1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract

In heavy 3 quart saucepan, combine all ingredients, but vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, covering all parts of bottom of pan with wire whisk to avoid scorching. Stir until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, constantly stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until caramel reaches 244F on a candy thermometer or firm-ball stage. Pour in glass container. Cool to use.

Praline Pecans
1 cup of chopped pecans
2 T butter
2 T brown sugar
Melt butter in small pan on medium –low heat until melted. Add pecans and sugar and stir ingredients until you start smelling the nuts roasting. Take off heat and cool. Crumble.

***

The American Pie Council® (APC), the only organization committed to maintaining America’s pie heritage, offers pie lovers plenty of reasons and ways to celebrate. The APC offers recipes on its website www.piecouncil.org and many APC members offer activities, specials and more in celebration of the special day. The APC is comprised of amateur, professional and commercial pie manufacturer members. Any amateur pie maker or pie lover can join for just $40 for a lifetime membership.