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Food Lit: Bathroom Edition

Unclie Johns Bathroom Reader in KD post

A Basket Full of Surprises

Call me old fashioned, but I think  one needs to be prepared for guests not only at the table, but also in the powder room.  Guest towels, at least a half roll of TP, soap and lotion,  and, most important of all, appropriate bathroom reading.  A nice basket with maybe a couple of magazines with lots of photos (nothing too political or medically depressing as you want your guest to emerge eventually in a reasonably good mood). Or, even  better, stock the privy with books that can be read in short episodes, such as Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, a commode-side basket godsend filled with short essays on less than intelligent criminals, palindromes, anagrams, urban legends and hoaxes, failed inventions, histories of everyday things, and accidental discoveries, as well as articles on pop culture and celebrities. And yes, there really is an Uncle John who started this series of books. 

Or you could pick a topic you love, for me obviously it would involve food:  One grateful  guest gave me Dover Dover Publications Food And DrinkPublication’s Food And Drink – a Book of Quotations to add to the collection, which has entertaining quotes from a fascinating range of celebrities ranging from Samuel Johnson to Julia Child — all pertaining to what and how we eat. One of my favorites comes from Mark Twain: “Eat what you like  and let the food fight it out inside.”

Not So Endangered Reading

 Which brings us to Endangered Pleasures. by Barbara Holland. Looking back on the La Cuisine sales statistics, Endangered Pleasures was probably the highest selling book in our very tiny (some now would say curated) selection of books about food. From the complete title, it’s obvious that four of her pleasures she feared for most were Naps, Bacon, Martinis, and Profanity.  The one that is included in this humorous group of essays, although not in the title, was smoking – which, in the end, put a period to her life at age 77.  

Barbara Holland in Kitchen DetailBut in the meantime, Barbara Murray Holland  wrote some pretty interesting stuff, including a most incisive  memoir of growing up  in Chevy  Chase, Maryland after World War II.  Read it and you will get a frisson in view of what we are subjected to in currents news about adolescence in suburban Washington. When All The World Was Young chronicles her life with a somewhat reclusive mother (who was  a children’s book writer and illustrator) and a stepfather she detested.  A repeated winner of National Poetry  competitions in high school, she worked at Hecht’s and later as a copywriter, while publishing essays in magazines and more than a dozen books.  One of my favorite quotes from her is her rejoinder to Virginia Woolf’ statement  that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Holland wrote, “No, Mrs. Woolf.” She must have a job.”


On Coffee, Sports, and Bedtime

But just to get you started on the episodic joys of Endangered Pleasures, below are excerpts from three favorites (although it was hard to choose). I find sometimes when the world has not treated me very well, that I pull this well worn book out of the guest bathroom basket and take it to bed. You should, too.  


“Instant Coffee is the measure of America’s anti-pleasure bias. Since it ‘s no faster or easier to make than real coffee, it apparently exists only as a kindEndangered Pleasures Kitchen Detail Review of punishment, a ritual morning flagellation of the senses, to ready us for whatever nastiness the day may bring…Getting out of bed to find real coffee already made is a civilized way to begin the day and incentive to fling off the covers and rise.”  Details follow on how to make a decent cup even when you are hampered by well intentioned instant coffee lovers.


“Life, after we’d had a few millennia to observe it, turned out to be dreadfully unfair, so we invented sports. Sports are fair. If you or your team loses, it’s because you weren’t good enough to win.  Your opponent played better. It may hurt, but it doesn’t rankle. If you win, it’s because you were better and your victory can be savored without guilt.  If you try to win by unfair means, such as stomping your opponent’s groin, someone will most likely penalize you.”   She then explained to me  how sports, no matter how shady the players and team owners are, create a sense of community, no matter how transitory, and that cheating at sports imitates life. 


“As a reward for getting out of it in the morning, we’re allowed to get back into bed at night: get gloriously horizontal again, after the vertical day spent carrying our bones around by ourselves.  Being so uneasy with self-indulgence, Americans tend to slight the comforts of the bed.  We don’t even allow ourselves to be ‘sick in bed’ anymore; we pick up a bottle of antibiotics on our way to the office, bearing flu for our colleagues.” And she digresses into four witty pages of bed dreams, including her opinions of chaise longues and their offspring, recliners and loungers. 


Superior Sources: Pillivuyt Is Our Porcelain Choice

Cookware Worth The Investment

pillivuyt in use in Kitchen Detail Test KitchenOne of the cookware collections I accrued over the small space of 47 years at La Cuisine was quite a variety of culinary porcelain: France, Germany, China, USA were all well represented.   There was a period when Nils, our video genius , and I were on a quest to recreate the best clafouti (we both had a memory of eating an absolutely sublime one at different times and were trying to recreate it).  We are still looking for the dream recipe, but one thing became clear: out of all the porcelain that we baked with, the one that soared above the others was Pillivuyt. Not just for clafouti experiments, but also for the soufflé recipes from last week’s post, potato gratins, fruit cobblers and assorted experiments from cooking websites.  And in France, when visiting restaurants, I would surreptitiously turn over a dish to find out who the manufacturer was.  More often than not, it was Pillivuyt.  

Not only does it cook beautifully, but it also cleans easily (this from the chief dishwasher).   Crusts form evenly,  not too thick or overdone at the edges, and centers stay creamy. Looking at my assortment of platters, dishes, and bakers, the Pillivuyt examples have cleaner design details, crisper edges,  and in some cases, are much less clunky to hold or pull out of the oven than their competitors.  They hold up better, I think, over a long period of use and time too.  


A Porcelain History Lesson

 Pillivuyt is one of the few porcelain manufacturers to develop its own porcelain compounds on site at the factory  in Berry, France, and it has done so for almost 200 years. The founding Pillivuyt brothers were actually Swiss; Charles and Jean Louis bought a brick factory in 1818 in Foëcy but determined they wanted to produce culinary and table porcelain for households instead. This location was ideal for its neighboring forests and water, and the proximity to Limoges where kaolin deposits had been recently uncovered. When this natural resource was discovered, Europeans had found the secret ingredient required to create porcelain, after coveting a material that had been exclusive to China for over 300 years. The porcelain business remained in the Pillivuyt family for over 127 years. There were reversals of fortune and hare game terrine from Pillivuyt on ist dibsfamily squabbles and another factory was founded by a descendent, Albert Pillivuyt, which had the trademark “Apilco”.  Apilco itself was bought in 1980 by the Deshoulieres Group, which owns Porcelaine de Sologne and Deshoulieres.  Alfred Simon purchased the brand in 1945 and took over as General Manager, implementing the latest technologies and manufacturing processes. These changes improved uniformity and productivity, while the technique for creating superior porcelain wares remained much the same.

Their production was and is 100% French – none of  it is piecemeal  and subcontracted to other countries.Canopee by Pillivuyt This is actually an issue with a lot of companies that want to maintain a Made In …. identity. Parts get farmed out to low-bidder factories in other countries, then shipped to the manufacturer where it is then put together and stamped Made in France, or Made In Germany or Made In USA. 

 You can find pieces of Pillivuyt history on many websites dealing with antiques.  They made custom dinnerware and game terrines.  I bought  their classic soup tureen with an orange and black stripe along with soup spoons with matching handles. And even now, they come up with some astounding designs, as you can see in the photo on the right.  One of their designs was conceived specifically for use in hospitals and assisted care facilities, with non-slip  silicone bases,  double handled cups, and  high-lipped plates for ease of use by weak or unsteady hands.

Some Science Behind Pillivuyt

Pillillvuyt assortmentWe wondered why  Pillivuyt pieces lasted longer in my kitchen  than their competitors. First, their casting starts with hand-made prototypes in plaster built according to concise computer models. Second, the firing process involves more than 10 steps, which take several days or weeks to complete.  The factory fires their pieces  first at 1795F, then the glaze is applied before a second firing at 2552F, which is higher than several of its competitors. Decorated pieces are fired a third time so that they become impervious to changing color or fading.  Lower quality porcelain is fired at a much lower temperature, especially when cadmium and lead are part of the clay mixture.  Pillivuyt, along with Apilco and Revol, follow the Prop 65 protocols. Lesser competitors cannot make the same claim. PIllivuyt recently won the Innovation Reward for their development of  Pillienium, a stronger and thinner “paste,” which can be made into cookware and service pieces hat are more versatile and have greater aesthetic appeal. Multiple firings at high temperatures are not inexpensive, but the end product is non-porous and highly resistant to mechanical and thermal shocks.

Check out their newest collection – called Ulysses– if you want induction-ready cookware that you can use on top of the stove or on your grillPillivuyt Ulysses grill& stove top series.   Their bakeware series is also grill-safe. The main recommendation is that some cooking liquid be used in the dish while grilling to help with cleanup and make the recipe all the more tasty.  All their porcelain is safe in the freezer, microwave,and dishwasher.  Your Pillivuyt  cookware can be transferred directly from freezer to oven.  

In honor of our  post last week about how easy it is to make an outstanding soufflé, Pillivuyt is currently offering a 10% discount on your choice of two of their soufflé dishes for Kitchen Detail readers  There is a $100 minimum purchase and is good from October 9 through October 23.   Look through their catalogue at www.pillivuytshop.com and use the code SOUFFLE10 on your choice of two soufflé dishes  from these two links:




Recipe: Lilliana’s Pisco Sour

Liliana's Pisco Sour
Serves 4
Our favorite version of this Peruvian cocktail
Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
  1. 1/2 cup caster sugar
  2. 3 tbs water
  3. 1 egg white
  4. 2.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice (key Limes are preferable)
  5. 7.5 oz Pisco (Peruvian liqueur made from Muscat Grapes)
  1. Make the sugar syrup by boiling the water with the sugar until clear and allow tocool
  2. Pour lime juice and Pisco into syrup and stir until smooth
  3. Pour mix into blender jar and add enough ice to double volume of liquid.
  4. Blend on high to crush ice.
  5. Add one egg white and blend on high for one minute
  6. Transfer to pitcher and offer first one to cook and assistants.
  1. Basically the proportions are 3 parts Pisco to 1 part key lime or Persian lime juice to 1 part sugar syrup( but the syrup proportions should be the one listed in the ingredients) We tried with other sugar syrup and the cocktail was not the same.
Adapted from Cuisinette Recipe Files
Adapted from Cuisinette Recipe Files
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

Juicy Post: A Tale of Two Souffles

You Can Do This

cheese souffle in Kitchen Detail KitchenDo you have eggs, milk, butter in your fridge? Is there salt and pepper on your counter, nutmeg lurking on a shelf, flour, sugar, and chocolate in your cupboard?  Maybe some hard cheese and a softer one floating in the crisper drawer?  Guess what? You can make a souffle – it really is easy.  Besides a functioning oven (always handy), check your drawers for a good heat conducting saucepan, a whisk or electric beater, a metal or glass bowl, a casserole dish, spatula and grater. I’m a great believer in scales, but if you are clinging to your measuring cups and spoons, that is just dandy. Less than 30 minutes of your precious time and another 20-30 minutes in the oven and pouf! you are done. And people will think you’re a genius.

Little Things Mean A Lot

Most of the time I beat egg whites in a copper bowl in the belief that 1. it increases my upper test for correct texture in whisked egg whites in KD kitchenarm strength and 2, the meringue is silkier and does not deflate as easily as it would if done in a mixer.   You can turn the bowl upside down or rest a raw egg in the shell on the meringue to check for the right consistency. The egg should barely sink into the egg whites or the meringue should not really plop out  of the bowl. If you opt for a mixer, start the speed at a moderately slow tempo and then increase it.  You will have a happier meringue. Even adding a pinch of salt can help keep the egg whites from  collapsing if that has been an issue for you in previous attempts. Another option with a dessert soufflé is to  take some of the sugar specified in the recipe and add it slowly to the whisked whites to help stabilize them.  

I use extra large eggs, which weigh about 65 grams in the shell.  I prefer brown eggs, as the yolks are usually a deeper yellow than white eggs.Try to have the whites at room temperature before whisking.  Make sure you get all the white out of the shell or your hand. Whites left in the shell can amount to a whole white if you are using 5 to 6 eggs.   If you want a creamy souffle, the interior temperature should be around 155F, a bit more solid is around 160F.   Thermapens are really handy for this little check. 

Tricks Of The Trade

I learned some other interesting pointers from Jacques Pépin, who wrote two  marvelous books 42 years ago: La Technique and La Methode. Check with Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks  for hardcover versions. He advised that soufflés can be prepared and placed in their molds one to two hours in advance and kept in the fridge. I agree that you want the soufflé dish to be almost filled, if possible..  In fact, popping your prepped recipe in the fridge will help the soufflé rise straight up instead of over the sides.   He advised that at least put your prepped soufflé dish in the fridge while the base and meringue are made.  I also take a knife and cut a circle into the soufflé, about an inch in from its border, once it is ready to go into the oven.  That way you get that nice inside puff.  Sort of  a designer detail. 

Ceramic makes a better container to bake in than metal, particularly in this case.  Your soufflé crust will be softer.  And if you use a soufflé dish, the higher side-to-diameter  ration produces more dramatic results.  You can create your bechamel base or your chocolate base and keep them at room temperature.  Cover each with buttered parchment or wax paper to avoid getting a “skin”. Then when you are ready,  add the whipped whites at the last minute and pop it in the oven.  Next week, I will have a post on why Pillivuyt is my go-to supplier of culinary porcelain. 

An Old Recipe And A New One 

My all-time favorite cheese soufflécheese souffle in KD test kitchen recipe is from the Chamberlain cookbook, The Flavor Of France with a few adjustments I learned from Mary Bond, an American woman who had the courage to persevere at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris for three years to garner the Grande Diplome.  I think she was one of a handful who succeeded at this in the 1950s.  

You will be making a cream sauce (or  béchamel in French) and then adding an equal amount each of a flavorful semi-soft cheese (gruyere, cheddar, comte are suggestions only) and a hard cheese (parmesan, pecorino, asiago, for example). You should include a bit of grated nutmeg (fresh, please) and some salt and white pepper if you have it.  If not, use black – it will give a sharper pepper taste.  Once you have incorporated the mixed yolks into your base, you want it to be  lukewarm when you add it to the whipped whites.  You will use some additional finely grated hard cheese to line the  buttered interior of your mold.  

This particular chocolate soufflé is an unusual one and creamier than other versions.  It is from Christophe Felder, a pastry chef whose wild christophe Felder chocolate souffle in Kitchen Detail recipes I just adore.  I think his method of folding the yolks into the meringue and then adding the chocolate base is ingenious.  I always butter the souffle dish and then add sugar and cocoa powder to line the interior instead of just sugar. It’s important not to skimp on buttering the mold and make sure that the sugar (or sugar and cocoa powder) thoroughly line the interior.  This allows the souffle to hang onto  the sides in that first blast of heat. 

Some More Options

 After I learned how to make Setteveli I started using the croquant  instead of sugar to line the souffle dish. It just gives the crust a surprising  sweet crunch. And once you make the croquant from Setteveli, it keeps for weeks and you can use it in ice creams, a base layer for brownies or as decor on cakes. For Felder’s recipe, it’s specially important to  purchase a superior couverture  chocolate. My favorites for chocolate souffle are the mid-range (cocoa solids over 60% but under 72%) and I have used Cluizel, Valrhona, Venchi, Slitti and Amedei with great success. A large bowl of  whipped cream  is de rigueur as you pull your trembling masterpiece out of the oven  So here is a recipe developed by Stella Parks of Bravetart fame, available through Epicurious.  This way, the whipped cream is done several hours before you start putting this recipe together.  


Cheese Souffle
Serves 6
The combination of a hard and soft cheese gives this version more depth of flavor.
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
25 min
  1. 4 tbs (57gr) unsalted butter
  2. 4 tbs (7.8gr) white all purpose flour
  3. 2 cups (1/2 lt )whole milk
  4. Pinch each of salt, pepper and fresh grated nutmeg
  5. 3/4 cup each grated (90gr)Swiss Cheese and (75gr)Parmesan
  6. 5 extra large eggs, separated
  7. 1 extra egg white will give you a higher rise (optional)
  8. Extra parmesan for lining the souffle dishes
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Butter heavily an 8 cup souffle dish or 6 smaller ones for individual servings.
  3. Shake enough grated parmesan into each so that the interior is fully covered.
  4. In a good heat-conducting saucepan (I use copper) over medium low heat, melt the butter
  5. Add the flour and whisk until it is incorporated.
  6. While whisking, add the milk, your pinches of salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  7. Stir this mixture for 5 minutes as it must remain smooth (I prefer a wood spoon for this).
  8. Add the two cheeses and stir mixture until smooth
  9. Remove from heat and whisk in the five yolks.
  10. Your base custard should be smooth and off the heat while you whisk 5-6 egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.
  11. Fold a third of them into your base with a spatula.
  12. Fold the remaining two thirds lightly.
  13. Pour into your molds allowing them to be at least 3/4 full.
  14. Put them on a baking sheet and slide the molds into the 400F oven
  15. In a few minutes lower the heat to 375F and check after 20 minutes.
  16. Souflles should be lightly brown on top and the internal temperature around 155-160F
  17. Serve immediately!
  1. The eggs I use weigh 65 grams in the shell. A large soufflé mold will take longer than 20 minutes to cook than individual ones.
Adapted from The Flavor Of France
Adapted from The Flavor Of France
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/
Chocolate Soufflé
Serves 4
A light yet rich soufflé with the yolks beaten into the meringue!
Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
  1. 8 oz/ (225gr) 70% chocolate
  2. 2 2/3oz (75gr) unsalted butter (1/3 cup)
  3. 9.5oz (270gr) egg whites (1 1/4 cups)
  4. 3.5oz (90gr) caster sugar (1/2 cup)
  5. 4 large or extra large egg yolks
  1. Preheat oven to 420F
  2. Generously butter an 8 cup soufflé mold or heat-proof tea cups or ramkins
  3. Sift caster sugar or a combination of caster sugar and cocoa generously in the interior.
  4. You can also use our Setteveli Croquant to line the molds.
  5. Melt the chocolate (if it is in block form, cut into shards) in a bowl over simmering water.
  6. Add the butter and allow it to melt into the chocolate, off the burner.
  7. Stir the combination and leave at warm room temperature.
  8. Whip the egg whites and add 25% of the sugar in teaspoons as you are whisking.
  9. Then you can add the 75% remaining in 3 spoonfuls so that you have a meringue-like finish.
  10. Whisk the yolks and incorporate them into the meringue.
  11. Fold the chocolate butter mixture gently into the yolk-enriched meringue.
  12. Fill your molds about three fourths full.
  13. Put your molds on a bake sheet and slide them into the oven.
  14. Individual molds will take 10 to 15 minutes, but a large mold will take 20-25 minutes.
  15. The souffle should be creamy in the interior and served immediately..
  1. Christophe Felder suggests that you can add liqueur soaked pieces of savoiardi or ladyfingers in the middle of the souffle before putting it in the oven.
Adapted from Le Chocolat de Christophe Felder
Adapted from Le Chocolat de Christophe Felder
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/


Travel Alert: Ristorante Re Enzo – Eating Al Fresco in Bologna’s Piazzetta della Pioggia

A Restaurant with a View

Re Enzon image from Tatiana Pollard for Kitchen DetailYou should see Enzo carve and serve a whole turbot. He makes it look as easy as cutting butter. When Sharmi Singh took over Ristorante Re Enzo in 2008, he brought this seasoned waiter with him because he makes people feel like they’re in good hands. Despite his skill, Enzo is not the restaurant’s namesake. That would be an incarcerated king who lived the rest of his days in Bologna in a stately prison. Re Enzo was an illegitmate son of Frederick II and was captured by Bolognese troops in 1249 while fighting for the Emperor’s Guelph supporters. Enzo was never released, although his father demanded it. The jail eventually took his name, becoming Palazzo Re Enzo in the city’s main square, Piazza Maggiore.

Piazzetta della Pioggia, where Ristorante Re Enzo is located, is a quieter, more intimate piazza. What strikes you about this eatery when walking by is the cozy covered patio spilling out onto the street. And the invitation is hard to refuse.


Something for All Appetites, Big and Small
Re Enzo image by Tatiana Pollard for Kitchen Detail

You might be tempted to turn up your nose at a restaurant that serves a little bit of everything from a thick menu of choices, wanting what you believe is a more “authentic local experience.” But if you happen to be dining with kids or friends, who always seem to have varied tastes, and who are inevitably starving, you might want to think otherwise. That’s when a place like Re Enzo proves what a godsend it is. It’s where pescatarians can eat lovely fish, where meat-lovers find a formidable spaghetti alla carbonara, and where children and teens can feast on a favorite pizza or pasta. You’ll almost always find a free table in its accommodating interior, or, when the weather is fine, a spot outdoors where you can catch a glimpse of the setting sun as it melts out of view beyond Via Riva Reno.

No doubt about it, Ristorante Re Enzo in Bologna does have quite an ample selection, from pasta to pizza, from the holy trinity of Bolognese primi (tagliatelle, tortellini and lasagne) to other regional Italian dishes, from seafood to meat to vegetarian fare. Its variety of decent dishes with reasonable prices is why we as a family choose to dine here. Often. Luckily, in Italy it’s never a problem having children at restaurants, and Re Enzo is no exception. Our seven-year-old is already on a first-name basis with the staff. The friendliness and variety also make it our go-to place for many last-minute dinners with friends and their offspring.

You’re In Good Hands

Ristorante Re Enzo crew image by Tatiana Pollard for Kitchen DetailSharmi and chef Lakhbir have developed their menu based on their experience in different restaurant kitchens around Bologna, notably Circolo Bononia. Our order might include a carbonara, oven roasted turbot, spaghetti alle vongole, artichoke salad, octopus with potatoes and sausage pizza. And we’re never disappointed. Most dolci are reliable spoon desserts like tiramisù, mascarpone and creme caramel. Sometimes Enzo even has a special selection of digestivi including a prickly pear liqueur from his native Sicily.

They are open every day for both lunch and dinner unlike most other restaurants that close at least once a week. Planning on being in Bologna on Easter or Christmas and don’t want to cook? Rest assured your holiday meal will be a happy one at Re Enzo’s.

Ristorante Re Enzo – Via Riva di Reno, 79, 40121 Bologna – Tel. +39  051 234803





Zucchini Sformato

Zucchini Sformato
Serves 6
An easy preparation for not only zucchini, carrots, beets, or any other end-of-summer produce you need to cook! Serve with a sauce or garnish.
  1. 2lbs+ (2kg) zucchini or other vegetable
  2. 1 medium onion (or equivalent in volume with leek or shallots)
  3. 7 oz (200g) whole milk ricotta -
  4. 3 large eggs
  5. 1/4 cup (30gr) grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  6. 3 tbs (30gr) olive oil (enough to film the pan)
  7. salt and pepper to taste
  8. freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 365F
  2. Generously butter a 4-5 cup loaf pan or its equivalent in ramekins. .
  3. Slice the onion (or shallots or leek) and sauté in a pan with a film of olive oil.
  4. Clean and slice the zucchini (or other vegetable).
  5. When the onions are soft, add the zucchini to the pan.
  6. Sauté, stirring frequently for about 20-30 minutes until they are light golden and just tender.
  7. During this time, mix the ricotta, eggs, grated cheese, salt & pepper, nutmeg in a bowl, whisking until somewhat smooth.
  8. When the zucchini mixture is lukewarm, combine with the ricotta mixture and roughly purée with an immersion blender or a food processor.
  9. Spoon into prepared molds.
  10. Large mold will take up to 45 minutes to bake but individual ones will take less then 20 minutes.
  11. Check by inserting a thin knife as it should come out clean.
  12. Unmold when it is slightly cool, and serve with a sauce and garnish.
  13. .
  1. This Italian vegetable mold is an excellent dish for children and adults, This style of sformato should have a sauce, such as slightly wilted zucchini blossoms in melted butter with herbs, or a fresh tomato sauce.
  2. A suggestion from our recipe for the Fore Street Tomato Tart would be the goat cheese mousse for carrots or beets.
  3. These keep well, covered, in the fridge and then reheated slightly in a water bath.
Adapted from Serena Santolomazza
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

Superior Source: Bakewell Cream Baking Powder- A Great Rise

A Gift Of A Better Baking Powder

Bakewell cream biscuit image from New England cupboard in Kitchen Detail PostNot an astonishing amount has been written about the discovery of sodium acid pyrophosphate by Byron H Smith, a  Bangor, Maine chemist in the 1940s. But Smith’s creation has proved miraculous, dramatically changing the fortunes of countless bakers, including numerous clients of La Cuisine — and me. Cream of tartar, when mixed two to one with baking soda, creates what we call baking powder.  Traditional cream of tartar is a fortuitous by-product of the production of champagne and wine.  Cream of tartar was shipped to the US and other countries from France — until the Nazi occupation interrupted supply lines.  Byron H. Smith was one of many in the US who tried to dream up substitutes  for wartime shortages.   He found a close replacement for cream of tartar in  sodium pyrophosphate (a mineral acid), mixed it with re-dried cornstarch, and called it Bakewell — because that’s exactly what it did. 


Try It, You’ll Like It

 The product contains no dairy: The “cream” in its name refers to its use in traditional Maine cream biscuits. Mr. Smith added the cornstarch to Kitchen Detail Blog loves Bakewell Cream Baking Powderprevent moisture absorption. If  used in a 2:1 ratio with baking soda, it is an excellent replacement for baking powder. It is obviously GMO and gluten free.  There is no aluminum added to it, which sometimes gives a tinny taste to baked goods made with other baking powders. Currently, you can get Bakewell Cream baking powder  with no cornstarch as well, if that additive is a problem in your diet. No one can quite figure out why Smith’s invention gives a superior baking result.  For me, no explanation necessary. I quit using other baking powders the minute a customer gave me Bakewell Cream as a gift almost twenty years ago.

Not with Meringue, Though  

 Bakewell Cream won’t function as a substitute for cream of tartar when beating egg whites for meringues or angel cakes. Traditional  cream of tartar quickly reduces  the pH factor of egg whites, thereby warding off browning. Sodium pyrophosphate, on the other hand, becomes acidic only when heated in the presence of water.So you won’t get the white fluffy meringue  result with Bakewell Cream that you would with traditional cream of tartar. It’s worth noting that it is proudly manufactured in small batches in Maine and not from overseas sources. And it is interesting that two of the largest commercial buyers of Bakewell Cream are Hannaford (of Hannaford Baking Powder fame) and King Arthur Flour, whose recipe for biscuits without buttermilk is in the link.

Still Made In Maine

King Arthur Flour Biscuits

Mr Smith’s wonderful discovery and his company are now under the aegis of New England Cupboard, which is a specialty food mix manufacturer and distributor located in Hermon, Maine. New England Cupboard was founded in 1995 and is currently owned and operated by Jim Collins, who proudly oversees the production of Bakewell,  Winterport Company Dips and Mixes, and Jimbo’s Seasonings, Jakes Treats, and Cook In The Kitchen. You can get the Bakewell Cream with or without the baking soda.  Bakewell Cream by itself has a four-year shelf life, while the baking powder has an 18-month shelf life, because of the addition of baking soda. I have both and have used the combined powder and created my own by adding baking soda to the Bakewell Cream. The results were the same.  Having read about the cleaning powers of cream of tartar, I am planning on testing out the Bakewell Cream as a cleaning agent too, so stay tuned.

A Rainy Day Recipe For Children

We have included his recipe for making a substitute  for a homemade playdough using Bakewell Cream instead of cream of tartar. .  You and the kids of your choice can use India Tree Natural Colors to create shades that have no artificial additives.  You can divide up the “dough” in three pans while it is in the soupy state and add colors. Or you can have your kids knead in the hues after the concoction has reached the “playdough” stage.  

Aunt Ellen's Fun Puddy
a Bakewell Cream version of this substitute childrens modeling clay. It can be kept in ziploc bags
Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1 cup fine salt
  3. 4 teaspoons Bakewell Cream
  4. 2 cups water
  5. 2 tbs vegetable oil of your choice
  6. Food coloring (we suggest India Tree Natural Food Colors)
  1. You can make the dough in one saucepan and then knead in the colors, once the mixture becomes "dough" - or you can divide the mixture into saucepans while it is in its soupy stage and add the different colors.
  2. With a whisk or pastry cutter, mix together (the least expensive all purpose) flour, salt and Bakewell Cream.
  3. Pour into a saucepan and then add the water and oil.
  4. Stir regularly while the mixture cooks so that no lumps form.
  5. Cook over low heat until the mixture forms a ball.
  6. (Before it forms the ball stage, you can decide whether you want to add color while it is liquid or wait until later, when it will have to be kneaded in.)
  7. At this point, allow it to cool somewhat before dividing and kneading in the colors.
  8. It can be kept in ziploc bags in your fridge indefinitely.
  1. The India Tree Colors will not give you the intensity of color that artificial colors will. But you can mix them to give you some astonishing variations. Each pack comes with red, yellow and blue naturally derived colorants and it makes for a nice lesson on producing secondary colors with primary ones.
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

 New England Cupboard’s  Discount  For Kitchen Detail Readers

And best of all, if you need to replenish your current supply of Bakewell Cream products or have never tried them, now is the time! Jim Collins is giving all Kitchen Detail readers a 25% one-time discount.   Use the promo code LACUISINE when you check out at their website.  The code is good while his supplies last. If you have a friend who loves to bake and has never used this product, it is a great gift.  

A Wedding Tiramisu

Wedding Tiramisu
Serves 10
A faithful adaptation of the tiramisu served at my daughter's wedding in Ascoli Piceno. It was one of several "spoon desserts
Total Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr
  1. 1.5 cups mascarpone (340gr)
  2. 8 oz (237ml) espresso coffee
  3. 3 oz (85gr) grated dark chocolate or dutched (alkalized) cocoa
  4. 1/3 cup (79ml) high quality brandy or Marsala
  5. 36-42 Savoiardi (do not use cake or soft ladyfingers)
  6. Any shallow casserole that holds 2-2.5 quarts (2.25 liters)
  7. 5 large eggs, separated
  8. Any
  1. In a mixer bowl beat egg yolks with sugar until mixture is light and fluffy.
  2. Add Mascarpone and beat until smooth.
  3. In another non plastic bowl, (copper is preferable) whisk egg whites until soft peaks form..
  4. Fold into mascarpone mixture.
  5. Combine brandy and espresso in a shallow bowl.
  6. Dip savoiardi on both sides in the coffee mixture for a couple of seconds and arrange enough of them to create a compact bottom layer.
  7. It is important not to let the coffee soak too much into the savoiardi.
  8. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over this layer.
  9. Top with another layer of coffee dipped savoiardi.
  10. Spread the remaining mascarpone mixture over the top and smooth it.
  11. Dust with the cocoa powder or grated chocolate (I combine the two).
  12. Chill for several hours before serving..
  1. I combine half grated chocolate and half cocoa to top my version of this dessert.
  2. It will keep for several days in the fridge
  3. Do not substitute any of the ingredients as this simple dessert depends on them for its superior taste.
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

Juicy Post: It Is Its Own Death – Ciambellone

The Proper Funeral For A Coffee Cake

“È la morte  sua” quoted my son-in-law from Le Marche, Italy. He was waxing poetic about the seductive deliciousness of dunking a slice of correctly baked ciambellone into coffee at breakfast. His nostalgia for this tradition totally eluded me, but I got the gist of the proverb.Kitchen Detail coffee cake E la sua morte Tatiana and I both started baking different coffee cakes to see what made a particular style such perfection for dunking and eating, that in the end it was its own death.  It would be sweet, but not overly so.  It should have a spice or citrus zest combination and maybe a few finely chopped nuts and raisins, but nothing over the top like American sticky buns.  The cake texture couldn’t fall apart or be too dry during its fatal dives. Crunchy sugar or a glaze wouldn’t be deal-killers for the contestant cake, but restraint was the byword. Also, the crust must be crisp, not sweaty. And, finally, it needs to cling to its quality at room temperature. Under a cake dome to be sure, but never in the fridge. 

I tried two from Artusi’s cookbook. Not even repeated dips into coffee saved its nothing flavor and texture. Next we tried one from The Silver Spoon Cookbook (the cookbook every Italian bride used to receive as a gift).  It was okay, but certainly not worth wasting a cup of good Italian coffee on. I decided that what I needed (and maybe you did too) were some variations on the proverb’s theme. So here are three equally good dunking coffee cakes that can slowly die in coffee, baby coffee, hot chocolate or even as my grandsons do it – cold milk. 

Going Back to Maida Heatter

I personally went back to my beloved  copy of Maida Heatter’s Great Dessert Book. And my choice is Hungarian in derivation rather than Kitchen Detail blog glazed Budapest coffee cakeItalian. But, hey, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had terrific cafés and knew a thing or two about pastries and coffee. Even with the glaze and a restrained filling of walnuts, currants and cocoa and cinnamon, it hit the sweet spot and was indeed consumed to its own death with coffee. Should you search out this book, be advised that later versions omitted some of the recipes. The original was first printed in 1965 and had several reprints after that (my copy was a reprint in 1974). Make sure the copy includes this cake and the Buttermilk Lemon Cake (another delicious Maida Heatter classic) so that you know that it is the proper version. Bonnie Slotnick Books is an excellent place to start, but check with other resellers of out-of-print cookbooks too. 

Ciambellone As It Should Be

Kitchen Detail blog version of Domenica Marchetti's CiambelloneThe second one, which became “The Test” against classic ciambellone recipes, is the one featured in Domenica Marchetti’s now out-of-print book, Big Night In. It is her mother’s recipe, which, according to Domenica, she occasionally doubled to fit a 12-cup mold. This recipe fits a 6-7 cup ring cake pan. Domenica has written several excellent cookbooks, and I cannot understand  why this outstanding one slipped through the publisher’s fingers and is now out of print. I was looking through my copy and counted several constant repeaters: Sour Cherry-Mascarpone Cake, Sour Cherry Gelato With Bittersweet Chocolate-Cherry Sauce, Beef Tenderloin alla Bandiera Italiana, a beef fillet with three sauces in the colors of the Italian flag, Slow Roasted Arctic Char with Sautéed Fennel and Pernod – and there are more.  Also check through her website, Domenica Cooks, for her cooking inspirations and tours.


An American Ciambellone

Tatiana made some happy changes to the Wednesday Chef ciambellone recipe. Her family loves it for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack.  She Kitchen Detail Blog Chocolate Chip Ciambelloneremoved the lemon zest and added chopped chocolate to make it more interesting – and let’s face it – you know how we Americans can’t resist a hit of chocolate chips. It’s wonderfully versatile and holds very well for up to a week, especially if stored in a domed cake stand or covered in plastic wrap. Her final touch is that she butters and sugars the cake pan interior to help it unmold easily and to give this cake a delicious crystallized sugar finish.

Some Final Thoughts On Cake Pans

I use my copper molds for baking and they release beautifully. All the cakes baked for this post were done in these molds from Birth Gramm in Switzerland or Christian Wagner in Germany.  I have reservations about non-stick coatings on baking pans, not only for the serious environmental concerns in their manufacture, but also for two other reasons. Once the coating inevitably scrapes off, the baking pan gets tossed away and just ends up in a landfill. And second, you are always advised to butter and flour it anyway, so is it really “non-stick”? Anodized aluminum pans by Fat Daddio’s will give you excellent baking and release results as well. Without any environmental or ethical hazards.




Budapest Coffee Cake
Serves 12
Maida Heatter's version of a Hungarian cake that is delicious with coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Great keeping cake at room temperature under a dome
For the Nut Filling
  1. 3/4 cup (150gr) Dark Muscovado Sugar
  2. 1 tbs (7.5gr( cinnamon
  3. 1 tbs (7.5gr) unsweetened dutched cocoa powder
  4. 2-3 tbs (14-21gr) currants or raisins, coarsely chopped
  5. 1 cup (125gr) very finely chopped walnuts
For the Cake Batter
  1. 3 cups (330gr) sifted all purpose white flour
  2. 1 1/2 tsp (6gr) double acting baking powder
  3. 1 1/2 tsp (6gr) baking soda
  4. 1/2 tsp (3gr0 fine sea salt
  5. 3/4 cup (170gr) unsalted butter
  6. 2 tsp (10ml) vanilla extract
  7. 1 1/2 cups (340gr) caster sugar
  8. 3 large eggs
  9. 2 cups (500ml) sour cream
For the glaze
  1. 2 cups 9220gr) confectioner's sugar
  2. 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract
  3. 2-3 tbs (30-45ml) hot milk
  1. Adjust rack to mid level in the oven and preheat to 375F
  2. Butter a 12-14 cup cake pan with a tube in the center
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  4. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, adding the vanilla and caster sugar.
  5. Add the eggs individually, beating thoroughly until incoporated.
  6. Beat at high speed until smooth and creamy, using a rubber spatula to scrape down ingredients to keep all the mixture smooth. .
  7. On lowest speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions, the sour cream in two, alternating each with the other.
  8. Do not overbeat,, just beat until all is incorporated.
  9. Spread a thin layuer of the batter in the bottom of the pan.
  10. Sprinkle one third of the nut filling evenly on this layer.
  11. Create another layer of batter, then a third of the nut filling twice more
  12. Your top layer should be batter.
  13. It is easy to spread the batter by small amounts and spread with the back of a spoon or spoonula.
  14. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out dry or the cake's internal temperature is around 205-210F on a Thermapen.
  15. Prepare the glaze while the cake is baking
  16. Leave the cake in the pan for no longer than 5 minutes and then unmold as you want to apply the glaze while it is still warm.
  17. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, vanilla, and some of the hot milk until you get a semi-fluid mixture.
  18. The cake should be on a cake rack in a half sheet pan while you quickly pour the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing it to run unevenly down the sides.
  19. Allow the glaze to set and transfer with two spatulas to cake plate.
  1. Generally I use India Tree Caster Sugar and their Dark Muscovado Sugar. I prefer Vann's Vietnamese cinnamon and either a French vanilla or Niellsen Massey Vanilla Paste or their Tahitian Vanilla. My favorite baking powder is the produced by Bakewell Cream in Maine.
Adapted from Original 1965 Maida Heater's Book Of Great Desserts
Adapted from Original 1965 Maida Heater's Book Of Great Desserts
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/
A recipe for what Italian Ciambellone should be. It keeps covered at room temperature for several days. Good for picnics with fruit too.
  1. 3 cups (375gr) unbleached all purpose white flour
  2. 1 1/2 cups (300gr) granulated sugar (caster sugar blends faster while natural unbleached sugar will give a more caramel flavor)
  3. 2 tsp (7gr) baking powder
  4. 1 tsp (3gr) baking soda
  5. 1/2 cup (113gr) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) pieces
  6. Additional butter for greasing pan
  7. A pinch fine sea salt
  8. 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  9. 1/4 cup (60) light cream or half-and-half
  10. 2tbs 30ml)same for the glaze
  11. 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract
  12. 1tsp (5ml( almond extract
  13. 2 tbs (30ml) Punch Abruzzese Liqueur, dark rum, or Amaretto to which you can add some lemon and orange zest
  14. 2 tbs Pearl Sugar for decor.
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Butter and flour a 9 inch (23cm) 6-7 cup ring mold - I prefer to use ground almonds or almond flour instead of flour.
  3. In a mixer bowl (or by hand) combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda and use the paddle beater rather than the whisk.
  4. Add the softened butter pieces around the edge to fully incorporate
  5. Whisk together, eggs,cream, extracts, and liqueur.
  6. Add this gradually to the bowl of the other ingredients. until all is well blended.
  7. The dough is sticky and thick, so scoop it up and spread it evenly in the prepared mold.
  8. Bake the cake for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and brush the remaining cream and sprinkle with pearl sugar(or crushed sugar cubes as an alternative)
  10. Return the cake to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes.
  11. Cake should be golden brown, with center coming out clean when a cake tester is inserted. Or use a Thermapen to test doneness which is a bit over 200F.
  12. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before unmolding onto rack and let it cool completely before transferring to a platter.
  1. This can be kept at room temperature wrapped or under a dome for several days.
Adapted from Big Night In
Adapted from Big Night In
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/



Chocolate Chip Ciambellone
A simple Italian-style coffeecake gets a chocolate upgrade and a crisp sugary crust.
  1. 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) caster sugar
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1 cup (200 grams) full-fat plain yogurt
  4. 7 ounces (200 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 3 1/3 cups (400 grams) all-purpose flour
  7. Pinch of salt
  8. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  9. 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Butter and sugar the inside of a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan or mold.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and yogurt until smooth. Beat in the butter and vanilla.
  4. Add the flour and pinch of salt and mix one cup at a time. When blended, quickly beat in baking powder.
  5. With a spoon or spatula, mix in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes before unmolding.
  1. You can substitute sour cream for part or all of the yogurt, which will somewhat change the crumb structure, but it is still dunkable.
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

Food & Film: 42 Grams – Low Budget, Big Punch


Another Side To The Chef’s Table

 photo of 42 Grams Restaurant by Barry BrecheisenWho does not enjoy the lushly filmed and reverential Netflix series , The Chef’s Table?  My husband and I watch every one and have even revisited  ones that shared the full gamut of determination, love, loss and laughter of the owners.  One such episode featured Massimo Bottura and his restaurant in Modena — also famous as the spot where we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.  The film is beautifully shot and edited, and the interviews are like deftly cut puzzle pieces that make the viewer figure out what is alluded to but not said.  This bit of deft art is part of a film series that shows the magic that can happen when a generous budget meets artistic acumen. 

But we are riveted also by lesser known films with significantly smaller budgets that draw you into the dark underbelly of fine cuisine: 42 Grams is one of them.  It is almost like Fight Club meets a start-up restaurant.   A proudly undereducated but gifted sous chef who has survived the toxic kitchen of Charlie Trotter (any Google search will give you oodles of documentation on the wacko world of Trotter’s Restaurant in Chicago) teams up with his tech-savvy wife, first to create restaurant “events” in their apartment. These “pop-up” dinners were received with great joy by the diners and gave the couple the impetus to proceed to the next step.  

From Small Time To Big Time

The goal for Jake Bickelhaupt and Alexa Welsh was to create a restaurant that would win a Michelin Star — difficult under any circumstances, but especially with almost no real 42 Grams stillinvestor capital. But Chicago is and was a hot bed of quality-driven chefs, so Michelin might pay attention. Through sheer talent, hard work, and grit, this couple more than succeeds.  It’s a great story, but the unremarked details that offer only visual clues make this film a compelling watch.  

 Check out the trailer and pick your streaming source. But first  finish watching this documentary before you google the post-film stories. 

We always welcome your comments on films we have reviewed in Kitchen Detail blog.  Let us know your thoughts on this documentary about inner demons featured here and the exterior ones in in Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent