September 14th National Cream-filled Donut Day

Now here’s a day you can really sink your teeth into! And it is not just about the doughnut, it’s about the cream-filled donut! My favorite! You can fill a doughnut with a lot of different things. You can top a doughnut with a lot of different things. But if you want the best of both worlds… fill it with cream. Yes they are fattening, yes they are filled with carbs… but if you are going to have a doughnut why not go all the way! I’m sure anyone of the many doughnut shops can help you celebrate today, if you look around enough you might even find one for free.

How to celebrate – Have a cream filled doughnut. There are several different creams you can have it filled with so choose wisely. Learn how to make your own cream-filled doughnut.

June 24th Pralines Day

Pralines are confections made from nuts, whole or crushed, and sugar syrup.   Most today have an added chocolate flavoring to them (particularly Belgian and French). In Europe, most pralines are made with almonds. In the US they generally use pecans. Really, any kind of nut can be used.

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In the 17th century, at Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte (France), Marshal du Plessis-Praslin (who lived from 1598 to 1675) inspired the first praline when he came up with a caramelized sugar poured over almonds. The idea caught on. In fact, any food that contains ground nuts and sugar syrup is considered a praline. The action of crushing the nuts and placing them in sugar is called pralin. So pralines exist in cakes and even ice cream.

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There are basically three types of pralines: Belgian, created with a hard chocolate shell and a soft or liquid inner core, French, made with almonds and caramelized sugar, and the American, made more like a fudge with any type of nut and the sugar made into a creamy or milky coating.

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When the French colonized Louisiana they brought their recipes with them.  Since nuts and sugar cane were readily available in the area it was only natural that they began producing pralines.  New Orleans chefs substituted the pecan since it was easier to find and they added cream to the mixture to make it richer.

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How to celebrate: Go buy some pralines, they are readily available at nearly any grocery or candy shop. Enjoy some praline ice cream. Make your own pralines from the recipe above.

June 22nd National Chocolate Eclair Day

What combination is more perfect than chocolate, fluffy pastry, and a creme or custard filling? The word eclair in French actually means “lightning”, supposedly because of the glistening flash of chocolate covering the top. It may not make a lot of sense but who cares?

The chocolate in an eclair can be dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate. It sits on top of the “Chouk” (French for dough). The fondant icing is rich and gooey but subject to freezing if left in the freezer (duh, what doesn’t freeze in a freezer). The dough is normally a light, flaky pastry which is stuffed with a creamy custard. Oh, and to make it a little more special, add some whipped cream.

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French Chef Antonin Careme is credited with the invention, called “pain a la duchesse” in French. Careme lived from 1784 to 1833 so though no date is actually given for his invention, it had to appear sometime in his lifetime.

In 1884, the Eclair first appeared in a cook book in the US. Mrs. D.A. Lincoln included the recipe, along with others used in her cooking classes, and was the first English version ever in print. I wonder if she ever thought about adding strawberries as in the photo below.

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Long Johns are a type of eclair in the United States but they are actually a doughnut covered in chocolate with a custard or creme filling. There are even eclair cakes made today, though they seem very similar to what we refer to as a Boston Cream Pie.

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How to celebrate: Have an eclair. Make your own eclair (the eclair in blue at the beginning of this blog links to several examples). Go to a doughtnut shop and enjoy a Long John.

 

June 21st National Peaches n Cream Day

Peaches n Cream is probably the most refreshing summer solstice treat in the world. I remember eating fresh peaches served up with a bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream as a child and knowing that I had just had one of the best moments of my life.

I lived in Illinois at the time and even though peaches are primarily grown in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and California, they find their way all over the world.

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Sometimes they are served on top of ice cream, served hot in a tart or a pie (normally ala mode), or served on top of pancakes or waffles, but nearly every version has cream served with them – a match made in Heaven.

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One interesting side note is that the common belief is that Typhoid Mary spread the bacteria around the countryside by cutting up and distributing fresh peaches that were contaminated. So if you indulge, make sure you wash your hands first, and the peaches as well.

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Here are a few recipes you can try out.  Peaches.

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How to celebrate: Find some fresh peaches and make some ice cream.  Throw a Peaches n Cream party!  Go on vacation to Georgia and pick your own peaches. Read or watch James and the Giant Peach!