Wednesday, August 10, 2016


We are fans of the "hippie" version of granola

Did you know that granola was central to the formation of the cold cereal industry in the United States? The origins of granola date back to the popular health movements that swept through the United States in the mid 1800’s. One of the leading figures, Dr. Syvester Graham from Pennsylvania, advocated vegetarianism and temperence. His lasting contribution was the development of graham flour, a type of coarsely ground whole wheat.

A few decades later, Dr. James Caleb Jackson created his own health movement in Dansville, New York that embraced hydrotherapy and dietary restrictions. Dr. Jackson baked Graham’s flour into sheets, broke them up, then baked them again, smashing them into small pieces resembling gravel. He called his concoction granula. It was quite hearty, shall we say, and was promoted as “the cereal you have to soak overnight.”

In 1876 Dr. John Harvey Kellog took charge of one of Dr. Graham’s health spas in Michigan, renaming it Battle Creek Sanitarium. He created his own cereal, adding other whole grains to the Jackson recipe. He initially named it granula until Jackson sued. Kellogg swapped a letter and granola was born. John Kellogg and his brother William developed other cereals and William went on to establish Kellogg’s breakfast cereals.

Charles W. Post, a former patient of  Dr. Kellogg, created yet another health retreat and tinkered with Dr. Jackson’s recipe, giving it the name Grape-Nuts. He went on to found the Post cereal brand. The granula-like cereals were never as popular as other innovations like corn flakes and shredded wheat, probably because eating granula/granola was a bit like chewing small stones.

Granola languished in obscurity for decades. In the 1960’s when hippies started grooving on the health benefits of whole, natural foods, they revived the granola name and greatly expanded the ingredient list to include oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruits.  Yeah, I think we’re going with the hippie version.

Here are a few of hundreds of possible recipes:,,00420000004304,00.html

Shipping granola in inexpensive plastic containers is an alternative to bag packaging.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Saint Nicholas tending a barrel full of children was a popular early Speculoos mold design

Most likely, the first European cookie consumed in America was a Speculoos made by Dutch settlers in New Netherland. In fact, the word cookie is thought to derive from koekje the Dutch term for cookie. The origin of the Belgian name Speculoos is lost to history, but it may come from the Latin speculum, meaning mirror, since the cookie is formed in a wooden mold. When the cookie is removed from the mold, it becomes a mirror image of the original design. Another theory suggests the word comes from Specerij, the Dutch word for spice, since the cookies contain many spices. Early designs had religious themes. Saint Nicholas tending a barrel full of children was one of the most common subjects. Over time other designs were used, including windmill cookies found in stores in the United States today. Originally, the cookies were produced for consumption on, or the day before, the St. Nicholas feast on December 6. Similar versions of the cookie can be found in Germany (Spekulatius), the Netherlands (Speculaas) and France (sp├ęculoos). Following one Belgian tradition, children put shoes by the chimney before going to bed. If they’ve been good, they find their shoes filled with Speculoos and other goodies the next morning.

Making the dough is fairly straightforward, but producing a delicious, well-formed Speculoos cookie from a mold is challenging. Here's a link to our kitchen-tested version of the recipe with photos and hints:

To learn more about the making of traditional wooden Speculoos molds, see the article about master woodcarver, Oldrich Kvapil:

Figgy Pudding

Christmas pudding can be made up to a year in advance and  improves with age
Figgy Pudding, Plum Pudding, Christmas Pudding or simply, “The Pud,” has been an essential part of the British Christmas tradition since medieval times. It’s made up of dried fruits bound with eggs and bits of bread, often moistened with treacle (molasses), enriched with suet (soo-et) which is the white fat surrounding the kidneys of sheep or cows, and seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and other spices. It’s made up to a year in advance (we make ours in September) by slowly steaming for more than six hours. Here are a few links to recipes:

Christmas pudding is traditionally served by placing the pudding in a saucepan of simmering water (about halfway up the side of the glass jar with top unsealed) for a few hours, then pouring heated brandy, rum or cognac over it, lighting it afire, waiting for the flames to subside whilst making sure not to burn the house down, pouring a lovely sauce on it and garnishing with a twig of holly.  Alternatively, it can be microwaved (top unsealed) at 50% for 5 minutes, then left to stand for 5 minutes. Either way, the sauce is a must.

Here’s a recipe for custard sauce:

1 cup whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar

Place cream in a heavy saucepan. Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean and add the pod. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl until blended. Gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture. Return to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens so that it thinly coats the back of a wooden spoon (170°F - about 4 minutes). Strain, cover and refrigerate until cold. For those so inclined, 2 tablespoons of brandy or cognac can be added just prior to refrigeration. Serve chilled on the hot pudding.