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Brainstorming - American Regional Classic Desserts


bluechefk
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This is such a fun topic! And again, congratulations on the new job!

Wendy, I'm so glad you brought up the pretzel jello! That has to be one of my all-time favorite church supper desserts.

Speaking of church suppers, here are a few midwestern favorites:

Any fruit pie that came from someone's backyard garden (or the Schwann man in winter, if you had already used up the ones you froze yourself), ie

peach pie

blueberry pie

razzleberry pie (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry combo)

rhubarb custard pie

strawberry rhubarb pie

pear pie

raisin pie (I hated this, but my dad loves it)

cherry lattice pie

banana cream pie

Some kind of creamy pudding thing that came to the supper in a giant bowl, such as snow pudding. Now, I have no idea what is in snow pudding other than almond extract. It was almondy and fluffy and shiny. My aunt Marge makes it, so I could probably find out for you if you want! Heh.

Also important were the bars. A dessert that could be cut up to feed a church basement full. Some of my favorites:

peanut butter crunch bars,

chocolate chip bars,

lemon bars,

solo oatmeal bars,

texas sheet cake

It might be fun to do a bar sampler plate. Kind of like a cookie plate, but a lot more fun.

Speaking of a cookie plate, I once visited a restaurant that would bake six fresh chocolate chip cookies to order and serve them on a mini sheet pan with a big cold glass of milk. That was awesome! Something like that might be fun to do.

Ok, I'll stop now. I'm getting carried away.

"First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go 'wow, I need this beet right now'. Those are the money beets." Dwight Schrute, The Office, Season 3, Product Recall

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...

Jean Anderson's, "The American Century Cookbook" has a great overview of favorite American desserts of the 20th century.

My mom baked lots of Austrian and Hungarian baked goods while I was growing up so many of them, while delicous, are not typical "American Classics". (strudel, anyone???)

There is one "American" cake she made often though, that became our family's favorite birthday cake while I was growing up. My father still requests it each year.

It's a vanilla "whipped cream" cake and we make it with a vanilla buttercream frosting. The cake batter has beaten eggs in it *and* whipped cream. This produces a wonderfully old-fashioned, dense, moist, vanilla crumb that is the antithesis of a cake mix in texture. There is a recipe for this cake in Jean Anderson's book I mentioned above. It is still one of my very favorite cakes. And the vanilla on vanilla flavoring, is for me, just wonderful. We serve the cake with vanilla-flavored whipped cream as well. This is truly the perfect cake to have with a cold glass of milk. Could it be a cute serving idea in a restaurant to serve it with a small, icy cold glass of milk? It would be a study in white and vanilla. Truly old-fashioned and nigh impossible to find nowadays outside of a home kitchen...

Another great favorite was apple crumb squares: short bread crust, buttery sliced apple layer and a butter crumb on top. We knew this through it's Austro-Hungarian roots, but I think through immigration long ago this is a part of the American lexicon as well. These are also very delcious served with a vanilla whipped cream.

Strawberry shortcake was often the star of Fourth of July gatherings. My Mom usually used spongecake bottoms, but after my soujourn in the South I've converted to using sweet cream biscuits. I also make sweet cream biscuits to top blackberry, peach or peach-raspberry cobblers and they've always served to transport friends who grew up in the South. In New England, summer was also the time for blueberry pies. My twist on that now it to make a "Blue and Black" pie with half blue and half blackberries. New to me, but classic to New England. Rhubarb crisps have also been mentioned; we had them warm, but not hot, with heavy cream.

Growing up in CT, I heartily agree with Mizducky's and Pan's reminiscences of bakery goods in NY/Boston/CT including cannolis all the way.

My mom didn't make coconut layer cakes, but this was the very first "new" cake I made on my own as a teenager. If you read through the threads here you will see much lusting, passion and fond remembrances of coconut layer cakes. While Italian-meringue frostings are one of the classic permutations, I prefer the buttercream-based frostings.

I lived in the South for awhile after leaving home and I picked up a new favorite cake that would have been a childhood favorite if I was born in that place: Pecan layer cake with caramel frosting. This is a classic, regional Southern cake that some people may not make as much at home anymore but which would surely be much appreciated by anyone. I posted a link to a great recipe by Bill Neal in a recent thread on caramel desserts.

If I grew up in California, perhaps my mother would have made fresh apricot pies or fresh date shakes, two desserts I think that are delicious and really unique to California. (Thanks for your remembrances of non-coastal CA, dianalane!)

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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ludja - i've put the jean anderson book on hold for myself at the library, but in the meantime, would you be willing to share the vanilla/vanilla cake recipe? i'm also a really big fan of the pure vanilla flavor.

oh, and i think i've made those apple crumb squares, btw! a long time ago, i worked for a german baker at a little cafe in harvard square. she taught me lots of classic things - i'm still mad that i lost her cheesecake recipe. all i can remember is that it had a shortbread crust, was made with cottage cheese & raisins, and had a piped meringue lattice topping. mmmmmmm :wub:

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Icebox cake.... Those Nabisco thin dark chocolate wafer cookies sandwiched with real whipped cream.... covered with whipped cream and then frozen. You make a bunch of stackes about 6-8 cookies high and place them next to one another to form a log. I don't remember all the details but I guess a saran lined loaf pan would help.

When you cut it you see horizontal layers of cookes and whipped cream.

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Hot fudge pudding cake with vanilla ice cream. From the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook.

Strawberry shortcake-must be a sweet biscuit-not sponge cake, not pound cake.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie(for Dad).

Dairy Queen soft serve vanilla ice cream.

Homemade strawberry-banana ice cream.

Hot milk sponge cake with milk chocolate buttercream frosting.

Peach cobbler.

Fresh sugared berries over vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla butternut pound cake.

Texas sheet cake (but I only ate the icing-it set up like fudge.)

Banana walnut bread.

Pineapple upside down cake.

Jello Bavarian cream.

Edited to add-homemade Jello popsicles and mixed fruit frozen cups with cool whip.

Edited by Athena1963 (log)
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OMG, dr. pepper floats - now i'm going to be obsessing about those all day! which is not a bad thing  :rolleyes:

now that you mention it,maggie, i did manage a pretty good version of a Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie once - although i'm damned if i can remember exactly how i did it! if i can dig out my notes on that project, i'll be sure to come back & report on it.

The Girl Scout cookies that I always look forward to are the Samoas. At least, that's what they were called when I was selling them in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA. Here in upstate NY, they're called Caramel Delites. Whatever you call them, it's a cookie with caramel, coconut, and a drizzle of chocolate. Divine!

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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When I was in junior hi in the 70's, my home ec teacher made a Tunnel of Fudge cake. I never tasted anything so good! I think this started my love affair with chocolate. Up until then chocolate was a Hershey bar or Grandmother's Mexican hot chocolate. People actually baked with chocolate! :rolleyes: And used store bought mixes! As a child I thought only rich people used Betty Crocker and Pillsbury. :laugh:

"A few days ago, I heard a doctor talking on television about the dangers of stress. It can kill you. It can cause a heart attack or stroke. The doctor listed many ways of coping with stress. Exercise. Diet Yoga. Talk a walk. I yelled, "Bake cookies." I often talk to the television. I yelled it again and again. The doctor went on with his list of 12 ways to reduce stress and he never once mentioned my sure-fire treatment......"

Maida Heatter

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I bet there are a lot of people around who would have instant nostalgia if they saw an igloo cake or Good Kid Cookies or Clown Cupcakes. I never made those, but i spent hours looking at the pictures.

Ahhhhhhhhh, I like that suggestion! It's funny to see how basic cake decorating was. Presentation is important........and that could be a huge boast to your sales....making your retro Americana different then the places around that still think these items are current patisiere.

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I just remembered this cake that my mom still makes & that everyone still anticipates is her pistachio cake. Which is a white cake mix with Jello brand pistachio pudding. She bakes it in a tube pan & it is the most hideous looking lime green color but man is it ever so good. :raz:

I forgot about the Good Humor bars..the chocolate crunch ones were my favorite.

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I was raised in upstate New York so I have fond memories of Stewart's Make Your Own Sundaes and most things by Freihofers. At Stewart's, you chose a flavor of ice cream and then were given a tray of syrups and toppings to create the treat of your dreams. The syrups, including a pourable marshmallow, came in pitchers with a slide back cover over the spout. Freihofers was famous for their soft, pale chocolate chip cookies . We didn't get those because my Grandmother made them from the recipe on the Nestle's chips bag every week. In my house, they were called chocolate bits. She and my mother did a lot of baking: pies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, cookies, cobblers, shortcakes, crisps and I loved them all, but store bought was a treat. One of Freihofers best was a Louisiana Ring, a buttery cake with a crumb topping. I've spent the last couple of days thinking about American regional desserts and people have posted about some of what I came up with including Nabisco Icebox Cake and Tunnel of Fudge. It is so true that the Pillsbury Bake-off booklets are a great source for what we all ate over the last 50 years. Many of the winners like Black Bottom Cupcakes have become standards. Be sure to google Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie. Blum's also served their Sundaes with a pitcher of Hot Fudge. Commander's Palace Bread Pudding Souffle is another classic. I'll stop with pinwheel cookies and Dump Cake, but my mind is racing with dozens of others. Let us know what goes on your menu.

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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I was raised in upstate New York so I have fond memories of Stewart's Make Your Own Sundaes and most things by Freihofers.

Oh my gosh! Freihofers! I went to camp in New York State when I was a kid and I learned to love Freihofer's baked goods. The chocolate chip coookies are the best. I swear you could bury a box of those for years and then dig them up and the chips would still be melty as if they'd just come out of the oven. Made all the other commercial baked goods pale by comparison.

You should definitely consider some PA Dutch desserts for your regional spectrum. Shoofly Pie and Whoopie pies come to mind as excellent choices.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Bluechefk, what a fun project. I have lived my whole life in the south bay of Los Angeles County, CA and I remember our desserts and snacks were Hostess Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Snowballs in the 50's and 60's. In Feb. 2004, the Los Angeles Times Magazine printed an article about Sno Balls. The article said that flour and sugar were rationed after World War ll and America was devouring manufactured sweets, of which the Sno Ball was a big hit.

I have more history on the Sno Ball if you are interested, and I have the recipe that appeared in the magazine for a face-lift version using a rich cake and an Italian meringue " with a pink touch that's pure L.A. Happy days are here again."

I have always been going to make the recipe when I had extra time. Yea, right... extra time continues to allude me! If you want me to write out anything, just let me know. Toni

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Tootsie Rolls and Malted Milk Balls haven't been mentioned yet. I could imagine very good artisanal takes on those. What would the creation of a simulacrum of Tootsie Rolls look like in Ling's hands?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Not sure if you want regional classic desserts from Hawai'i, but we grew up with haupia, haupia-sweet potato pie, blueberry cream cheese pie, malasadas, macadamia pie, all sorts of jello desserts, almond float, ice shave, banana cream pie.

Edited by mochihead (log)
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And another one, which my friend made for dessert just last night: a chocolate icebox cake. You know, the one with the Famous Chocolate Wafers that you sandwich in a long stack with whipped cream, then use the rest of the whipped cream to spackle the outside, and put in the fridge overnight until it turns into a soft cohesive mass of goodness, and slice on the diagonal to get the stripes?

My husband (from Michigan) had never heard of such a thing until last night. We'll be rectifying his ignorance of Famous Chocolate Wafers when we go food shopping later today. :biggrin:

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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I was born and raised in the Seattle area, but both of my parents were born and raised in NE Arkansas. I would second the suggestion for the classic Southern banana pudding: made with bananas, a vanilla or banana pudding filling (from scratch) and vanilla wafers.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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And another one, which my friend made for dessert just last night: a chocolate icebox cake. You know, the one with the Famous Chocolate Wafers that you sandwich in a long stack with whipped cream, then use the rest of the whipped cream to spackle the outside, and put in the fridge overnight until it turns into a soft cohesive mass of goodness, and slice on the diagonal to get the stripes?

My husband (from Michigan) had never heard of such a thing until last night. We'll be rectifying his ignorance of Famous Chocolate Wafers when we go food shopping later today. :biggrin:

MelissaH

I make this one with chocolate whipped cream, just add some sugar and a couple of tbsp natural cocoa. Spackle the cookies with this for extra chocolate goodness. Still works after all this time.

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What a great thread!

I grew up in Brooklyn, where the cake everyone wanted was the Ebinger's Black-Out Cake, a devils foodish layer cake with a kind of dark chocolate puddingish flling.

Someone mentioned rugelach -- also one of my childhood favorites. I made a batch a couple of weeks ago and realized for the upteenth time why they're still popular -- they're sooooooo good. The combination of cream cheese dough, jam, raisins and nuts is unbeatable.

I'm also reminded of the Charlotte Russes we used to buy at the corner luncheonette. Cake, whipped cream and strawberries in a cardboard container you could push up from the bottom so you could eat every last crumb.

I second the suggestion to look at Maida Heatter's Great American Desserts Book. All of her books are fabulous -- and this one's a treasure. Other good American dessert books are Nancy Baggett's All-American Desserts and her All-American Cookies; Judith Fertig's All-American Desserts; Wayne Brachman's books, including American Desserts; and Tish Boyle's Diner Desserts.

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Yes, definitely rugelach. I didn't mention Black Forest Cake before. That was something my brother and I loved when we were growing up in New York.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Thank you again to everyone for all of the mouth watering suggestions - i must have a couple of years worth of menu ideas, or at least enough to get me started. :smile:

dorie - i think i have all of the books you suggested, except for the judith fertig - and i'll be looking to add that one to my collection asap! question about the blackout cake - i've heard of it quite a bit, but was never lucky enough to taste it. was the cake frosted with the pudding, too? or did it have another kind of frosting? - ganache? fudge icing? that's one i'd like to try for myself, for sure!

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The Ebinger's Blackout Cake recipe is in both New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill and The Brooklyn Cookbook by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy, Jr. In each, the filling is a soft pudding. The frosting is made separately and is a buttery chocolate fudge. To be authentic, the frosted cake is coated with crumbs from one of the baked cake layers.

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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I grew up in St. Louis mostly.

The number one most clearly regional St. Louis dessert that I LOVE, when done correctly, is:

Gooey Butter Cake (every recipe I've ever seen includes yellow cake mix, cream cheese, butter, eggs and sugar with very little else)

Aside from that, I spent 1 year in France and made a number of American things for some friends who had, either never had them, or never had good ones. The classics are the following:

1) Commissary Cookies (Chocolate-chip and pecan cookies with just enough oatmeal added to give it a bit of texture)

2) Fudge Brownies (they now have factory-made brownies in France, but they are absolutely horrible)

3) Potato-dough cinnamon rolls (although the brioche in France sometimes look like these, they taste completely different and are nowhere near as tender. I had a French chef handing out the recipe to his chef friends)

4) Doughnuts (the more like Lamar's Donuts the better--the above cinnamon roll recipe doubles for doughnuts and does a great job)

5) Bread pudding (though there is a similar French dessert, they had never had it with the "hard-sauce," a fairly heavily rum-spiked butter and brown-sugar sauce that is spooned over the top and readily melts)

6) American Apple pie (unlike the more complicated French versions, the simplicty of the American version with its clear focus on the tart-sweet apple flavor in contrast to the buttery crust always impressed people)

Sincerely,

Alan

Edited by A Patric (log)
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