Thursday, May 22, 2014


Mardi Gras: Moon Pies

For a Southerner, a MoonPie is the perfect accompaniment to a Royal Crown Cola. This graham cracker cookie and marshmallow sandwich covered in chocolate has been around for nearly 100 years (the trademark was registered in 1919), and they're still made by the Chattanooga Bakery in Tennessee, the bakery that first produced them. But among the crowds flocking to the Gulf Coast during Carnival, the MoonPie is mostly known for being a Mardi Gras throw (one of the things tossed from parading groups on Fat Tuesday). Children and adults alike clamor for the individually wrapped banana- and chocolate-flavored pies, which help tide the spectators over as the floats roll by.

In Mobile, Alabama, home to America's first Mardi Gras celebrations, MoonPies have become so synonymous with the city and Carnival, that local officials now drop a neon MoonPie from a local office tower on New Year's Eve.

Moonpies are traditionally thrown from Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans, and Mobile, Alabama, but with this easy recipe you can make your own chocolate-dipped graham cracker and marshmallow treats to enjoy at home—no parade or crowds required.


For the marshmallow layer:
  • Vegetable oil for brushing pan
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting marshmallows
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons powdered unflavored gelatin (from 2 to 3 envelopes)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the graham crackers:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Steen's cane syrup or dark molasses
  • 1 tablespoon honey
For the chocolate coating:
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Nonstick vegetable-oil spray
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature
  • Equipment:Pastry brush, 15- by 10-inch jelly roll pan, fine-mesh sieve, stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and paddle, candy thermometer, small offset spatula, 3-inch round cookie cutter, 2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch round cookie cutter, parchment paper, rolling pin, 2 large rimmed baking sheets


Make the marshmallows: 

Brush the bottom and sides of a 15- by 10-inch jelly roll pan with vegetable oil. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the bottom and sides of the pan with 1/4 cup of the sifted confectioners' sugar, leaving any excess in the pan.
Place 6 tablespoons of the cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin into the bowl and whisk briefly to make sure all the gelatin is in contact with water. Let soften while you make the sugar syrup.
In a heavy, small saucepan, whisk together the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the remaining 6 tablespoons cold water. Place over moderate heat and bring to a full boil (the mixture will become clear), stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Put a candy thermometer into the boiling sugar syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, for 5 minutes, then increase the heat to moderately high and continue boiling, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 240°F (soft-ball stage), about 5 more minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand until the bubbles dissipate slightly.
With the mixer on low, pour the sugar syrup into the softened gelatin in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the marshmallow forms a very thick ribbon when the whisk is lifted (the marshmallow will still be slightly warm), about 5 minutes.
Scrape the marshmallow into the prepared pan (it will be very sticky) and use wet fingertips to spread it evenly; smooth the top with a wet offset spatula. Dust the remaining 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar over the top of the marshmallows, then cover the pan with plastic wrap, being careful not to let the plastic wrap touch the marshmallow as they will stick together. Set the marshmallow aside to firm up, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Once the marshmallows are firm, use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut out 12 marshmallow circles—you will need to cut the marshmallows very close together so there are very few scraps. Dust the marshmallows with additional confectioners' sugar to prevent sticking DO AHEAD: Marshmallows can be stored, layered between sheets of wax or parchment paper, in an airtight container in a dry place at cool room temperature, for 1 week.
Make the graham crackers:

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and a second rack in the lower third then preheat to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, pastry flour, wheat germ, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the cane syrup and honey and beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl then reduce the mixer speed to medium-low, add the flour mixture, and blend just until no streaks of flour remain, 1 to 2 minutes—the mixture will be a little crumbly.
Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place 1 half on a large sheet of parchment paper then cover with a second large piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, between the sheets of parchment paper, to a 1/8-inch thickness. Remove the top layer of parchment and use a 2 1/2 to 2 3/4-inch round cookie cutter to press as many circles into the dough as possible. Use a small offset spatula to transfer the graham crackers to a large rimmed baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them then re-roll and cut any scraps of dough to make more circles. Repeat this process with the remaining portion of dough.
Bake the graham crackers, switching the baking pans between the upper and lower racks and rotating the pans about halfway through baking, until the graham crackers are firm around the edges and golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer the graham crackers to a wire rack to let cool completely. DO AHEAD:Graham crackers can be baked ahead and kept, stored in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 1 week.

Melt the chocolate and assemble the moonpies: 

Sandwich 2 graham crackers around 1 marshmallow then repeat with the remaining graham crackers and marshmallows until you have 12 moon pie "sandwiches." (There may be a few leftover graham crackers.)
Coat a wire rack with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set it on top of a parchment paper– lined large rimmed baking sheet.
Place about 2/3 of the chocolate in a dry metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until melted and warm, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining chocolate to the bowl and remove the bowl from the top of the pot. Let cool 5 minutes then stir until smooth. Stir in the coconut oil until incorporated thoroughly.
Hold 1 moonpie "sandwich" firmly in 1 hand and roll the sides through the melted chocolate, making sure the sides are completely coated so you don't see any marshmallow peeking through. Hold the moonpie over the bowl of chocolate and use a small spoon to pour and swirl chocolate over the top; invert onto the rack and coat the other side in chocolate. Repeat with the remaining graham cracker–marshmallow "sandwiches." Transfer the chocolate-dipped moonpies to a cool place to let the chocolate coating harden for 1 to 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Moonpies can be made ahead and kept, layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.


   Christmas is a time of presents, anticipation, excitement and goodwill virtually anywhere in the world. In different parts of the world, however, the specific traditions used to celebrate Christmas can vary widely.
United States
Here in America, a typical tradition at Christmas time is to leave a tray of cookies and a cup of milk out for jolly old Santa Claus. Santa makes his list of the boys and girls that have been either naughty or nice, and comes to their home on the night before Christmas. Santa will leave the good children a gift made by the elves at the North Pole, and he will leave the naughty children nothing but coal in their Christmas stockings.
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During Christmas time in Caracas, Venezuela, from December 16 to December 24, the streets are closed for the roller skating mass. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like: a mass of people roller skating together through town. Frustrating for those trying to make their way through traffic around the streets that are closed for the holiday tradition? Perhaps, but this is a very well-known tradition in the area, and many people love to participate in it each year.
In Australia, Christmas is hot like a summer day in the U.S. In Australia, the Christmas dinner is much like the American Thanksgiving dinner. The Australian Christmas dinner typically consists of turkey, ham, pork, plum pudding, and mince pies. Australian tradition is to have Christmas dinner on a beach in the middle of the day. Perhaps the most important part of Christmas in Australia is the “Carols by Candlelight.” This event takes place on Christmas Eve, with thousands of people gathering to light candles and sing their favorite Christmas carols.
In France, Christmas time is all about the light show. Imagine that – the nation that is home to Paris, the “City of Lights,” steals the show during the most lights-focused time of the year. Examples can be found all over the country during the Christmas season; for example, during the Fête des Lumières from December 5 to December 8, Lyon features over 70 light shows that are simply breathtaking.
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Christmas in Brazil is the most celebrated holiday in the country, since about 90 percent of the population of Brazil consider themselves to be Christians. Christmas is a big deal in Brazil! Because Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, it is summertime during the holiday season; temperatures can reach well above one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. December 24 is the day that begins the official Christmas celebrations. It starts with Christmas cooking, which traditionally includes codfish and turkey with beer or juice as a beverage. Because pine trees are rarely found in Brazil, households that have a Christmas party will often feature a fake tree with Christmas lights and decorations. There can be several families at each gathering, with over seventy people attending one Christmas party. The night often starts with Bingo, then comes the singing and eventually a “Secret Santa” exchange. Just before midnight, all the lights in the house are shut off (with the exception of the Christmas tree lights, of course) and the children lie in bed and await the arrival of Santa Claus.

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At Christmas time in Japan, people are getting ready to order buckets and buckets of fried chicken. Rather than celebrating Christmas with a ham or turkey, as is traditional in many other parts of the world, Japanese families usually celebrate the holiday by eating loads of fried chicken. Although only about one percent of the Japanese population follows the Christian religion, ads have made it a tradition anyway to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken during Christmas. After filling up on fried chicken, it is also traditional to enjoy a heaping plate of cake for dessert.
Labefanafest Urbania
Perhaps one of the most unique ways to celebrate the Christmas season is found in Italy. In Italy, on January 5, children await the arrival of a magical figure to bring them candy and other goodies. But it is not Santa Claus they are waiting for; no, these children are waiting for a witch named La Befana. She is portrayed as coming down the chimneys of various homes and delivering gifts, all while holding a broomstick. Instead of leaving milk and cookies for jolly old Saint Nick, Italian children leave wine and crackers for this mystic witch. However, in Norway, it is said that you must hide all of the brooms in your house or the witches will steal them and ride them off into the night. Perhaps they are headed to Italy.
In Finland, the Christmas celebrations primarily extend from December 24 to December 26. Fir trees are set up in each household on Christmas Eve. Much like during Christmas in America, people in Finland bake gingerbread cookies and other yummy treats. Finnish Christmas dinner begins on the night of Christmas Eve, at the spotting of the first star in the sky – usually between five and seven o’clock.
In Mexico, Christmas is known as La Posada. It is a tradition to carry a picture of Joseph and Mary from house to house in the search of “shelter” before the birth of Jesus Christ himself. In Mexico, Santa Claus is not usually used to symbolize Christmas like he does in America. Instead, the people of Mexico choose to use the striking red flower called the poinsettia as a symbol of the season – a tradition that has begun to catch on in other parts of the world as well.
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In Germany, the Christmas celebration begins on December 6 and continues non-stop until after Christmas Day. On December 6, the baking and decorating begins. It all starts with the spiced cookies and cakes, then comes the home-made cards and gifts. One of the more well-known Christmas traditions – and one that originated here in Germany – is the creation of beautiful gingerbread houses. Christbaumgeback is the name of a German dough that can be shaped like clay before it is baked and used to decorate the Christmas tree. Although gingerbread and gingerbread houses are certainly a part of Christmas celebrations elsewhere in the world, none can match those created in Germany.