Celebrate Bastille Day – With Dessert!

Crepes Chantilly

Still relishing those mid-summer Fourth of July festivities? Lucky for you, today marks another celebration of freedom – Bastille Day! Much like Independence Day to Americans, Bastille Day commemorates the start of the French Revolution, when unarmed peasants stormed the Bastille prison and armory. What better way to commemorate their victory than to pop open some champagne, pull out the Bocce set and whip up a few delectable French desserts the whole family will love?

A French Celebration

Dessert in France is as much a part of the country’s heritage as Bastille Day. On July 14, flags line the Champs-Elysees, fireworks light up the Eiffel Tower and families gather with friends to honor the establishment of their first constitution. Needless to say, the celebration includes tremendous amounts of wine, cheese and, of course, chocolate.

From chocolate mousse to crème brûlée, French desserts are the Audrey Hepburn of baking; they have an elegance all their own. There is as much sophistication as there is sweetness in every bite. In this culture, food is to be savored, and each meal is planned with intention, creativity and attitude.

French Dessert Characteristics

In fact, the French consider cooking to be as artistic as painting, and it isn’t all about taste. While it’s true, the French have panache for pairing the richness of crème with the bittersweet tang of dark chocolate, the aroma and the presentation are equally as important. That’s what makes French food, especially desserts, so luscious– they appeal to all the senses. Traditional French desserts have several distinct qualities:

  • Light and fluffy, filled with air like meringue and mousse.
  • Complex, like cakes layered with caramel or heavenly chocolate macaroons.
  • Creamy and rich, relying heavily on dairy and eggs, such as crème brûlée.

Create Your Own!

On Bastille Day, transform yourself into a French pastry chef and kick-start your celebration with Clabber Girl’s mouth-watering Crepes Chantilly. This extra special treat is a delicate and delicious French-style pancake filled with sweet fruit and decadent crème. The thin cake is dressed up with strawberries and layered with whipped topping, creating a flavorful treat perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Another sweet filling of choice is peanut butter and banana slices – maybe even with a drizzle of chocolate!

For a twist, experiment with savory flavor combinations like sun-dried tomato and pesto with grilled chicken, or spinach, bacon and mushroom. With a little creativity and practice, you’ll develop crepe-making skills that everyone in the family will appreciate.

So do as the French do, and bon appétit!

Get to Know the Grain: Rice 101

Rice Pudding

Rice is a versatile pantry staple that is equally at home in a variety of cuisines from around the world. Years ago, American households were typically only familiar with American long-grain white rice. Who can forget those cheesy chicken and rice casseroles at the dinner table?

But as ethnic foods have gained popularity, Americans have embraced a variety of rice, from Arborio to sushi rice and everything in between. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite examples of this satisfying starch.

American long-grain white rice is the all-American staple. Cooked on the stove top, the rice has a dry, fluffy texture with distinct grains. Its counterpart is American long-grain brown rice, which is simply the whole-grain version, before the bran and germ layers have been removed. Chewier than white rice, it has a nutty flavor and more nutrients.

For authentic risotto, Arborio rice is a must-have ingredient. Its characteristic plump grains have more starch than other kinds of rice, which helps give risotto the creamy stick-to-your-ribs texture for which it is known.

Basmati rice is often used in Indian dishes, where it is commonly seasoned with spices like cumin and cardamom. The grains are longer, slender, and the rice has a nutty flavor and fragrance. Basmati rice should be soaked in cold water for an hour or more before cooking for best results.

Japanese-style rice or sushi rice is firm yet slightly sticky when cooked. It is often used for sushi, but is also served alongside a meal, as well.

Hailing from Thailand, Jasmine rice has long, translucent grains which when cooked, have an aroma similar to popcorn. Jasmine rice should be rinsed thoroughly prior to cooking to remove excess starch.

Like Arborio, short-grain brown rice has a higher level of the starch, amylopectin, which makes it a bit stickier than other rice. As with the American brown rice, the grain’s outer-layer of bran gives it a hearty, chewy texture.

By the way, wild rice really isn’t rice at all. Rather, it is a seed of a native North American grass variety. Often paired with long-grain brown rice, it is chewy and adds color and texture to other rice dishes.

For a quick rice side dish, we like this rice pudding. Enjoy!

Summer Baking With Blueberries

BlueberryCornMuffin

Did you know that blueberries are so phenomenal that an entire month is dedicated to celebrating this super fruit? That’s right – July is National Blueberry Month and we know a thing or two about how to maximize the benefits of this tiny little fruit that packs plenty of power.

Native to North America, blueberries are not just super foods, they’re super soldiers. Studies have shown blueberries can help fight cancer, improve memory, reduce the effects of aging, decrease depression and benefit nervous system and brain health. This is all due to the massive amounts of antioxidants crammed into each little blue sphere.

The super-food breakdown:

  • Around 80 calories a cup
  • 14% of your daily fiber
  • 25% of your daily Vitamin C
  • Lowers LDL (the bad cholesterol)
  • Eating one cup each week can lower your blood pressure and rev up your metabolism

Blueberries are grown all over the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina, California to Maine. The freshest blueberries can be found from May thru October, but you can freeze them and enjoy them year round. Freezing blueberries is pretty easy, but the more thought you put into your process the quicker they’ll thaw and the better they’ll taste.

Eat them by the handful, sprinkle them in yogurt or smash them up in a cocktail. Need even more inspiration? Get creative with some of our favorite recipes, like our mouth-watering Blueberry Crumble Bars or these Gluten-Free Blueberry Corn Muffins. Why not try this simple, delicious Clabber Girl Open-Faced Blueberry Pie? It’s one of our favorites for July 4th celebrations for its vibrant patriotic color. Enjoy your month full of blueberries!