Did anyone else grow up envious of our American cousins on shows like Friends enjoying what seemed like Christmas a month early? On the other side of the Atlantic, the last Thursday of November is well a truly a day to give thanks, for US Independence and undoubtedly for all the delicious treats that make up the Thanksgiving spread.
Turkey, cranberry jelly, yams, pies both pecan and pumpkin, green bean casserole and cornbread abound! But with our own Turkey day looming for the cooks of this world, you may have neither the time nor inclination to slave over the stove all day of a November Thursday.
You could just stock up on Twinkies and Twizzlers, but if you want to get a bit more creative the below ideas will let you jump on the Thanksgiving bandwagon without the stress of putting together a feast. If nothing else, these ideas will give you an excuse to have a very tasty Thursday indeed!
Best of Italy and Fallon & Byrne have shelves full of jars of wonder which far exceed the typical offerings of our supermarkets. While you could enjoy these unctuous spreads the way many of us enjoy Nutella or straight peanut butter, i.e with a spoon, they have many more delicious uses beyond dipping and dunking.
I love to add biscoff spread, which is the cinnamon scented biscuit we call Lotus here in buttery jarred form, to caramel for banoffee pie as the sweet spice mix plays beautifully with gooey banana. Both Biscoff and Reese’s chocolate peanut butter spread make the perfect base for what I call the easiest cookies of all time.
Forget scales and make like an American with a measuring cup and combine a cup of your spread and a cup of light brown sugar in a large bowl with a spatula. Add a whisked egg to form a dough and feel free to stir through some chocolate chunks, I won’t judge.
Place tablespoonfuls on a lined baking sheet and bake at 175C for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, if you can wait, and devour. Are they sugar bombs? Yes. Can they be in your mouth in under 20 minutes? Also yes. These are extra handy to whip up with kids in tow, the ultimate no fuss cookie recipe.
Available in Tesco and Candy Lab Temple Bar and beyond, this jar of goo actually markets itself as fat free, so embrace that plus while ignoring the amount of fructose syrup! Our American cousins like to pop marshmallow on top of their sweet potato pie but my favourite use for the fluffed version has to be as a filling in Whoopie Pies, soft baked, filled sandwich cookies so good it they have earned the exclamatory name.
I have also been known to whip up a batch of vanilla cupcakes(the craze for which started in NYC’s Sprinkles Bakery), use an apple corer to scoop out the centre (these bits are for ‘testing’ i.e gobbling) and fill it with another all-American favourite, peanut butter. Marshmallow fluff acts as a ready made icing, so grab a palette knife and smooth on top. Finish with a drizzle of milk chocolate and you have yourself what is called a Fluffer-Nutter cake Stateside. I always expect Lenny Kravitz to usher me into the room with a guitar riff of American woman when I serve these, Americana in a bite.
While I did advocate roasting your own pumpkin and pureeing last month, sometimes a shortcut is needed and Libby’s is the natural choice as it is 100% pumpkin without added sugar or preservatives. You can pick up America’s favourite canned pumpkin in Fallon & Byrne and Morton’s, the possibilities abound from there on in.
Canned pumpkin is perfect for traditional pumpkin pie, sweetened up with some evaporated milk and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove and maybe even a splash of Bourbon, if you can spare it. But canned pumpkin lends itself to many more Stateside staples and can also be baked into a delicious traditional American cake, the Bundt. Why not try out The Flour Artist Recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Beurre Noisette Buttercream? The Americans will call it browned butter, but it is the perfect pumpkin accompaniment in any language!
I always felt ridiculously jealous that a typical Autumnal American treat was the genius S’more, when we were stuck with toffee apples at best. Now that we can get all of the core authentic ingredients like Graham Crackers (Candy Lab Temple Bar) we’re all set for a sticky, messy sweet treat like no other.
The ultimate love/hate American confection, some people are repulsed by the Hershey’s tang which sets it apart from milky Cadbury’s. But bear with me. To make this truly American fireside treat, let’s be authentic and pop in some squares of the real stuff. Topped with some white marshmallows toasted over an open flame (hold over a gas burner or indeed break out the blowtorch, as I have often done, if you have no fireplace). You can even pop these under the grill on a medium heat for a minute or two to brown and get a little gooey. Sandwich between Graham crackers and the warm marshmallow will melt the chocolate…drool!
Long before we were a nation of peanut butter nutters, it was a staple in every American pantry. While many of us grew up not liking peanut butter or thinking we didn’t, if you’re like me you will be trying to make up for years spent avoiding it. Peanut butter is good on absolutely everything, but Reese’s had the original bright spark to encase it in chocolate making it portable.
You can pick up Reese’s products in Fallon & Byrne, Fresh on Camden Street and Smithfield and Candy Lab, but equally you could take inspiration from the classic treat and whip up your own with ease. Simply melt 300g Hershey’s chocolate and half fill some cupcake liners. Pop a heaped teaspoon of your favourite peanut butter into the centre of each and cover with chocolate. Place in the freezer to set, then marvel at your own ingenuity – these are too easy to make and even easier to eat.
A cake which was relatively unknown on our shores only a few years ago, the red velvet has captured our sweet imaginations and can be found in many guises here now, from doughnuts to milkshakes to pancakes. Buttermilk, another US cooking staple, reacts with bicarbonate of soda to give the traditional version its velvet-like texture and a shmear of cream cheese (frosting) is a must.
If you’re less than enthused about pouring a bottle of food colouring into your cake batter and want to try red velvet with a cheeky twist, I have a solution. Red Wine Velvet Cake. Use up the dregs of wine you may have lying around (Californian Zinfandel works particularly well) and create a red velvet which is luscious, rich, a little fruity and Adults only.
Bear with me if this seems like a curious addition to a round up of American treats, but what better way to toast the States than by raising a glass of its finest export, Bourbon? My preference is Bulleit, Kentucky’s delicious corn and rye based nectar.
I like mine best in a tumbler with some ice, but you can make like the iconic Don Draper with a classic Old Fashioned to say cheers to US Independence. Simply mix a teaspoon of brown sugar with two dashes of bitters in a tumbler to dissolve, stir in 1 oz Bulleit Bourbon, a splash of water and a twist of orange rind. Top with some ice as you whisper God Bless America to yourself…
Bourbon can also be added all manner of baked goodies, working particularly well in caramel as well as the all-American favourite apple pie and Thanksgiving staple Pecan Pie. In baking terms, there are few autumnal flavours that can’t be improved by a shot of Bourbon!
Make like Nigella (she who has knowledge of all indulgent cuisines) and soak a ham in one of these sugary bottles of pop. Go on. You know you want to. With a month to go to the biggest dinner of our year, which for me is all about the ham, this is the perfect time to do a test run. Sticky, sweet and festive as can be, there has never been a better use for fizzy drinks like Coke.
The iconic red can also pairs up with another US staple, Betty Crocker box mix, to make an US of A classic Devil’s Food Cake with little to no effort. The American’s aren’t ashamed to take some shortcuts in the kitchen, so skip the eggs and butter and pour a can of your poison of choice onto the dry mix.
Straight Coke works best, just whisk to a smooth batter and pour into lined baking tins. Bake at 170C for 20-25 minutes, until springy to the touch. You can even ice this with leftover marshmallow fluff, should you have any from above. The best part? With no raw eggs in the batter, you can go the whole hog on licking the spoon.
I could advise picking up a packet of authentic Pop Tarts in Candy Lab but there is a way to enjoy these American childhood staples without wondering what has gone into them/risking destroying your toaster. If you can whip up a sweet shortcrust pastry, you can be the master of your own homemade pop tart.
Cut rectangles out of your pastry, fill with peanut butter and jelly (jam, people, jam), seal with egg wash, crimp with a fork and pop into the oven until golden brown. Dust with ‘powdered’ sugar and you have an American brunch to rival a pancake stack, or a dessert to be thankful for.
Of course, this isn’t a shortcut but rather a licence to indulge as making your own means you can get as creative as you dare with your filling. Some of that Biscoff spread from above with apples and cinnamon would be delectable, or even better – bananas, chocolate and…you guessed it, Bourbon.
Go ahead Pilgrim….make your day, Thanksgiving or otherwise, with one of these delicious treats to be truly grateful for.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.