Eat butter first, and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past."
Old Dutch proverb

I love butter. I love cream. I love wine, garlic and everything in between. From pepper to salt and veggies to meat, enjoy my ramblings on everything I eat!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lactart: An odd little drink

As with many beverages and dishes, I chose Lactart off the America Eats Tavern drink menu because of the name. It sounded kind of gross, it rhymed with fart... I couldn't NOT get it.

"What is it?" I asked my not-all-home server.

"It comes in blackberry and apple."

Very helpful...

I went with blackberry, despite having no idea what I was about to ingest. It arrived in a tall glass, Pepto-Bismol in hue, and topped with two inches of foam. The taste? Like a berry Activia with carbonation. It wasn't bad, but not particularly good either.

The woman sitting next to me had ordered an Allagash White (on my recommendation) and was enjoying it immensely.

"This beer sure seems better than what you're drinking," as she took a slug of her delicious brew.

I smiled at her wanly, but she was right. My pink drink was not stellar by any stretch. But what was this mysterious concoction?

It turns out Lactart used to be quite the non-alcoholic libation back in the day (roundabouts World War I and II because acids were hard to come by due to the war effort). The Avery Chemical Company created the Lactart formula in the early 1880s using dilute lactic acid, and intended it to be a healthy natural acid for flavoring beverages. It followed in the footsteps of Acid Phosphate, a very en vogue acidulent, but was competitive enough to become "popular enough that it became of class of drink at the soda counter."

Unlike the sharp taste of citric acid from conventional drink ingredients such as lemons and limes, Lactart has a much more subdued tang. It does not have a dairy taste on its own, but it works will in dairy products (I might have to disagree...).

I could buy Lactart online if I wanted to recreate this "acidulent," but I'm going to stick with Rose's Lime Juice. I tend to think that Lactart went out of style for a reason.

And while I appreciated the piece of history I was drinking, I kept eyeing my neighbor's beer. The word "Allagash"may not make me giggle the same way "Lactart" does, but an Allagash White definitely tastes better.

Should you want to try a Lactart recipe, here is one from the 1897 Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages: A Treatise Adapted to the Requirements of Druggists and Confectioners:
Cream Lactarta
Cream Lactarta is a drink served in 12-ounce glasses with foam like the "sodas," using 1.5 fluidounces of the respective syrup, 1 fluidounce of cream, 1 fluidram of lactart and carbonated water, course and fine streams to fill the glass. "Cream vanilla lactart," for example, would be made from 1.5 fluidounces of vanilla syrup, etc. as described above.

Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages: A Treatise Adapted to the Requirements of Druggists and Confectioners (available on Google Books)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Devastating but Delicious

The first time I made a cake from scratch, I cried. They were not tears of happiness, but from pure and utter defeat.

At age ten, I was a die-hard Roald Dahl fan. I mean, who can resist books about chocolate rivers and farting (or whizpopping, to use the correct vocabulary) giants? I was overjoyed to receive Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes cookbook for Christmas. The first culinary challenge I wanted to tackle was Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake from Matilda.

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know the story behind this cake: Bruce Bogtrotter, “an eleven-year-old boy who was decidedly large and round,” stole a piece of his headmaster’s decadent chocolate cake. As punishment, he is forced to the eat more of the cake, but not just a slice. He has to eat an entire cake, 18 inches in diameter!

My cook book only called for an 8 ½ - inch round cake pan, but I was still excited to transform this literary confection into a scrumptious reality.

From years of watching my dad bake fresh bread, I knew how important exact measurements are in baking.

Ingredients: 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, 1 ½ sticks of butter (o.m.g.), 1 cup sugar, ¼ cups all-purpose flour and six eggs separated.

Not to many ingredients, not too much chance of error … or so I thought. I was a bit nervous about folding the stiff, whipped egg whites into the chocolate batter, but it was no prob. Into the oven went the cake, and I started cleaning up. That’s when I saw it: my premeasured ¼ cup of flour. I looked at the oven, then back at the flour. I don’t think I cursed as a fifth grader, but I think my inner monologue went something like, “Shiiiiiiiit!”

The cake had already baked for about ten minutes at that point, but I still yanked it out of the oven, dumped in the flour, mixed it quickly and put it back in for the rest of its baking time.

Twenty anxiety-ridden minutes late, I opened the oven and there it was. A crater cake; a sad, concave baked good. Tears ensued.

My dad walked through the kitchen at that moment, comforted me and then pondered the situation.

“The sides still look good…” he said.

I sniffed and nodded, as he produced two spoons. We both sampled the outer edges of the collapsed cake straight from the pan. It was DELICIOUS. Bruce Bogtrotter would have devoured it. Fifteen minutes later, all that was left was the sunken center and chocolatey smiles on our faces.

Who knew failure could taste so good?

Sidenote: We never told my mom how much cake we ate J