It’s Dinner: But Is It Cooking?

What is a meal kit?  A meal kit includes all of the ingredients and recipes to make delicious meals at home.  More than one hundred companies now offer to do the planning, shopping, and prepping, leaving the joy of cooking, and eating, to you.  The United States meal market could grow by as much as five billion dollars over the next decade.

Meal kits are regarded by some as a positive development in cooking culture.  The kits provide ideas and eliminate the need to decide “what’s for dinner?”.  Feedback from customers, especially millennials, is that these kits are teaching them how to cook, so they can feel involved in the kitchen,

Blue Apron is one of the leaders in this category, and the company offers a subscription service with: original recipes weekly (500-800 calories per serving), fresh ingredients (pre-measured to avoid waste) and convenient delivery across the nation (arriving in a refrigerated box).  As a pricing example, Blue Apron offers a 2-Person Plan including 3 recipes per week for a total of $59.94 ($9.99 per serving) or a Family Plan for 4 including 2 recipes per week for a total of $69.92 ($8.74 per serving).

A price point of $9-$10 per meal is a lot of money for most people.  However, some believe the kits are worth the time saved driving/walking to the store and shopping.

The meal kit market gets very specialized at a point.  Fans of Northern California cuisine and chefs can join Sun Basket, and enthusiasts of Georgia farmers and Southern chefs may subscribe to PeachDish.

Meal kits might help to cut down on food waste through pre-portioned ingredients.  According to an estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up to thirty-one percent of America’s post-harvest food supply is thrown away.

One complaint about the kits is that too much packaging is used, and besides current recycling methods, there is a hope that one day the insulation will be compostable.

As far as home-cooking trends are concerned, meal kits are at the forefront.  How much staying power will they have?  Time will tell…

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A Better Chocolate Babka

If you are looking to nosh on something, with your coffee, tea or seltzer, might I suggest a slice of babka?

Babka is a sweet loaf, similar to a light textured coffee cake.  Babka is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and is typically baked in a high loaf pan.  It starts with a rich, slow-rise dough made with lots of butter, real vanilla, fresh egg yolks, lemon zest, sugar and sea salt.  The dough is rolled around an almond frangipane (made from almonds, almond flour, more vanilla, butter, sugar and eggs), then brushed with dark chocolate and cinnamon sugar.  You can fill a babka with almost anything sweet: chocolate, jam, dulce de leche, homemade ganache, and Nutella to name a few.  The babka is usually scattered with brown sugar streusel.

This pastry is associated with Eastern European Jewish tradition.  The word “babka” is both Polish and Yiddish, deriving from “baba,” meaning grandmother.

Baking a babka requires commitment.  Babkas can take a day or more to make, which includes three and a half hours to bake, and six to twenty-four hours to rise.  Refrigerating the dough in between steps makes it easier to work with, and a longer proofing period gives the loaf a more complex flavor.  Proofing is the final rise of shaped bread dough before baking.

New York bakeries have joined the babka movement.  Bklyn Larder fills its babka with ganache, Sadelle’s creates a chocolate-cookie version and Breads Bakery presents a Nutella loaf.  Baz Bagel even bakes its babka into bread pudding.

Babka freezes very well, making for second servings, and another delicious snack or dessert.

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