Tag Archives: Butter

Leipziger Lerche or Songbird Pastry

While doing a crossword, I came across this word Leipziger. It is in Germany. Lerche actually means Lark in German language. The hint was the famed Pie which used actual Lark as one of the ingredients. It was a very popular delicacy. 

I was shocked that humans didn’t leave alone even the smaller birds for using them in their food. Man in his initial days was a hunter and hunted in groups the big game. Slowly he discovered that many plants- like grasses contain the seeds like precursors of wheat are edible. This diverted them from hunting towards farming but eating the animal flesh is a part of the food.

From the bird lists of Germany, three types of Larks are found there. These are Crested Lark, skylarks and one another variety but the most abundant is Crested Lark. The name Lark is given to this family of birds because they sing in very sweet voice. Here I am producing a picture of Crested Lark found in our area.

crested lark

The tradition of consuming Larks dates back to Middle Ages. Although it was consumed in France, Italy and Germany, but Leipzig was the foremost. References say that the Larks in this region were most perfect and succulent and needed no butter for cooking. Cookbooks say that these were cooked in many ways like pan fried with diced apples, ginger, peppers and sugar or simmered in beef stock with raisins and beer.

Craze for these innocent birds was such that over 404,000 larks!!! were sold in the year 1720 alone within Leipzig, with over 1 million more being caught in the surrounding area and sent to other German cities and towns or even as far as Spain and Russia

Practice went on till 1876, when the king Albert of Saxony made it illegal to hunt the birds as these were helpful to the farmers because these birds feed on the insects which harm the crops. 

The pastry is still made under this name but without the Larks. Instead other ingredients are used. 

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Clarified Butter or Ghee

In India, clarified butter is the most eminent of all foods. It is mentioned in the Vedas as one of the most important ingredients along with honey for holy rituals. Aryans who entered into Punjab from the West were village dwellers and reared the cattle. This was in contrast to the stable city life the people of the Indus valley civilization lived before them. As the cattle herds required pastures for grazing, these people were always on the move and spread into whole of Punjab and then towards Ganges valley. Many stories and epics revolve around the possession of more cattle which were symbols of wealth. Many groups fought for the possession and even took away the cattle by force or other means.

In addition to being used as an ingredient and frying oil, the fuel of holy lamps and funeral pyres, it is an emblem of purity, an ancient offering to the gods. Ghee (from the Sanskrit for “bright”) was born of necessity. Due to the hot weather, ordinary butter spoils in only ten days in much of the country, while the clarified fat keeps six to eight months. Traditionally, ghee has been made from whole cow or buffalo milk that is soured by lactic acid bacteria into yogurt-like dahi then churned to obtain butter, cream. Today, industrial manufacturers usually start with cream.

The preliminary souring improves both the quantity of butter obtained and its flavor; ghee made from sweet cream is said to taste flat. The butter is heated to 190ºF/90ºC to evaporate its water then the temperature is raised to 250ºF/120ºC to brown the milk solids, which flavors the ghee and generates antioxidant compounds that delay the onset of rancidity. The brown residue is then filtered off (and mixed with sugar to make sweets) leaving the clear liquid ghee.

Bread: Most Basic Necessity

One’s “Bread and Butter” means the major occupation which provides him the sustenance for life. “breaking bread” is a community custom which is sharing the food and sitting together. It is thus more than eating but a way to bring the members of a community closer to one another. The importance of bread cannot be overemphasized. Primitive man was a nomad and it was the wheat grass for which womenfolk are credited to have grown, which gave the man a reason to stay put at a place and bring the stability in the life which was almost akin to animals. It provided him with spare time in which to hone his skills and rise above the animals. When he discovered the fire, he learned to cook and roast and thus bread must have been discovered.

From Chinese baozi to Armenian lavash, bread comes in thousands of forms. But the basic ingredients are same world over: milled grains and water.

Imagine a continuum of breads, ranging from the thinnest flat breads to the fluffiest brioche. Some are amazingly simple: Matzoh, for example, is nothing more than flour and water, baked until crisp. Raised breads, on the other hand, involve the complex interactions between flour and the leaveners that give them their porous, tender quality.

Leaveners come in two main forms: baking powder or soda and yeast.

Baking powder or baking soda is used for faster results as it is based on the chemical reactions of the soda with acidic substances present or released during heating and resulted in the production of carbon dioxide necessary to inflate dough or batter. Baking powder and baking soda are used to leaven baked goods that have a delicate structure, ones that rise quickly as carbon dioxide is produced, such as quick breads like cornbread and biscuits.

Yeast, on the other hand, is a live, single-celled fungus. There are about 160 species of yeast, and many of them live all around us. It is stored in the optimum conditions and activated by availability of sugars present in the milled grains. They release carbon dioxide which makes the bread rise. The reactions are slow in comparison to the baking soda.

Leavening will make the bubbles for sure but some structure is required to contain these bubble and stop them from leaving. This is done by glutton which forms a three dimensional network and trap the produced carbon dioxide. Besides this there is plenty of starch present in the grains. This is attacked by enzymes which break it into the sugars, the food for the yeast to consume and release carbon dioxide and also help absorb the moisture. This is the chemistry behind making of the bread.