Which is the largest hot desert?

The Sahara in North Africa is the largest hot desert and the third largest desert in the world. Spread over an area of 9.4 million sq km, the desert covers large sections of as many as 11 countries such as Egypt Libya. Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Sudan. Did you know only one quarter of the desert is sandy? The rest is made up of rocky plateaus, gravel, salt flats, dry valleys and oases.

The Sahara is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Red Sea to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Sahel savanna to the south. The enormous desert spans 10 countries (Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan and Tunisia) as well as the territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that was annexed by Morocco in 1975, though control of the region is disputed by the Indigenous Saharawi people.

The Sahara desert has a variety of land features, but it is most famous for the sand dune fields that are often depicted in movies. The dunes can reach almost 600 feet (183 meters) high, and they cover about 25% of the entire desert, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Other topographical features include mountains, plateaus, sand- and gravel-covered plains, salt flats, basins and depressions. Emi Koussi, an extinct volcano in Chad, is the highest point in the Sahara, reaching 11,204 feet (3,415 m) above sea level,  and the Qattara Depression in northwestern Egypt is the Sahara's deepest point, at 436 feet (133 m) below sea level.

Despite the harsh, arid conditions of the Sahara, many plant and animal species call the region home. Approximately 500 plant species, 70 mammalian species, 90 avian species, 100 reptilian species and numerous species of spiders, scorpions and other small arthropods live in the Sahara. The camel is one of the most iconic animals of the Sahara, though its ancestors originated in North America. Other mammal residents of the Sahara include gazelles, addaxes (a type of antelope), cheetahs, caracals, desert foxes and wild dogs. Many reptiles also thrive in the desert environment, including several species of snakes, lizards and even crocodiles in places where there is enough water. Several arthropod species also call the Sahara home, such as dung beetles, scarab beetles, "deathstalker" scorpions and many types of ants.

Today, the Sahara has a dry, inhospitable desert climate. The past 2,000 years or so, the climate of the Sahara has been fairly stable — and dry. The northeastern winds strip moisture from the air over the desert and drive hot winds toward the equator.

Credit : Live science

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Did Hansel and Gretel inspire gingerbread houses?

The tradition of decorated gingerbread houses began in Germany in the early 1800s, supposedly popularised after the not-so-Christmassy fairytale of Hansel and Gretel was published in 1812. The Grimms’ original fairy tale includes the line: “When they came nearer they saw that the house was built of bread, and roofed with cakes, and the window was of transparent sugar.” (In later versions it became gingerbread, rather than just bread.) Inspired by the story, German bakers began to craft small decorated houses from lebkuchen, spiced honey biscuits.

The origins of gingerbread are not precise. Ginger root was first cultivated in China around 5,000 years ago, and was thought to have medicinal and magical properties. When its usefulness as a preservative was discovered is unclear, but some food historians say that the first known recipe for gingerbread dates from around 2400 BC in Greece. Others trace its history to 992 AD, when Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis is thought to have taught Christian bakers in France how to make it. Later references include a gingerbread guild in Germany, probably formed in the 15th century to protect the rights of certain bakers. At around the same time, nuns in Sweden were baking gingerbread to ease indigestion.

In 2017, Jon Lovitch, sous-chef at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, broke the record for the fourth time for the “largest gingerbread village”. It was displayed at the New York Hall of Science. Another contender was the Pepperkakebyen (Gingerbread Town) in Bergen, Norway (on display until 31 December, £9). In 2015 it had more than 2,000 individual buildings that lit up, as well as ships, cars and a train. But only 1,020 of the structures were made of gingerbread, and it was denied the record for including non-edible components.

The walled medieval town of Dinkelsbühl, southern Germany, is often thought of as a real-life town of gingerbread houses. Its picturesque and well-preserved historic centre has gabled half-timbered buildings in yellow and peach, a church, a little town square and cobbled streets.

Credit : The Guardian 

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What was the name of the Inn owned by the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie?

Today it’s the most popular cookie in America, but the original Toll House Cookie, the first chocolate chip cookie, was invented right here in New England by Ruth Wakefield at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, during the 1930s. Made with flour, brown sugar, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and walnuts (the nuts are optional, of course — it may be that only the great “hot or cold” lobster roll debate is more passionately argued than “nuts or no nuts”), Toll House cookies are a simple drop cookie that children, adults, and even Santa Claus can agree on.

They were invented, it turns out, as a happy accident. Ruth and her husband had purchased the 1709 toll house in 1930 with plans to turn it into an inn (appropriately named the Toll House Inn) since the location was perfectly situated between Boston and New Bedford. A former dietician and food lecturer with a passion for quality cookery, Ruth was experimenting in the kitchen one day when she decided to take a bar of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate and break it up into bits, which she added to a butter drop cookie batter. When she took them out of the oven, she was surprised to see that the chocolate hadn’t melted, and the firm bits gave the cookies a unique (and addictive) crunch.

She liked the texture so much she called them Chocolate Crunch Cookies, and added the recipe to her collection.

The recipe made its way to a Boston newspaper, and as its popularity grew, so did the sale of Nestle chocolate bars. With Ruth’s permission, Nestle began printing the recipe on the bar’s wrapper, and in 1939, they started selling the chocolate bits on their own in bags, calling them “morsels.” The recipe, nearly identical to the original Toll House Cookie recipe, is still printed on each bag today.

Credit : New England

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Which cartoon character is known for his love of doughnuts?

If a poster could describe Homer Simpson, it’d be him with all things junk. From burgers to pizzas, Homer loves it all. But if there’s one thing he can’t live without, it’s doughnuts.

Homer Jay Simpson is a fictional character and one of the main characters of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. He is voiced by Dan Castellaneta and first appeared on television, along with the rest of his family, in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987. Homer was created and designed by cartoonist Matt Groening while he was waiting in the lobby of James L. Brooks' office. Groening had been called to pitch a series of shorts based on his comic strip Life in Hell but instead decided to create a new set of characters. He named the character after his father, Homer Groening. After appearing for three seasons on The Tracey Ullman Show, the Simpson family got their own series on Fox, which debuted December 17, 1989. The show was later acquired by Disney in 2019.

Homer is one of the most influential characters in the history of television, and is widely considered to be an American cultural icon. The British newspaper The Sunday Times described him as "The greatest comic creation of [modern] time". He was named the greatest character "of the last 20 years" in 2010 by Entertainment Weekly, was ranked the second-greatest cartoon character by TV Guide, behind Bugs Bunny, and was voted the greatest television character of all time by Channel 4 viewers. For voicing Homer, Castellaneta has won four Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance and a special-achievement Annie Award. In 2000, Homer and his family were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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What is the name of the dessert made of sponge cake, ice cream, and meringue?

Baked Alaska, also known as Bombe Alaska, omelette norvégienne, omelette surprise, or omelette sibérienne depending on the country, is a dessert consisting of ice cream and cake topped with browned meringue. The dish is made of ice cream placed in a pie dish, lined with slices of sponge cake or Christmas pudding, and topped with meringue. The entire dessert is then placed in an extremely hot oven for a brief time, long enough to firm and caramelize the meringue but not long enough to begin melting the ice cream.

The meringue insulates the ice cream while the dessert is browning and you end up with a delicious mixture of flavors and textures, the most surprising of which is the ice cream center that doesn’t melt while it is in the oven! Many chefs are credited with the invention of the dessert, and there were many hot-and-cold dessert pairings served as ice cream became widely available, but the name “Baked Alaska” was coined at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City in 1876 to honor the recently acquired American territory of Alaska.

Baked Alaska is not a difficult dessert to make at home, since it has only three components: cake, ice cream and meringue. You can easily put your own spin on the original recipe by using brownies or pound cake, instead of a plain sponge cake, and you can even use store-bought cake instead of homemade. The ice cream flavors can be mixed and matched to suit your tastes, too. The only element of this dessert that you can’t change is the meringue. You need to make a classic meringue with eggs and sugar to finish the dessert off properly, since the air pockets created by whipping the egg whites are what insulate the ice cream while the dessert is browning. It’s a fantastic dessert to impress a crowd with, and since the base can be prepared well in advance and frozen, it is a great make-ahead dessert when you want to serve something special without being pressed for time.

Credit : Baking Bites 

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