Robert deutsch

Father’s Day Sugar Cake: Part Three of the Butterscotch Triology

sugar cake, perfect cake, father's day dessert, robert deutsch cake, simple dessert, perfect easy dessert, egg whites

Old Fashioned Sugar Cake as developed by the website chocolatechocolateandmore.com. Fantastic!

This simple and delicious dessert was made for Father’s Day, and is the third of my dessert recipes to feature butterscotch extract. (Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip cookies being the first and second). I’m not sure how I found this recipe (think it was through some kind of Pinterest investigation) but I am glad I did.  It was from a site called chocolatechocolateandmore.com, so you know it’s good!  Warning: it contains no chocolate.

The recipe was near-perfect, but as always, I had to go and mess with it.   A couple of tweaks were necessary, not least of all was the elimination of the cast-iron pan, as mine recently broke (snapped, really).  Of course, increasing the vanilla and salt levels (this worried me at the batter stage, but paid off at the cake stage).   Lastly, I added 1/8 tsp of butterscotch extract (Frontier brand), which is a bit of guilding the lily—you can leave it out and it makes for a great, simple dessert.  But I thought it needed just a tiny little bit more personality.   Also, I found myself wondering what it would be like if I beat the egg whites (to stiff foamy peaks) with the sugar separately and then folded them into the rest of the recipe.  I didn’t try it, but that is how egg whites are frequently used in baking this type of light dessert.

My one big deviation from the recipe as written was to add a cup of sugar to the shortening, milk and vanilla combo, rather than add it all to the wet ingredients with the dry.  I felt it was necessary.  Did it make a difference?  I think when you can cream or semi-cream your sugar, you eliminate the possibility of that granular mouth feel.

Despite my track record of putting great desserts on table, my family doubted this would be a dessert they would like.  After all, it’s not chocolate, and what is it, really? Plain cake?  But no, as its original author contends– it’s melt in your mouth delicious.  Might I need to add a streusel layer (one of my other obsessions)?  Most likely.     This is also a great cake as a base– for covering with strawberries, or strawberry filling (like that from my version of hand pies) or some other kind of sweet confection.  If you have a good maple syrup, you might substitute for that for the butterscotch.

As for whether this is better in the morning, it will be hard to tell, since my family of four almost completely cookie-monstered the cake last night, which rarely happens.

So if you have a Father (or Father substitute) that you want to make happy, this a great recipe: simple and quick.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp butterscotch extract
  • confectioner’s sugar for covering

Instructions

  1. Cream together shortening and milk for about 3 minutes, (it will look like small curd cottage cheese.)
  2. Add in 1 cup of a sugar and the vanilla.   Continue to mix.
  3. in a separate bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add flour, one third at a time to the milk mixture, blending well after each addition.
  4. Add in egg whites, beating just until all combined.
  5. Pour batter into a greased and floured (not sprayed) 9 inch round cake pan.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 40-45 minutes (mine was ready at 43) or  test for doneness.
  7. Let cool on wire rack for at least 45 minutes before serving, cover top with powdered sugar.

After cooling, I ‘heavily dusted’ the top with powder sugar, covering the top like a ski-chalet after a heavy Vermont snow.  The original recipe called for a dusting, but I thought it needed more.  Some in my house suggested it needed frosting, but I am not among those who agree.  However, you can check out this simple vanilla cream frosting recipe (at the bottom of this chocolate cake recipe) if you like.  Otherwise, Happy Father’s Day!

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Oatmeal Cookie Perfection

Oatmeal cookies, perfect cookies, butterscotch chips, butterscotch extract, robert deutsch

Oatmeal cookies need butterscotch. Who knew?

Before we start, let me tell me you I know about the recipe under the Quaker oats cap.  I’ve made it.  It’s good.  It makes great cookies and you’re looking for super simple, go ahead and make that one.

And I was fine with that cookie until I had a life changing event: eating an oatmeal cranberry cookie from Petsi Pies in Cambridge, MA.   So head-exploding was the sensation of this cookie that I was driven to the Interwebz to find a recipe that would create a cookie just like it.  Of course, the problem with trying to create a copycat recipe is knowing, at a basic level, what goes into it.  So I set out to find out if anyone had already tried to do it, or do something close. Sadly, I came up empty but you have to start somewhere.   After several batches, I found a good starting place at Frances & Ian.   Their recipe was very good, so naturally I started changing it immediately.

For starters, I was going to have cranberries instead of raisins.  But after eating Petsi cookies, I realized these were no ordinary Ocean Spray bag o’cranberries. I experimented with soaking them in vanilla for 30 minutes but no, that wasn’t it.  I tried unsweetened and non-sulfated cranberries. Still no. Then, I found apple-juice infused cranberries from Whole Foods and those seemed to be good enough– juicy, sweet, but not of sugar.

I needed nuts.  Frances & Ian didn’t have nuts, and walnuts are usually the go-to nut for oatmeal cookies.  I prefer pecans, but I was trying to create a copycat, so walnuts it was.

Cinnamon- the recipe originally called for 2 teaspoons but that seemed like too much, so I cut it in half.

If you know me, then you know of course I increased the vanilla and salt.

That elusive ingredient.   After months of trying to figure out what’s in these incredible cookies I had a revelation: butterscotch.   But in what form?  Extra brown sugar and butter?  Chips?  I tried it both ways.  First, I melted and 1/8 of a cup of butterscotch chips in a tablespoon of butter and added it to the creamed butter and sugar, and that’s what the picture is  of.    They were good. But I still wasn’t satisfied.  I don’t like the artificial flavored chips—so I found a butterscotch extract from Frontier that was all natural.  I added and 1/4 tsp but I think 1/2 tsp is the right amount.  You want it enough to be “heard” but not so much that it’s overwhelming the other flavors.

Texture.  My brother loves crispy cookies but I like them soft and chewy.  This is a seemingly impossible-to-placate schism for cookie lovers and bakers all around the world, but it can be solved easily in the way that grill masters satisfy their distinct needs in adult and child audiences.  Steak cooked rare comes off first; steak cooked medium stays in longer.    That’s one solution, but what I found was that by making the cookies BIGGER, as Petsi does, you can get a crispy outside and a soft inside, which is really the best of both worlds and makes everybody happy.

When I make them for myself, I use a 1.5 inch scoop, but when I make them for anyone else, I use a 2 or 2.5 inch scoop.  This makes them bigger, and more likely to achieve the crisp and chewy outcome.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar + 1 tablespoon
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½  tsp butterscotch extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • ¼-½ tsp kosher salt (I used ½)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • ½-1 scant cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup cranberries (I used apple-juice infused cranberries)

Instructions

Make sure you have butter and eggs at room temperature: cold is bad.

Mix together dry ingredients flour, corn starch, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl, prepare your cranberries, chopped walnuts and oats.

Cream sugar and butter, about 3 minutes if you need to time it.

Add your egg, and mix.  Then add vanilla and butterscotch extracts.

Then pour in your flour, baking powder, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix just until combined.

Add the oatmeal, cranberries and walnuts.  Mix until just combined.

Remove from bowl and place in cellophane wrap for 30 minutes up till overnight.

After chilling,  take out and let come to temperature– this will help scoops melt into a more familiar cookie shape.  If you like mound-shaped cookies, then you don’t have to wait.

Scoop cookies onto parchment paper or silicon mat and bake for about 12 minutes at 350.   Depending on how crispy you like them (and how old your oven is) you might want to turn them around and give them another 3-5 minutes.

Important: these cookies need to “set up,” meaning that if you try to remove them from the tray before they’ve cooled you’ll have a crumbling hot mess on your hands, and likely everywhere.   Let them cool on the tray for at least five minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack for about five minutes.

Then, experience oatmeal cookie perfection.

Potato Pancakes You’ll Eat Standing Up

Potato Latkes, Potato Pancakes, Hanukkah Food, Chanukah Food, Jewish Party Food. Latke Recipe

Potato Latkes (aka Pancakes) that are crispy on the outside, heavenly on the inside, and delicious all over

If you are like me and spend most of your year avoiding potatoes and fried foods, then you will certainly love this potato latke recipe for Chanukah.

Most Jewish kids I knew regarded Chanukah as a special time, but somewhat less special than Christmas. And for many good reasons.  One, it often didn’t happen when there was no school.    Two, there weren’t any TV special cartoons about it.  And three, nothing that amazing to put in your mouth came out of it.  Sure, there was great food but nothing that made your head explode.   (I was somewhat shocked to realize that donuts are a traditional Chanukah food since they were never ever made or served when I was growing up).   Potato pancakes were served, but after you make these you’ll realize why not often.  They take a lot of work and they cause a lot of suffering (crying from onions; bleeding from the grater; burning from the oil; heartburn from inability to stop eating them).  And, they are by no means health food.   But they do remind us of one of the central ideas of Chanukah—which is that the oil we thought would last for one night actually lasted eight nights.   A great way I’ve found to make one night of oil last is to consume it by frying potatoes and onions in them and then they stay with me for at least eight days (or five if you go to the gym a lot).

Of course, I loved the latkes I ate growing up (with apple sauce), but I could never replicate them.  They would come out too fat, too potato-y, too flavorless.  After years of experimenting, I realized that when they are made right, latkes should resemble a crispy hash brown that you are invited to eat without silverware, ketchup or a side of eggs.   At my house, they never make it to table unless I have the discipline to start a long time before company comes.  Otherwise, we all just eat them as soon as they’re ready, and then no one wants to eat brisket, soup, or anything else (until later, when the donuts are served).

There was a post I found a few years ago called “Possibly the Best Latkes We Have Ever Eaten” by a NY Nosh (whose site was inexplicably replaced by a large picture of a leaf).  That recipe, (reposted here) called for boiling half of your potatoes which is a great concept but one that I believe results in some kind of crazy knish-latke hybrid which is delicious but not a latke.   So if you’re having friends from the Midwest in who’ve never eaten a potato pancake, by all means, go ahead make that one.  If you want a more traditional latke, this is the one for you.

On a tip from a friend, I started using half sweet potatoes.  I know that sounds like a crime, but it’s not.  They have almost the same exact consistency and a little bit of a sweet flavor.  It also makes them look more interesting, with their orange-and-white stripes.  If you can’t bear the violation of tradition, then use all-white potatoes.

Recipe  

  • 2 3/4 pounds potatoes (half sweet)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1.5 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Salt for seasoning afterwards.

Directions:

In large bowl, grate potatoes and onion together.  This will help the potatoes not turn brown.

Once you’re done grating, you’ll need a separate bowl with which to squeeze EVERY BIT OF LIQUID OUT OF THE POTATO ONION MIXTURE.   So, you will have three bowls: one that currently has your wet mixture in it.  One that you will squeeze the liquid in to; and one where you will put the dried mixture.

This is important, because the one thing my mother-in-law taught me was that after you squeeze out the onion/potato mixture (and you wait) you’ll note that a white substance, like wet flour, forms and will remain, after you pour out the liquid.  THAT IS MAGIC STARCH. Scoop that up and mix it in to your now dry potato-onion mixture.

Then, add the egg, matzoh meal, salt and pepper.

Lots of recipes call for patties but I prefer using an ice cream scooper.  You pick the size, it’s your diet.

Drop scoops into hot oil.  It should sizzle when this happens.  Try a sample scoop to make sure.  You want your oil hot but not smoking.  It will take one or two (which you, the cook, will be forced to eat) to get it right.

I like to flip over the latkes and press them flat.  But you don’t have to.   When done, the latkes will have a crispy light brown look.  Remove them with a slotted spatula or tongs and dry on a paper bag (some people call for paper towels but I find them inefficient).    Salt them when they come off.    Hand to people who are standing near by.

Follow with a shot of apple sauce, or don’t, the latkes have already made the celebration special.

Kate’s Butter

As an adult and a parent navigating through this complicated world, I am always very appreciative when something gets a little easier.  The nice people at Kate’s Butter of Maine have now started to wrap their salted butter and unsalted butters in different color wrappers, thereby making it much easier to distinguish which one is for use on bread and string beans (salted) and which one in baking (unsalted). The salted is in a wrapper with red letters.  Seems like a little thing but it is so helpful when you’re pivoting between things (especially upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, et al) and you don’t really want to keep the sticks in the box (which I had to do).   So thanks Kate’s!  You do make the best butter on the market today!

Kate's Unsalted and Salted Butter

Kate’s Unsalted (Green) and Salted (Red) Butter

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake (with Frosting)

Frosted old fashioned apple cake with frosting brown sugar and brown butter

Frosted Old Fashioned Apple Cake with brown sugar and butter frosting

November is to apples what black is to bananas, i.e. nature’s alarm clock telling you it’s time to use ’em or toss ’em.  As that siren grew louder, I spied my pile of ever-softening honey crisp apples with despair. Decisive action was necessary. Taking to my trusty recipe network, I found Old Fashioned Apple Cake on King Arthur and got to work. Unlike my signature “Best Apple Cake in the World” which takes lots of time, prep and requires three major kitchen appliances to complete, this was going to be a walk in the park.

Aside from the ingredients already in my pantry (Apples, Flour, 9 x 13 pan), I noted in the comments section of the recipe where people had successfully added carrots and raisins to the cake and cream cheese and boiled cider to the icing.   (Boiled cider is on my list of ingredients that I pine for and will likely never have, because I never successfully get to the check out at King Arthur).

Sun-maid raisins, toasted pecans and baby carrots

Raid the pantry recipe: raisins, pecans and baby carrots make this apple cake delicious.

My inventory check revealed I had all those things, and I knew I needed to use them. Shockingly,the one thing I was missing was regular orange carrots. I had only baby carrots and a collection of strange colored carrots (white, red and dark red) that are fun to use in salads but have a distinctly different taste, and ergo not right for this project. I usually have a lot of dried fruit on hand,  but at the time the only raisins I had were little boxes that I used to throw in my kids’ lunch.  (They in turn, were likely hurled at their enemies, but never eaten). I had pecans, which I toasted to a nutty perfection but then did not include BECAUSE I AM NOT GOING TO COOK NUTS TWICE so don’t ask me to do it.  They stayed in a bowl and were eaten by passers by who continued to inquire what I was making, and more importantly, when it would be ready.  I used roasted, but untoasted pecans in the cake.

King Arthur advises you to “frost the cake while the frosting is still warm,” but I regarded that as Voodoo that results in runny frosting and ruined cake,  so I opted for the “chill first” method.  The comments in the recipe noted that cooling the frosting allows you to get a better handle on how sweet it will taste, and this is true– the first night the frosting tasted only a little sweet—despite being made almost entirely of two kinds of sugar.   As the days wore on, the frosting did start to seem like it was too sweet, and perhaps we would have been better glazing the cake instead of a full, pile-on frosting.

Frosted or not, this is a nice little cake that thanks to the ginger and nutmeg has a great fall taste profile and is a worthy of use of apples that have been rejected due to softness or lack of crisp appearance.   And remember, nature wants you to make cake.  Why else would she turn bananas black or the calendar to November?

King Arthur's recipe for Old Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Old Fashioned Apple Cake, just out of the oven.

Old Fashioned Apple Cake

  • 2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp or 1 tblsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large apples (this was about 4+ cups)
  • 1 large carrot or 4 baby carrots, shredded
  • ~1/2 cup raisins, craisins, currants or dried fruit of your choice
  • 1/2 cup diced pecans

Frosting

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prepare a 9″ x 13″ pan.  I used parchment paper and PAM.  You can grease and flour if you like.

1) Mix the dry ingredients (except the sugar) in one bowl.  Mix the sugar, butter and eggs and vanilla (in that order) in a stand mixer until satiny.

2) Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Just combine (don’t OVERMIX).  Then add the apples and carrots.  Just combine (don’t OVERMIX!).  Chop and add nuts.

3) Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

4) Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5) Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely; don’t remove the cake from the pan.

To make the frosting:

1) Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.

2) Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.

3) After 10 minutes, stir in the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.  Taste and add salt.  Beat on high; if the mixture appears liquidy, add more confectioners’ sugar. If too crumbly, you can add more milk or vanilla.   Chill frosting in mixing bowl.   This will give the frosting a chance to cool as well as the cake.  This is good for everyone. 

4) Frost the cake.  Keep a light touch; the frosting is very sweet.

Grilled Lettuce for the 4th— Celebrate America!

Totally by accident, I discovered grilling lettuce.   I had had grilled romaine in some hifalutin’ restaurants in a treatment of Caesar salad, but it was always something that made you think “why did they grill this lettuce?”    One day however, during an obsessive grill-a-thon, I found myself adding olive oil, salt and pepper to some washed romaine heads that had been previously trimmed for salad.

Lettuce on the grill

Amazingly simple way to add something green to your 4th of July Celebration.

After tossing them, I threw them on the grill, and in about 30 seconds, turned them, and then served them 60 seconds later.   To my surprise, the lettuce was the first thing to disappear from the table!  The next time I made two heads, and then three until I now have to “stock up” on romaine lettuce when people come over because it is such a popular dish.      Besides being easy to prepare and make, it takes almost no time, so it’s easy to make after everything has been taken off the grill (for those of you who have aggressively manage your grill space).

It’s also been very, very popular with kids– even those who wouldn’t normally eat salad.    I have experimented with adding things before and after the grill– parmesan, lemon, lime, spices, but by far simply olive oil and salt have been the most popular version.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Bag of Romaine with three heads (unless you despise bags of romaine, in which case substitute two heads of romaine that don’t come from a bag, it’s about the same volume)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper, Parmesan and Spice (Optional)
4th of July, Robert Deutsch, Grilled Lettuce

Red, White and Blue and GREEN? Add lettuce to your cookout!

Directions

Trim the bottom and tops of the romaine head, and discard brown or dilapidated outside layers.   Wash thoroughly and dry.   When dry, place into a big bowl and add about four tablespoons of olive oil (depending on the size of the lettuce and your desire for the texture to be wet or crispy).  Mix well and salt.   On a hot grill, add all the lettuce in a direction opposite of the grill (naturally) so the smaller leaves don’t fall in. Use tongs to flip, and remove when edges are browned.  Add parmesan, lemon or pepper and serve.

A lot of the Caesar salads develop the dressing that goes inside a diner-style ketchup container so it can be squeezed out, artistically on the lettuce, with croutons or toasted garlic bread added or as a layer.   However you serve it, enjoy it!

Some folks in my household have derided romaine lettuce as having little nutritional value, but that’s actually not true!   It does pack a significant Vitamin K punch, and is certainly a worthwhile alternative!

Charlie’s in Boston Closing, A Low-Arts Tragedy.

UPDATE!
The Boston Globe reports that Chef Evan Deluty, who runs Stella in the South End, is “passing papers” on the Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe this week and plans to re-open the restaurant in 2015.

 

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe (love that it used the old time spelling of Shoppe) closed today.   I can’t add anything to the story, except that I was a regular there for years. I pretty much ate my way through the breakfast menu, and must admit that it was the place I took anyone to when I was trying to impress them.  It was that perfect, divvy, kind-of-hidden, I hope this-is-as-good-as-it-looks-and-smells kind of place.  The closing is so sad and it is a great loss for the city, but especially for low-arts fans and students like myself.  Because now I am certain that I will never learn how to make their incredible Turkey Hash.  Though if you know me, you know I will never stop trying.  Check out the full story at WBUR. Photo below from Jesse Costa/WBUR.

Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe,

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in the South End, Boston via WBUR.

 

Make Your Own Pop Tarts! It’s (Pretty) Easy.

Frosted Pastry, Pop-Tarts, Toaster Pastry, robertdeutschBlueberry Filling, Blueberry Toaster Pastry

Pop Tarts were gone so fast it was hard to take a good picture. Here are a few frosted pastry survivors.

One of the things I am always focused on as a parent is getting my kids to eat healthy.  But this is a RELATIVE term because “healthy” in the end is measured by degrees, and is by no means an absolute.   For instance, you are not often given the choice of “salad with quinoa or chicken nuggets with fries.”   In most cases you have to make a decision which I would call “the best of the worst.”  Which has the most overall net positive effect? Which is actually worse for my kids?  This overall quest has led me to try to make things at home that my kids like or have liked in their store-bought versions.    While a home-made Reese’s Peanut Butter cup may be no healthier than the crisply-orange wrapped retail alternative, I certainly feel better about it because to a higher degree I know what it’s in it.  Of course, I can’t be sure what’s in ANYTHING today, but as I said, it’s all about degrees.

In this category, I have experimented with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Cheez-Its, and those horrible packages of crackers that come in vending machines with peanut butter or cheese in them.   This week I had an assignment to bake for a gathering, and I was kind of stuck for ideas. Then, I saw the King Arthur Recipe for “Hand Pies,” or what most of us would call Pop-Tarts.  This was an excitingly easy recipe with lots of great reviews (“easy!”, “delicious!”) so I realized I had to make them immediately.

But there problems.   For starters, the deceptively simple filling recipe called for Instant ClearJel, which I understand is one of the greatest baking products known to man, but it might as well have been a time-machine, since I didn’t have any and wasn’t going to order it and wait to make my own pop tarts.  This was not for lack of trying though, it is not sold through grocery stores. I know because I called everybody.  Ultimately, this would require a dreaded substitution.

Secondly, their recipe didn’t specify a frosting, only an egg wash with shimmering sugar.    Now I don’t know about you, but I never liked the unfrosted pop-tarts.  Sure, they’re better for you (by degrees) but not as yummy.  That crackly, be-sprinkled top was the best part!

So, I had some research to do. I had to figure out a filling AND an icing.   And that was even before I realized that cutting out 16 3.5 squares requires a mathematical skill I didn’t possess and a steady hand which I could not provide.   So much for consistency of product!  I knew I better make it taste good, because it was likely going to look amateurish.

So I started out with the King Arthur Flour recipe for the dough.

King Arthur Hand Pies  Recipe Here 

The Pastry (Pop-Tart part)

  • 2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cold sour cream

As with most pie-type doughs, you combine dry ingredients first; then add the butter until thoroughly mixed but big pieces of butter remain.   Then add the sour cream and knead until cohesive.  The directions said this would take some doing but it came together right away for me. Fold a few times (this is detailed in the KA instructions) and chill overnight.

For the filling I read a lot about substituting corn starch for ClearJel but I’m not a big corn starch fan, so after some research I decided on Minute Tapioca.  I have had a LOT of success making quick-pies with it in the past, so I figured I would do the trick. I modified it according to a Cook’s Illustrated recommendation to make sure blueberry pie filling doesn’t get too sweet: add apple and more lemon.

I put my 4 cups of fresh blueberries into a bowl, and added the other ingredients, then waited 15 minutes as instructed.   Then I realized: whoops, you’re supposed to cook it in the pie!  That wasn’t going to work, not only because the pie dough wasn’t going to be ready any time soon but its cooking time (20 minutes) meant it might not be sugary and bubbly when complete.   So, I dumped it in a saucepan and simmered it for 45 minutes.  Bravo!  It was perfect.  I cooled it down and stored it overnight in the fridge.   IT WAS DELICIOUS.  Not too sweet, and not too clumpy.

The Filling (adapted from the Kraft recipe for Blueberry Pie filling)

  • 4 cups  fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup  sugar
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 shredded apple, something sour, like a granny smith or honey crisp.

Assemble ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and after thoroughly mixing, let sit for 15 minutes.  Heat on low for 45 minutes.  Cool down before storing overnight.

Assembly

Unlike pizza dough or bread dough, this dough, filled with artery-blocking sour cream, rolls out fairly easily and stays where you put it.   That’s good because otherwise trying to shape it into a 14 x 14 rectangle (as directed by KA) would be impossible.  As it was, I needed a ruler, which made me feel silly, because all I had was my daughter’s wooden school ruler.  Dusting the counter with flour was a requirement and I did have to re-roll the whole thing a few times to correct for shape, thickness and other problems.  Once I cut out 8 3.5 squares (mas o menos) I was ready to add the filling. I had read of lot from make your own Pop-Tart pioneers about how once they made their creations they were sad with the final product because there wasn’t enough filling.  I made sure that didn’t happen.  I filled them to the edge, which was practically their breaking point, especially given the thin and erratically shaped dough squares I was working with.

Pop Tart, Hand Pies, Dessert Pies, Make Your Own Toaster Pastry

Pop Tarts, Make Your Own: I realize at this point that I may not have the OCD required to be a professional baker

Topping (not the glaze)

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • white sparkling sugar, for garnish

I did apply the egg wash and shimmering sugar because at that point I was in doubt about finding a good glaze.   Ultimately, I glazed over it and it was fine.

I put them in the over at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  They came out beautifully golden, but a few of them ‘bled’ due to improper sealing and forking.   I cooled them on the baking rack while I made the glaze.    The recipe I found, from food.com, was substantially similar to all the other recipes I found about a hardening glaze.   Many of them called for almond extract, which I never use (due to a tragic marzipan incident in my youth) and some called for lemon, which I also avoided.  Ultimately, it has to have a taste so I added a small amount of salt and vanilla. It also has to be ‘drippable’ (read: maybe add more milk) to make it work.  The corn syrup may seize up in your mixer, so be prepared to work fast.

Make Your Own Glaze

This was adapted from: Cookie Icing/Frosting That Hardens Recipe

  • 1.5  cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoon milk (skim or 1% is fine although I have made this successfully using 2% fat milk)
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup (more if needed to reach desired consistency)
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Pop Tart, poptart, frosted toaster pastry, glazed pastry, desserts, baking for kids, robertdeutsch

Finished Pop-Tart aka Frosted Toaster Pastry. I had originally thought I would artistically cover the pastry but I ended up with a Pollack-like dripping.

When I was finished, all I could think of was the “Nailed It” Pinterest meme, where home bakers attempt to make things made by professionals and the results are heartbreakingly hilarious.    Alls well that ends well, though, as these “hand pies” were the hit of the evening— folks were kvelling over them, and ultimately the remains were taken home by the lucky and the salivating, so maybe a not a direct hit on the target, but off by only a few degrees.

 

Update: Strawberry Rhubarb Filling Recipe

  • 2 Cups Strawberries (you can use Winter Strawberries, but they’ll be taste-challenged)
  • 2 Cups Rhubarb, diced small (this is about two or three stalks)
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • zest of an orange (I used a clementine)
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons citrus (I used the clementine, but you could use lemon or orange).

Mix everything (except the citrus) in a bowl and let sit for a minimum of 15 minutes.   Then, transfer to a small pot and slowly bring to a boil, taste and correct with citrus if necessary, and simmer for about 40 minutes at low heat.  Cool before storing.  Best and easiest to work with when completely cool. I use a small ice cream scooper to place the filling.

2nd Update: Size Matters
Of course everybody loves a hot glazed home made pastry!  That is why it is so important to limit their size.  So, I found you can do a little better if you size them 3.5 tall and only 3″ wide.  (Of course you can make them any size you want).  So far, these seem like the right size though with every reduction you have to be mindful that’s less filling you can add.

 

Sweet Potato Crisps

Sweet Potato Crisps Chips Healthy Snack

Amazing, nearly healthy snack that kids will fight over.

My daughter got an assignment to bring a lunch to a trip to Ye Olde Schoolhouse.   One of the conditions of the lunch was that it be carried in authentic containers from the 19th century, like a burlap sack or such.  The other more pertinent condition was that all lunches had to be made from foods that were available back then.  No juice boxes (which is OK since I never give my kids juice; it is liquid candy), no zip lock bags, no single-serving packs of snacks.    Fine, I said.  I’m going to bake a loaf of bread for a sandwich, make ginger bread cookies, and add a piece of fruit.   But what about the crunch?   I felt like I needed to have something to go crunch.   Of all the problems of leading a carb-free or low carb life, having crunchy things is at the top of the list.

So I thought, “Sweet Potato Chips!”  Clearly something they had back in the old days.    I read a lot of food sites about the historical eating habits of 19th century Americans and I must tell you that it was all very upsetting.  Stuff about mutton heads was enough for me to get back to what I had in my kitchen.

I finally found a recipe I liked— at the Minimalist Baker.   Really, all the recipes said the same thing, but that was the best version of it that I found.  There were a lot of recipes out there that advocated adding paprika, parsley, garlic, etc, but I think the sweet potato oil and salt, when crispy, is so good it doesn’t need anything else.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt

 

Directions

As directed, I sliced the sweet potato as thin as I could, which is not to say papery-thin so it couldn’t be held up as a slice, but more like a thin radish slice (only bigger and a lot more orange).  Make sure all slices are covered in oil and salted.

Lay on a baking sheet (I used foil) and bake for 2.5 hours at 250 degrees.   Let sit for about 30 minutes.  The longer it sits after baking the crispier they get.  So don’t worry if they’re not all crispy when you take them out of the oven.

Why I Can’t Go to the Restaurant Supply Store

Spending money on Cook’s tools and packages of food that make Costco sizes look irresponsible is just one part of it.   But of all the things, this item really explains it all.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Huge Bag of Chopped Candies

A five pound bag of chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Something that requires adult supervision. And perhaps an adult to supervise THAT adult.