Saturday, July 25, 2015

Homemade Toaster Pastry

Breakfast is my favorite meal. Weekdays I usually have a simple bowl of cereal, or toast, or if I've got a few extra minutes, a smoothie. So when I saw this recipe for toaster pastries, I had to check it out. Feels like a weekend indulgence on a weekday.

I had some blueberry preserves tthat I used for the filling. Feel free to use your favorite jam flavor. I made the crust with all-purpose flour. Next time I'll mix in some whole wheat. I also added a drizzle of powdered sugar icing.

These are tasty without reheating, but even better crisped in the toaster or toaster oven. Avoid the microwave to prevent a soft moist crust.

Resist the urge to add liquid to the crust. Press to combine. It will come together!

Divide dough in half and press into two 3'x5' rectangles.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out hone piece of dough, section into nine equal pieces and brush
with egg wash. Place 1 Tbsp filling in the center of each rectangle.

Roll out second piece of dough and place on top. Seal and crimp. Separate pastries and bake.

Let cool. Add a drizzle of icing, if you prefer.

These are great just out of the oven or toasted the next day.

Flaky layers with a tasty filling.

Toaster Pastries
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 9 pastries
3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp cold water
Place jam in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Add to jam, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 Tbsp milk

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk
To make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pea-sized lumps of butter still visible. Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive.
Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a rough 3" x 5" rectangle, smoothing the edges. Wrap in plastic or waxed paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes; this will relax the gluten and firm up the dough a bit, making it easier to roll. You can also refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days; let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature before you roll it out.
To assemble the tarts: Place one piece of the dough on a generously floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8" thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9" x 12". Trim off the edges; place the scraps on a baking sheet, and set them aside, along with the 9" x 12" rectangle of dough.
Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first. Press the edge of a ruler into the dough you've just rolled, to gently score it in thirds lengthwise and width-wise; you'll see nine 3" x 4" rectangles.
Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using your fingertips press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides.
Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Cut the dough evenly in between the filling mounds to make nine tarts. Press the cut edges with your fingers to seal, then press with a fork to seal again.
Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.
Remove tarts from the fridge, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until they're a light golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the pan. Drizzle with glaze.
Glaze: Combine powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled pastries.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dilly Beans

I like having ready made side dishes to help make meal prep easy. As with applesauce, pickled beets, and salsa, these dill beans make a great side to sandwiches. We can throw burgers on the grill and enjoy a homemade dinner in about 15 minutes. The zippy beans are more substantial than a cucumber pickle and stay crisper in the brine. I've heard of people adding them to a relish tray, used as a swizzle stick for a Bloody Mary, or enjoying a whole jar in a single sitting.

Dilly beans are traditionally made with green beans. But since we grow both wax and yellow, I used both. The garlic and cayenne punch up the flavor. After making, let sit on the shelf for at least a week before eating.

Remove ends from beans and place in jar lengthwise.

Add fresh dill or dill seed, cayenne and garlic clove.

Combine brine ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes and pour over
beans in jars. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Allow jars to sit at least one week before consuming.

Dilly Beans
from The Ball Blue Book
makes 4 pints

2 lbs green or wax beans
1/4 cup canning salt
2 1/2 cups vinegar, 5% acidity
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp cayenne, divided
4 cloves garlic
4 heads fresh dill or 1/4 cup dill seed

Wash & trim beans. Peel garlic. Combine salt, vinegar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Pack beans lengthwise into jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 clove of garlic, 1 head of dill or 2 tsp dill seed. Ladle hot pickling liquid over beans leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids. Place in a boiling water bath. When water starts to boil, process pints and quarts 10 minutes. Remove from canner, cool 12  hours. Remove rings, wipe jars and store. Consume within 1 year.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Container Flower Gardens

I planted more flower containers this year than ever: a total of four. With a big vegetable garden, I tend not to focus on ornamentals. In fact, our front flower beds are for the most part, on their own after a good spring cleaning. But a couple years ago I noticed a few planters at my garden center - full containers with height, cascade and color. And I was inspired.

I sometimes use spikes for a center focal point, but I think tall flowers, like canna and calla lilies, are more interesting.  As you can see from the photos, some of the callas worked better than others. Because I'm in zone 6A, I'll pull out the bulbs, store inside and reuse next summer.

With all the rain we've had this year, our containers are a bright spot. They're managing the weather much better than the veg plots!

This garden is planted in my grandmother's old canner.
Love those spiral doo-dads (can't recall the name) to the back right.
The bright orange mini canna is just getting ready to bloom.
The rain caused some of the petunia foliage to yellow. I really like the dark callas.

If I lived in a warmer clime, I'd add them to the landscape.

The rain has caused a bug explosion, causing damage to the sweet potato vines. 

These lillies didn't grow as tall. Hoping for a better showing next year.

Tall lillies! Love the colors in this arrangement.

So exotic!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Blueberry Hand Pies

If you've read my blogs, you probably know I'm a big fan if pie. So when I saw these cute little hand pies, I had to try them. I like the idea of being able to eat pie with one hand and no utensils. I mean, portable pie?? Yes, please!

The crust is similar to a blitz puff pastry. Less work and faster than puff pastry, it makes a super flaky multi-layer crust that crackles when you bite into the pie. Blueberries are in season,  so I used them in the filling. I look forward to trying other fillings like raspberry, sour cherry and blackberry.

This would make a fun Supper Club or picnic dessert, or a great breakfast pastry. The pies are best eaten the day they're made, as the crust loses flakiness as it sits. However, they could be refreshed with a quick heat in a toaster oven. I wasn't able to test the theory as we ate them all in a day. Stop judging me.

Make the crust by cutting fat into flour mixture and adding sour cream. Resist the urge
to add additional liquid. A minute of kneading and this dough will come together. Believe!

Same dough, rolled out and folded. Chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

We bought a bucket of blueberries from a local grower. A few will be used
fresh in recipes. The rest will be frozen to enjoy throughout the year.

Make the filling and allow to cool to room temp.

Roll the dough to a 14"x14" square. Cut into 16 squares, 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" each.
Cut a vent in half the squares (I used the large end of a piping tip).

Spread about 1 Tbsp filling onto the bottom crust to within 1/2 inch
 of the edge. Brush edge with beaten egg. Adjust top crust and seal
with the times of a fork

Brush pies with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and bake.

Flaky, sweet and totable!! It's my new favorite way to enjoy pie!

Blueberry Hand Pies
From King Arthur Flour

2 cups 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

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp Instant ClearJel or 1 Tbsp corn starch
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 large egg, beaten
white sparkling sugar, for garnish

Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter, working it in to make a coarse/crumbly mixture. Leave most of the butter in large, pea-sized pieces. Stir in the sour cream; the dough won't be cohesive. Turn it out onto a floured work surface, and bring it together with a few quick kneads.

Pat the dough into a rough log, and roll it into an 8" x 10" rectangle. Dust both sides of the dough with flour, and starting with a shorter end, fold it in three like a business letter. Flip the dough over, give it a 90° turn on your work surface, and roll it again into an 8" x 10" rectangle. Fold it in three again. Wrap the dough, and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

Make the filling: Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan set over medium heat. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked berries to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425°F; place a rack on the middle shelf. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Assemble pies: Roll the dough into a 14" x 14" square. With a straight edge and pastry wheel, or a 3 1/2" square cutter, cut out sixteen 3 1/2" squares.  Divide the filling among eight of the squares, using about a heaping tablespoon for each. Brush some of the beaten egg along the edges of each filled square. Cut a vent into the each of the remaining eight squares, using a decorative cutter of your choice. Top each filled square with a vented square, and press along the edges with the tines of a fork or a pie crust crimper to seal.

Brush the top of each pie with the remaining beaten egg, and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Transfer the pies to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the pies for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 hand pies.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sweet Pickle Relish

Despite our overly wet summer, the pickles are producing well. The chief gardener planted the seeds in hills which has helped keep the roots out of standing water. We've made dill chips and still have plenty left for bread & butters and relish.

We make a couple relish varieties. This recipe is a great coney topper or a sweet, crunchy addition to egg and potato salads. It comes together fast (after the veg soak) and incorporates other garden vegetables that ripen alongside the cucumbers.

Chop the vegetables and soak in a salt solution for two hours.

Make the brine by combining vinegar, sugar and spices. Heat to dissolve sugar.

Combine the drained, rinsed vegetables and brine. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Pack into jars, process 10  minutes. Cool, remove bands and store for up to one year.

Sweet Pickle Relish
From Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

1 quart chopped cucumbers
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup canning salt
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp celery seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
2 cups cider vinegar

Combine chopped cucumbers, onions, green and red pepper with salt. Pour cold water over vegetables just to cover. Let stand 2 hours. Drain and rinse vegetables.

Combine sugar, spices and vinegar in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes. Pack hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids.

Lower jars into simmering water. Make sure water covers jars by 1 inch. Bring water to a rolling boil. Process half-pint jars 10 minutes. Remove from canner. Cool 12 hours. Remove bands, wipe jars and store for up to one year.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dill Pickle Chips

We make several varieties of pickles and relishes, but my favorite for burgers are dill chips. We've started using the mandoline to slice - I prefer the crinkle cut. I like both the texture and the appearance. I've also used the food processor (also the crinkle cut blade), an old Salad Shooter (that's right, I still have a Salad Shooter) and used a knife to make extra thick slices (perfect for a pickle plate). If you prefer, you could leave cucumbers whole, or slice lengthwise into spears.

These are briny, dilly pickles that pair well with rich foods like cheeses and roasted meats. We grow lots of dill, so I prefer to use the fresh herb. Feel free to substitute dried dillseed. You can also use the brine recipe to make refrigerator pickles. They won't be shelf stable, but they come together fast and offer a crisper texture - just be sure to store in the fridge.

Despite all the rain, we're having a good pickle season.
The raised hills helped keep the roots out of the standing water.

Cucumbers from the same plant ripen at different times. This is a typical haul.

I like using a mandoline to slice. In addition to the crinkle cut I have lots of thickness options.

Place herb and cucumbers in jar and pour hot brine over.
I like adding dill to the top and bottom of the jar.
Allow the finished product to sit for one week before consuming to allow flavors to fully develop.

Dill Pickles
Makes 7 quarts:
5-6 lbs 4-inch pickling cucumbers, sliced or whole
14 heads fresh dill or 1 cup dried dill seed
4 cloves garlic, slightly smashed
3 quarts plus 1 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups white vinegar
6 Tbsp pickling salt

Make brine: Combine water, vinegar, salt and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, pack cucumbers loosely into quart jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add dill.

Pour hot brine over cucumbers, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace (steeped garlic cloves can be added to the jars, if you prefer). Wipe rims and adjust two piece lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let pickles stand one week before opening.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Minneapolis & Duluth Trip

This was our first trip to Minnesota and we had a great time exploring it's history and nature and even squeezed in a performance of the broadway show Once. Here's a few of our favorite sights:

The city is building a new professional football stadium.
Upon completion it will resemble a viking ship.

A beautiful community garden tucked into a tiny plot near our hotel downtown.

Minneapolis used to be a flour capital with both Gold Medal and Pillsbury mills on the river.
This mill burned in a fire in 1991. It's now a historical site and museum. The ruins are really
 interesting - a really unique historical museum. (But I like flour).

Inside the mill museum, the hub pretends to load the flour onto the rail car.
Flour sacks weighed 107 lbs and were all loaded manually. (This bag was a bit lighter).

Minneapolis has a crazy spectacular city hall. The hub (a geologist) was impressed!

The former flour exchange building. The stock market of flour!
The Pillsbury Mill A just ended production a few years
ago and is being converted into living space.

View of St. Anthony Falls. The old train tracks are now a foot
bridge over the Mississippi River. Very cool waterfront!

One of my faves from the Sculpture Garden. What does it mean?

Visited a train museum in Duluth. This is one of the biggest engines ever
built which was designed to move iron ore. The picture
doesn't do the size justice. See the tiny man for scale.

Split Rock lighthouse in Duluth was built after ships crashed along the
North Shore. The wreckage of several ships remain underwater nearby.

Welcome! I'm the keeper of the lighthouse!