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  • Homemade PopTarts

    Ready

    One of my guiltiest pleasures from childhood is POP-TARTS. Cherry Pop-Tarts to be exact, even better when they added the frosting to them! Don’t even need them toasted. Just right out of the package, simply inhaled.

    I so related to Paula Poundstone and her thoughts on Pop-Tarts:

    Inside there are three pouches of two. This is what happens to me: I open the first pouch, and I eat one tart, and I enjoy it very much, as naturally I would. And then I feel, Well, I have to eat the second one or it will go stale. Well, now I’ve eaten two, and it’s no longer just a snack, it’s a meal. I figure I may as well eat two more. And then finally I’m just like, Well hell, I don’t just want two pop tarts hangin’ out in a box. I eat the last two just to tidy up, really.

    That’s exactly right! It makes absolute, perfect sense. And that’s pretty much what happened with the 9 that were baked in our house! Sadly, mostly by me … and Lisa … but not the skinny girl, who has ridiculous self control and loves to come into the kitchen to play with me!

    I didn’t frost these. I have no excuses. It may have been sheer exhaustion. But they were really very good. And with a really good helper, very easy to make!

    • 2 C Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    • 1 T sugar
    • 1 t salt
    • 1 C unsalted butter, cut into pats
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 T milk
    • 3/4 C raspberry jam – or flavor of your choice
    • 1 T cornstarch mixed with 1 T cold water

    Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-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. Roll out immediately; or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

    While the dough is resting, make the filling. Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.

    Once the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes.

    Place one piece on a lightly 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″. Laying a 9″ x 13″ pan atop the dough will give you an idea if you’ve rolled it large enough. 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 widthwise; you’ll see nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

    Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough.

    Filling

    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 to press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides.

    Crimping

    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 the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

    Sprinkle the dough trimmings with cinnamon-sugar; these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack. While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, till they’re golden brown.

    Cooling

    Remove the tarts from the fridge, and bake them for 25 to 35 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

    NOTE: Instead of jam you can fill the tarts with a tablespoonful of chocolate chips. Use seedless jam!

    Hard Crunchy Pretzels

    Done 2
    So what’s your favorite snack, I ask? I know my answer already ~ hands down, potato chips. I cannot even trust myself to buy them. On the rare occasion that I do I am either (a) really upset at someone or something or (b) just really, really wanting them! And then I buy the smallest bag I can find and stuff them all in my face at once ~ naturally washing it down with a Diet Coke to negate the calories!
    Not so for the Dear One. Pretzels. Those Hard Sourdough Pretzels are his absolute favorite snacking thing – well, next to Cheez-Its (and I made those again for him recently).
    So here I am in Maine, and bored, and waiting for him to come home and watching flight after flight be cancelled. I know! I’ll make hard pretzels to take to the airport – if he can EVER get on a plane and if it EVER stops snowing!
    Once I, I could hear Ernie shouting – BUY THEM! BUY THEM, YOU TWIT!
    I was a little wary about trying this recipe. Things raising, cutting them into strips, rolling it into long tubes, FORMING pretzel shapes, dropping them into a baking soda bath … YIKES … but once started, the fear washed away … a few sips of wine didn’t hurt … this was pretty easy to do.
    And they tasted great. Definitely to be done again – with a little tweaking.
    • 4 C all-purpose flour
    • 2 t salt
    • 1 t sugar
    • 1 C lukewarm water
    • 2 pkgs active dry yeast
    • 3 T butter
    • Coarse salt for sprinkling

    Soda Bath

    • 1/2 C baking soda
    • 2 quarts water

    Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water.

    Fkour

    Mix flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the flour mixture then add the sugar to the center of the well. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the well. Let it rest for 15 minutes before mixing.

    Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and knead everything to a smooth dough.

    Dough

    NOTE: Use the dough hook for about 6 minutes on speed #2. If it’s too dry add about a tablespoon of additional water so you can gather all the dry ingredients. Remove the dough hook and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

    Rolling

    Cut the dough into twelve equal parts, then roll each piece on the table (don’t flour the surface, you shouldn’t need it) to about 20 inches, tapered toward the ends.

    Knotting

     

    Shape pretzels.

    NOTE: Don’t make it smaller than 20 inches as it’s impossible to get a good shape with a short, thick rope of dough. The dough should not get too warm as you roll it out, or it might tear. The warmer it gets, the harder it is to roll. Also, my ropes were too thick. Made it harder for me to get that crunchy texture I was seeking.

    Place the pretzels without covering them in the fridge for about an hour. This helps build a skin that will absorb the dipping solution better and make a beautiful shiny crust.

    Preheat the oven to 400 F.

    NOTE: Pretzel recipes usually call for a lye solution, but baking soda is a perfectly acceptable and widely used substitute. LYE? Nope, not going there!

    Ready to boil

    Fill large stock or pasta pot 3/4 full and bring the water to a boil. Carefully and slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Add the baking soda a little at a time.

    NOTE: There will be a bubbling up reaction when the baking soda hits the water but it’s just for a moment and then it stops. Stand back a bit just to be safe.

    Boiling

    Using a slotted spoon, gently drop each pretzel into the bath for 10 seconds, then turn over for another

    Score the dough once like for a baguette with a razor blade or sharp knife.

    NOTE: This step may have been part of my mistake. I think scoring it made them softer for a longer period of time so they had to bake for a longer period of time to get the crunch factor. Well, that and my ropes were too thick!

    Ready to bake

    Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake the pretzels for about 15 to 20 minutes (mine took almost 30 minutes for a nice dark crust), depending on how dark you like them.

    NOTE: I ended up baking them a second time because they were too soft in spots. Don’t let them touch when baking, those spots will be soft.

    Done

    Cranberry Juice

    Ready to drink

    I have COLD!

    I have SNOW!

    I have ICE!

    I have freshly picked cranberries in my freezer, thanks to my friend Lisa! So there’s been breads, and cookies, and thrown in with pork and stuffing, and, of course, cranberry sauce. But I want to try something different and this was just the ticket!

    I wanted healthy, virtuous even. It seems a lot of cranberries for not a lot of juice, makes about 1 quart and a half, but if you add vodka … or gin … a healthy squeeze of lime and some seltzer it stretches a long way!

    • 600 g (20 ozs) fresh cranberries (you can use frozen)
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 cup sugar

    Cranberries

    Place the cranberries and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cover loosely. Simmer 10 min. until the cranberries have burst.

    Straining

    Strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth.

    Draning berries

    Resist the urge to press on the fruit to extract more juices.

    Pour the strained juice back into the pot and add sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.

    NOTE: I added the sugar a bit at a time, starting with a 1/2 cup. I didn’t want this to be too sweet.

    Let cool to room temperature before cooling in the fridge.