Mustikkapiirakka Kukkaset aka Blueberry Pie with Flowers

One of the sites I really enjoy on Facebook is called Finnish Cooking & Culture. A few days ago I came across pictures and a recipe for these blueberry tartlets and decided I wanted to make them. I made a few modifications but the recipe was originally posted by Karoliina Reinkainen, truly a Finn. These gave me a couple of challenges, but once I got going I think I mastered flower pies. They are a perfect, two (or three) bite dessert. Most of the Finnish pastries and desserts that I’ve made and/or sampled are not overly sweet which is perfect for me. My husband’s general philosophy with regard to desserts is, the sweeter the better. But he did really like these.

When I was growing up, one of the things we did in the summer as a family was blueberry picking. My father worked for the US Forest Service and, while he was working in the woods, he’d come across these great blueberry patches. Then, on the weekend, we’d pile in the car with our coffee cans or little buckets and we’d go picking. Wild blueberries are much smaller than commercially raised berries so picking would sometimes be pretty tedious. And there were the mosquitos. But the picking had its rewards. When we got home we’d dump all of our containers into a sink full of water to wash them and remove stems and the occasional leaves that got in our coffee cans. Then we would each get a bowl of berries sprinkled with a little sugar and doused in cold milk. And then there were blueberry pies, and the blueberry fruit soup my grandmother would can and serve over her rice pudding. Those are all such good memories, even the picking.

Blueberries are a very tasty and also a very healthy treat. The wild blueberries we picked as kids boast twice the health boosting antioxidants as their commercially cultivated counterparts. Apparently the harsher the environment, the more potent the protection. Anyone who is familiar with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula knows that that environment can be pretty harsh. Eating a cup of blueberries a day is said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15%. They also contain flavonoids that can help fight inflammation. Regardless of the health benefits, they are awful good eating! And now we can all justify the caloric content of these little sweet treats.

Cookie Base Ingredients:

125 grams/4 1/2 oz room temperature butter

1 dl/just under 1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 1/4 cups AP flour

1/4 cup rye flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla

In a medium size mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed, or with a wooden spoon, stir in the flours and baking powder until well combined. Work the dough a bit with our hands and divide into two discs. Wrap in wax paper or Saran Wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the berries and the topping.

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup of blueberries (wild or commercial)

1 T corn starch

Sugar to taste

3 T jam (I used peach)

Gently stir all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Topping Ingredients:

150 grams/5 oz of creme fraiche or sour cream

1 egg

2 T granulated sugar

Vanilla to taste

Lemon zest

In a small bowl whisk all these ingredients together and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375. Lightly grease a miniature muffin tin. Now you’re ready to start rolling out your dough. Remove one of the discs from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface. If you’re having a problem with the consistency work the dough a bit with your hands. Use a cookie cutter with a scalloped edge.

Drape your cutouts over the openings.

Gently press the cookies into the openings taking care not to tear the dough. I tore a few. Just gather than up and re-roll the dough.

Now you are ready to start adding the filling and the topping. My blueberries were good size and I put 3 or 4 in each cup.

Next, add about 2 tsp of the topping, taking care not to over fill them.

Now you’re ready to put them in the oven. I baked mine on the center rack for 14 minutes. Oven temperatures vary so check on them toward the end of the baking time. Once they are done cool them in the pan on a wire rack.

Once they are completely cooled you are ready to serve up and enjoy.

This recipe made about 34 tartlets.

NOTE: Take care not to overfill. You will notice I did that on a few tartlets. I also learned that it is much easier to remove them after they are completely cooled. I just ran an offset spatula around the edges.

I loved the little hint of rye in the cookie base but you can use all AP flour if you prefer. There is really no end to the variations on this treat. You could use whatever you have on hand; apple, raspberry, blackberry. You could also add a little seasoning to the base like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom.

Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

I haven’t blogged any recipes in awhile, but it’s not because I’m not cooking. I’ve tried some new things, taken all the photos, made my notes, and the finished products were not worthy of blogging or ever even making again. I subscribe to a few food magazines. I tear out the pages with recipes that appeal to me and put them in spiral binders. I have a LOT of recipes in those binders. When I’m tired of cooking the same old things I get a binder out and go in search of something new. One such recipe I pulled out recently was for chicken and spinach calzones. Those took me an entire Sunday afternoon, came out of the oven looking beautiful, and they tasted awful! Last night I tried a new recipe for a Middle Eastern Chicken and Chickpea Stew. That recipe will not be going back into the binder. Maybe if I fussed with them and made modifications the second time around they would be good, but there are so many options out there I can always find something new. Failed dinners are so sad.

Last spring when the pandemic first began I, like so many other people, started making more homemade breads. When we couldn’t find yeast we made sour dough. Making bread, when it’s successful, is such a satisfying pursuit. And the smell of bread baking is one of the best aromas. There’s nothing like a cup of coffee and a slice of warm bread with butter melting on it, or a glass of wine and a slice of good crusty bread with a piece of cheese. Last spring my friend Jane and I experimented with a lot of bread recipes. Some were more successful than others. Each one was a learning experience. We all now have more bread making tools. We have lames and proofing bowls and baking steels and cloches.

While looking through one of my binders, the one with bread and breakfast recipes, I came across this recipe for the Japanese Milk Bread Rolls. It’s a King Arthur recipe. I love their products and I’ve had decent success with most of their bread and other recipes. My daughter had just sent me pictures on Sunday of these beautiful Japanese pancakes she had made. They were very light and puffy looking, kind of like a soufflé. So when I came across this recipe I found it intriguing and decided to give it a try. The flour to yeast ratio is different as is the addition of the ”tangzhong.” Tangzhong is cooking a portion of the raw flour with liquid until the starches in the flour gelatinize. The purpose of this technique is to produce a soft, fluffy bread. The rolls are very good and they remind me a little of potato rolls.

Ingredients:

Tangzhong (starter)

3 T water

3 T whole milk

2 T Bread Flour

Dough:

2 1/2 cups Bread Flour

2 T nonfat dry milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 T instant yeast

1/2 cup whole milk

1 large egg

4 T unsalted butter, melted

First we make the tangzhong. Measure out the milk, water, and flour and whisk together in a small saucepan until no lumps remain.

Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan, about 3-5 minutes.

Transfer to a small bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Once the tangzhong has cooled to room temperature combine it with all of the remaining dough ingredients. Mix and knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest in a lightly greased bowl for 60-90 minutes. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel.

Dough will get puffy but won’t necessarily double in bulk. Gently deflate the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place in a lightly greased 8” or 9” round cake pan. Cover the pan with a towel and let the rolls rest for 40-50 minutes, until puffy. While the rolls are resting preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush the rolls with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 T cold water).

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown on top and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the middle roll reads at least 190 F. Remove the rolls from the oven and allow them to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Enjoy these with dinner or for a midnight snack with a slice of cheese and cold meat.

NOTE: I think these would hold up well as slider buns.

The recipe is actually very easy as yeast breads go. But you always need to be attentive to the process. I threw the first batch of dough away after forgetting to add the melted butter. I can assure you, once all of the other ingredients have been incorporated, 4 T of melted butter cannot be worked in.

Christmas Cinnamon Bun aka Joulu Korvapuusti aka Star Bun

I belong to a Facebook group called Finnish Cooking, and there were so many people posting pictures of this beautiful bread during the holidays, I felt compelled to try making it myself. I found a recipe on the site, however the recipe was written in Finnish. My first challenge. My Finnish vocabulary is limited . I know that muna is egg, voita is butter, and maito is milk. Much beyond that and I am guessing, a particularly bad idea when you’re baking. I have a friend that figured out how to get a copy of the recipe translated to English which was extremely helpful. The remaining challenges were measurements and my daughter helped me with the conversions. The first time I made this I think that a few things were lost in the translations and the bread over baked and was dry. Today I reviewed the recipe and compared it to my pulla recipe and my cinnamon roll recipe and made some modifications going in. The dough felt much better and the end result was much more eye appealing. And best of all, the bread is moist and tastes wonderful, especially fresh out of the oven.

This bread has the distinct taste and aroma of cardamom. There is cardamom in the dough and in the filling. While it was in the oven, the aroma was reminiscent of my grandmother’s kitchen when she was baking her cardamom bread. We all loved that bread. It made wonderful toast or French toast and was great dunked in your coffee with a good smear of butter. It just evokes the best memories.

The ingredients listed below reflect my modification of the original recipe.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast

4 T sugar

4 T melted butter

3/4 cup whole milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

4 cups flour

Combine the milk and buttermilk and warm to hand temperature. In a large mixing bowl combine yeast, melted butter, sugar, salt, egg, warm milk and cardamom along with 1 cup flour beating for a minute or two. Continue stirring, adding 1/2 cup of flour at a time. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead until you have a soft smooth dough. About 8-10 minutes. If necessary add a little additional flour. You can also do this in a stand mixer using a dough hook, but I like kneading dough by hand. Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl covered with a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until it is double in size, 1 hour or so depending on how warm your kitchen is.

I like to use my grandmother’s bread bowls because I believe there is still some of her magic in those bowls. While your bread is rising you can make your filling. The original recipe called for hazelnuts but I used pecans. Pecans are one of my favorites for baking and hazelnuts are sometimes difficult to find.

Filling Ingredients:

5 T melted butter

3 oz sugar

1 T gingerbread seasoning

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

3.5 oz ground pecans

Combine all of the filling ingredients and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Once the dough has risen punch it down, and dump it onto your baking mat. Divide the dough into four equal parts. I weighed mine and tried to keep the discs equal in size. Roll out your first disc of dough into about a 9-10 inch circle. Put the dough on the prepared baking pan and spread 1/3 of the filling on it.

Continue rolling, stacking, and spreading the filling until you have used all of the dough. Place a circular mold of some kind on the top center of the circle. Using a sharp knife cut into 4 quarters and cut each quarter into 3 wedges taking care not to cut past the mold in the center.

You should have a total of 16 cuts. Taking 2 claws at a time twist them outward 2 or 3 turns and pinch and bottom edges together. Repeat all the way around.

Cover the bread with your kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 20-30 minutes. Brush the bread with an egg wash and sprinkle a few chopped nuts in the center. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. The bread tears easily into individual servings. Enjoy!!

NOTE: I did not have gingerbread spice so I had to make my own. 2 T allspice, 2 T cinnamon, 2 T ginger, 1 T cloves, 1 T nutmeg, and a pinch of fresh ground black pepper.

The first time I made this I over-baked it. Each oven is different, but be careful not to leave it in too long.

Note to self, I need to brush up on my Finnish.

Winter Vegetable Gratin

In my constant search for new things to cook, I found this recipe online at Kroger.com. I was attracted by the photo which looked just beautiful. It’s the perfect time of the year for preparing true comfort foods, and gratins are certainly one of those dishes. This is also a great example of how to take essentially healthy, simple vegetables and turn them into something rich and decadent. I had more than my normal mess in the kitchen while I was preparing this. All the peeling and slicing, the many separate bowls, and my hands in the cream and cheese tossing the vegetables. The end result was worth the mess and my kitchen smelled absolutely wonderful as it was cooking. I served this as a side with a pork loin, but this would be a perfect dish to serve as a vegetarian entree.

Ingredients:

1 pound of parsnips peeled

1 pound of butternut squash (neck only) peeled

1 pound of Yukon gold potatoes scrubbed (I only had russets)

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts stemmed

2 1/2 cups of heavy cream

6 oz of finely grated parmesan cheese

4 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 T butter

2 cloves of garlic (I used more)

1 large leek, white part only, finely chopped

3 oz gruyere cheese, finely grated

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Using the butter, generously grease a 9×13 baking dish. A mandolin is very helpful for making this dish. Thinly slice the parsnips, squash, potatoes and Brussel sprouts. Put each vegetable in a separate bowl.

Add one half cup of cream, 1 oz of shredded parmesan, 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to each bowl.

Toss until the vegetables are all coated.

In your prepared baking dish, pour the remaining 1/2 cup of cream. Add in your chopped leeks and garlic along with one oz parmesan cheese and stir until evenly distributed.

Now it’s time to arrange your sliced vegetables, alternating rows. Continue until the dish is full. Pour any remaining cream and cheese from the bowls over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remaining one oz of parmesan cheese.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender and sauce is thickened. Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle with the gruyere cheese. Turn your oven on to broil. Broil for 3-5 minutes until browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow the gratin to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

This was seriously so good.

NOTE: Feel free to change up the vegetables. Rutabaga, sweet potato, turnips, cabbage. Just be sure that they are equal thickness and cook up at the same rate. You can also change up the cheeses. I actually used equal parts of shredded parmesan and shredded asiago.

Roasted Vegetable and Cheese Crepes

Since we are all pretty much exclusively eating at home, every day is a challenge to think of something different to prepare for dinner. Just one more challenge wrought by this pandemic. A couple nights ago I made a big pot of tomato bisque. Since there are only two of us, this soup recipe results in a lot of leftovers. Some went in the freezer, some were shared with a friend, and I used some for the sauce on these crepes. One of the great things about these crepes is you can use almost any kind of vegetables you have on hand and whatever kinds of cheeses you have on hand. It’s also a perfect vegetarian meal that is very flavorful and satisfying. I have a favorite crepe batter recipe that I use for savory crepes. And I will share the cheese concoction.

Vegetables first. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and prepare your vegetables. I used Brussels sprouts, sweet peppers, onion, mushrooms, baby heirloom tomatoes and spinach. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and spread the vegetables out. Roast in the oven until veggies are tender, approximately 30-40 minutes, depending on the vegetable combination you use. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool before putting your crepes together.

Crepe Batter Ingredients:

1 cup AP flour

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

Dash of salt and pepper

3 T melted butter plus more for frying the crepes

Whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup of milk, and eggs. Whisk in the rest of the milk and salt and pepper. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes. Just prior to frying up the crepes whisk in 3 T of melted butter. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat and brush with melted butter. Pour in 1/4 cup of batter and swirl to cover the entire surface.

Flip the crepe to cook the other side.

I slide mine onto a platter and separate with sheets of wax paper. Repeat this process until you’ve used all of the batter. This recipe makes about 12 crepes.

Now you can mix your cheeses of choice.

Cheese Combination:

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1/2 tsp salt

Fresh basil

Whip together to get a nice, smooth consistency for spreading. Now you’re ready to assemble your crepes. Preheat the oven to 350 and line the pan you used to roast the vegetables with a fresh piece of parchment paper. Working with one crepe at a time, give it a good smear of cheese down the center.

Add the grilled veggies on top of the cheese.

Roll the crepe and transfer to the baking sheet. Continue until you have used all of the cheese and veggies. Sprinkle a little additional shredded cheese on top and bake for about 20 minutes.

Serve as is or with a sauce of your choosing. The tomato bisque is perfect.

Soup one day. Sauce the next.

NOTE:. While any combination of cheeses will work it’s helpful to have a creamy cheese like goat cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, mascarpone, or ricotta to get a spreadable consistency.

A hollandaise, Alfredo, or simple marinara would be great sauces as well.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars

This is a recipe I’ve had for years, and I have no idea where it came from. If you love oatmeal raisin cookies you will love these bars. They are SO good! You can even convince yourself that they’re the perfect morning coffee accompaniment because they contain oats (high in fiber and good for your cholesterol) and raisins (good for strong and healthy bones and relieve constipation).

Filling Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup of raisins

1 1/2 cup of sugar

3 T AP flour

1 1/2 cup of water

Crust Ingredients:

2 cups AP flour

2 cups oatmeal

1 cup of melted butter

1 cup of brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking soda

Start by making your filling. In a heavy saucepan whisk together the sugar and the flour. Add the raisins and water and cook over medium high heat until the mixture comes to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to simmer until the mixture thickens.

Remove from the heat and allow the filling to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and begin making the crust. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda.

Add the melted butter and vanilla and stir until the ingredients are all combined.

Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on either side. The parchment paper allows the bars to easily be lifted from the pan making cutting and cleanup much easier. Spread 2/3 of the oatmeal mixture in the pan and press to form the base.

Pour the filling over the base.

Top with the remaining oat mixture.

Bake for 35 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove and allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Once it has cooled completely, using the parchment overhang, lift from the pan, cut into bars, and enjoy.

NOTE: I have made this with dates before, substituting 1 1/2 cups of chopped dates for the raisins. And, while I’ve never tried this before, dried cherries might also be a great substitute for the raisins.

French Baguettes

When you love to cook and bake, and you get a new piece of equipment, you need to use it as soon as it arrives. I just received my Emile Henry Baguette baker. It’s just beautiful. A bright burgundy color.

The baker came with a little instruction booklet and a few recipes. When this pandemic first began last March my friend Jane and my daughter and son-in-law were in a bread making frenzie. A bit of competition as well. We shared bread pictures with each other. Jane and I never won the most beautiful loaf competition but we sure had fun trying. A few times a week we were making loaves of bread. When yeast was hard to find we made sour dough. And we bought equipment for that. A lame (an implement that holds a razor blade and is used to make the deep slashes in the bread dough), a bread cloche, and proofing baskets. We even ordered a 50 pound bag of King Arthur flour and a 25 pound bag of stone ground rye flour. We all took a time out over the Summer months but Fall is here and Winter will be soon. And we will be, once again, sheltering at home and baking bread. The baguettes are the simplest bread of all. My instruction/recipe book had a recipe for baguettes stuffed with caramelized onion and goat cheese and topped with a litttle rosemary, cheddar cheese, and honey. That was the first recipe I tried.

Ingredients:

1 large onion peeled and chopped

4 T olive oil

9 oz (2 cups) of AP flour

1 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp active dry yeast

5 oz warm water, 100 degrees F

7 oz fresh goat cheese crumbled

1 tsp rosemary (I used fresh)

1 oz grated cheddar cheese

3 T honey

Heat 2 T of the olive oil in a heavy skillet and cook the onion over medium heat until it is tender and golden, stirring occasionally. My onions were small so I used two of them. Set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl. One of the things that I’ve learned during all of this bread making is to weigh my flour. Whisk the dry ingredients together and stir in 5 oz of warm water and the other 2 T of olive oil.

Using a wooden spoon combine the ingredients, turn them out onto a clean surface, and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to rise for about 30 minutes at room temperature away from drafts.

Once you’ve allowed the dough to rise, knead it to remove any air bubbles and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangle about the size of your hand and, using a rolling pin, roll it out into about a 13”x4” rectangle. Spread a third of the caramelized onions and sprinkle some goat cheese onto the dough.

Fold one side over to cover two thirds of the dough and then fold the other side over to form a cylinder. Put the dough into the generously floured bread baker, seam side down. Repeat two more times. Cover with the lid and allow to rise for 20 minutes. While the bread is rising preheat your oven to 475 degrees.

After the second rise, brush the loaves with a little water and score the dough in several places deep enough to reach the onions. Sprinkle the loaves with the chopped rosemary and the cheddar cheese.

Cover the pan with the lid and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and let the loaves brown for 2-4 more minutes. Remove from the oven and pour honey into the cuts in the loaves. Allow them to cool in the pan.

Slice and serve. We enjoyed a piece with our evening cocktail while it was still warm from the oven.

NOTE. These loaves could actually be stuffed with any variety of things. Different kinds of cheeses, olives (another suggestion in the recipe book), herbs, or crispy bacon bits. If you don’t have a baguette baker I think these would bake up nicely on a baking stone with a piece of foil tented over the loaves.

I made another batch of just plain baguettes today. I’ll combine some herbs and olive oil for dipping and we will enjoy these with our dinner tonight.

Chicken and Wild Rice

Last week when I was grocery shopping at Aldi I saw boxes of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice on an end cap. I was reminded of a chicken and rice dish I made years and years ago and I picked up two boxes of the rice and a can each of cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup. I rarely buy canned soups anymore tending to make more recipes from scratch. Probably because I have more time now and because I love to experiment with new recipes. But we all have old favorite recipes that we’ve hung onto for years and many use creamed soups. If you look on line you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes with cream soups. I did a little research and found out that a chemist for Campbell’s Soup invented condensed soup in 1897. Campbells began producing cream of mushroom soup in 1934. That surprised me a little. I thought it was more recent than that. When my mother passed and my dad was cooking for himself I gave him my mom’s recipe for crockpot roast beef. A chuck roast, an envelop of dried French Onion soup and a can of cream of mushroom soup cooked on low all day. He loved it. The meat was tender and you had a nice gravy. A perfect example of what a creamed soup can do.

This recipe is similar in that it requires only four ingredients and in 90 minutes you have dinner. These are the ultimate comfort food recipes.

Ingredients:

8 oz of bacon

1 package of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice

4 chicken breasts (or leg and thigh pieces if you prefer)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a 9×13 casserole dish with bacon.

Sprinkle the rice and the seasoning packet over the bacon.

Whisk together the two cans of soup along with a half of can of water and pour half of the soup mixture over the rice.

Add the chicken and cover with the second half of the soup mixture.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes. While the casserole continues to bake prepare a vegetable and/or a salad to serve with the chicken and rice.

Plate and enjoy.

I served ours with broccoli and cranberry sauce. Because, if it’s chicken or turkey, there has to be cranberry sauce.

NOTE: I used boneless, skinless chicken but the original recipe called for bone in, skin on pieces of chicken. Use whatever chicken parts your prefer and whatever you have on hand. Almost any vegetable would be a good side dish including squash, green beans, or asparagus. I’ve never tried it, but this recipe might also work well with pork chops.

You may be inspired to get out some of your old tried and true recipes that call for creamed soups as we are all staying home during this pandemic. You’ll find them to be great comfort foods, especially during the winter months.

Pasties

I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where pasties are a staple. Once you cross the Mackinaw Bridge from the lower to the upper you start to see signs for restaurants and little shops featuring pasties. In 1968, then Governor George Romney, designated May 24 National Pasty Day in Michigan. The pasty first arrived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1840s when tin miners from Cornwall immigrated to help develop the mines. The pasty is a complete and hearty meal in itself and can be eaten without plates and cutlery, making it a perfect supper for miners. If the pasty was no longer warm they would heat them by putting them on a shovel and holding the shovel over a heat lamp candle.

The pasties I grew up with are made of ground beef, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, and onion and seasoned only with salt and pepper. The vegetables are all diced rather than sliced. The vegetables and meat are wrapped in a crust. A pot pie without a pot. If you’re a Yooper, you use catsup on your pasty. If you request gravy you’ll quickly be identified as a tourist. In mi-August of each year there is a pasty festival in Calumet complete with a beer tent and lots of pasty vendors offering samples. The Finns consider pasties as part of their ethnic cuisine and you will see them featured at Michigan’s Finnish Festivals.

The largest pasty on record was made in 2010 and weighed in at 1,900 pounds. I’m not sure now they rolled that crust out or where they found an oven large enough to bake it! As I started working on my pasties yesterday I had come across a recipe that I had saved for an unusual crust. I was a little skeptical but I thought I’d give it a try and I was very happy that I did. The dough came together easily and was great to work with. The recipe for the crust and the filling make a dozen pasties so keep that in mind.

Crust Ingredients:

2 cups of shortening

2 cups of boiling water

6 cups of AP flour

1 T salt

Measure out the shortening into a large mixing bowl and add the boiling water.

Whisk together until all of the shortening is melted.

Stir in the flour and salt with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a plate, cover with Saran Wrap, and refrigerate. Now you’re ready to start chopping your vegetables.

Filling Ingredients:

2 pounds of ground beef

1 pound of ground pork

9 cups of diced potatoes

3 cups of diced rutabaga

2 cups of diced carrots

4 cups of diced onion

Salt and Pepper

Peel the veggies and cut them into a very small dice, taking care to keep them fairly similar in size so they cook evenly. Combine all of the veggies in a large stainless steel bowl.

Add the ground meat, season well with salt and fresh ground pepper, and get your hands in there and mix all of the ingredients well. This will help to keep your ratio of meat and vegetables similar in each pasty.

Now you’re ready to take your dough out of the refrigerator and start rolling out the crusts. Divide the dough into a dozen even pieces. If you’re leery about eyeballing it weigh the dough on a food scale and do your math. Take one of the dough balls and, on a generously floured surface, roll it out into an 8 inch circle.

Once you’ve rolled out the dough put a cup and a half of the filling onto the dough.

With your fingers or a pastry brush moisten the edges of your dough for a good seal. Fold the dough over and crimp the edges. Cut a hole or two on top to vent the pasty while baking and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Once you have a sheet full of pasties bake them in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Serve them piping hot or, if you’re going to freeze them, allow them to cool completely and wrap them in aluminum foil. Enjoy!

When I would make something for my Dad, like a pair of mittens or homemade cinnamon rolls, he would pay me the highest compliment by saying, “This is just like store bought.” Last night when my husband ate his pasty he said, “These are better than the ones we get from the store in the UP”. So I guess I’ve moved up in the compliment department because the ones we get at the store in the UP are pretty darn good!

NOTE: I use Brooks Tangy Catsup exclusively and it’s really good on pasties. You’re welcome to use gravy if you don’t mind being mistaken for a tourist.

Pasties freeze very well and are great to pull out for a meal when you’re short on time.

As always, a recipe is just a guide. Make whatever adjustments you’d like based on your personal preferences in terms of seasoning, vegetable proportions, and type of meat.

White Acorn Squash

My friend and I stopped at a farm market and saw these interesting white acorn squash. I’ve never had them the clerk said, but they say they taste just like mashed potatoes. Always game to try something new I bought two of them. My husband doesn’t really care for squash, so I thought, if it tastes like mashed potatoes, he’ll like it. I cut them in half, removed the seeds, and baked them in a casserole dish with an inch or so of water until they were tender. I scooped the squash out of the shell and it was tender and creamy.

Then I tasted it. It tasted like nothing. It actually tasted worse than nothing. Potatoes taste like potatoes. This tasted like nothing. So I texted my daughter and one of her friends for recommendations on what to do with this squash to give it some taste. My daughter suggested stuffing it with wild rice and sausage which would have been good except I was serving it with a pork loin. Her friend John suggested butter and sage. I googled white acorn squash and they suggested apple, honey, robust cheeses, bacon, or fresh herbs. Obviously things that actually have flavor. I decided to caramelize onion in butter and sage.

The onions were sweet and melt in your mouth tasty. I stirred those in to the squash along with some fresh grated parmesan cheese. And more butter. It still did not taste good! I should have just served onions caramelized in sage butter with parmesan cheese as a side.

Lesson learned. I will never buy white acorn squash again. If I want something that tastes like potatoes, I’ll buy potatoes. But if you still want to try white acorn squash, don’t say I didn’t warn you.