Saturday, April 23, 2011


On one of our new (salad size) plates, thanks Aunt Vicki!

Pop-tarts are one of those things that I used to eat as a kid that, for whatever reason, my mother didn't let my younger brothers eat because they "aren't good for you". I am not about to argue with that statement, I stopped eating them myself after reading the nutritional info on a package once. I suspect she didn't let them eat poptarts because they always chose the chocolatey- s'more flavored ones, or anything that didn't even hint at fruit fillings. When I saw a recipe for homemade pop-tarts I got really excited, these have to be at least healthier due to the lack of preservatives and the fact that I get to choose what gets put inside, right? 

Making these was fairly easy, it is a nice cool day (read: rainy and chilly, ugh April in Wisconsin) so the dough was really easy to work with. The biggest issue I had was moving the tarts from the counter, where I had rolled them out, filled and topped them, to the baking sheet. If you push down on those edges hard, you end up sticking the tart to the counter even more. I was also a little surprised at the small size of these. I am not a pro at cutting things perfectly evenly, so I had some that came out fairly regularly sized, and some that were tiny. But none of them were comparable in size to the pop-tarts you buy in the store. Not a problem, just not what I was expecting. 

This was also one of my biggest forays into the kitchen since I've started working full (and then some) time again. It was good to start with something so simple and easy, I didn't have to re-check the recipe a million times, and once I got started it was nice to just let my instincts take over. Additionally, I got to break out a bunch of new cooking tools. Dave's mom threw me a bridal shower last weekend and we got so many nice things! It was nice to use a substantial mixing bowl (rather than the plastic ones I've been using up to now.) We are also loving our new dishes! We are so lucky to have such wonderful and loving people in our lives.

Homemade Pop-tarts (from King Arthur Flour/Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients (pastry)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

Fillings: you can use anything for a filling, we did the cinnamon-sugar filling

Cinnamon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (or less if you wish)
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Jam filling 
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with tablespoon cold water

Other good ideas (that my mother most definitely would NOT APPROVE of) include Nutella and chocolate chips

Using my new mixing bowls. Thanks Aunt Lisa!
1. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it.
2. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly if needed.

3. Divide the dough in half, shape into a smooth rectangle, about 3/5 inches. If you'd like to wait to finish the recipe, these dough rectangles can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 2 days.

4. Place one piece of the dough onto a lightly floured workspace and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9x12. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside.

5. Cut each piece of dough into thirds horizontally and vertically (forming 9 rectangles).
6. Beat the additional egg and brush it over the surface of the first dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping the edges clear (so you can seal them). Place a second rectangle over the first, pressing firmly along the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling. Press the tines of a fork along the edges of the rectangles. 

You can't tell, but these are on my brand new HUGE baking sheet, again, thanks go to Aunt Lisa!
7. Place the tarts on a parchment lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each pop-tart with a fork or toothpick so steam can escape while baking. 

8. Refrigerate the baking pan of tarts for 30 minutes while the oven is preheating to 350 F. 

9. Bake the pop tarts for 20 to 25 minutes, until they're a light golden brown. Cool in pan on rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

 Remember those trimmings you saved? You can sprinkle those with some more of the cinnamon-sugar filling and bake them for 13-15 minutes and have a nice little bite sized snack!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

After teaching all week (I know, I know, everyone else in the world with a full time job is sick of hearing me complain about ACTUALLY working) I was exhausted. Too exhausted to document my cooking experience with these delicious carrot cake cupcakes.

I was a little anxious about having planned to make these for a benefit we are going to on Saturday, mostly because when I decided to make them I thought I was going to have plenty of time to play in the kitchen on Friday. Thank goodness the recipe was so ridiculously simple that I kept having to re-read it to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

My only issue with the recipe was that my carrots must have had a lot of moisture, because the cooking time listed in the original recipe didn't turn out to be enough. The first dozen, which I was planning on keeping at home anyway, turned out a little soggy at first and one cup that I overfilled didn't really cook all the way through even after additional time in the oven. The second dozen turned out fine after a few more uninterrupted minutes in the oven.

I snuck tastes of enough of the frosting and batter before washing the bowls that I haven't eaten one yet, but Dave had one and said it was delicious. That's always a good sign.

For the actual recipe, you'll have to go over to Smitten Kitchen and check out her beautiful rendition of these cupcakes. Pretend mine look like that too. Because I totally did all that piping rather than just spread the frosting on with a knife. Yeah.