Monthly Archives

April 2010

Homemade Pop Tarts

April 30, 2010

I really, truly want to think of something beautiful and eloquent to write about these homemade pop tarts because boy are they deserving of everything good I could write. But the only thing that I can think of, having just finished eating one, is OH MY GOSH. This, my friends, is what a toaster pastry was intended to taste like before it turned into the processed, flavorless, under-filled brick you have come to know as a pop tart.

I have stumbled across a couple different recipes for homemade toaster pastry over the past couple weeks and immediately thought it was a fun and innovative take on breakfast. And when the flawless Deb of The Smitten Kitchen posted a similar recipe on her site I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist. So if you were to have stopped by my apartment around 11:30 last night, you would have found me, covered in flour, fully immersed in pastry dough making.

In the past I’ve been frustrated with pastry dough. It has always made me feel inadequate and insecure about my baking ability because I didn’t feel it was flaky, buttery, or delicious enough. My mom, who growing up served as one of my best, and toughest, critics held the bar pretty darn high when it came to an acceptable pastry crust, always comparing it to her mother’s pie crust. If you met my grandmother and had a piece of one of her pies, you would know how high of a bar we are talking. So it’s really no surprise I felt bad about my own pastry skills. Until now.

Throughout this whole pastry making process, I was convinced it wasn’t actually worth the effort but boy was I wrong. These things are seriously amazing – this coming from a girl who doesn’t even like pop tarts and hasn’t eaten one in over 10 years. They are yummy, and charming in the familiar-yet-different way. I can already imagine making them on weekends when I want to make breakfast a little (or a lot) more special.

Homemade Pop Tarts
Adapted from Deb via The Smitten Kitchen

*2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
*1 tablespoon sugar
*1 teaspoon salt
*1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
*1 large egg
*3 tablespoons milk

*1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

*1 recipe Jam Filling (below)

*1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural variety)

*1 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup milk stirred together for glaze

Jam Filling
1/2 cup raspberry preserves stirred together with 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch


Make the dough

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. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (I refrigerated overnight and found that the dough was still a bit crumbly so I put the dough back into the food processor after refrigerating and pulsed it 6-8 times, then formed it into a rectangle and rolled it out. Worked like a dream and the pastry was still oh so flaky!)

Assemble the tarts: If 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″. [You can use a 9″ x 13″ pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter into the center of each rectangle followed by a teaspoon of the jam mixture, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.

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. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Spoon a tablespoon of powdered sugar glaze on top of hot pastries. Cool in pan on rack.

Happy Baking!


Homemade Granola: Base Recipe

April 30, 2010

Remember that time not so long ago when I made Whole Wheat Granola Breakfast Cookies? Well, it turns out I am not only the type of girlfriend who likes to bake for her boyfriend, I am also the kind who likes to make her boyfriend’s mom think I’m trying to kill her son by means of serious allergic reaction and anaphylactic shock.

Because adventurous eater and fruit and veggie loving me fell in love with someone allergic to more items than even he can count, including, evidently, commercially produced granola and granola bars. And when his mom, who happens to read Espresso and Cream (Hi, Lisa!) noticed I was sending her son a box of cookies filled with granola she did what any caring mother would do and sent him a heads-up e-mail.

It just so happens that before making those fateful cookies, I had just finished whipping up a batch of homemade granola and decided to use it for the cookies. After talking with J. about what I put into my homemade granola, we determined that he could eat the cookies and avoid a life-threatening allergic reaction, or at least a trip to the hospital. So from here on out I’ve accepted that as long as J. is in my life, I am bound to a life of granola making instead of granola buying. Thank goodness it is both fun and easy!

This granola base recipe is very similar to a recipe for cranberry-almond granola I made this winter, with a few minor changes. It couldn’t be easier and it’s just so gratifying to see the oats toast up in the oven and transform into granola in under an hour. While we were in Florida last weekend, J. had a bit of a culinary revelation: my 10 year-old sister’s vitamin gummy bears. So while this may not radiate culinary brilliance or sophistication, it will be serving a healthful purpose when it arrives up in Minnesota. Customize it fit your taste or leave it plain for a simple, yummy breakfast base.

Homemade Granola: Base Recipe
Adapted from
*3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
*2 Tbsp. brown sugar
*1 tsp. ground cinnamon
*1/4 tsp. salt
*1/3 cup honey
*1/3 cup canola oil
*Desired stir-ins of your choice (I used gummy bear vitamins)

*Preheat oven to 300*F.
*In large bowl combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, combine honey, oil, and extract and stir until well combined. Pour mixture over oat mixture. Stir until well-combine. Use hands, if necessary.
*Pour mixture into a large baking sheet or pan. Spread into a thin, even layer. Bake 40 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring once halfway through. Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir the mixture once or twice while it cools (it will harden as it cools). Once cooled, add in desired mix-ins. Store in an airtight container or zip top bag.

Happy cooking!

Best Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread

April 28, 2010

The way I see it, my job with at Espresso and Cream is to sort through all the millions of recipes out there and share with you only the best, and most reliable ones. And trust me, there is a lot of junk out there to sort through, and after tonight I am sure that even the best and most trustworthy sources fail every now and again.

Two containers of cornmeal, 1 1/2 dozen eggs, 1/2 a gallon of buttermilk, 1 1/2 lbs. of butter, and plenty of flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. All baked up and thrown in the trash in search of the perfect, most reliable cornbread recipe. There was the whole wheat cornbread muffins that were so dense and chewy that they hardly even resembled cornbread, and the cornbread recipe from a trusted blogger who shall remain nameless that were about as flavorless as can be.

And finally, thankfully, Bethany Weathersby came to my rescue. No, I do not know Bethany, but I am oh so thankful for her grandmother’s buttermilk cornbread recipe. Let me explain. Usually, I try to steer clear of recipe websites like All Recipes and because I find them to be unreliable and very hit-or-miss when it comes to success, since anyone can upload and post a recipe. However, at my wits end, I was willing to try almost anything, including this recipe on All Recipes from Bethany, mostly because her cornbread recipe had over 1,600 reviews from others users, almost all positive in nature.

This cornbread blew me away. It was a perfect mix of lightness and density, with a slightly crispy crust and pleasantly crumbly texture. Typically, I am in the ‘salty cornbread’ camp, but this recipe is pleasantly sweet without being overwhelmingly so. With a sprinkle of salt before baking, it hits both sweet and salty notes harmoniously. While this recipe was baking in the oven, my mom e-mailed me with the version from my childhood, a slightly saltier and lighter variety, though every bit as delicious. You can best believe that it will pop up here sometime in the not-so-distant future. Until then, this will have to suffice. And believe me, it will.

Best Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread
*1/2 cup butter
*2/3 cup white sugar
*2 eggs
*1 cup buttermilk
*1/2 teaspoon baking soda
*1 cup cornmeal
*1 cup all-purpose flour
*1/2 teaspoon salt

*Preheat oven to 375*F. Grease an 8 inch round or square pan.

*Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Add buttermilk and baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

*Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Happy Cooking!


Roasted Parmesan Zucchini

April 21, 2010

Last week while teaching a class on healthy cooking, a number of the women in the class were interested in learning exactly how you roast vegetables, which is actually incredibly easy once you get down the basics. In my opinion, there is no better, or easier, way to cook veggies.

Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, and sweet potatoes get roasted most often in my kitchen, and I can’t get enough of the sweet, toasty flavor roasting imparts on vegetables. Roasting is usually done with fairly dry heat with just a bit of oil or other liquid in a pan, baking sheet, or baking dish or some sort. It can also be done at a slightly higher heat in the oven. Most of the time when I’m roasting veggies, it’s done between 400 – 450*F.

As we speak, I’m posting from Florida. Meant to post this a few days earlier, but was having so much fun in the sun and sand that I completely forgot! Back to regular life tomorrow.

Roasted Parmesan Zucchini
*2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
*1 Tbsp. olive oil
*1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
*1/2 tsp. ground cumin
*1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
*1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

*Preheat oven to 400*F.
*Toss zucchini with olive oil. Place in a pan or baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, cumin, and black pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes, tossing once half way through. After 10 minutes, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the zucchini and bake 2 minutes more to melt the cheese.
*Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Happy Cooking!


Whole Wheat Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

April 17, 2010

This weekend I had the pleasure of teaching a healthy cooking class for a women’s conference back in my home town. Because it was one of my first formal presentations on healthy cooking for a large group I was a bit nervous, but the women were great and I enjoyed sharing about one of my favorite topics.

Rewind to earlier this week, when I was putting together my Power Point presentation and was finding it hard to focus, so what’s a foodie to do? Bake oatmeal chocolate chip cookies of course! But since I was in healthy eating mode, I gave these cookies a healthy twist. What was sacrificed? White flour. What wasn’t? Taste.

These little delights, an adaptation from a recipe by the lovely Deb of the Smitten Kitchen, are delightful – both chewy and crispy all at once and packed with antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. The whole wheat flour takes nicely to this recipe, so much so that you would hardly notice any difference from cookies made with all-purpose, and instant oats impart lightness not normally found in cookies made with old-fashioned oats. Worth making again? Most certainly….since they are already gone.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from “Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies” via Smitten Kitchen
*1/2 cup sugar
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
*1 large egg
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*1/2 tsp. baking soda
*1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (may substitute milk or semi-sweet if desired)
*1/2 cup instant oats

*Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
*Beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.
*Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and oats.
*Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.
*Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool completely on wire racks.

Happy Baking!