Monday, August 26, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch:Fruit Filled Treats

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These fruit filled treats known as Pop-Tarts have been very popular amongst children for many years and with adults as well.These sweet pastries from Kellogg's have been around since 1964 and surprisingly only started with four flavors on the market, including strawberry,blueberry,brown sugar cinnamon and apple current.These flavors all still exist to this day, along with over 20 different flavor varieties and limited editions   to enjoy.Wow!,that is a lot of flavors to enjoy and with this pastry snack being so popular. How can you pass up testing out a homemade version like the one above from Classic Snacks? Can you resist?

Well it might all depend on the flavor, right? Well in Classic Snacks you have two flavors to choose from, such as strawberry and brown sugar cinnamon.These two fillings already sound delicious;however if these flavors don't strike your fancy I can imagine you could easily enough use any filing that you desire.Now for me,I am a big strawberry lover so it was a no brainier in taking the challenge of making these Strawberry Pop-Tarts.So lets see if these homemade versions come to close to the original Kellogg's brand.

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So to begin, lets talk about how this recipe played out for me.Well at first it looked as though this treat was going to be pretty difficult to master;however with each step Casey's has away of making it pretty direct in her instructions for everyone to understand.Now I'm not saying their wasn't any new skills to be learned throughout this recipe because there definitely was,trust me on that.Its just I felt very comfortable even with a treat I have never made before.Also,this recipe uses very simple ingredients along with fresh fruit and the most important part, it leaves out all those pesky preservatives in the store bought versions.

This recipe was challenging and enjoyable all at the same time.The pastry was very quick and simple to prepare with only a 1 hour wait time for chilling.The wait time was no bother in this recipe because I was kept very busy making a very basic strawberry jam filling.This berry filling used only fresh strawberries,fresh lemon juice and sugar for sweetness.All while leaving out all the artificial flavors,preservatives and addictive from the original and giving you a fresh berry flavored jam.This is a very simple jam to master, along as you have the time and patience to create it.It is a very basic recipe because all your doing is breaking down the strawberry mixture to create a very vibrant thick strawberry jam with berry chunks.Also,the great part about making this jam is it creates a very strong sweet smell throughout your kitchen and mind you it will make yourself and everyone else want to taste test this jam.Lastly, I have nothing, but good things to say about preparing this pastry and jam filling.The directions were simply lay-out and you felt very comfortable.

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Now for the skill point of this recipe,the assembling.This where you might run into a bit of frustration or challenge.For me, it was challenging because it took some skill to get a good measurement in rolling out two large rectangles that are 10 inch by 12 inches with a thickness of about 1/4 inch.This can be a bit difficult because you can run into a bit of cracking in the pastry or uneven sides.Sometimes your able to repair it easily enough;however sometimes you might end up with uneven squares once you have to cut them out.So that lead us into measuring smaller rectangles and surprisingly I didn't have much trouble with this since I had previously gained some skill in pastry from the recipe for Mc Donalds Apple Pie. For these Pop-Tarts I had to cut out smaller squares that reached up to twelve and surprisingly I was able to stretch it to sixteen squares,which then made eight Pop-Tarts instead of the six.I was so proud of myself that I made more and now crossing my fingers that these turn out good.

Then for the actual assembling of these babies.It was easy enough to add the jam to the pastry squares;however adding the pastry tops deem to be a bit fitniqie since the jam would always seep out when pressing the ends with the tine of the fork.Some of the jam would get on the ends and that can be a bit of a problem when your baking.So I tried my best to get most of the jam off the outside of the pastry to prevent any burning when baking and made sure to poke holes in the pastries to vent the jam.You don't want any of your Pop-Tarts exploding in the oven. For me,I was pretty lucky with the baking because only a bit of jam oozed out of the tops and darken a bit while baking.These came out very golden brown and puffed with the jam actually given the tarts a more homemade traditional appearance.Then for the icing on the top,the best part to the Pop-Tart and given it just a bit more sweetness.This was one of the really fun parts of the recipe because the glaze was very simple to create and then I got to spread on the icing of my very first homemade Strawberry Pop-Tart.The assembling gets two and half thumbs up from me!

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Then for the best and last part of this recipe,the taste test.You have been waiting so patiently for an honest answer or you have just scrolled down to the end for the best part.I don't blame you at any means if you did.So I wont let you down in my honesty.So did these homemade versions meet their maker?................Well to be straight forward these were way better then the original Strawberry Pop-Tart.Why? because they have so much more flavor and the pastry is so moist and not as dry as the original.It meets all the similaritys in appearance to a Pop-Tart,but so much better.The pastry is wonderfully buttery and flaky with a sweet translucent glossy glaze on top.Then once you bite into one you won't want to ever buy the store bought,no offense to the brand or the fans.The filling is so beautifully vibrant in color and a really strong berry flavor that works so well with the buttery flavor of the pastry.These are so well worth the effort and time to create them and now you have a treat without any artificial flavors or preservatives.Its a win,win situation in my book,especially for children that love Pop-Tarts.

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If you love strawberries like I do then you will love these homemade Pop-Tarts.These are extremely addicting and you will know what I mean when you take a bite into this moist,buttery, berry heaven. If I could give these more then two thumbs up for appearance,flavor and texture I would! I definitely recommend these homemade version,these are definitely memorable for sure. I even can't wait to try my own creative fillings for next time.So anyways,this is the end of fruit filled treat chapter test and now I am on to Fried And Frozen Treats.Sounds yummy,so be sure to stay tune and enjoy all the Classic Snacks recipe so far.

Make sure to comment with any questions,ideas or to let me know how the recipe turn out for you!

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Strawberry Pop-Tarts

Yields:6 pastries, I stretched it to 8
Equipment: food processor (optional),pizza cutter,pastry cutter
Total Time Based on Recipe: 2 hours,plus cooling time.


21/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp chilled unsalted butter,cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup chilled vegetables shortening, cut into 1/2 cubes
1/4 cup ice cold water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 large egg whisked with 1 tbsp of water,for egg wash

Strawberry Filling:

1 pound strawberries,hulled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 3 tbsp whole or reduced fat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Making Dough:

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I mix the flour,sugar and salt together in a large bowl.If using a food processor, pulse dry mixture to sift and combine.

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Then I cut in the butter and shortening,using a pastry cutter into pea sized chunks visible and texture of moist cornmeal.If using a food processor,add fat and pulse for 3 second until resembles cornmeal.

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Then I drizzle in the water and vinegar,then used a pastry cutter gently to combine.If using a food processor, drizzle in the wet ingredients through the feed tube and pulse until shaggy and crumbly dough begin to form.

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Then I divide the dough in half and shaped into 2 discs.Then I wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or can be overnight.

Making Strawberry Jam

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While the dough is chilling,I wash and cut the strawberries in halves,you can also quarter them depending on the size of the berries.

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Then I mash the berries with a potato masher in a large bowl,while keeping some big chunks so it will create small strawberry chunks when you bite into the pastry.

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 Then I stir in the sugar and lemon juice and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.This is where the berries break down slightly.I also stir once or twice to help dissolve the sugar.

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Once the berries have broken down,I pour the strawberry mixture in a high sided pan or can use a dutch oven.The wider the pot is the more the liquid will evaporate evenly.Then I bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat.This can take some time.Once the berries come to a boil,I remove the berry chunks with a slotted spoon and placed in a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl.This will then strain the juice while leaving out the chunks.Then I place the berry chunks in a small bowl and pour the syrup back into the pot.

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Now I continue to boil the syrup,stirring often,until thickened and jelly-like,about 15- 20 minutes.Visual cues, the liquid will foam,clarify as the bubble slow and the puree thickens.Then I return the strawberry chunks to the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes,until the jam is the desired thickness and consistency.Then I transfer the mixture to a clean bowl, you can also use a mason jar.

Assemble and Bake:

Preheat the oven to 375F. Then I lined my half sheet with a silpat mat.You can also line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.

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On a floured surface,I rolled out one dough disc into a 10 by 12 inch rectangle at about 1/4 inch thickness.Using a pizza cutter I divide, the rolled dough into 6 (3 by 5 inch) rectangles.Then I place the cut dough on the prepared baking sheet(s). Then I repeat with the second dough disc,but leaving them on the flour work surface.In the end you might end up with a lot of pastry left over like I did and be able to easily roll out 4 more squares to create 8 tarts all together. Tip: Be very careful with rolling out the dough to prevent cracking or uneven sides.

Then I spooned 2 tbsps of strawberry jam into the center of each rectangle on the baking sheet.You can add another tbsp of jam if you desire.Then I brushed the edges with the egg wash.Then I place the reserved dough rectangle atop each filled rectangle and seal the edges by pressing with the tines of a fork.Then I used the fork to poke holes in the pastry top. Tip: Seeping of jam will most likely occur so be sure to remove as much jam off the edges before baking to prevent burning,a little bit of oozing during baking is alright.

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Tip :For any very small left over pastry scraps,you can easily spread some butter on top of each pastry,then sprinkle on a little sugar and cinnamon.This way you can bake these till golden brown along side the tarts.These will have to be removed before the tarts are done of course and now everyone can enjoy some cinnamon sugar pastry.

  For the tarts I baked them at about 30 minute,until golden brown and puffed.Then I transfer the tarts to a wire rack and let cool completely before eating or frosting.

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Frost The Tarts:

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I whisked the powdered sugar,2 tbsps milk,and vanilla together to form a thick glaze.I added the final tbsp of milk a drizzle at a time until the glaze has the consistency you desire.I had to add more powder sugar to make it slightly thicker.Then using a basting brush or a small metal spatula to spread the glaze on the cooled pastries.

Store the tarts in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch: Fruit-Filled Treats

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 In Casey's Classic Snack Cookbook,you definitely cannot pass up her chapter for fruit-filled treats.It's her homemade versions of these sweet treats that will impress everyone and have the smiles to match.This has to be true when it includes a handful of popular and beloved treats for all ages.Hold your excitement......... This chapter includes recipes such as Hostess's Drake's Cherry Pie,Fig Newtons,MC Donald's Apple pie,and even homemade Strawberry Pop-Tarts.Yummy! With just mentioning these treats, my mouth is watering and I  think you're already hooked in, Aren't you?
Well if you are? Then were all in the same boat because within a few seconds of looking throughout this chapter I already knew what I wanted to make.Its a very iconic and popular treat,known as MC Donald's Apple Pie Turnovers.These pocket pie's have been around for many years and I imagine everyone has at least tried one in their childhood.It could of been the traditional deep fried pocket pie or the baked version that's been around since 1992. So whatever one you truly love, you are able to choose within this homemade version from deep fried goodness to baked perfection.I feel this was a great option because everyone can remember the old with the new.

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So for me, I went with the modern day baked version that I remember as a child and just with that memory I knew I was definitely in for a challenge.So when I first began collecting ingredients just to the counter I  thought to myself "Are these going to really match the signature apple pie or go completely the opposite way?". I was just nervous and excited all at the same time that it actually made me just jump right in and cross my finger that I wouldn't screw anything up.Thank goodness, I knew that Casey's recipes are pretty detailed and informative.

Anyways,I was quite lucky with this recipe because it was a joy to go through and was easy to understand;however that doesn't mean I didn't run into any annoying issues,which I'll divulge about later.So for me, I feel I have to start with all the good points through this recipe and begin with the pastry.The pastry was really quick and simple to make even without a food processor.The dough was very easy to handle compared to most pastries and I feel it was the cottage cheese and butter to thank for that.Now, cottage cheese its not a common accuracy in most pastries;however every time I have work with it in pastry I have been given really good result in texture.So, when you read cottage cheese don't think its a mistake because it actually helps make the dough pliable and very moist.Also, with any pastry dough it usually has a chilling time of 30 minutes to overnight.This dough took about 30+ minutes to chill about the time I finished the applesauce filling.So there isn't much waiting around because in that time your busy with the very important filling.

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The sweet hot apple filling is signature to McDonald's Apple pie turnover and I was excited that this recipe used very simple ingredients to create a solid flavor and texture.I used a pound of ripe granny smith apples,which are best for baking along with sugar,butter and cinnamon.This combination of ingredients help create a sweet,buttery and spiced applesauce.However to create a thick sauce you cannot leave out cornstarch and water,which only thickening the sauce and are completely tasteless.

So putting all these ingredients together we have a strong flavored applesauce that isn't to chunky to mushy.This is a really simple apple filling and most people have learned and mastered making applesauce so there shouldn't be any problems in making this filling.Its all about breaking down apples and then adding your favorite spice.In the end you have an applesauce you can use for anything;however this one is tailored made for our favorite apple pie turnovers.

Then for the both fun and frustrating part of this recipe, the assembling.This is where I learned how to put together my own turnovers and its signature appearance.It was a lot of fun once I was able to get the hang of it,however it was slightly frustrating at times.It seemed I had trouble rolling the pastry out since most of the time the edges would crack and create uneven sides.So I ended up with an uneven square making it difficult to cut smaller squares.So when that happened I was only able to get seven turnovers instead of nine all together.So I don't really know what I did wrong and I guess I'll only find out with a redo.Once I got passed that frustrating part, it was time for the filling and crimping to create an apple pie turnover.This was the best part learning a brand new skill and trust me they looked great while baking.

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These were really simple to bake and were done once they were golden brown and puffed.The only part anyone needs to watch out for is filling oozing out from the sealed or vented areas.However as long as its not to much that might make it a little more attract to some. Now we can't leave out one of the best parts of this treat, the taste tasting! dun dun dun.........

Is it like the original or not? Well............. Its actually way better then the original, it has all the same important key points of the signature MC Donald's Apple pie,just so much better.The pastry is so buttery and moist,while being slightly sweet and spiced.It isn't super layered or flaky like most bakery turnovers and is more genuine to the fast food treat.The edges are crumbly with a great crimped appearance along with a golden brown exterior and beautifully puffed.It has very close to the signature look of the pocket pie that once you bite into one you will have a childhood flashback and remember that warm spiced apple filling.

This one is so fresh with its wonderfully strong apple flavor.The apples are so ripe and juicy they create a very sweet and tart flavor.These are deliciously warm and cold;however I would imagine heating these up to get that original experience.These are top notch and when I say that they never last long.My nephew even loved these and even let me know by pointing to one and saying "that one looks exactly like MC Donald's Apple pie",he was certainly impressed and that's what I was looking for.

Well I took the challenge and was quite successful.It took some time and patience to get though it,but was well worth the effort for a little kid to be impressed.Casey has successfully created the signature MC Donald's apple pie by appearance and flavor along with having a very direct approach.Two thumbs up for this recipe and trust me you will be impressed with these delightful treat, if its deep fried or baked! Enjoy! Stay tune for another fruity treat to be reviewed!

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MC Donald's Apple Pie

Yields: 6 - 9 pies
Difficulty: 3 for baking,4 if deep frying.
Total Time: 2 hours, plus 1 hour chilling time if deep frying
Special Equipment:  Food processor or pastry blender.Pastry or pizza cutter, (Deep frying option: electric deep fryer(or large high sided pot and a candy/oil thermometer.

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2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup low fat small curd cottage cheese
4 tbsp chilled unsalted butter,cut into cubes

1 pound granny smith apples
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsps unsalted butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsps water,divided
1 tbsp cornstarch
Vegetable or canola oil for frying (optional)

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I mixed together flour,sugar,cinnamon and salt in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.Then using a pastry blender, I mixed in the cottage cheese and butter,until a soft dough developed. If using a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients for 5 seconds and then process the wet ingredients for 30 seconds.

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I then brought the dough together onto a flour surface and gently pressed into a round disc.Then I wrapped the dough into saran wrap and refrigerated for 30 minutes.

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Making the Apple Filling

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While the dough is in the fridge,I began preparing the apple filling.I peeled,cored and cut the apples into small cubes.I also weighed the unpeeled and peeled apples to get close to 1 pound.

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Then I tossed the cut up apples in a 2 quart heavy bottom saucepan with sugar,butter and cinnamon.Then I melted the butter over medium heat and then added 2 tbsp of water.Then I covered the pot and cooked it for 10-12 minutes,until the apples began to soften.

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Then I whisked the cornstarch with the remaining 2 tbsp of water in a small bowl. Then I slowly poured the mixture into the soft apple mixture.Then I covered the pot again and cooked for 1-2 minutes more, until the liquid thickened and jelled slightly.Then I removed it from the heat.

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Option: McDonald's filling is very close to applesauce,so with a potato masher I gently pressed the soft apples to reach a mushier apple mixture,then I let the filling cool completely for about 15 minutes. 

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Making The Pies

Options: Baked or Deep Fried?

Baking: Preheated the oven to 375F and lined my half sheet with my Silpat liner.You can also use 2 baking sheets and add parchment paper or Silpat liners.

 To my floured work surface, I rolled out the chilled dough to 18 inch square with thickness at about 1/8 inch.Then using a pastry cutter or pizza cutter I was only able to slice 6, 6 by 6 inch squares instead of the recommended 9 squares.Maybe you will have better luck then me.

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Then I placed a heaping tbsp of apple filling on half of each square,then I folded it over to create a 6 by 3 inch pocket pie.Sealing the edges by crimping them tightly with my fingers.Then placing it on the prepared baking sheet.Using a fork to might help to seal better before crimping.

I then gently sliced 3 slashes across the top of each pie to help vent and then I baked them less then 25 minutes until puffed and golden brown.Then once fully baked, I placed them on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes.Best to serve them room temp.Cold is also good.

Deep frying: Refrigerate the pies for 1 hour (or freeze for up to 3 months in a sealed container.Heat at least 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil to 350F in a electric deep fryer or large,high sided pot.Line a baking sheet with paper towels and an upside-down wire cooling rack.Use a candy/deep fried thermometer for large pot.

Add the pies to the hot oil straight from the fridge or freezer and fry in batches as necessary until golden brown.Frying time will vary based on your equipment, but should take no more then 2 to 3 minutes per batch.Then transfer them to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before eating.

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