What Julia Ate

The Infamous Tennis Shoe Pastry.

Ok, Julia... this one's for you.

After reminiscing about the Spanish Bar Cake (Applesauce Cake) last week, which itself was a response to What Julia Ate's Applesauce Cake recipe, she commented about the tennis shoe coffee cakes of my youth. The mere mention spurred me on a mission to remember to get the recipe from my Mom. Since I was there over the weekend, I asked her for the recipe. It didn't take much prompting to "might as well just make it", and using the last half pound of butter in her fridge, I did just that. Julia will also be pleased that it is fairly almondy, since another thing that she and I have in common is our passion for Almond Extract. Perhaps she will make it using her homemade butter, something that's also on my list to do!

Driving up Friday afternoon, I was able to catch part of Food Friday on Wisconsin Public Radio (Radio Without Borders). The hour was devoted to Gourmet's Cookie Book, and featured Sarah Moulton, the longtime executive chef of Gourmet Magazine. The book highlights one cookie recipe for every year of the magazine's life, from 1941-2009. (You can listen to the hour in the archives from Friday 11/12/10.) I always like "vintage" recipes, and noting how things have changed over time. This book shows the fascinating progression of cookies from wartime rationing to luxury chocolate decadence. When my Mom found the yellowing card in an old recipe box, I knew right away that this must also be one such rationing recipe. I read and reread to be sure that there was no sugar in it - and there isn't. The only sweetener comes from the powdered sugar glaze drizzled over the top.

My Mom received this recipe when I was young (so likely, the '70's), from a woman named Ruth Peterson. It's technically called Danish Puff, but my Great Aunt always said they looked like a couple of tennis shoes. Maybe, but they are so good that they won't be around long enough for anyone to notice.

I'm actually glad that I was able to make this recipe at my Mom's house. Had I made it here, I would have employed the food pro to cut the butter into the flour and then how vintage would it have been? I love being reminded that the hands are my most valuable asset, and they served me just fine. In fact, I think they are key to the recipe, since the warmth of them aids in the formation of the base dough layer. Without warm hands, the dough would not come together with a mere 2 T. of water. Remember that when you are working the dough together the bowl, and you start to think that you need to add additional liquid.

"Tools were made, and born were hands." William Blake

When the dough (very sticky eventually, due to those warm hands) is formed, the tennis shoes are made:

It's easiest to roll the equal portions of dough into longish snakes and then use the heel of your palm to coax it into flat submission. And, try to use parchment paper, since it will make your life easier - though I'm fairly certain that it would not have been a necessity at the recipe's birth. The dough certainly has enough butter in it that it would not stick to a sheet pan.

The layer, or puff, part of the Danish Puff comes from a pate a choux type application. Mine didn't raise as much as my Mom remembered it raising, but she thinks perhaps she used a hand mixer to incorporate the eggs. I did not; I just stirred with a wooden spoon in classic pate a choux style. I may try the electric mixer next time and see what happens.

butter and water melted.

flour added.

eggs added.

Spread the "puff" over the dough base, close to the edges.

I will write the recipe as it is on the card. As the radio show pointed out, recipes used to assume that you knew how to cook and bake. But, that said, I know how to cook and bake, and I still asked my Mom how she used to do it. I'm betting that a fair number of vintage recipes are vague because one had someone to ask. Isn't that the best part of baking? Sharing... it's not just for kindergartners.

Danish Puff (Tennis Shoe Pastry)
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 t. almond (extract)
  • 1 c. flour
  • 3 eggs
"Measure first cup of flour into bowl. Cut in butter. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp water. Mix with fork. Divide in half. Pat into 12"x3. Place 3" apart on ungreased baking sheet.

Mix second amount of butter and water (in a small to medium pot). Bring to boil. Remove from heat: add almond (extract). Beat in flour, stir quickly to prevent lumping. When smooth, add one egg at a time, beat well after each one. Divide in half, and spread evenly on each half of pastry.

bake 60 min.

Frost with a confectioner's sugar icing and sprinkle with nuts.
8-12 servings "

My icing also had almond extract in it, and next time, I'll probably add a bit more to the puff part. The baking time was exactly one hour. It turns a golden brown, and is puffed up when it's ready. Cool it completely before frosting, and sprinkle it with chopped nuts, in our case walnuts, before slicing into it. It really is a great coffee cake recipe, and after not having it for maybe 20 years, I can say that it is as I remember it: flaky and buttery, the center custardy and not so sweet, and gone by the end of the day.

Well, actually it was gone by the next morning, when just 3 little pieces remained. Somehow, my family adheres to the credo that little bites don't matter. At least, I do, and cut most desserts into smaller and smaller pieces until the "row is straightened" accordingly. This method is most often applied to our fudge making, when those rows just will not be straight, and a sharp knife deftly tries to even it out, scraps going directly to my hips...

Ahhh, the trappings of a dessert-eating family. We do what we can, right? And if we want to cut back on sugar, we just don't make dessert, because if it's there, it needs to be eaten.

Recent Kitchen Adventures and the Mechanization of the World as I Know It.

Late last week, my KitchenAid died. Mid-dough, it ceased up and I quickly shut it off. I panicked. I know I have some serious issues when the sudden demise of an electrical appliance causes me to panic. I quickly called the helpline, a number I was able to find in about 30 seconds on the iPhone, and quickly made my way through a cue of automation to a live person.

The funny thing about the mechanization of the world is that it also mechanizes human beings. I'm pretty sure that the woman who initially helped me didn't hear a word I was saying. She, no doubt, was a mid-range, hourly employee who was doing everything by the textbook she was trained by. She was pleasant, but not personal.

Now, I am really not a bad person to deal with. I am as quick to call and complement as I am to call and complain, (and I like to think that I can complain with tact and class!) but when I challenged her on the way that KitchenAid stands behind their products, the one sentence straight out of the manual was not enough for me. I pleasantly got off the phone, but I was Upset. Upset that my Professional grade mixer that I use (actually more often than I at first realized) was going to have to go somewhere out of state for repair, and upset that people don't actually hear you when you talk.

After noting my unpleasantness on my Facebook page, I got a swift response from another KitchenAid employee. Not only was my experience totally different, I came out thinking much higher of the product. Within a few emails, I had a phone number to an actual person with an extension, and the person actually listened to me. Curiously, she gave me the exact same information as the first person I talked to, but she did it in such a human way that I realized that my initial displeasure was totally unwarranted.

Further, we discussed that the use of my beater blade may have contributed to the problem. I did not know that the beater blade is really not recommended for use with stand mixers, I mean, Dorie Greenspan of all people was recommending this product! I would say in the past 2 months, I was relying on the beater blade more and more for the amazing job it does incorporating batters without having to stop and scrape down the sides. This is what happens when humans listen to humans and really Hear them, real results can happen - and this is true with so much more than KitchenAid stand mixers. When my machine is repaired, I will be retiring my beater blade... and I would have to say I'd recommend you do the same if you have one.

One machine I don't know if I can give up is my digital scale...

The dough that brought down the mixer was the Multigrain Sandwich bread. I was able to finish it by hand, and gave one loaf to Peef and Lo, and just finished the last of our loaf on Monday. On the first batch, I had a third of a leftover loaf which I dried and pulsed into fine breadcrumbs. I am waiting for the perfect opportunity to pan fry some breadcrumb-dredged fresh mozzarella for one of my favorite ways to use up breadcrumbs...the crumbs smelled earthy and nutty and would be perfect fried onto some cheese and tossed into a spring salad. I think my waiting may be due to my recent obsessions with culturing (which will naturally lead to at home cheese making, I think...).

Another revelation, is that when I first started playing around with doughs, I usually did so by hand since I did have a circa 1940's mixer (my first stand mixer that now resides at Sasa's house), but I rarely used it except for cookies or cakes. After the floor-denting incident of my second KitchenAid (which really was not strong enough to keep up with what I was asking it to do: it vibrated off the counter when I was attending the Boy-O and that mixer even still works and is in my Parent's apartment as a spare), I kind of migrated to the whole "no knead" world of doughs, which is fine and convenient and does yield excellent results. But I think I have lost touch with the dough a little, and forget that it is really a living thing, full of organisms that respond to my hands.

I recall Marcella Hazan writing that to make pasta dough, it should be mixed by hand on a wooden board for a full 8 minutes. I used to do this, set to a timer, and it is fully physical work. Now, I usually get it into a mass, but rely on the power of the Pasta Queen to complete the kneading for me, rolling it through the metal rollers repeatedly with a bit of flour dusting on each pass. Faster, yes, but is it more satisfying to let machines take over? I'm not really sure. In the following days that I am KitchenAidless, I believe I will return to some good, old-fashioned hand kneading experiments. After all, these hands are the greatest multipurpose tools ever designed, and maybe I need to appreciate them a little bit more.

I got two cultures, a yogurt and a buttermilk, from Cultures for Health that was a resource Lo recommended to me. I was so impressed with the site, and their wealth of free information, that I could have also invested in some kefir and kombucha starters as well. I figured it would be best to start off slowly, one culture at a time, so I started the buttermilk on Monday. Simply mix part of the powdered culture with fresh milk and leave at warm room temperature (70 degrees) for 24-48 hours. I went the full 48, since I suspect my room temp was a bit on the cool side to begin with. I then took the tip of placing the jar in the oven with the oven light on. A strange amount of heat is generated this way... and it was a perfect way to not turn my home into a sauna for 2 days.

Now that I think I have a viable 1/2 cup of cultured buttermilk, I can begin to build it into a larger portion - according to the site, I can keep portioning off the culture and use it indefinitely! I am using this ambient oven-heat trick now to keep my culture comfortable since especially in these early spring days, when I don't have the heat on much, it can be a bit on the chilly side. Another thing for The List of Things I'll Never Buy Again, all thanks to this post by Julia which made me realize that I could do this, and easily!

I sometimes get behind in reading as much as I like, but do often peruse the photos of my flickr contacts. Marisa at Food in Jars posted photos that I knew would be explained on her site and I clicked to find exactly what I wanted: Cold Brewed Coffee. I am pretty bland in my coffee-brewing techniques at home, and rely on my favorite, local Alterra, to get me a fix of anything special I may be up for. Since I am rather home-bound most of the week, a good cup of drip joe is usually just fine for me, and I drink it (16 oz. from my little 4 cup Cuisinart) in a range of temperatures throughout the morning. I turn off the maker as soon as it is brewed, and seriously drink it from it's hot goodness around 8 until it is stone cold around 11:30. I did the method Marisa outlined last night, and enjoyed some iced coffee this morning. It's worth playing around with, and is pretty much labor and machine free!

Meanwhile, Boy-O is on the pancake diet. It is all he will eat. I have committed to making them as healthy as I can and use only oat flour, whole wheat flour and a tad of olive oil. (I can make them in my sleep: 1/2 c. rolled oats, ground in a spice mill to flour, 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, 1 1/4 t. baking powder, 1/4 t. baking soda, 1 c. buttermilk (soon to be homemade!), 1 egg, 1 glug - a Tablespoon or so - of olive oil. Mix and let stand about 5 minutes to let the batter thicken before commencing with your flap-jacking.) I can get him to eat an apple, if there is peanut butter for him to dip it into, and really nothing else. I have no idea why he is getting pickier instead of less picky, and am trying not to worry about the holes that must be evident in his nutrition... I hope this phase passes soon, and that I don't turn into a caterer which I fear has already happened.

So when this morning, as I actually swept the kitchen floor instead of plugging in the vacuum, I was reminded how much I have come to depend on machines. I used to sweep all of the time, then I bought this vacuum (the best one ever, by the way) a couple of years ago and have lost the art of the broom. I've come to the point that I use the stand mixer to even mix my no-knead bread, since I like letting it raise in the 6 quart bowl, and I figure "why not just let the dough hook do it?" since I will have to wash a spoon anyway. I let my iPhone signal me when I have email, I brush my teeth with a Sonicare, I let my dryer do most of my clothes drying. Well, today I'm getting some more clothesline and going to start to knead some dough ladies and gentleman: because I fear I am getting citified! Stay tuned, because it's going to be the Rcakewalk's Rise Against the Machines around here for awhile! Not sure where that is going to lead me, but it may even lead me more outdoors and less into the world of postings... but I'll be sure to check in, I'm sure.