Next: Upside-Down Cake

I have yet to add one of these to the blog, and I think it’s time, especially now that we’re getting into prime baking fruit season. Apples, pears…there are even a few Michigan and California peaches around still. Why not?


Hit Me

I had many, many — and still another many — comments waiting for me at summer’s end. I did a lousy job of keeping up with them, despite my promise that I would. When the upgrade happened I lost about 300 comments on various subjects, or at any rate lost the tags on them that […]


Making Blueberry Pie


I made this for the 4th of July (hence the stars) and brought it to a pot luck. Two small slivers disappeared in the first half hour, but a few minutes later I noticed guests with pieces that were fully 1/4 of the pie. I took it as a compliment. Start by assembling your ingredients and preparing the crust according to directions. When the crust has rested, combine the filling ingredients in a large bowl like so:


Blueberry Pie Recipe

This is a classic I couldn’t resist making, even on my summer off. It definitely belonged in the catalog. You’ll need:

One pie crust recipe for a double crust pie
Six cups fresh or frozen blueberries
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 ounces (4 tablespoons) tapioca flour (instant tapioca)
egg wash


Joe 3.0 is Up and Running

Hello all and hope you had a terrific summer and/or winter depending on your relative position on the globe. Things were delightful here in Kentucky. The summer started cool and wet and ended dry and hot. Along the way the Pastry clan got in lots of R&R, camped, spent time on the farm, and saw both a meteor shower and a moonbow (a rainbow by the light of the moon). I didn’t bake but I played the bass a fair amount, once at farm a wedding, then again on big boat, getting tossed about on Lake Michigan. I poisoned my lawn, grew it back again, and took a lot of naps.

Meanwhile, my trusty tech team was busy designing and building Joe Pastry version 3.0. I think you’ll agree that this is the simplest and sleekest Joe version yet. Designer extraordinaire Jason spent many an hour fiddling with fonts and streamlining…


Coming Back…

I just don’t know when. It might take me the summer. The demands of a growing business — and especially two growing girls — are translating to less baking and blogging time. Also there’s music. Some old friends have asked me to cover a show or two this coming month back home in Chicago, so I’ve been spending part of my time getting my bass fingers back. The process has been slow as it’s been almost a decade since I’ve plucked a string.

This all may be a hidden blessing, as over the past year or so I’ve had the distinct feeling I’ve been more or less repeating myself. An extended hiatus might give me some new angles on Joe Pastry. But don’t assume I’m going totally silent. I’ll still be putting the off post and of course I’ll be answering questions.


Do doughnuts HAVE to be fried to be good?

In my opinion yes, reader Bill. Yes, you can bake doughnut batter up in little savarin molds if you like, you’ll get a ring-shaped cake. It won’t be a doughnut as far as I’m concerned. The result you get from the two devices (fryer and oven) are simply too different. But what exactly causes that difference? Why does 365-degree oil produce such a very different product compared to a 365-degree oven?


Why is cider brown when apple juice is yellow?

…asks reader Gordon. Nice one. Squeeze a load of apple pulp and what comes out is fairly clear, fairly golden. Give it a few minutes and suddenly it looks like the cider we all know: cloudy and brown, and with a noticeably duller (though still fabulous) flavor. What happened?

In a word: enzymes. Even though it looks like there’s only juice running out of a cider press, there’s quite a bit of apple flesh in there too, albeit in very small pieces. That flesh contains enzymes — non-living protein molecules that perform specific chemical tasks — which are specifically designed to spring into action as soon as they’re exposed to oxygen. Some of them begin disassembling molecules called phenols, transforming them into pigments which turn the bits of apple flesh brown (for more on why they do this, see this post right here). Thus the more bits of apple flesh that get left in the cider, the browner it becomes, which is why commercial juice makers go to great lengths to filter their squeezings as soon as they’re, um…squeezed.


What is Alum?

Reader Amy writes to say that some of her old family recipes call for alum, but what is it and is it really necessary? Great questions. Anyone who’s every watched a Warner Brothers cartoon has probably wondered the something similar. You know those scenes: Tweety Bird somehow manages to pour a box of powdered alum down Sylvester’s the Cat’s throat and his head shrinks up to the size of a golf ball. But what the heck is that stuff and what did people use it for?

Alum is short for aluminum potassium sulfate. It was once a common household item here in the U.S., especially during the war years when people did a lot of home pickling. A pinch of it in a jar of kosher dills or watermelon rinds kept the pickles firm and crispy. Too much and the result was a serious pucker, since alum is both an acid and an astringent (which is to say, a compound that causes shrinking or constricting of blood vessels and/or mucous membranes).


On Corn Meal and Masa

Reader Simone wants to know if there’s a nutritional difference between corn meal and corn masa (the alkaline-treated dough used for making tortillas). Indeed there is!

Though no one knows exactly how, ancient Mesoamericans long ago discovered that when you soak corn kernels in a mixture of water and wood ashes, the tough outer hulls (pericarps) can be slipped off, leaving just the starchy endosperm and oily germ. The process is called nixtamalization. Without it the Central America of old would have been a very different place.