A few months ago, on a dark slick Sunday night, I pulled into the Quality Inn parking lot in Lee. The address matched that of the Bombay Indian Restaurant where I planned to meet Alana (from Eating From the Ground Up) for dinner. The place reminded me of the roadside motel in Hitchcock’s film Psycho, not exactly a place you want to check out next to an unfamiliar stretch of towering trees and a lake within pebble skipping distance.
I parked the car, quieted my fears, and stepped outside the car. Warm spices puffed through brightly lit lobby doors. The only surprise thriller I could encounter there was a plate of crisp papadums, spicy Indian curry with rice and a glass of good Indian beer.
I walked into the lobby and through the doors of the restaurant, bright and bustling with talk of this or that dish to order. A few minutes later, Alana walked in and joined me at the table where we quickly got caught up in our latest news. I couldn’t tell you the exact moment we met, since it simultaneously happened online and through our friend Kari who knew we would be fast friends. If I had to guess the date, it was a year or so ago when she was still in the early stages of writing her first book, The Homemade Pantry, which by the way, is a must have!
“I wasn’t sure if I should bring a copy to dinner,” Alana said as she pulled one her bag, “but Joey (her husband) reassured me that it would be okay.”
“I had secretly hoped you would,” I said.
As I flipped through the pages, I couldn’t wait to have a copy of my own. Those pin-up style pop-tarts (or toaster pastries as they’re officially known) on the book jacket haunted me. Broken pastry seems made by strawberry jam mixed with errant powdered sugar sprinkles proved to be difficult to wait for.
As someone who regularly makes bread, cheese, granola, pasta, yogurt and more from scratch, The Homemade Pantry already had a space waiting on my kitchen shelf. The book was an inspiration and not simply because of it’s hearty collection of 101 pantry staple recipes (pizza, snack cake, tortillas) or because it’s a real looker of a cookbook (with stunning photographs by Jennifer, food styling by Jessica, and prop styling by Kari) but also because Alana’s stories read as if I’m sitting down at the table with my closest childhood friend. Her honest portrayal of food, family, and everyday life reminded me to embrace each and every messy and not-so-messy moment spent in the kitchen.
A month or so later, book arrived. I tore open the over sized yellow packing envelope and read it cover to cover. Then I did what you might expect of me. I made pop-tarts: cinnamon and sugar, peanut butter and raspberry jam, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and decided right away that I needed to make these tarts from scratch, often. My guess is you’ll want to do the same.
I’m also giving away a copy of The Homemade Pantry, so you too can make pantry staples like amaretto, vanilla extract, graham crackers, marshmallows at home.
To enter: Leave a comment at the end of this post by midnight EST, Wednesday, April 18. One winner will be chosen at random.
Plus for 6 extra chances to win: Follow/Like me on any of my social hangouts: twitter, facebook, pinterest, and/or google +, or sign up for my newsletter or RSS feed and tell me that you did so.
The contest is now closed. Thanks so much for all your comments and enthusiasm for The Homemade Pantry. I’m happy to announce that I’m giving away 2 copies instead of 1. Congrats to the two winners: #11. Amy Marantino and #57. Gin. Hope you like the book!
Cinnamon and Sugar Toaster Pastries
adapted from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila
Makes 6 pastries
One recipe for Butter Spelt Piecrust
Extra flour for dusting the counter
1/4 cup milk (dairy or almond) for brushing the pastry
6 tablespoons cinnamon and sugar filling (with a fork in a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon with 1/2 cup sugar until blended—store the extra cinnamon and sugar mix to use on buttered toast)
1/4 cup powdered sugar for dusting
1. Prepare the piecrust in two discs according to the recipe and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (2 to 4 hours is even better or you can wait up to 3 days).
2. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Roll the first disc of pie pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 9 x 12-inch rectangle, cutting away loose edges with a sharp knife.
4. Cut the rectangle into six smaller rectangles. Gently separate the rectangles from the counter and lay then on the prepared baking sheet with about 2 inches between them.
5. With a pastry brush, paint each rectangle with milk. You will have some milk left—set it aside.
6. Scoop 1 tablespoon of filling onto each rectangle in a thin line down the center. Roll out the second disc of pie pastry, repeating the steps to create six rectangles.
7. Lay the new batch of rectangles over the rectangles with the filling and seal by pressing a fork around the perimeter of each rectangle. Using the pastry brush, paint the tops of each pastry with milk and poke several times with a fork.
8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before dusting with powdered sugar.