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This week, we’re celebrating the holiday of tricks and treats with Halloween scholar Lesley Bannatyne. She teaches us how to emulate the romping Halloween parties of the Victorian era, complete with matchmaking games and dinners for the dead. Plus, we discuss Cotton Candy Grapes and other new candy-inspired flavors in fruit breeding; Dan Pashman has a suggestion for your trick-or-treat offering this year; and we make a German-Style winter squash bread.
Questions in this episode:
"To what degree can one substitute one fruit for another in a recipe?"
"I am calling to get some advice on how to adapt recipes if you're going to make them at different size quantities."
"I have an issue with a caramel cake that I've made for my entire life. And I just recently started to have some issues with the caramel icing developing blooms."
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. And this is how you throw a Halloween party in Victorian America.
Lesley Bannatyne: Victorian hostesses would cut strips of newspaper and hang them from the ceiling so you could just feel them go across your face, or, like, you know, nailing a piece of liver to the wall so you feel that in the dark.
CK: By contrast, this is how Halloween is celebrated at Dan Pashman’s house.
Dan Pashman: I put a scary mask on top of a stuffed animal, and it would like swing on a rope and kind of like swing into the faces of the kids while they're at the front door. It only works a little bit.
CK: We're balancing both tricks and treats today starting with the tree. A first is food writer Alex Beggs. She's the author of The New York Times article on Gumdrop grapes and other fruits designed to taste like candy. Alex, welcome to Milk Street.
Alex Beggs: Thanks for having me.
CK: So, we're talking about superstar fruits. Yes, but this is a very different world than coming up with a slightly better version of the Red Delicious. This is creating something with a taste profile that is actually profoundly different. So, my first question is, this is based upon traditional crossbreeding techniques, right. We're not talking for the most part about GMO here. We're talking about the kinds of technology that were available 100 years ago, except obviously improved over time.
AB: Yeah. And it's funny that you mentioned Red Delicious because it almost looks like a still life version of an apple and they taste it and it's mealy and kind of flavorless. And so, what happened to the poor Red Delicious, but it went through the same process as these new fancy fruits. It was also crossbred, and it got so crossbred for the look of it and so that it would travel long distances and stay intact and have a long shelf life. It wasn't crossbred as much for the flavor. So that's what it lost over time. And now it's kind of this sad. brushed away. I don't know how you feel about Red Delicious. I feel kind of bad for it. It's lost its luster
CK: Compost. Yeah, excellent compost. Let's talk about one of these new candy-like fruits, the cotton candy grapes. I guess a horticulturist named David King started development back in 2011. But how do you do it? You know, what's the process?
AB: Yeah, so David King is his fruit scientist breeder who tasted a grape that university had been working on it's just so weird to think about, like they're at a grape convention somewhere. And he tastes this grape and he's like, this kind of just like cotton candy. But it was ___ mushy and soft. And it needed it needed some work. And so he got permission to like, you know, there's all kinds of legal stuff happening to you know, this like university owns this very special breed of a grape so he gets permission to breed that grape with another variety of grapes until he comes up with a cotton candy flavored grape that also has taut skin and it's juicy and it doesn't smush in the container after two hours and it just takes many, many years of crossbreeding, creating all these little seedling plants, you know, tasting them, and it's not quite there. So that's the core of it.
CK: So, it's been over 10 years, cotton candy grapes in the last year sold $129 million, which is a lot of money. And this is now ushering in a whole new world of fruits that look or tastes like something different than you'd expect, right?
AB: Like candy, specifically something really intelligent and playful. And, and I think that's kind of what sets these apart. It's just how, how all in they've gone with the marketing and the branding.
CK: So what are some other grape and strawberry varieties that are coming out now?
AB: So Sunset Fruit Company has been working for years on a better blackberry, you know, blackberries, kind of that Woody center and it's like so juicy and good. And then there's like that little tannic wood thing in there. So, they've been breeding a Blackberry that doesn't have that and as a result, it's kind of crazy looking and it'll be like an elongated Blackberry. So those are coming in. They're calling them Moon berries.
CK: Some other ones you're write about the pink glow pineapples, which are quote the “the color of deli ham”.
AB: You would be so disgusted if you saw them Chris
CK: 15 bucks each, $15 per pineapple, and then there was
AB: Or 40 you can buy a $40 gift box if you want online, you know for Mother's Day or something they were trying to sell it I thought that was hilarious
CK: And the Picasso melons the sweet honey dew with his snow leopard spots. So, let's follow the money here with a cosmic apple and the cotton candy grape. It's a branded product. And that product, I believe, if you come up with a cotton candy grape or something extraordinary. All of a sudden the pricing model changes to right. So, you can charge 50 or 100% More for some of these extraordinary strawberries or grapes than you could for something generic. So, it really is follow the money here.
AB: And if you are in the grocery store, I'm such an impulse shopper, especially around these berries, like when I see cotton candy grapes. I remember I lived in New York when I saw them for the first time and I just was like, I'm buying these and they might have been like $15 for a bag of grapes and I was kicking myself, but they they almost always sell for twice as much as other grapes. And with the specialty berries, strawberries. Those are I think they said 70% more than usual. So yeah, there's definitely money to be made.
CK: So, let's put this in context. So, Driscoll for strawberries, the team grows over 100,000 varieties a year. So many Yeah. So so just to understand what's going on here. It's not like people are dealing with 20 or 30 varieties, that there's just, you know, corporate scale mega scale testing going on out there to come up of the 100,000 varieties find four that might eventually become 100 million dollar businesses or bigger, right?
AB: Yeah, I'm sure it's extremely expensive to have 100,000 varieties being babysat. It was interesting to talk to Phil who they call Dr. Strawberry who's their head breeder at juris goals. And he's like a super strawberry nerd. I was really had a lot of fun talking to him. He loves what he does. He was telling me you know he had just got on the phone with me he had tasted 60 strawberries you're like taking a bite taking notes, you know, yes to this one. No to that one. Like imagine for work tasting 60 to 100 strawberries a day and I think they they spit out a lot of them. But I was just like, this is a really wild way to work.
CK: So how is this going to change the produce section of supermarket now because all of a sudden instead of one kind of strawberry right? You might have 10 or I mean I guess it's like the Apple sexually of supermarket where you do have four or five options right? Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji Gala etc so maybe that's where we're headed where world of apples you know supermarket superseded the the grapes and the pineapples in the melons. But that's where we're headed. You have the consumer has more choice now.
AB: Yeah, hopefully it's I mean, it's like a nice also nice thought to be like, Okay, we'll have this is going to get people to eat more fruit than they normally would. That's awesome too. Have you ever been in the grocery store and been buying something like Romanesco and someone else at the store is like, what is that? What are you going to do with that? So, like if they had signs like at the bookstore, that's like staff recommendation, this funky vegetable, here's how you cook it. I mean, it's what's interesting is that for this new strawberry batch Driscoll’s, in stores, they not only had free samples to give out, but they also created these big signs that are like a flavor wheel. And it's like this strawberry has notes of pineapple and peach this strawberry has high acidity and they're trying to educate customers on like the, the idea that a fruit will have notes in the way that wine has notes.
CK: So, you've tasted a few of these things. I mean, which were the winners, which were the losers in which was the most surprising.
AB: I really like Sunset Groans strawberries, they're, they're harder to find. They're the lolly berries, which is one that's candy flavored, was truly very sweet. And then they had a pear berry that was kind of weirdly long and I thought that was just kind of unusual. The pink pineapple. I thought it was going to hate because it looks like deli ham. And it really does. But I liked it. It was like if I close my eyes and bit into it and say this is pineapple but it's been muted so you know sometimes pineapple can make your tongue feel itchy, which is like a minor allergic reaction that's happening especially the more you eat it and it's toned that down so it's a milder flavor but still very juicy and sweet and I thought that was a really fun one and fun to bring to a party where people are just kind of most people would kind of grossed out by it. That one's visually I think the most novelty. I tried the Picasso melon didn't love it because the flesh was yellow of the one that I had, and it looked like the rind and it was really hard for me to slice it to know what was the rind and what was the flesh and I said never again. Picasso I'm so sorry. That's the those are the first three that come to mind. But yeah, I when I see them at the grocery store, I try them.
CK: Alex, it's been a pleasure next on my list. Try a cotton candy grape. Thank you.
AB: Thank you for having me, Chris.
CK: That was Alex Beggs. Author of The New York Times article on Gumdrop Grapes and other fruits designed to taste like candy. In this new reality, where fruits are bred to taste like candy, we wondered what innovations would kids dream up? Our reporter Danny Voss as campers at the YMCA camp Olson in Longville Minnesota. If they could make fruits tastes like anything in the world, what would they choose?
Campers: I would want bananas to taste like blue Gatorade. Probably do marshmallows. Happy Birthday ice cream, probably ice cream, chocolate chip cookie dough. I would want it to taste like smores. I’d have a banana tastes like a strawberry because I like strawberries much better than I do like bananas. I hope refers to Apple because it was also my first word. And if I could have any fruit tastes like a candy it would be sherbet ice cream because it's delicious.
CK: So, most kids want their fruits to taste sweeter. But one kid at Camp Olson wanted something a bit more savory.
Camper: My name is Luis. I'm seven years old. And my favorite food our strawberries and grapes.
Danny Voss: Right and if you were to have a fruit taste like anything in the world, what would you want it to taste like?
Camper: Fish sticks
CK: Special thanks to our reporter Danny Voss and of course for their amazing ideas. Alexis, Lizzie Emmanuelle, Isaac, Harper, Lucy, Karina, and Luis. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, we explore the haunting history of Halloween. That's right after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, I'm joined by author and Halloween historian Lesley Bannatyne, having written five books on the topic. She's been quoted as the foremost authority on Halloween. Leslie, welcome to Milk Street.
Leslie Bannatyne: Thank you.
CK: Let's start with a pronunciation quiz. S-a-m-h-i-n samhin in how do you pronounce that?
CK: So, I'm glad I asked you because I wouldn't even close. So, what why don't you start by explaining what that is?
LB: Sure. This is prehistoric Ireland in the sagas that were left once the Catholic monks wrote them down. We find this holiday called samhin that's on the very edge of winter. It's it's at the end of October beginning of November. It's called samhin because that means summer's end, and it was a time where the tribes would bring their, their herds in from summer pasture to to shelter them from winter and the tribes would gather together. It was a time of food, feasting, drinking, telling stories, boasting contests. But because it was sitting there on the edge of winter, it was also a supernatural time. And things would come out of the earth at that time monsters would come out of the earth at that time, and they could menace the world of men and people could go missing in this other world at samhin and so it's always had this supernatural cast which Halloween house to this day. It's always kind of been about what we can't see in the dark.
CK: So, this starts out as a pagan event that has to do with another world then has to do later with the dead. It is taken over by some extent by the church. So so, when they did this All-Saints Day in November 1st In the ninth century, was the church trying to capitalize on an existing tradition and weave it into the church's tradition or were they viewed as being not related at all.
LB: They they were simpatico so it's not like the church went to stomp out Samhin although the church didn't do that on some holidays, and that was an MO. In this case, the rituals and the beliefs and the folklore around it kind of existed side by side because they were similar enough they were all about the other world, the supernatural things we don't know.
CK: So, All Hallows Eve we've all heard of, when did that term come around and was that a just an All-Saints Day derivation or did it come from somewhere else?
LB: All Saints Day was known in England as All Hallows. So, All Hallows Eve the night before All Hallows became All Hallows Eve, shortened to Halloween. So, All Saints Day gives the holiday its name. And All Souls Day kind of gives it its connection with the other world and with the world of the Spirit.
CK: So, we get to the Victorian period, let's say post-Civil War 1870s and on and all of a sudden, it starts to become popularized by women's magazines, etc. Why do you think is is that the connection to the dead, which was huge in the Victorian period? In fact, I believe that seances were usually carried out by women, and it was one of the few professions you could have where you worked for yourself, right? So, it was a very popular way to to make a living. But the Victorians were obsessed with the dead. Why do you think it became so popular at that time post-Civil War?
LB: I think there were a number of reasons. And you're so right about seances. And this was a time when they had suffered so much death in the Civil War, but also so much on knowing so many unidentified dead. So, the question was, you know, where is my son? Is he dead? Is he in a hospital? Is he coming back? So, when you find Halloween stories in those ladies’ magazines, the first Halloween ghosts are actually Civil War soldiers coming home as ghosts. But it wasn't just that they loved the spirit world, and spiritualism and seances. And they were fascinated by that. They were also the first postindustrial society, and it was a time when people were looking for things more rural, more simple, more related to nature, and perhaps a deeper truth. And so here was this holiday that they were finding out about, that seems so exotic, and yet so quaint and so old world and so natural, so attached to the earth, that they loved it also for that, and then the explosion in printing and cheap printing and magazines made it possible for everybody to read about this holiday. And what they printed more often than not, was a poem by Robert Burns called Halloween from 1785, which has this amazing amount of footnotes after the poem that detailed exactly how you play all the games that the Scots played on Halloween. And that's what the Victorian hostesses loved to pick up on is let's let's do this stuff. Let's do it. Here's the blueprint we can do it at our party.
CK: You know, as you're talking, it's so interesting because everything you're, you're saying about postindustrial America, wanting to reconnect with nature, reconnect with mystery, reconnect with something simpler, seems extremely apt today. So, if I went to a Halloween celebration in the 1880s, or 90s, and I walk in the door, what would I expect to find?
LB: You would expect the house to be a little bit darkened and lit by fire light and candles and jack o lanterns. And it would be spooky. Victorian hostesses would cut strips of newspaper and hang them from the ceiling so you could just feel them go across your face. Or I've read really bizarre things like you know, nailing a piece of liver to the wall so you feel that in the dark. But it was all about creating an atmosphere and they were the first inklings of our heart are haunted houses, even in Victorian parties, because you would, you would enter the house and if you had a seller, the guests would be directed down seller maybe to a dark place to take off their coats but on the way down the stairs. There's one instance of you know breaking a giant paper bag over the person's head as they go down in the dark, and then someone else puts a wet hand on their back of their neck. So, there were some titillation thrill you wanted that sort of thing in a party. But it was also beautiful. So, hanging horseshoes, and apples across the doorways and decorating with chrysanthemums, and having food that was available nuts, apples, cabbages, and then you would play games. And these are things that hostesses picked up from magazines by reading these Robert Burns poems. And they were about fortune telling. In the old world, there was fortune telling on Halloween. But at first it had to do with who might die in the next year. But as time went on, and years went by, it was about who would you marry? Who would you love who loves you. So, if you take an apple and parrot in one long peel, and you throw it over your left shoulder, it will land in the initial of the man or woman that you're going to marry. Or if you go out on Halloween, at midnight to a crossroads, you can hear the future whispered in the wind. Or if you if, if you wet your blouse in a running stream, hopefully, but any water will do and hang it up to dry and go to sleep. This one kind of works like Santa Claus. Your future love will come and turn it over in the middle of the night.
CK: It seems to me like you're describing a Halloween. That's really for adults. And today, of course, it's now become more for adults than it used to be. But when I was a kid, it was for kids. How did the kid Halloween fit into this?
LB: Yes, it became about kids. In the 20th century, although there are you can see illustrations of children at parties in Victorian America. And in the early 20th century, Halloween was a big town wide celebration and everyone was involved. So, families children's adults, grandma, grandpa, everyone could celebrate Halloween at that point. But after the second world war with the baby boom and the beginning of suburbs, Halloween was turned over to children. And trick or treating came about as an attempt by town and civic leaders to keep kids occupied during Halloween so they wouldn't be out you know, painting your house with tar or greasing trolley tracks or hanging your rocking chairs in the trees.
CK: So, let's talk about food. The Halloween dumb supper. What's a dumb supper.
LB: A dumb supper is something you find a lot in folklore, but it's a silent supper. You cook it in silence. In some cases, you're supposed to cook it backwards. I'm not quite sure how that works. But you cook it in silence you set an extra plate has to happen on Halloween, and you eat and at midnight on Halloween, you are supposed to see the spirit of the person that you are missing, whether that be someone who has died, who you want to see again, or someone that you love that you think loves you and you want to see if they really do either way, the sum spirit of somebody comes in and sits down at the table and starts eating with you. If you don't do it exactly right.
CK: Well, there's always a good excuse you didn't do it exactly right. You know it occurs to me people love to be irrational. I mean, being irrational is a core part of the human nature and experience and people whether they actually believe it or not, they want to believe it. Because it just makes life fuller in some way. That's what I like about it. Here's one you write about. In the 19th century, girls in American South put some corn mill next to their beds, in hopes that quote ghosts would write the initials of their secret lovers in it. Now, right, it might have been a worm or a mouse or some other rodent who left a trail in the in the in the cornmeal.
LB: Yeah, you know, if you love Steven, that was an S.
CK: Absolutely. Well, the thing that's so interesting is that this time of year, which is connected to death, right, because they're going into winter and things are dying off. And then it connects to you know, the human dead and and ghosts and goblins and witches. All over the world this is a consistent theme through so many cultures.
LB: It is it is and I would say I mean, so many cultures have a time to remember the dead. It seems to be a critical part of being human right.
CK: Okay, so let's decide this year. I want to give a Halloween party. If I'm wanting to give a Victorian style party that was more for adults. Could you just give me some give me a quick tour like what would I do?
LB: Well, you would set your table with candles and jack o lanterns and lots and lots and lots of colorful food. And you would have stations throughout your house, it would be throughout your whole house, you have candy upstairs, you have popcorn in the basement. There was a Victorian party I read about where you let your water run over a cowbell. So, it kind of tolls a bell tolls in the basement the whole time. So, you know, sound and food and light and string leaves, wherever you can string them hang apples from the doorways, it also becomes a nice game because trying to bite an apple on the end of a string was something that was very popular at a Victorian party, especially if you had a man and a woman on opposite side trying to fight the same apple
CK: They might end up kissing. How about that? Yeah,
LB: You could take two chestnuts and put them on your fireplace and let them burn and name one for yourself and one for the person you really have a crush on and see how they burn if they burn through just beautifully you know that that relationship will last a lifetime. But if they split and pop apart, then that relationship is doomed.
CK: I love that. It's better than Tinder. I mean, that's, that is really cool. I kind of like that. Well, thank you. It's been. It's been a pleasure. And you've now motivated me to take this seriously instead of just going on some trick or treating. I think I need to give a party. (Oh, yes) Leslie. It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much.
LB: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
CK: That was Lesley Bannatyne. She is the author of Halloween, an American holiday in American History. A neighbor of mine in Vermont once lived in an old farmhouse in North Carolina. One night that ghost of a Confederate soldier appeared and then sat on the foot of his bed. You know, ghosts used to be personal they were neighbors and family members. Now Halloween is populated by superheroes, monsters, and some scary politicians. Life and death were once on good terms. Now they're separated by a very large chasm. We don't ask the spirits to find us a future partner or give us comfort from beyond. Halloween formally, a friendly get together between the living and the dead is now a children's outing. One devoid of pagan ritual and really any meaning. To quote Shakespeare what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause. Death has become an undiscovered country. And there's the rub. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now it's time to check in with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. German style winter squash bread. Lynn, how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm doing well. How are you doing?
CK: Good. I you know I recently interviewed someone a few months ago about German baking. And I thought I knew something about the topic, which of course, I guess I think I know something about everything.
LC: I was just going to say
CK: I know Lynn was going to say it I said it instead of you know, I had no idea of the range of baking it was fascinating. But one of the recipes we came up with a Milk Street is a German style squash bread or a pumpkin bread Kürbisbrot. So, tell me about it because it just sounds like one of those things, I should know about that. I don't.
LC: Well, it translates as pumpkin bread. But it's not the pumpkin bread you're thinking of which is like a quick bread in a loaf pan. It's actually more like a squash brioche really, it's a yeasted bread made with squash. In this case, we're going to use butternut squash, which is sort of a new world squash in Germany, but very popular there now. So essentially, we're just going to make a brioche dough and for some of the moisture in the dough we're going to use squash now typically in Germany, they would just boil squash and add that directly in. But we tried a recipe from Louisa Weiss who has a book called Classic German Baking and she roasted a whole squash cut in half. And that roasting adds so much more flavor. It gives it more complexity and it has a little bit more sweetness. So, we roast the squash first scoop out the flesh and then add that to the dough.
CK: This is a yeasted bread obviously has a little bit of butter in it, but not too much actually.
LC: No but made like a brioche dough where you mix everything together. Knead for a little bit then add the butter, softened butter piece by piece until it's incorporated
CK: but it's only half a stick. It's four tablespoons, so it's not like two sticks of butter. But allspice and pumpkin seeds also, right?
LC: That's right. So allspice in the dough for a warm spice flavor. A little bit of honey which of course like squash and honey, I don't see how that could be a bad combination. You know when it rises for an hour, then into the refrigerator because again, it's enriched. It's a little bit challenging to work with and then traditionally can be done as just a round like a boule. But we are doing it as a braided loaf. So really, really pretty low for bread on like a fall table holiday table in the fall, and simple to do just if you know how to braid hair, you know how to braid bread.
CK: This is just absolutely delicious. Looks great. Lynn thank you. German style winter squash bread. If you want to expand your bread repertoire, this would be my pick. Thank you.
LC: You're welcome. You can get the recipe for German style winter squash bread at Milk Street Radio.com.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Dan Pashman pits full size candy bars against their miniature counterparts, that's coming up in just a moment. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio right now Cheryl Day is here with me to answer some of your baking questions. Cheryl is the owner of Back in the Day bakery in Savannah, Georgia. She's also the author of Cheryl Days Treasury of Southern Baking. So, Cheryl, I'm confused about cake frosting, right? There's butter cream. Then there's Italian or Swiss versions with like sugar syrup or in it right, (right) Some of them use heavy cream. Some of them are just sugar and butter. I don't like just sugar and butter. Is there some version you love that I should know about?
Cheryl Day: Oh my gosh, there are so many that I think you would love. I make an American buttercream that isn't so sweet as they typically are. And I use buttermilk, and that frosting and or whole milk and then I add a little bit of vinegar or a little bit of salt. Because sometimes they can just be so cloyingly sweet. But I do enjoy an Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream also. And those I find are just I love the texture and they're not as sweet. But yeah, there's a lot of butter creams. And then there's one that I love to make. It's an old heritage recipe. And it's made with flour as the thickener (really?) Yes. And it's very unusual. You do something almost like a roux. And that kind of thickens you know the frosting was sugar and butter. And that is delicious and not terribly sweet either.
CK: So, an Italian Meringue, which is egg whites was hot sugar syrup, correct into it. Can you just also add butter to that?
CD: Oh no, you definitely it's a butter cream. (Okay) so you add butter to that. And then the Swiss Meringue you're kind of heating the egg whites up first with the sugar and then that gets fired. It's always about the butter.
CK: I've made an Italian Meringue which is egg whites, (right) And then you get a very light. It's kind of meringue right bright.
CD: That's great on like, you know, s'mores bars or, you know, something like that. But yeah,
CK: So okay, don't forget the butter and reduce the sugar. Okay, let's take some calls. Sounds good. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hello. This is Jean Glover calling from Savannah, Georgia.
CK: How are you?
CD: Hi, Jean.
Caller Hi Cheryl and Christopher. How are you two?
CD: Good to see.
CK: You guys sound like you know each other?
CD We do. All right. So, I knew there was some funny going on here
CD: Savannah is small. I absolutely do.
CK: Okay, how can we help
Caller: My family and I have been enjoying Cheryl's bakery and her cookbooks ever since she opened 20 years ago or so. But I did have a question. We are so blessed to have such fabulous fruits here in Savannah. And I was wondering to what degree can one substitute one fruit for another in a recipe? Can you substitute equally, or do you have to take sugar content into consideration? I do it most of the time, but I didn't know if I should be as carefree about it as I am.
CK: Well, let's start at the beginning. apple pies its own thing. Yeah, so you just treat that differently. I either don't use any thickener for apple pie, or I might use two tablespoons of flour with it. And I don't use a ton of sugar. Like for eight cups of apples, I might use half a cup of sugar, because I really want the flavor of the apples to come through, which is subtle.
CD: He gets the good apples, Jean
CK: Yeah, and it's great if you can get like three or four different varieties of apples. And if you can find the older varieties, they're great. Berries are a category I use Minute tapioca to thicken my berry pies. And I use about a tablespoon it has to be minute tapioca. Or you can take a coffee grinder and grind down pearls of tapioca so, it's pretty fine. And I use about a tablespoon for every two cups of fruit two to three cups of fruit. If you look at the back of the box, it says a tablespoon per cup, which is way too much. So, for six eight cups of fruit, I might use three tablespoons of minutes tapioca and sugar. And then the sugar amount depends entirely on the fruit, I would use up to three quarters of a cup with seven or eight cups of fruit. But if you had like really sweet peaches, which of course, Cheryl you have, you're not going to need a lot of sugar with some of those. Peaches are very juicy though. And I do I use meta tapioca, which Cheryl is probably going to yell at me about no in my peach pie. And not too much sugar, probably. Those are just a few things. Also, if your blueberries tend to have a fair amount of pectin, they'll set up easier than like raspberries or rhubarb or other things which don't have as much.
CD: And I do mix berries with no problem, the only thing that you need to be wary of I mean, just some berries have more liquid, you know, like a strawberry and you don't want it to be mushy. Cherries tend to sometimes give that same effect. But basically, if you're making a pie, you want to just make sure that you're really cooking it until it boils. And it has that really thick, you know, boiling, and then it's going to thicken it that way, but you just kind of have to play around and practice makes perfect.
CK: Cheryl just said something that's really important, which is when you look at the pie and you made a couple slits in the top, you really do want to see it boiling and bubbling. And that will help thicken it.
CD: I think that's a big mistake. People do pull their pies out too soon in my opinion. Me too. When it comes to a pastry, a pie crust, you definitely want to get that golden crust really brown. And then also you want your juice to be cooking, where it is having the opportunity with whatever thickener you use to thicken, otherwise you're going to slice it and it's going to run everywhere.
Caller: Do you reduce your margin for error if you make a crisp a cobbler instead of a pie in terms of switching fruits out?
CK: Sure, because when you serve a cobbler or anything like that, you're spooning it out, because you want the juice because you have the right, the biscuits on top or the pie pastry on top or the cookies on top, whatever,and the juice is a good thing, but it's not a good thing in a pie where it all fall apart.
CD: So yes, you can just scoop it out bit out. Plus, if all else fails that's why God created ice cream.
CK: I always wondered why God created ice cream. Well, the other thing you can do, we haven't mentioned is the crotata (Oh yeah) which is a one crust pie right and you only use two or three cups of fruit for that. I might use just two or three tablespoons of sugar. Mix it in a bowl, little lemon juice or lemon zest, whatever. Roll out one pie dough, which is a cup and a quarter of flour with 8 tablespoon of butter, little salt, little sugar, put the fruit in the middle, roll up the sides and throw that in a 375 oven for an hour. That also will evaporate the extra juices as well.
Caller: Excellent. I'm so motivated. I think next step is strawberry rhubarb.
CK: Thanks for calling Jean.
Caller: Take care. See you soon Cheryl bye.
CD: Welcome to Milk Street who’s calling?
Caller: This is Sharon Burnham calling
CD Hi Sharon. Hello.
CK: How can we help?
Caller: I am calling to get some advice on how to adapt recipes if you're going to make them at different size quantities. So, for example, I have a favorite cream scone recipe where you would normally cut 12 ridges and then bake it and I wanted to make them into small mini scones using a mini muffin tin And I just wasn't sure how to adjust time or temperature and I wasn't happy with the choices I made.
CK: First of all, don't use a mini muffin tin. scones and biscuits are essentially the same thing so they have to be baked like for 425 for 12 to 15 minutes, and just on a baking sheet on parchment paper or whatever, without any pan because the pan is going to reduce the heat around it and mess up the baking. And you're probably not going to get a good, you know, rise out of it. So, we just roll it out, maybe a little thinner, and just buy a set of biscuit cutters and use the small one, whatever one you want. And just cut them out and put them on a baking sheet and bake them for 25. But if you put them in a tin of any kind of muffin tin, it's kind of shielded from the heat of the oven. It's just not going to pick up right
Caller: Well, that's exactly right.
CK: You're going get a lousy rise and they're not going to brown bottom to it.
CD: You know, a good biscuit or scones got a nice brown bottom to it. And you can also just, you know, like Chris said, roll them out, cut them into squares, and then cut those squares into little triangles if it's that shape that you were trying to go for. And the look for your scone and I love the little mini scones. They're so cute and delicious.
Caller: And would you separate them when you put them on the baking sheet?
Caller: All right.
CK: And when you reroll for scraps if you have scraps, by the way, one trick is the second time around with the scraps don't roll it as thin, you're going to overwork them. So, keep the dough a little thicker. So, when you cut out the second round, assuming you're doing circles and have scraps, they'll end up being the same height as the first batch
c Good advice. Well, that was exactly right. They just didn't have the right texture or taste even. And so now I understand why don't use a mini muffin tin.
CK: No, no. no tins for biscuits,
CD: One less piece of equipment too
Caller: Yes indeed.
CD: Well. Thanks for calling.
Caller: All right. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
CK: Yup. Thanks, Sharon.
Caller: All right. Bye bye
CK: This is Milk Street Radio Cheryl and I are here to save you from a baking disaster. Give us a ring 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street radio.com
CD: Welcome to milk Street who’s calling. Hi,
Caller: Hi this is Richard Reuter. Hi, Richard. I'm very excited to talk to you all today. I really appreciate your time. I am calling because I have an issue with a caramel cake that I've made for my entire life. And I just recently started to have some issues with the caramel icing developing blooms. And I'm not quite sure what is causing it. Part of my process is putting it in and out of the freezer so I can let the icing set up. And so that the layers don't sway back and forth. And I'm not sure if it's the humidity in my kitchen. Or if its moisture get into the icing but it's been happening with greater and greater frequency here in the last six months or so. And I cannot wrap my head around what is causing it.
CK: What changed when you started having this problem.
CD: Yeah, that's the thing about you know, baking is science so that's what I always do is kind of start peeling back the layers of what is different.
Caller: One of the things that I did that is different is that I started putting it on a rack it is covered in the freezer.
CD: I think it's definitely the culprit is the freezer because the moisture and caramel don't mix. I'm just curious, do you put any acid and your caramel like cream of tartar or lemon cheese to kind of stabilize it?
Caller: No, it is as basic as caramel gets it. butter, sugar, milk
CD: Sounds delicious. So, it's one that you make and you stir for a long time.
Caller: That's right. Well actually, we typically what I've done recently is that put on an episode of Milk Street Radio and I just stir and stir and stir
CD: That's great. And is a cake you're not covering it, you're just kind of letting it set.
Caller: That's right. It's on a tray. It's not wrapped in plastic. It's not until a couple days later that you sort of just start to see these little like chocolate blooms develop and they get larger and larger and it doesn't happen to all of them. I make a few at a time
CD: it's reacting with the moisture in the freezer.
Caller: My mom always used to tell me I could freeze and refreeze this cake for up to six months and I never had an issue with blooming during that time.
CK: You said the blooming doesn't occur in the freezer it occurs after you take it out of the freezer two days later, is that right?
Caller: So, as we take it out to thaw you'll sort of start to see these spots of sweat develop and then from that is where the bloom occurs.
CK: And when they come out of the freezer where they always left in the same place. That's roughly the same temperature?
CD: Good point.
CD: Good point
CK: or did you change where you put them after they come out of the freezer?
Caller: I've always brought them out to the same place same same temperature,
CK: Same time of year is not hotter or colder.
Caller: I'm in South Carolina during the summer months. It's a little bit warmer, but I try and adjust that with our air conditioning.
CD: Yeah, I'm in Savannah. So, South Carolina, very humid this past year, I think more than usual. (Yes) And unfortunately, weather does affect everything. And there's something happening though I think with that freezer and then the temperature of that outside, don't you Chris?
CK: Yeah, I think what's happening is you're attracting moisture from the air when it comes out of the freezer, right. And that moisture is causing the blooming
CD: Yeah. Do you make caramel cake because I usually I don't make it in the summer at all
CK: Well, the only other thing I can think of is going back to Cheryl's point about adding a little acid to it
CD: to stabilize it
CK: You might stabilize the caramel, that is the only thing that made some sense to me too.
CD: I mean, he won't have to add a lot I have found doing that really does help especially in you know humid weather or if it's too cold or just have had no problems with it. I've actually not seen a bloom on a caramel only on chocolate.
CK: I think we're left with add a little lemon juice or other acid to it. Cream of tartar. Yeah.
Caller: Okay. I will report back with the results.
CD: Please check back and then I would go back to you said you change something different with the way you're storing it in the freezer. I would go back to however you are doing it. Do it like your mom taught you don't change anything. That's my advice.
CD: Mom knows best.
Caller: The best advice I've ever been given. Yeah, absolutely. All right. I appreciate it. Thanks for all y'all do
CK: Pleasure. Thanks. Take care.
CD: Thank you for calling. Bye
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Next up, let's hear from our friend Dan Pashman. Dan, what's going on?
Dan Pashman: Well, Chris, Halloweens coming. What do you what are you giving out? What do you give out of your house? I bet I bet you're the toothpaste house.
CK: The toothpaste house.
DP: Yeah, that always is like the wa wa house that like gives out a toothbrush and toothpaste.
CK: I know. No one goes to that as well. I'm taking my my five- and three-year-old out. So, we just leave a big bowl of candy.
DP: And what's in the bowl?
CK: Well, I like to get Milky Way's I'd like Snicker bars. I'd like bars. You know, candy bars is my favorite
DP: What what size candy bars?
CK: Well that’s a good question. Last Halloween, there were some people who gave out full size bars. And I'm going like, they're the man. I mean. So, I think this year, I might actually do that instead of the A little mini’s. The minis are kind of like, you know, you're going through the motions, but you're not really committed right?
DP: I think that's a great way to put it. And I want to tell you, Chris, that you know exactly growing up. I know there's always one or two houses in town that give out full size candy bars. And everybody knows those houses. And you assume that the people live there must be just like the coolest, most fun people you could ever encounter. Well, last year in the lead up to Halloween, I had a realization I said to myself, wait a second. We could be that house.
CK: This could be me.
DP: This goal is within reach.
CK: My moment to shine.
DP: That's right. That's right. And so, I convinced my wife so we're going to do it. We're going to be the full-size candy bar house. And I told my kids I said tell all your friends in school. The Pashman house has full size candy bars, and we loaded up and we got a lot of trick or treaters, and it was very fun. But the other great thing about it, Chris, I got to eat some of the full-size candy bars.
CK: I knew this was coming
DP: and let me tell you something, after years of not having had one and only eating the minis. It is a whole other experience.
CK: It is. No no you're absolutely right. Because it's not like one bite and it's gone. You can chew your way into it multiple times.
DP: Well, there's that but also it's different ratios. Oh really. The bigger candy bars. The full-size bars have a different surface area to volume ratio, so there's less exterior chocolate in relation to the volume of the interior fillings
CK: Only Dan Pashman would talk about the ratio, the square inches on the outside,
DP: I'm telling you, it really makes a difference. Like you get big pieces of peanut in your Snickers bar. And when you snap through the shell of the Three Musketeers and land in that chewy, pillowy center, you're really landing in something soft and decadent. It's not just like you're not through it before you know it.
CK: Well. It's also a way of buying popularity in your neighborhood.
DP: And I'm not above that.
CK: That was my bread. Exactly. So so so this year are you going to take it one step further? Are you just going to repeat the whole big candy bar routine?
DP: I think I'm going to stick with the big candy bars. But I aside from just like enjoying eating that the fullest says candy bars gave me an appreciation for the people who invented these candy bars because as much as they're like owned by giant corporations now, at some point, there were human beings who came up with these combinations and be like, is this good? Is that good? What do we want? When you eat a mini of one of these candy bars, you're like, yeah, like, whatever. It's sweet. It's chocolate. It's good. But when I ate the full-size candy bar, I was I was struck transported back to that, like, invention moment of like, wow, like this was, this is a really good idea like, this works. The textures, the flavors like this is a fantastic sweet treat. And it gave me a new respect for the people who invented it.
CK: Are you one of those households that requires the trick or treaters to perform for their candy?
DP: No, no, no, let me they have to say trick or treat they have to say trick or treat. But I don’t need any
CK: They don't have to sing a song, recite a poem.
DP: No, no we have tried to jury rig some like scary things in our house. Like I put a scary mask on top of a stuffed animal and attached a rope to it. And I was trying to set it up where I could throw it out on the second-floor window and it would like swing on a rope and kind of like swing into the faces of the kids when at the front door and scare the bejesus out of them. But it only worked a little bit, but it was still fun for the kids to try.
CK: Dan, thank you. I think I'm going to join fully the full candy bar group. I think you're absolutely right. And the best part is you get to eat a few of them later.
DP: Absolutely 100% Well, I'll maybe I'll try to stop by your house. If I'm in your area, Chris, just just leave your home address on social media and I'll find you there.
CK: Take care. Bye.
DP: Thanks, Chris. Take care.
CK: That was Dan Pashman, host of the Sportful podcast. That's it for today. You can find all of our episodes at Milk Street Radio.com or wherever you get your podcasts. To explore Milk Street and everything we have to offer. Please go to 177 Milk Street.com. There you can download our recipes, watch our TV show and learn about our latest cookbook. Cook What You Have Make a Meal Out of Almost Anything. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and kitchen questions and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media and Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.