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Other Writings and Recipes

The Well-Prepped Pastry Pantry: Making Your Own Dry Mixes

Vidhi Dattani

One summer, I ate all the stone fruit before killing off my supply of sugar, flour, and oats.  Faced with a pantry surplus, I put together a Crisp Kit of combined dry ingredients for use in upcoming apple crisp months.  This time, however, staring down an extra large excess of dry goods, and anticipating a typically-busy fall, I ramped up my kit prep to broaden my pastry pantry.

In less time than it took to make one complete fruit crisp, I made kits for two of them, plus kits for three different cookies, two different cakes, one soda bread, and six batches of pastry dough.  I didn’t finish one pastry item completely, but I feel as accomplished as if I had made them all.

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The Benefits of Pastry Kits:

Making pastry kits turns even ambitious projects into “quick conveniences,” without robbing you of the satisfaction of cooking from scratch.  Kits combine all the “sift together” items, so they are easy to store in baggies in the freezer, where they take up less shelf space than balls of raw dough.

Making bulk kits is especially efficient. You save a significant chunk of time when you measure out, say, flour, for seven baking projects at once, instead of individually, each time.

And kit making ensures accuracy.  If you disdain baking’s demands for precision, you’ll find that a single, committed, bulk measuring session limits the liberties you’d be tempted to take, if you had to parse out your ingredients individually, each time.

A kit making session is a warm weather activity that prepares you for cooler, nesting months, while the oven is still off.

Pastry kits minimize what you need to have “on hand” the next time you have the impulse to bake. Purple Kale instruction is at its best when it satisfies an acute urge to make something indulgent.

And perhaps most important, kits encourage you to take on baking projects, which you’d lack the time and organization to pull off, otherwise.  You’ll be glad to have a Mertzie’s Jewish Apple Cake Kit on hand (recipe, below) when the Honeycrisps roll in.

How To:

When you measure baking ingredients, you need room.  I venture that we spend a good chunk of time trying to fill measuring cups accurately and cleanly over a small ingredient bag.  Making multiple dry mixes gives you license to open up your workspace–take your 5-pound bag of flour and dump it in a large, wide container or bowl.  Do the same with sugar, if you need to—even baking soda.  You’ll be amazed at how much faster you can put things together, and how much more satisfying the work becomes.

When prepping more than one recipe at a time, write up your ingredient cards, line them up in a row, along with individual bowls or plastic bags, and measure the group of recipes as one large project.  For example, measure the flour for each recipe, before moving onto the next ingredient.

Write the yield on the baggie—you won’t remember if your gingersnaps yield enough for a small dinner party or your kid’s soccer team.  And the volume of a dry mix alone gives you little clue later on. And use thick-lined bags. 

You can write the recipe on the baggie itself in sharpie, but I prefer an index card instead.  I can see a card more clearly when rummaging through the baggies, and there is little risk of it rubbing off and becoming unreadable later on.  Plus, you can re-use the index card—start your own file of Pantry Prep Kits.

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Apple Cake Kit

3 cups unsifted flour
2 cups sugar
3 tsp. baking powder

Mertzie’s Jewish Apple Cake

Serves 12

4 eggs
1 cup oil
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Apple Cake Kit
5 large, firm, tart apples, sliced 1/4-inch thick
about 5 tablespoons of cinnamon and sugar mixed together

Preheat oven 325 degrees F.
Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan.

In mixing bowl, add Apple Kit.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, oil, orange juice, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Mix wet ingredients into dry.

Layer batter and apples in the prepared pan, starting with the batter and ending with the apples.  Top each row of apples with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 1½ to 2 hours, until brown and the cake tests dry.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Carefully turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.