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Thursday, 03 August 2017 12:54

Pastry delights are stuffed with taste

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Calzones, empanadas, knish, pasty, pirozhki — all cuisines have similar stuffed foods. They may have different names,  but these easy-to-hold and easy-to-eat snacks are very similar; a sweet or savory filling wrapped inside some kind of pastry.

Which means you have plenty of options to consider if you plan on entering the Strut Your Stuff recipe challenge at this year’s Walworth County Fair in Elkhorn.

Learn more

Strut Your Stuff recipe challenge

 When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2

Where: Old World Artisan Market Village, Walworth County Fair, Elkhorn

Details: No entry fee, open to all ages,

Contact: 262-723-3228


What's what

A calzone is an Italian oven-baked,  folded pizza dough that originated in Naples. A typical calzone is stuffed with salami or ham, pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese.

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries of Latin America and in Spain. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

A knish is an Eastern European snack food consisting of a filling covered with dough that is either baked, grilled or deep fried.

When Cornish miners migrated to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1800s, they brought with them their beloved national dish: the pasty, stuffed with meat and potatoes.

Russian pirozhki, small pies, surround a savory cheese and beef filling. This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour.



(Pronounced pi-rosh-kee)

Makes 16


4 cups flour

1/3 cup sour cream

6 Tbsps. butter, softened

1/2 cup warm water

2 large eggs

2 Tbsps. sugar

1-1/2 tsps. salt

2 tsps. instant yeast



1 Tbsp. olive oil

3/4 cup diced onion

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

8 oz. ground beef

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp. parsley, dried

4 oz. mushrooms, sliced

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, to brush on dough

To make the dough: Combine all the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until a soft, smooth dough forms.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow to rest for about 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat the oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, ground beef and mushrooms and cook for five to 10 minutes, breaking the meat up as it browns, until it’s cooked through. Drain excess liquid and fat.

Season the filling with salt, pepper and parsley, remove it from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Stir in the cheese. The filling can be made ahead of time, then wrapped and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Assemble the pirozhki:?Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into balls and place them on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about an inch between them. Cover the dough balls  and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes.

Shape each ball into a flattened  round about 5 inches in diameter, brush the surface with some of the egg/water wash and place 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each round.

Pull the dough over the filling, pinching two opposite edges together tightly to seal in the filling; it should look like a dumpling.

Place the buns on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover the buns and allow them to rise for 1 hour or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 400 toward the end of the rising time.

Brush the buns with the remaining egg wash. Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the seams have come undone and the filling is visible; they will be delicious either way.

Remove the buns from the oven and allow them to cool for five to 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, 27 July 2017 12:08

Corn puts the sweet into summer dining

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An acquaintance of mine from Yorkshire, England, who is now nearing a century of living, once demanded that I tell her everything I know about sweet corn. She knew I lived in the Midwest where there are plenty of cornfields. My friend’s age and country of origin are important because sweet corn, until post-World War II, was not really grown in England. This is partly due to the shorter, cooler growing season in England — corn likes to take its time, and it likes it hot.

Thursday, 20 July 2017 12:19

Time to fill up on fair food

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It’s county fair time! When it comes to filling your tummy at the Rock County 4-H Fair, July 25 through July 30 in Janesville, there’s so much to choose from and so little time.

Ask anyone who’s been attending the fair for a while and you’ll hear the burgers and malts mentioned as a favorite — they’ve been served up by the Rock County Farm Bureau for the past 41 years. That’s a lot of burgers.

The bureau’s Sheila Everhart said  prices are kept low so participants in the fair can afford to visit their booth multiple times.

“Our target market is families and the 4-H exhibitors at the fair,”?Everhart said. “We sell Johnsonville brats for $3, all-beef hot dogs for $2, burgers and our signature cheeseburger with delicious cheese from Country Quality Dairy — a double cheeseburger is $4.50.”

Wash that down with a shake or malt for $3.

Fair Secretary Mary Check said they try to have a good variety of food vendors. Occasionally, they add a new vendor due to attrition.

Elmer Scott of Elmer’s Kettle Corn had been trying to secure a spot at the fair for years. Elmer is retired from the business, but the kettle has been passed to Codi Papcke, who is excited to bring Elmer’s Kettle Corn to the fair for the first time this year.

“We’ve been at the Janesville Farmers Market since it opened in 2005, but this is the first time at the fair,” said Papcke, who has been operating the business for four years.

The slightly salty, slightly sweet popcorn is a popular treat. The good part is, the busier Elmer’s gets, the faster the popcorn can be made.

“It takes about four minutes to make a batch, but once the kettle gets heated up, we can push through a batch in three minutes,” Papcke said.

That means that everyone who has a hankering for the hot, crunchy treat will be satisfied.

Experience in serving hordes of people in a short time pays off for  food vendors trying to provide a smooth transaction for customers.

Rona Dolgner of the Janesville Tuesday Breakfast Optimist Club said her club has plenty of that experience.

“I’ve been doing it for 30 years; the club’s been at the fair for probably 48 years,”?she said.

They sell cheese curds and chicken nuggets.

“Everyone loves the cheese curds,”?she said. “We go through cases and cases of them.”

Other food items you might want to try this year are the pretzels from Ben’s Soft Pretzels, baked potatoes from Billie’s, pork sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, cheesecake, lemonade and frozen treats from Kona Ice.

This year, the Optimist Club is adding a new treat: deep-fried sweet corn.

“It’s delicious,”?Dolgner said.

Well, of course, it is — isn’t all fair food delicious?

If you want more

Some treats found at the fair can be made at home. So while you’ll surely want to scoop up a cream puff from the Rock County 4-H Club booth, here’s how you can make them once fair season has come and gone.


Cream puffs

Makes 8 shells:

1 cup water

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs


Custard filling:

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

To make the shells:

Bring water to a boil. Add butter and watch until melted (it could boil over unless you stir it). Remove from heat. Add flour and stir until dough forms a ball. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Drop by scoop onto cookie sheet — do not grease the pan. Bake for about 25 minutes in a 425 F oven. The top should be hard and crisp. If you take them out too early, they will collapse.

To make filling:

Mix flour, sugar and salt. Slowly stir in milk. Cook, stirring until mixture boils; boil for two minutes. Stir a little of the hot mixture into eggs, then return to hot mixture, stirring until thick, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool and refrigerate until needed.

Fill the cooled shells with whip cream or custard filling and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Keep refrigerated.

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Thursday, 06 July 2017 12:29

Mulberries: Now’s the time to enjoy them

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There are three types of mulberry: black (Morus nigra), red (Morus rubra) and white (Morus alba). The black mulberry tree originally is from Persia, which is found within the area of modern-day Iran. The red mulberry is native to North America.

I have the black mulberry.

The white mulberry is a native of China and is an important food for the silk worm. The silk industry still needs the leaves to feed its tiny workers.

The bark, berries and leaves of the various mulberry varieties have been used for centuries as medicinals. The black mulberry berries are a laxative, tonic for the blood and an anti-inflammatory. They also are an antioxidant and contain copious amounts of vitamins A, B and C.

Mulberry leaves are an antibacterial. A tree from the leaves can be used to induce sweating and end a fever, while encouraging the expulsion of congestion in the lungs.

Native Americans used the red mulberry as an anthelmintic, a natural wormer particularly effective on tape worms.

No matter the variety, the mulberry fruit is highly perishable, which is why you don’t find it on store shelves. It shows up at farmers markets once in awhile. The fruit doesn’t travel well, but mulberry jelly does,  and that’s what I like to make with my mulberries.

The jelly is one-fourth of my sweet and sour sauce, so I?often use it in Chinese dishes, a nod to the mulberry’s origins.



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