After living in France on and off in my twenties and early thirties, I can definitely say that my tastes changed because of it. Many processed foods that I had previously found acceptable and even tasty suddenly tasted artificial, overly salty or sickeningly sweet.
To my husband’s occasional confusion, however, I still retain a fondness for certain garish sweets that I enjoyed as a kid. Mike and Ikes, I love you. Sour Patch Kids too. I also feel that birthdays just aren’t the same without multicolor buttercream icing. I think we can safely say that pink and blue food is not nearly as common in most other countries as it is here, and yet I think there are times when shamelessly fake food is a lot of fun.
Take, for example, the truly astonishing works by mosaic artist Jason Mecier, such as this portrait of Rosie O’Donnell:
or the Washington Post’s annual Peeps Show contest, in which participants create culturally relevant dioramas using marshmallow peeps. The winner this year made a hilarious scene depicting the open-casket funeral of the beloved Twinkie, which was attended by a variety of important peeps, including the peep pope. Check the article out here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/peep-stalgia-modern-moments-captured-in-medium-of-yesteryear/2013/03/26/9993a73e-874a-11e2-98a3-b3db6b9ac586_story.html
Then there is a category of things that I think could use just a little help. Many American foods are in fact very well-conceived, their only problem being that they are cheaply and poorly executed, using scientifically engineered flavors as a substitute for real ones. This idea is certainly behind the new chic trend of remaking twinkies with genoise and buttercream, or crafting mac and cheese with aged gouda and truffle butter. I think this is a great trend, and I have decided to contribute with my very own homemade pop tart! Ah yes, the pop tart. When you think about it, pop tarts are a bit like an American version of empanadas, pain au chocolat, or other stuffed pastry. The possibilities for filling are endless. To put a new spin on things, I made them with cornmeal. I think the cornmeal/ strawberry duo is a terribly underestimated one. The crunchy, buttery cornmeal pastry with the sweet, fragrant strawberry jam is a winning combination. Try it. But lest we remove all the fun, I have topped mine with a bright pink glaze. After all, a little colored icing never dampened anyone’s spirits. Don’t expect these to taste just like the original, though. That’s a good thing, right?
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup corn meal
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 stick of butter, cut into chunks
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/4 cup strawberry jam or other filling
For icing (optional):
- 2-3 tbps milk
- Powdered sugar, enough to reach desired consistency
- Food coloring
Mix first 5 ingredients in a food processor and blend. Next add egg and allow the machine to run for a couple minutes until the dough comes together. Form into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Next roll out the dough on a floured surface. Cornmeal-based dough is a bit harder to work with, as it lacks some of the stretchiness of wheat flour, so use plenty of extra flour to prevent sticking and patch up any holes. Square off the edges, then cut your rectangle in two. Place dollops of jelly about 1.5 inches apart on one of the sheets. Lay the second over the top and gently press down in between the jam. Cut into squares or rectangles and separate. Finally, with a fork, press the edges firmly to seal and pierce the top. Sprinkle with sugar. Lay tarts on a sheet pan lined with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool and glaze if desired.
There’s no problem with freezing them and defrosting them as you need them.
Stay tuned for another food art related post on the topic of Japanese bento boxes!