Betty and Bren
Green Bay, WI
Give your baked creation a name and tell us about your flavors. Also, what are you most proud of?
Belgian Bliss. Bren and Betty teamed up this week to bake the quintessential Belgian treat. We made mini Belgian pies in the traditional way. As interpreters for the Heritage Hill State Historical Park – Belgian Farm, we decided to focus on the baking aspect of our Wisconsin Belgian community’s end of summer harvest festival celebration called Kermis. The very first Kermis took place in 1858 five years after the first of the Belgian immigrants arrived to claim land here in northeast Wisconsin. Ever since that first time, each weekend in late August and on into September and October, have seen Kermis celebrations in one village or another of the Belgian settlement area.This big job took both of us working all day to accomplish. The crust for Belgian Pie is yeast raised sweet dough. The flavors that we used for the fillings included apple (grown here at Heritage Hill State Park), prune, sour cream and raisin, rice pudding, and poppy seed. All of the fillings, except the rice pudding, were then topped with our freshly made cottage cheese/stoffie topping.
For this cheese topping, Bren heated whole milk over our wood stove and when it began to boil added lemon juice. After it curdled, she drained off the whey, which left a fresh, dry cottage cheese. To the cottage cheese Betty then added ¾ cup of the ‘Stoffie’ as the cream cheese ingredient in the recipe. She had made the stoffie a day earlier by heating whole milk only to 100 degrees, adding cultured buttermilk and letting it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. The resulting thickened solids were squeezed of the liquids and thus pressed together into a cheese and then chilled. The topping also included a “hunk of melted butter,” ours being churned at the Park, and two egg yolks which in this case were very fresh because Bren went out to the chicken coop for them when we realized we were out of the ones we gathered in the morning. Thank you beautiful hens! We are most proud that all of our fillings, toppings and dough were made from scratch and baked using processes home bakers used by 1905. And we are also proud of the fact that we got all 10 of the mini pies baked (plus three traditional sized ones) within our day of farm tours, and that our visitors coming into the farmhouse could see and smell our fillings cooking and our yeast dough rising and baking in the wood stove. We forgot only one step in the recipe – the pressing through a sieve of the topping mixture so it would be smoother.
The key to this week’s challenge is your creative presentation. Describe your display.
Our display is set on the farmhouse table. The photo includes our mini pies in 5 flavors set on an antique basket rack. In front of our pies we have two of the unique tools that we used to create our pies. On the left, is a wooden beetle that we used to grind the poppy seeds for one filling. On the right, is a bell shaped chopper that we used to chop the prunes once they had been cooked for another filling. These are likely what the 1905 Belgian farm women would have used in making their fillings. (No electric powered food processors or mixers used here.)
It’s Wisconsin Week, so you need to showcase a super Wisconsin twist to your recipe and/or arrangement. Tell us about it.
The recipes that we used to make our fillings, toppings and dough were taken from the “Belgian American Heritage Customs and Cookbook” by Margaret Draize published in 1996. Mrs. Draize was a resident of our Wisconsin Belgian community and the Draize family donated an original farm building to Heritage Hill’s Belgian Farm area. Although the book itself is not pre-1905, the recipes that we used from the book are indeterminately old and well tested. Mrs. Draize collected traditional Belgian recipes from her family and friends. They have likely been handed down through the generations from grandmothers, mothers and aunts to modern ladies. We are humbled by the fact that individual Belgian women in each town of the Belgian settlements took (and continue to take on) baking a hundred or more of the traditional sized 8” pies for their Kermis celebrations. And yet, historically this was probably traditionally done in a large outdoor brick bake oven rather than the kitchen wood stove. We both gained a healthy respect for their fortitude! We also both agreed that this day was a super fun day for us. Our “super Wisconsin twist” is that our Mini “Belgian Bliss”Pies represent a focus on the culture (the historical traditions) of one of this state’s many ethnic groups – the Belgians! Come to Door/Kewanee/Brown County and join in on a Kermis this summer!
How did you do?