Northern Lights and Cheese Pockets

It has been a week of cosmic synchronicities and random pork chops.  

Let me explain.

The week started off with a fabulous display of the Northern Lights, usually not visible this far south. Photo by Randy Halversen and River Halversen.

 Louise Erdrich wrote about the aurora borealis in her novel Love Medicine, which I used in Heartland:

“Everything seems to be one piece.  The air, our faces, all cool, moist and dark, and the ghostly sky. . . .All of a piece. . . .As if the sky were a pattern of nerves and our thoughts and memories traveled across it. . . . As if the sky were one gigantic memory for us all.”

And then one particular memory did come back, in the form of a story by Polly Campbell in the Cincinnati Enquirer about “cheese pockets,” a wonderful coffeecake much beloved in our family. You can see the square coffeecake made with a sweet yeast dough folded over a sweet cheese filling, then sprinkled with sugar. You can also see what a cheese pocket looks like when you cut it into pieces—and who can eat just one piece?

Here's the link (but I also have a pdf available below, as these links aren't always permanent):

Cheese pockets made me homesick for Ohio, the prettiness there of the old Federal-style brick buildings, the trees changing colors, the quality of light you get in late fall.  I came across a blog by a fellow Wittenberg alum, and she understands it, too.  The calm, small town beauty that you can still find in the Midwest.

And the surprises, too. 

I was out walking Mimi the dog in my Kansas neighborhood when she suddenly became very interested in someone’s front yard.  A little too interested.

When I looked to see what she had in her mouth, it turned out to be a perfectly grilled, boneless pork chop, still warm. Dog heaven! 

And for you, too, a little serendipity—the recipe for Cheese Pockets.
The no-knead dough simply mixes up in a bowl--with a Danish dough whisk, if you like-- and rises on your kitchen counter in 2 hours. Easy. 

You can bake with the dough that day, or cover and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking.  Both recipes are adapted from 200 Fast & Easy Artisan Breads.

Cheese Pocket Coffee Cake

Known in German as schmierkuchen, this easy coffee cake is the essence of home baking. Sweet and yeasty, with a mellow filling, a piece of this served with fresh berries is a good reason to wake up in the morning.

Makes 2 coffee cakes, to serve 12 to 16

Rolling pin
Two 8-inch (20 cm) square baking pans

1/2       recipe prepared Easy Artisan Sweet Dough (below) 
            Unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup            granulated sugar          125 mL
1 tbsp  all-purpose flour          15 mL
1/2 tsp fine kosher or sea salt  2 mL
2          eggs, beaten    2
1-1/2 cups        small-curd cottage cheese (about 12 oz/375 g)           375 mL
1/4 cup            heavy or whipping (35%) cream         50 mL
1 tsp    vanilla extract  5 mL

Granulated or sanding sugar for dusting

1.         Form. Divide the dough in half. Transfer one half to a floured surface and dust very lightly with flour. Flour your hands and the rolling pin. Working the dough as little as possible and adding flour as necessary, roll out into a 12-inch square. Drape the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to one of the baking pans, fitting the dough into the bottom and up the sides. Repeat with the remaining dough.
2.         Rest. Cover with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 40 minutes.
3.         Preheat. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350°F (230°C).
4.         Prepare filling. Five minutes before baking, in a food processor, combine sugar, flour, salt, egg, cottage cheese, cream and vanilla; process until smooth. Pour half the filling into each pan. Drape the sides of the dough over the filling. For the topping, sprinkle with sugar.
5.         Bake. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until filling has browned and crust is a medium reddish-brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool

Master Recipe #7
Easy Artisan Sweet Dough

Substituting milk for the water and adding sugar, melted butter and eggs to Easy Artisan Dough transforms it into a sweet dough. With these additions, the dough is heavier, and thus needs more yeast — and stronger unbleached bread flour — to make it rise and achieve the appropriate crumb. Sweet dough recipes do best when baked on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (sweet fillings can ooze out of the dough and blacken on your baking stone), and at a lower temperature: 400°F (200°C). With this master dough, you can produce wonderful coffee cakes, festive breads and sweet rolls with a moist, feathery crumb. The dough will last for only 3 days in the refrigerator before it turns bitter.

Instant-read thermometer
8-cup (2 L) bowl
4-cup (1 L) glass measuring cup
Wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk

6-1/2 cups        unbleached bread flour           1.625 L
2 tbsp  instant or bread machine yeast            25 mL
1-1/2 tbsp        fine kosher salt            22 mL
2-1/2 cups        lukewarm milk (about 100°F/38°C)    625 mL
1 cup   granulated sugar          250 mL
1/2 cup            unsalted butter, melted           125 mL
2          large eggs       

1.         Measure. Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level with a knife or your finger, then dump the flour into a large mixing bowl.
2.         Mix. Add the yeast and salt to the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk. In the glass measuring cup, combine milk, sugar and butter. Using a fork, beat in eggs
  Pour into the flour mixture and stir together until just moistened. Beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.
3.         Rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature (72°F/22°C) in a draft-free place for 2 hours or until the dough has risen to about 2 inches (5 cm) under the rim of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance.
4.         Use right away or refrigerate. Use that day or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking.

*          Microwaving cold milk for about 2 minutes on High will result in lukewarm milk of approximately 100°F (38°C).
*          Before storing the dough in the refrigerator, use a permanent marker to write the date on the plastic wrap, so you’ll know when you made your dough — and when to use it up 3 days later.

If you'd like me to send you a pdf of the Cheese Pocket story, then please e-mail me at

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