Monday, October 31, 2022

Candy Burgers (Maid Rite Hamburgers)

I prefer to 'mandoline' whole dill pickles razor thin and then pile them on.

Somewhere in my Hoosier childhood, I remember a hamburger bun filled with "loose hamburger" meat that was slightly sweet with a hint of tang. I especially loved the savory juices that absorbed into the bun. Think "sloppy Joe" but without tomato sauce crossed with a White Castle hamburger.

I don't really remember any condiments put on the burger. My siblings don't recall such a concoction at all. I honestly do not remember where I had it. I now suspect it was, perhaps, a school lunch at the middle school where I once taught.

Wherever and whatever, I have since learned it is simply called a "loose-meat sandwich" made popular by an Iowa chain called Maid Rite. Most have closed. But their ardent and loyal following is still powerful, and today there are dozens of recipes that swear to be the "original" with ingredients ranging from root beer to dried soup mixes to simmering for hours on end. It's almost a cult following, like one's guarded  chili recipe.

America's Test Kitchen offered their "authentic" version a few years ago (recipe follows). It's not what I remembered, so I played around with it for ages. I thought I had lost my notes and recipe; but, happily, I recently found them hiding in a computer file I never finished.

This is quite easy. The key is to use great hamburger meat. Ground hamburger (you never really know what you are getting in it anymore) is now so expensive that I simply pass it up and buy the fresh, pre-formed hamburger patties produced by small companies who use quality meat. It's worth it.

Also, the key is the ratio of sugar to vinegar. Too much sugar results in a too-sweet burger. But, guess what? It's delicious! Just add more mustard and dill pickles. If not your taste, trust me, kids will eat them up!

The traditional topping is a spider-web squirt of American yellow mustard and dill pickles. Maybe some extra tiny diced onions. That's it. No ketchup. No mayo. No cheese. I prefer to take a whole dill pickle and slice it razor thin on a mandolin and then pile it on the burger. It's much easier to bite into and to chew. You will never go back to jar-sliced pickles.

If you have the time, soak the dried onion flakes in the beef broth until they are hydrated. 
  • 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried/minced onion flakes
  • 1 good tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3-4 teaspoons brown sugar (start with less)
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons water (start with less)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • American yellow mustard
  • Slider buns (not Hawaiin)
Simply add all ingredients to a pan and cook on med/low heat until everything is cooked through. Taste and adjust your seasonings. Allow to slow simmer about 20 minutes, giving a quick stir every once-in-a-while, adding more liquid if necessary. You want loose and wet.

When ready to serve, place a slider bun cut side down over the meat and allow to steam for 30-60 seconds.  Pile with meat. Squirt on some mustard, add the sliced dill pickles, top with bun and enjoy with a hefty side of salty chips or crispy fries. Add a cold fizzy soda or a beer ... 

Here is America's Test Kitchen recipe:
  • 1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard, plus extra for serving
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Sliced dill pickles

Update: 11-10-22
Since posting this, a friend e-mailed that, indeed, a Maid Rite was once in the county of Indiana where I grew up, so that must be where I had these and/or my mother made them from memory since the diner was not close to our house. Mystery solved!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Pumpkin Breads, Toppings, Glazes

I love a quick bread. No yeast. Just mix and bake. Maybe drizzle with a frosting. Slice and serve. Good with your favorite cuppa in the the morning, an afternoon snack and quick dessert that is easily jazzed up.

With summer on the run, everyone is on the pumpkin wagon. It's amazing the pumpkin concoctions they invent from drinks to meats! Me? I'll stick with the traditional. And nothing gets better than pumpkin bread!

There are a ton of recipes, but I have settled on just two that I want to share. If you, too, are on the lookout for something a bit out of the ordinary, I urge you to give them a try. Neither one is greasy from an overabundance of oil added to the recipe. Both use a full can of pumpkin--not a partial can. Both have a baked topping. And both rise nice and high. I have also added a few "topping" ideas.

Feel free to fuse the two together to get your own hybrid. I often do.

First up is Deb Pearlman's pumpkin bread from her site "Smitten Kitchen." If you don't know it, you are in for a lovely visit! In on-line tests, some have dubbed this the BEST pumpkin bread. 

Using a 6-cup loaf pan, it makes a hefty load, so be prepared. Some use a smaller pan and use the excess batter to bake off cupcakes. If you do, vary baking times and test for doneness! I use half oil and half butter.

  • 1 15-ounce can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable or another neutral cooking oil or melted butter (115 grams)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 (330 grams) cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Heaped 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • Heaped 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Two pinches of ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups (295 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 6-cup loaf pan or coat it with nonstick spray. (A doubled version will fit a 12-cup bundt pan, btw.)

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and sugar until smooth. Sprinkle baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinanmon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves over batter and whisk until well-combined. Add flour and stir with a spoon, just until mixed. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth the top. In a small dish, or empty measuring cup, stir sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle over top of batter.

Bake bread for 65 to 75 minutes until a tester poked into all parts of cake (both the top and center will want to hide pockets of uncooked batter) come out batter-free, turning the cake once during the baking time for even coloring.

You can cool it in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove it, or cool it completely in there. The latter provides the advantage of letting more of the loose cinnamon sugar on top adhere before being knocked off. 

Deb says, "Cake keeps at room temperature as long as you can hide it. I like to keep mine in the tin with a piece of foil or plastic just over the cut end and the top exposed to best keep the lid crisp as long as possible."

If you go to the Smitten Kitchen website, the comment section has loads of tips. 


Next is America's Test Kitchen version. It is a little fussier, as most of their recipes tend to be. Still, it is way better than most. I like the combo of melted butter/cream cheese/oil/buttermilk. This uses walnuts. I have also used black walnuts. People have also added cranberries and candied ginger.

This recipe suggests first cooking out the pumpkin puree which gets rid of the "tinny" taste and imparts a deeper flavor. You decide. I do it because it makes it easier to mix in the cream cheese.


  • Topping:

  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar or 2 1/4 ounces, packed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • Bread Batter:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1, 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar (7 oz.)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar (7 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. cream cheese cut into 12 pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (shake the carton)
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped fine

The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches; if using a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes early.

FOR THE TOPPING: Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside.

FOR THE BREAD: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK).

Fold walnuts into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature. 



If you want to forgo the toppings used above, I also enjoy this thick glaze which is also appropriate for many quick breads or cakes that are pumpkin, banana and/or apple based. 

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 100 g (sift after measuring)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot water (use a little at a time!!!)
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Chopped pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 2-4 drops imitation maple flavoring (optional)

In a small bowl, mix sugar, olive oil and maple syrup. Add just one tablespoon of the hot water. Taste. If needed and if using, add a few drops of the maple flavoring. For the second tablespoon of hot water, only add a little at a time. You want a glaze that is somewhat thick, not runny.

Carefully spoon over the cooled loaf so some runs down the sides. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes before slicing.