Belly Buttons – it is not what you think. In the Urbnspice kitchen, Belly Buttons are a family pastry story. Growing up as the only French Canadian family in an Irish community in Ontario, my mom was known far and wide in the tiny village as a great cook and baker. There would always be delicious homemade treats for visiting family, neighbours and friends. Looking back, I am sure it was not easy keeping the pantry and cookie tin full of homemade goodies with five children and the tag-alongs that always seemed to gather around the large front veranda. My Mom also worked six days a week outside of the home, which was unusual in that day. I am not sure how she did it. She has always made the deepest impact on my culinary path.
On Sundays, I remember spending time at my mother’s side watching her prepare these delectable items while she sang her little ditties. Homemade pies were often part of our family gatherings.She skillfully rolled out the dough, filled and topped pies with the efficiency of an experienced baker. She made it look so easy!
The best part was waiting until she had finished, and there would always be dough remaining from the scraps and cuttings that could be gathered up and made into our favourite pastry – ‘bellybuttons’!
Not many of my friends had ever heard of a pastry called a ‘belly-button’. However, once they tried one, it quickly became one of their favourites, too.
BELLY BUTTONS – a Pastry Story
CHEF TALK: Belly buttons are simply a rustic pastry made from pie dough. As long as you have enough dough to roll into a rectangle shape, you can make belly buttons. The recipe is an explanation of steps which does not require precise ingredient measurements. Here is how you do it:
- For easy pastry handling, use a sheet of parchment paper on your working surface. Liberally dust with all-purpose flour
- Roll out the dough to 1/4” thick into a rectangular shape – roughly the size of a 9 x 13 pan.
- Spread a thin layer of softened butter spread over the dough. Use your own judgment regarding the desired amount – you will basically be creating a cinnamon caramelized filling and butter is an important component of caramelization
- Next, sprinkle a layer of golden brown sugar and ground cinnamon generously on top of the butter. Leave a small margin (1/2 inch) at the top edge (long side) of the pastry rectangle. Ensure that you leave this 1/2 inch border free of the filling ingredients. This is done in order to seal the pastry log together. Brush this area with water or egg wash.
- At this point, you have a choice: add golden raisins and nuts if you want or leave the belly buttons plain. Either way, they will be delicious! Just make sure to toast the nuts first! This gives them so much more flavour. (see Sticky Belly Buttons variation below)
- Then, roll up the dough lengthwise, pinwheel style, ensuring that you start with the side that is closest to you. Roll tightly as you form the dough into a log. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the dough, if necessary. Seal the log by pinching the seam together with your fingers.
- Cut the log into thick disks (approximately 1 1/2 inches wide) and place them flat onto a parchment lined baking sheet. See? They do look like belly buttons, don’t they? (Mom doesn’t quite remember, but I am pretty sure that is the name we came up with as youngsters and the name stuck).
- Whisk the belly buttons into a preheated 350°F oven to bake. This should take approximately 15 minutes, depending on your oven.
- Now the hard part is to wait impatiently for the belly button pastries to turn a golden brown, with the tantalizing fragrance of cinnamon and sugar wafting throughout the house. You will see signs of doneness when the pastry achieves its rich, golden colour and the filling will be bubbling. Be careful to let it cool slightly before you devour every last crumb!
Golden raisins or nuts, particularly toasted pecans can be added, if desired. For the most part, when I was growing up, belly buttons were simply made plain with cinnamon and golden brown sugar filling as outlined above, and this way is still favoured today. Try them both!
STICKY BELLY BUTTONS: For a variation of the technique, you can make these pastries in a muffin tin. First, make a paste of softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and place a small amount (1 teaspoon or so) in each muffin well. Place the cut dough on top of the filling. Bake as outlined above. Let the pastries cool for a minute or so before inverting them over a parchment lined baking sheet. Be careful! These babies are hot!
It is funny when I look back and recall that belly buttons were always made from whatever pie dough scraps that were left after pie baking. Today, we make pie dough just for the pleasure of making ‘belly buttons’! Belly buttons have come full circle in our family (four generations) to create this pastry story. I hope you create kitchen memories of your own. I would love to hear your stories.
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Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- Oven Temperature Accuracy
If you try my recipe for Belly Buttons – A Pastry Story, please leave me a comment below with your feedback.
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H. P. says
I emailed your website post to all my associates to peruse and inspire ambition.
Denise Pare-Watson says
Thank you, H.P. I hope it inspired your associates.
Lewis Kelly murgatroyd says
Mine is like this
James Murday says
Your story is like mine. My mom was a full-time Chief Parent, to 5 kids, it was a hectic household but somehow everything was clean, the meals were made and we didn’t need anything. My mom would bake these last with the left-over dough and we would wait so we could have the baking pan once it had cooled. Why the pan? some would say; the caramelized buttered cinnamon sugar. It would come out in chips, the bigger the chips the more value they possessed in the eyes of my brothers and sister. Melt in your mouth goodness. Of course so were the belly buttons, which were flaky and amazing. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
Denise Pare-Watson says
Thank you, James for your great comments. It reminded me of many childhood memories. Our family of five girls hovered over that baking pan the same way your siblings did. We both had Supermoms by the sound of it. My Mom worked six days a week, and somehow still managed to create wonderful meals and memories for all of us. We were both blessed beyond measure for it. Cheers and thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts.