Austin Theatre’s Drowsy Dish: How to Bake a Toledo Surprise

Kitty leads the crew as they all bake up a "Toledo Surprise"

Kitty leads the crew as they all bake up a "Toledo Surprise", Photo by Kirk R. Tuck

One of the most popular musical numbers in this summer’s hit musical THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is “Toledo Surprise” (CLICK LINK TO PLAY) led by our jovial gangsters posing as pastry chefs (played by Tyler Wallach and Leslie Hethcox) and the harried producer (Scotty Roberts), who’s worried his fate will be sealed in pastry dough if he doesn’t put on a show.

The recipe?

First you chop the nuts –
- then you pound the dough -
– then you bake it up nice and slow –
– and then you got your Toledo … Toledo Surprise!

The gangsters sing it with such panache, and we’ve got a few talented cooks on staff who’ve baking up their own Toledo Surprises. By popular consensus and with all local ingredients (seasonal, too!), we’ve put together the ultimate Toledo Surprise recipe Austin audiences can make from home:


Here’s what you need:

  • 1½ pounds peaches (about 5), pitted and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups blueberries later on), picked over and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped, lightly toasted pecans
  • Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment
Gangsters posing as pastry chefs are bakin' up a Toledo Surprise

Gangsters posing as pastry chefs are bakin' up a Toledo Surprise, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck

Here’s what you do:

In a large bowl, toss the peaches and the blackberries gently with the cornstarch, the lemon juice, and the granulated sugar until the mixture is combined well. In a small bowl stir together the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the butter, blending the mixture until it resembles coarse meal, and stir in the pecans. Spread the peach mixture in a 13-inch-by-9-inch (3-quart) baking dish, sprinkle the pecan mixture evenly over it, and bake the crisp in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden. Serve the crisp with the ice cream.

Thanks to Austin actress Barbara Chisholm for sharing her foodie expertise with us. If you have your own recipe ideas for a Toledo Surprise, post them on our blog at

Tickets to final performances of THE DROWSY CHAPERONE are going quickly, book early for the best seats online or with our box office at (512) 476-0541, x1.  Ask our box office about weekly ticket specials!

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