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Showing posts with label fall recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fall recipes. Show all posts

Monday, October 25, 2021

Spiced Rhubarb Pie


Yes, I said spiced. Rhubarb has got to be one of my absolute favorite perennial plants. It's incredibly hardy and can grow just about anywhere, even in Alaska. It's bright and sour and adds depth of flavor to just about anything. Yes, it's quite fibrous and can be a little difficult to prepare in the wrong hands - but it's so worth it to keep at least a couple of these beautiful mounding plants alive in your garden. Not only are they a wonderfully flavorful addition to countless dishes, but they look quite nice in the garden bed. I suggest planting them in a sunny spot where you don't mind an eventual big mound of beautiful rhubarb and where it will be for a long time. Perennials mean a permanent commitment!


For this recipe, I'll also be using spicebush berries, which are made from these gorgeous foraged berries native to the Americas. Don't fret, though, if you don't have these! I've got an excellent substitute down the line... You dry the berries for use, of course, and store them in jars or bags. When ready to use, simply grind them in a spice grinder to release the incredible oils and bright orange spice inside. The taste, to me, is like a pink peppercorn made love to a cinnamon stick, and then the spice that came from that union eloped with a big peel of juicy orange. It's truly a spectacular spice that I love to use in many of my baked goods.

This is a foraged spice which means it is not bought and sold commercially. As far as I can tell, the kind of spicebush that grows the berries hasn't been cultivated as of yet, so I couldn't simply tell you to go out and buy the plants. This is a shame since it's such a lovely and unique spice that I think everyone in the world should get to have. I can't tell you where to buy it, so I'll just refer you to Prairie Birthday Farm, which is how I get mine. I'm sure that they could ship to wherever you may be staying if you ask nicely. They're nice, warm-hearted people over there, and they've been kind enough to include me in the possibility of propagating and cultivating the bush in hopes that more and more Midwestern folk will fall in love with native plants and start planting them in their own yards. The transplants won't be ready until spring of 2022, of course, but you can bet that this gal will be awaiting their arrival to her garden with bated breath.

Spiced Rhubarb Pie 
yields one 

Flaky all-butter pie crust

  • 8 oz vegan butter, cold, chopped 
    • We all know I love Earth Balance and Miyoko's butter!
  • 14 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Ice water, as needed
Rhubarb filling
  • 7 cups chopped rhubarb
    • Fresh is ideal, but frozen is just fine
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp spicebush berries, ground in the spice grinder**
    • If you cannot get spicebush berries, simply use:
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 3/4 tsp pink peppercorns, ground
      • Zest of 1 orange
      • A pinch of Chinese Five Spice powder
      • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 3/4 c orange juice
For the filling, mix - in a large bowl - the chopped rhubarb with the sugar, spices, vanilla, and salt so that everything is coated. Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel and set aside while you make the pie crust. Ideally, you're going to want to let this soak for an hour or more. 

For the crust, simply cut the butter into the flour and sugar with either a pastry cutter or two knives. If you have a food processor, feel free to use that instead. The idea is to get pea-sized chunks going on throughout the flour mixture before adding ice water. How much? Oh, just enough to barely get the dough to come together when mixed with a fork! It's quite dry where I am right now, so I think I used about 1/4 cup of water. Simply ball together and set in the fridge for an hour.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350. While we're waiting for the oven to heat and the dough to cool, let's talk a bit about rhubarb!

Please don't be put off by the color!


As you can see, the rhubarb is green. As you may have noticed from the date on this blog, it's the middle of October. This may confuse you because many people are mostly familiar with rhubarb in the context of strawberry rhubarb pie, which is a late springtime and early summertime delight. The truth of the matter is that rhubarb doesn't just grow in the spring, but in the fall as well. This lovely plant grows in what I like to call the 'in-betweener seasons,' which means the transitional seasons between extreme heat and extreme cold, summer and winter. The stalks start green but turn red as they ripen with the warmth. You won't always see red rhubarb in the cooler months, but that shouldn't turn you off.

If you aren't familiar with rhubarb's flavor profile, I've asked my husband - who up until recently had never had a straight rhubarb pie - to describe it. His exact words were:

"Oh. Uh. I don't know... Kind of tart?"

I would describe it as sour and vegetal, which is oddly good. Maybe a super-sour celery with a hint of citrus fragrance? It's a truly unique flavor that's got a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C, potassium, and calcium so you can feel good about having more than one slice of this ultra-thick pie. It's got a very nice depth of flavor that is so unique...and also a vegetable! Would you ever think that you could make a sweet pie out of vegetables? It's so good, you can make any pie, cake filling, or jam from it and it'll go down a treat for anyone who tastes it. 

As I mentioned previously, rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means it comes back every year. Strawberries, which go excellent with rhubarb, is also a perennial. They are also a good cold weather plant which means that they can survive underground in the snow. This means they can grow in the same patch together and be just fine! To ensure their survival, a healthy amount of straw and mulch over the beds will do you a world of good. I have some large maple trees on my property that - of course -  shed their leaves when autumn comes. This is a natural mulch, but is so much more than that.

I finished this bed two days before I gave birth!

In nature, autumn leaves aren't meant to be raked up. The leaves that fall are a natural blanket for the underlying vegetation an a cozy home for pollinating insects to lay their eggs until they can hatch in the next year's spring. This protects any plant life from hard frosts and blankets of snow in the winter months.  Nonmigratory birds also benefit from these leaves because worms feast on them and fat worms mean healthy birds. Fat worms also mean healthy soil and healthy soil means healthy biome. Do you see how it's all connected, and how you - in your own small way - can help your own tiny microcosm of plant and animal life? Just something to think about while you finish your pie...  

I don't even know what this is supposed to be. Maybe like a triceratops doing a cosplay of Jack Skellington?


Divide the dough in half and give your dough a good smack or two with a floured rolling pin to soften everything up while keeping the fat still cold. This is great therapy, especially if you have a newborn like me, and you are so sleep deprived and you just need some kind of safe release... It's ideal if you can roll all of this out on a marble surface, but whatever you're using is probably just fine. You can either roll out two discs on floured surfaces or you can sandwich your dough between two sheets of parchment paper that have been lubricated liberally with aerosol pan spray of some matter. I prefer this method, simply because it helps with cleanup and minimizes the chance of overworking the dough. If you're going to use a more intricate design on your pie crust top, however, it may benefit you to use flour and a bit of kneading, just to ensure the pie crust is strong enough to do fun things with. My design was fairly simple, so I kept my rolling method simple. 

Important note: No matter which method of rolling out you use, be sure to lay your pie crust in your pie dish of choice with plenty of overhang and allow it to rest in the dish for at least five minutes while you work on your top. It's imperative that you do this to minimize any shrinkage that would otherwise occur. You can let it rest on the counter, but I personally think it's better to let it rest in the fridge so the dough can get cold again before anything else. When the bottom is ready, give it a quick dust of semolina or equal parts sugar and flour. 

When you're ready, give the filling a good stir. You should have quite a bit of liquid that's come from your rhubarb! Drain that into a small saucepot and whisk in the cornstarch. Slowly bring to a boil over a medium flame and allow to thicken. It'll get quite thick so don't worry! When boiling, immediately remove from the heat and add the orange juice. Give it a good whisk to ensure there are absolutely no lumps and add it back to the rhubarb. Mix everything until it's all well incorporated and pour into your prepared bottom crust.  There will be quite a high rounded top on this, so please keep that in mind when designing your top crust. Make sure you have at least a few vent holes in your design.

Bake your pie at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the crust is golden-brown and there's slight bubbling of the filling that's showing. Remove and allow to cool for about an hour before cutting into it. This pie is sour, sweet, herbacious, and incredibly satisfying in the fall. The cornstarch helps it set so you can get clean slices, and the orange juice brings out the naturally citrus-like flavor of the rhubarb. The spices compliment the sour-bitter notes with aromatic fragrances that remind us of fall. 

I love this pie because it uses one of my favorite 'surprise fall' ingredients and gives me a break from pumpkin. Don't get me wrong - pumpkin and apple are life! But you do need a break from these two juggernauts of autumn flavors and I think that this pie is just the ticket. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. 


As always, I want to send out a special thank you to my good friends at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for their tireless efforts in agricultural education and advocacy for the community, and for their help and generosity during my pregnancy and birth journey. The friends I have made during my time working with this farm and the community I have found during the pandemic because of this organization has meant more to me than I could ever write. Thank you.

I'd also like to take a moment to say thank you to the nursing students at Research Medical Center, who happened to be at the farmer's market at KC Farm School on Wednesday, October 13th, of 2021, that checked my blood pressure and alerted me to the fact that I had suddenly developed gestational hypertension. This is a condition that isn't serious in and of itself but it does have a 50/50 chance of developing into preeclampsia, which can be a life-threatening condition for both mother and baby. Because of them, I went immediately to the hospital after the market and was able to get induced and safely deliver my baby. Thank you. 

Actually, my entire birth story was awesome and it was all thanks to the incredible nurses and nursing students of Research Medical Center. If you're at all curious, you can find my birth story here on IGTV Live! It's a long one, so be forewarned. 

Finally, I'd like to thank you for joining me for a portion of your day. I know that reading food blogs aren't always the most exciting thing to do with your time, but the fact that even a tiny portion of your day was spent with me makes me feel special. I hope that I can provide education and insight to food and growing it for yourself. I also hope that I made you laugh. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Upside-Down Caramel Pear cake




When August turns to September, it is the time for pears. Small, dense, mild Asian pears grow very well in the Midwestern USA. I'm so fortunate to be a part of a small farming community in the middle of a bustling city because I always have access to the best produce when it's fresh. I don't have enough land to justify a pear tree, and I'm currently in constant battle with the woodland critters that vie for my peaches, but that doesn't mean I don't love pears when they are in season. 

Asian Pears, also known as Japanese Pears, Nashi Pears, or Apple Pears are deciduous fruit trees that grow well in well-drained soil and benefit from slightly acidic conditions. They are not self-pollinating, so they need a pal to be next to in order to produce fruit. Although they can grow large, they will usually be quite small if you buy them from a local grower, which is absolutely okay. The flavor is extremely mild and therefore can lend themselves to both sweet and savory dishes. I love these pears because the dense texture and low moisture content make them ideal for baking. Fruit that keeps its shape during the cooking process is a rare treat; don't waste that opportunity!

Upside-Down Caramel Pear Cake
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Fall Recipes edition
  • 8 oz/1 cup/2 sticks of vegan butter, divided 
    • Of course, use dairy butter if that's what you have on hand. I like Miyoko's for this recipe!
  • 2/3 c + 3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 5 small Asian Pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c/10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Take half of your butter and chop it into cubes. Add the other half to the bowl of a standing mixer and set it on your stovetop to warm while you work. Add your chopped cold butter into either one 13" bread loaf pan or two 9" loaf pans. (You can also use a cast-iron skillet or a 9" round cake tin, but I did mine in a loaf.) Place in a cold oven and turn it on to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, whisk all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

It's not the prettiest now, but bear with me!

Check your butter in 10 minutes. When it's melted, add 1/3 + 3 Tbsp brown sugar to the pan and mix with a spatula to make sure that it's fully incorporated and in all of the corners. Arrange your pears, cut-side down, in the bottom of the pan, and do your best to ensure even spacing. Add it back into the oven and let roast for 20 minutes. Let's work on the batter next!

The butter in your mixing bowl should be sufficiently warm by now, so let's use a paddle attachment to whip that butter into shape. You're going to want to whip it until it's light and fluffy, and then add the remainder of your brown sugar. Let mix on low for 30 seconds, turn the speed to medium, and beat until the color has lightened and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, letting mix for a full minute between each one. Add the maple syrup and mix until homogenous. It should smell divine!

With the mixer on low, add in half the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add in the water and vanilla extract and mix. Add the remainder of the flour and stir until combined, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that absolutely everything has mixed well. Set the bowl aside in a cool spot in the kitchen until your 20 minutes are up. This will allow the mixture to hydrate and rest!

When the timer for the oven goes off, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on the counter for 2 minutes. Give your batter a quick stir and gently pour over the hot pears and caramel as evenly as possible, making sure to scrape every last bit of batter from the bowl. Gently push the batter over the corners and do your best to cover the pears. The caramel will rise up so try not to harm yourself! Slow and steady wins this race. 

When you've got yourself sorted in the batter, return the pan to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set and cooked. You can test this with a skewer! Take this time to clean up, as it's probably smart to clean as you go. At the sound of the timer, remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes on the counter before flipping onto a serving vessel. You can use a long platter, a fancy plate, or even a rustic wooden cutting board, like yours truly. You can let the cake cool completely before cutting a slice for yourself, but truthfully, I couldn't wait that long and just gave it a five-minute rest before cutting into it. 



This cake is so incredibly tender, light, and is full of fall-adjacent flavors of caramel and spice. Pears are a wonderful fruit to eat and turmeric is an excellent spice to add to your cakes. I don't want to get too preachy about the benefits of turmeric, so I'll just say that it adds pretty color and a beautiful aroma that balances out the pears and caramel. This is excellent as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or as a sweet treat for breakfast with your morning coffee. Make sure you keep it covered and wrapped on the counter, and it will stay good for a week. I doubt that it will last that long, though...

Thanks so much for spending some of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Persimmon Cinnamon Rolls


 

These are fabulous. You want these. You want them in your mouth, right now. These persimmon cinnamon rolls - or per-cinnamon rolls, if you will - are an excellent application of this beautiful fall fruit. I don't think it gets enough credit, but I'll talk about why I think that a little later... For now? Let's get to the recipe!

Per-cinnamon rolls

Dough

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 g dry active yeast
  • 125 g sourdough starter
  • 150 g sugar
  • 30 g coconut milk powder
  • 200 g warm water, a little warmer than body temperature
  • 2 eggs
Filling
  • 1 cup persimmon puree
  • 2 tsp dried spiceberry bush berries, crushed
  • A few grinds of white pepper
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • A fat pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon 
Icing
  • 2 oz vegan butter substitute
    • I really love Earth Balance, or Miyoko's brand!
  • 6 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 1/3 c persimmon puree
  • Powdered sugar, as needed
    • Mine took about a cup and a half to get the right consistency
The night before...
Start by combining all of your dough ingredients, except for the eggs and salt, into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook attachment. Stir to combine and only to combine, which shouldn't take more than ten or eleven turns. Set a timer for 10 minutes and let everything sit together until the time has passed. When the timer goes, off, add your eggs and salt, and turn on your mixer to a low stir. Let this stir for about 5 minutes! Next, turn the speed up to medium and let stir for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until the dough is incomparably silky and smooth. 

Oil up a large plastic Tupperware container or a good-sized clean bowl that you can seal well with clingfilm. Turn your dough into this container, seal shut tight, and then let sit out for about 30 minutes, or until you can clearly see or smell that the yeast is working in your dough, though it should be noted that you shouldn't keep it out for longer than 45 minutes. While you're waiting, let's get you to prepare our cinnamon roll filling by simply combining everything with a whisk and storing in a large piping bag overnight with your dough. A ziploc plastic bag is fine, too!

Pop this gorgeous dough into the fridge and let sit overnight! It's important to note that if you want to have cinnamon rolls for breakfast, you must wake up early to do so, at least a couple of hours before everyone else eats breakfast to be safe. If you just want them as a morning snack, then wake up at your normal time and do this at your leisure. Shall we take this break to talk about persimmons?




First of all, I should tell you that I personally believe that they do not get hardly enough credit as a fall fruit. They possess a wonderfully sweet and complex flavor with a most-pleasant tang to finish. They're hard as rocks when they're unripe, but when they are ready they get almost squishy. I suppose you could describe their taste to be somewhere between a banana and a date, with an almost citrus-like tang to finish. They almost taste, to me, like good pie filling that's already been sugared and spiced. 

Second, I think it's only fair to warn you that they can be a little hard to find, but with local farmers and the local CSAs being so amazing, you're likely to find at least one or two folk growing them. Wild persimmons are the kind that I got, and although they were incredibly, especially delicious, they were quite small and rather labor intensive. If you can, don't get the wild kind, unless your plan is to dry them and have them in a tea blend. If you've already gotten your hands on wild persimmons, here's how to clean and process them:

Simply take them all in a bowl and let them come up to room temperature. Then, pour boiling water over them and let them sit until the water is cool enough to stick your hand in, remove and crack open the peel, one by one, before pressing the entire fruit into a fine mesh strainer. I like a good tamis, but if you have a food mill on hand then that'll do just fine! I put all of my puree, along with some of my skin, into my blender before pressing it through my tamis strainer once more. I think it's only fair to tell you that it did take me the better part of my afternoon.

Is it the next morning, yet? Are you ready to roll some stuff out? Let's do it! Just so you know, if you want to have this for breakfast, you should wake up a couple of hours before you are ready to bake and turn on the oven. If you work from home, and time doesn't matter anymore, just get up and go! Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and let's get ready.

Flour a surface generously, and that includes your hands! Turn your now-risen dough out onto your chosen surface, be it your counter or a marble slab, and roll out to an even rectangle that's about a quarter-inch thick. Take your filling and simply pipe it in lines all across your dough, and spread evenly with a spatula. The piping bag isn't absolutely required, but it does make it a little easier on you when it comes to even distribution. 

Roll up your dough, nice and tight, and pinch the sealing ends hard when it comes around to the end. Roll over on the seal side to let the weight help you out when cutting. I personally like to slice mine so that they stand up to be about 2 inches tall, and with this recipe, that method yields 15 rolls. Ultimately, if you're a bit of a novice, all you should really do is evenly slice them with a serrated knife and leave to proof on a sheet pan lined with either parchment or a silpat mat. An easy thing to do is to simply cut your whole roll in half, then in half again, then in half again...and voila! You have a whole tray of cinnamon rolls!





Next, arrange all of these on your chosen tray so that there's a decent amount of space between each one. This yielded 15 rolls for me, so I arranged it ina 3 x 5 on my half-sheet pan, sprinkled generously with flour, and then gently laid plastic wrap over the top while I preheated my oven to 325 degrees F. I usually set my rolls next to the stove and rotate them every 15 minutes or so, until they've doubled in size. You might as well make your icing while you're waiting!

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and delicious. Let them cool for about 5 minutes in the rack, and while your rolls are still warm, dollop over your gorgeous persimmon cream cheese frosting. 

And there you have it! You've just made incredible cinnamon rolls with a gorgeous autumnal twist. Not only are they delicious, but they have a beautifully gentle orange color that's perfect for fall. They're tasty with a hint of the date-like flavor of the persimmons, that is at once comforting and bright...and it all spells magic. 

Thanks so much for reading, today! Happy cooking and happy eating!