Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Growing up it was an annual fall tradition to make the trip to Eberly's Orchard, near my grandparents' house in North Liberty, Indiana. Don Eberly was my mother's school bus driver, and ran an orchard and cider mill on his family farm. I have such fond memories of walking into the barn and watching the apples go up a long conveyor belt to be pressed into cider that would come out fresh from the spout and into tiny Dixie cups for sampling. While no orchard can quite compare to the one of my childhood nostalgia, I consider it a necessary autumn ritual to make a trip to a nearby orchard with friends.

While Eberly's didn't have doughnuts that I can recall (I'd likely remember if they did), I got used to them as orchard treat from my time in Michigan and Vermont. When I moved to North Carolina, I was shocked that I couldn't find apple cider donuts anywhere, so I started making my own. In the past few years, they've become a staple for backyard shows, brunches, and Halloween parties. 

I use smitten kitchen's recipe, adapted only slightly, the main difference being that I like to add a little cardamom to my dough and to the sugar coating. Getting the hang of frying can be tricky at first if you've never tried it-- don't be afraid to sample the first few to make sure you're hitting the sweet spot of a little crisp on the outside while still soft and cakey on the inside. 

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 1/2 dozen, depending on size

1 cup apple cider
3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 scant teaspoon cinnamon + 1 1⁄2 Tablespoon additional for topping
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar + 1 cup additional for topping
2 large eggs
1⁄2 c. buttermilk
A lot of veggie oil for frying

1. Pour apple cider into a medium-sized saucepan, and over medium heat, bring cider to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low so the cider is gently simmering. Let simmer about 30 minutes until it has reduced to about 1⁄4 c. set aside and let cool.

2. In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients except for sugar and extra cinnamon and set aside.

3. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, beating after each addition. Once the mixture is well-combined, reduce the speed to low and add the reduced apple cider and buttermilk, beating until just incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough is well-combined, smooth, and begins to come together in a ball.

4. On a cookie sheet lined with floured parchment paper, roll out the dough to about 1⁄2-inches thick. Move the dough and paper to a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Once the dough has firmed up in the freezer, remove and cut with a doughnut cutter (or ball jar and a shot glass). Place the doughnuts onto another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Once you’ve cut all the doughnuts, place them in the fridge for about 20 minutes while you prepare your oil.

5. Now before we get to any hot grease situation, make sure you are wearing closed-toed shoes and are properly clothed—hot oil can be dangerous so be careful!  Using a pot or pan with tall sides, pour in enough veggie oil to reach a depth of approximately 3-inches. Put a candy thermometer in the side of the pan and slowly heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees F.

6. Meanwhile, prepare your post fry set-up: stack a few layers of paper towels on a plate for doughnut blotting. Mix the 1 cup sugar and 1 1⁄2 Tablespoon cinnamon (I like to add a pinch of cardamom too) together in a wide shallow bowl and set aside.

7. Now you're ready to fry. Add a few doughnuts at a time (3-4) to the hot oil and fry until they turn golden brown (this may take some testing and sampling), approximately 1 minute. Flip the doughnuts over and fry the other side for about 30 seconds-1 minute. Use a metal slotted spoon to remove the doughnuts from the grease and blot them on the paper towels. Then dip them into the cinnamon-sugar. 

8. Though tempting to eat right away (and you should definitely eat them while fresh and warm) try stringing the doughnuts using a sturdy rope or twine and tie them up, like a hammock, between two trees or posts. Challenge your pals to eat them from the string, no hands. Just a way to make a party that already has doughnuts, even better.

Related recipes:
Apple Galette
Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze
Apple Slump
Cardamom Doughnut Muffins

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies

It feels a little disingenuous to post this without divulging that that when I made these savory pocket pies, I wasn't able to eat them.

For the past two weeks, I've been doing a detox/cleanse guided by my friend Michelle, a naturopath in Detroit. I'd been interested in doing something of the sort-- prompted by a lethargic feeling after weeks of travel with some overly-indulgent food choices as well as a cycle of bad migraines. I was interested in cleansing, but also in potentially identifying and/or eliminating some migraine triggers. I saw that Michelle was offering a guided detox and asked it I could participate from afar. I especially liked that  it offered the support of a doctor and a participant community-- even a remote one-- and I think it made me more likely to follow through and stick with it over the two weeks.

The detox worked similarly to a food elimination diet, cutting out food items that are inflamatory and/or a common source of sensitivities. That meant, roughly, no wheat, coffee, dairy, soy, sugar, alcohol, peanuts, corn, nightshades, oranges & grapefruit, and processed foods and meant a lot of fruits and vegetables, grains like quinoa and brown rice, nuts, coconut or almond milk, green tea, grass-fed meat, fermented foods, and water.

It was much easier than I imagined and I adhered to it pretty strictly, though did allow myself a glass of red wine on one or two occasions (1 being the evening after I finished moving). After I broke by caffeine/coffee addiction, which resulted in a few minor headaches, I felt really good, healthy, and energetic throughout.

I'm still in the process of adding foods back in and testing sensitivities. I know right now that I'm planning to cut out a lot of dairy, particularly heavy creams, soft cheeses, etc.--this was a sensitivity I was already fairly aware of, but the detox helped me to really see what an effect it has on my digestion, mental awareness, and general well being. I don't think I have other serious sensitivities, which I'm thankful for, but feel more conscious now of the effect that an excess of wheat and sugar has on my body as a whole, and in general am very appreciative of the consciousness and self-care approach that the detox has brought to my eating habits.

Like any time restrictions are set on creative process, I really enjoyed the way the cleanse injected some new energy and innovation into my daily cooking. Working within the detox's constraints, actually allowed me to transcend my cooking comfort zone and "same old" recipe mode, and try out some new things-- namely crispy chickpeas, quinoa-carrot-cabbage soup, and a variety of green smoothies.

That being said, I'm also excited to return to the world that includes Pear, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies. Quite versatile, these can serve as a breakfast, lunch (with a side salad accompaniment), or a dinner appetizer or side. I relied on friends to be taste testers and they gave it a thumbs up. Feel free to substitute the pears for apples, and the gruyère and rosemary with other cheeses and herbs.

Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies
Makes 8-10 depending on size

Nothing in the House Pie Crust
3/4 lb. (about 3) Bosch pears, cut into small wedges
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup gruyère, grated
1 Tblsp. fresh rosemary
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 beaten egg + 1 tsp. milk/cream for an egg wash.

1. Prepare Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions. Once chilled, roll out dough onto a floured surface and cut into circles of equal size (mine are about 6-inches). Place cut circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Add 1 Tblsp. olive oil and sliced onions to a cast iron skillet and place over medium heat. Stir to coat onions with olive oil. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Sprinkle onions with salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 25-30 more minuted until onions are caramelized. 

3. Place onions in a medium sized-bowl and add pears, gruyère, rosemary, and salt & pepper to taste. Remove cut dough from fridge and add a scoop of filling to one side of every cut circle. Brush edges of dough with cold water and fold the other half of the dough over the filling to form a crescent shape. Using a fork, poke a steam vent in the top and press the edges to seal.

4. Brush hand pies with egg wash and sprinkle with flake sea salt, if desired. Bake hand pies on parchment-lined baking sheet for 35-40 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Crust will be golden brown when done. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Serve still warm.

Related recipes:
Ham, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Galette with Fried Egg
Heirloom Tomato Pies with Bacon, Cheddar & Thai Basil Jalapenos
Pear Tarte Tatin
Savory Apple Tart with Caramelized Onion, Gruyère & Sage

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The First Pizza Party at Big Switch Farm

This guest post from my dear friend Lora Smith takes us back to high summer in Southeastern Kentucky, and the first pizza party at Big Switch Farm--the first of many, I expect. Some of our pizzas were summer-seasonal, but pizza is for all seasons. Now from Lora...
"The land belongs to the future, Carl; that's the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk's plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother's children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it for a little while."
-- Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

When I met my husband we were both working on sustainable development efforts in Kentucky-- Joe with a farm organization that supports small family farmers and me for a grassroots organization dedicated to social and environmental justice. Both of us were also dealing with the paradox that while we worked on issues of sustainability, our lives were anything but sustainable. As we explored ideas of the future we wanted to create together, we returned again and again to a desire to become landowners, to farm at a small scale, and raise a family near friends and family in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky.

Joe and I found Big Switch Farm the year we were married. Its previous owners were a state-recognized Native American tribe who were using the property as a gathering place to host dances and celebrations four times a year. Before that it had been a hunting property, and many years before that a country road dotted with small homesteads ran through the middle of the acreage. We find remnants of the farm's past everywhere on the land: the foundation of old houses, empty shotgun shells and makeshift targets, sticks tied to fabric in the color of the four directions. Big Switch has always been a gathering place and we intend to keep it that way.

A small group of friends joined us for our first camp out and party on the farm this summer. Joe and I recently purchased a small mobile wood-fired oven and couldn't think of a better way to test it out. Many of our friends also happen to be talented chefs, bakers, and home cooks. We even had a pizza ringer in our friend Brett who spent his teenage years slinging dough at Papa John's. It showed in his perfectly round crusts that made our oblong and misshapen ones seem less "rustic" and more, well, amateur. Everyone brought ingredients to pitch in and each person made their own pizza to share with the group with "ooohs!" and "ahhhs!" erupting every time a new one was pulled from the oven. Prosciutto, salami, sausage, green onions, lambsquarters, garlic scapes, sundried tomatoes, brisket, mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce... there were no losers in the bunch. We even used pizza dough to make a blackberry galette for dessert and our friend Anna whipped up a breakfast pizza with leftover ingredients the next morning.

Along with ingredients, everyone arrived with something to offer-- gifts of food and drink, fiddle tunes, laughter-- and pitched in to create our first gathering on the farm. Here's to many more pizza parties to come while Big Switch belongs to us-- for a little while.

Breakfast Pizza with Sausage, Greens, and Fried Eggs aka "The Dwight Yolkum"
Inspiration from Anna Bogle

Makes 2 breakfast pizzas

Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough, halved
1 bunch kale
Small bunch lambsquarters (you can stick to kale if you prefer)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, finely diced in thin rings
8 ounces breakfast sausage (Anna used Murray's smoked sausage + Berea College breakfast links)
8 ounces parmesan, cut into thin slices
8 large eggs
Olive oil for drizzling
Cornmeal for dusting

1. Prepare half of Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough the night before making the pizza. Follow Peter's instructions, though rather than forming into 6 balls, form into 2 large balls of dough. 2 hours before making the pizza, follow the steps for letting the dough rest on a counter dusted with flour and sprayed with olive oil.

2. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, preheat the oven as high as it will go and place a baking stone on either the bottom of the oven (gas or wood-fired oven) or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. If you don't have a stone, you can use the back of a baking pan, but don't preheat it.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a medium skillet, cook the sausage until cooked through. Transfer to a plate to drain and let cool, then cut into small chunks.

4. Using the same skillet, sautée garlic and onion in sausage grease until translucent. Add the kale and lambsquarters with a little bit of water and cook until the greens are cooked down and tender.

5. Shape and stretch one of the balls of dough into a pizza of at least a 12-inch diameter and place on a peel or on your baking sheet, dusted with cornmeal. Sprinkle half of the sausage and sautéed greens on the pizza, then arrange parmesan slices on top. Drizzle entire pizza with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, if desired. If you're using a wood-fired oven or an oven that gets very hot, crack 4 eggs on the pizza and place in the oven. If you're using a conventional oven that can only reach 500-550 degrees F, wait to crack the eggs until the end of the baking time. In a high-heat or wood-fired oven, the pizza should bake in 5-9 minutes. In a conventional oven, this will take about twice as long. If using a conventional oven, check at 10-15 minutes, and when crust is beginning to brown and bubble and cheese is melting, crack 4 eggs on top of pizza, and bake an additional 5 minutes.

6. Once crust is golden brown, cheese is melted, and eggs are cooked through, remove pizza from oven and let cool. Serve slightly warm. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients. Enjoy!

Related recipe:
Ham, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Galette with Fried Egg

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pretzels & Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages with Whole-Grain Beer Mustard

Soft pretzels were one of the first things I ever baked. Going through my mom's old recipe box was a favorite childhood pastime, and therein I found a handwritten card for pretzels and asked her if I could try them. After she warned me about the many steps and somewhat dangerous water bath, and I was still game, she conceded, and the twisted, boiled, and baked malted breads became a personal favorite. A few years later in middle school, I made them for a special final project in my Home Ec class, and that year most of the comments in my yearbook referred to those pretzels. 

So when my pals at MUTINY DC suggested making some for an Oktoberfest post, I was ready, and was promptly sent into a nostalgic Midwestern reverie--but now with beer! It's no surprise, though, that ale & pretzels are a perfect pairing, as both have monastic origins. Pretzels are said to have been invented in the 7th century by an Italian monk-- the twists are thought to resemble hands praying.  But throw a Meats & Foods sausage and some whole-grain beer mustard into the mix, and you've got yourself a meal--one that feels more decadent than ascetic.

Homemade Pretzels
Adapted from The Kitchn

Makes 8 pretzels or pretzel-wrapped sausages

1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup baking soda
1 Tablespoon barley malt syrup, rice syrup, or dark brown sugar (I used the latter)
1 large egg, whisked
Coarse kosher salt or pretzel salt
Vegetable oil, for coating the bowl

1. To make the pretzel dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm water and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk by hand to dissolve the yeast. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, and sea salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a stiff and shaggy dough. 

2. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer, knead the dough on low for 5 minutes. If the dough is very sticky after 1 minute, add 1 Tablespoon of flour at a time until it forms a ball and is soft, slightly tacky, and holds its shape in a ball.

3. Clean out the bowl, coat it with oil, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm place until the dough is doubles in bulk, about 1 hour. (After this step you can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days before boiling and baking the pretzels. Make sure the dough is wrapped tightly in plastic wrap before refrigerating). 

4. Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface, and divide into 8 equal pieces. To shape the pretzels, roll each piece of dough into a long, skinny rope, about 20 in. long. Bring the ends of the rope toward the top of your work surface and cross them. Cross once again to form a twist, and then fold the twist over the bottom loop to make a pretzel shape. 

5. Place each pretzel on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside while you form the rest. When all pretzels are shaped, cover them loosely with a dishcloth and let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place oven rack in the middle-bottom. While pretzels are rising, prepare the water bath. Pour 8 cups of water into a tall, wide pot and place on high heat (make sure pot is tall as water will bubble when you add the baking soda). Once water is at a rapid simmer, add the baking soda and barley malt, rice syrup or brown sugar. Stir to dissolve, then reduce heat to medium to maintain a simmer.

7. Once pretzels have risen, lower 2-3 pretzels into water bath at a time. Simmer for 30 seconds on one side, then flip using a slotted spoon or metal spatula. Simmer for 30 seconds more, then remove from water and return to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels. They should be puffed, doughy, and slightly puckered.

8. When pretzels have simmered in the water bath, brush them with egg was and sprinkle them with coarse kosher salt. Bake in the oven until they are deep brown and glossy, 12-15 minutes. 

9. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until they're cool enough to eat. Serve fresh 'n' hot with homemade whole-grain beer mustard (see below) and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale!

Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages

Makes 8

4 large sausages (we used Meats & Foods' andouille sausage)
Pretzel dough (see above)

1. Cook sausages in a skillet, let grease drain, and cut in half. Let cool.

2. Prepare pretzel dough as indicated above, but instead of shaping dough ropes into pretzel shape, coil them around each sausage, starting at one end and finishing at the other. Seal edges so entire sausage is covered and dough will stay wrapped during the water bath.

3. Follow steps above for simmering. When it comes time for the egg wash and salt sprinkle, you may also want to sprinkle on some fresh cracked black pepper. Follow instructions for baking--the bake time is about the same for regular pretzels.

4. Remove from oven and let pretzel dogs cool on a wire rack. Serve with homemade whole-grain beer mustard and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale.

Whole Grain Beer Mustard
Adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (or Gordy's Sweet Chips brine!)
1/2 cup pale ale (I used Port City Monumental IPA as per Mitchell's recommendation)
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon local honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1. Pour mustard seeds into a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk together until combined. Add vinegar and beer and stir just until incorporated.

2. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and set in a cool, dry place for 12 hours (overnight) or until most of the liquid has been absorbed (a little remained in my batch, but extra food processing time took care of that).

3. Stir remaining ingredients into the mustard seed mixture and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse processor 5-6 times before running the motor for 1-2 minutes.

4. Once mustard has thickened to your desired consistency, pour into a sterilized glass jar(s) and refrigerate. For an even spicier mustard, leave out at room temperature for 1-2 days before refrigerating.

Find MUTINY DC's original post here and our previous collab here.

All photos by Justin T. Gellerson

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Italian Plum & Port Crostata

I grew up going to the farmers' market most Saturdays. Now this was not the farmers' market we know today, with its hip, young farmers, high dollar artisanal products, and serenading folk musicians (not that I have anything against with those things--in fact I'm quite fond of all of them), but this market was old-school. Housed in a red barn with individual stalls occupied by Indiana old-timers, Amish, and organic farmers alike, with the smell of homemade danishes in the air, and cuts of meat hanging from rafters, the South Bend Farmers' Market first opened at its current site in 1928. Though part of the building was destroyed by a fire in 1971, it was the market where my mother grew up going to with her mother and grandparents. Every time we'd walk the long aisles, our baskets full of produce, I'd be inundated with stories about the old farmers who were still around or used to be, and be retold which stall would give my mom a piece of Claey's candy while she waited for her mother to finish socializing.

Aside from the times when I was working on a farm or was in one place long enough to maintain a weekly CSA, I've maintained that ritual of a Saturday trip to the market for fresh veggies and fruits, and sometimes eggs, bread, and meat (and oh yeah, the occasional Farmers' Daughter sunshine bun) for the week. 

A few weeks ago, Dalila from a new D.C. business From the Farmer, reached out to me and asked if I might be interested in trying out their farmbox delivery service. Never one to turn down fresh & local produce, especially when it's delivered to your doorstep, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Of course, I was immediately hooked.

As the basket arrives in the night, it felt a bit like Christmas to wake up the next morning to a bundle of colorful goods-- honeycrisp apples, bok choy, shitake mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, fall raspberries, and more. Similar to a CSA, but customizable, week-to-week, and drawing from multiple local farms, farm bundles like From the Farmer can be an advantageous outlet for small, specialty farms that may not be big enough to offer an entire diverse CSA. I also appreciate having my week's selection of produce picked out for me, as I'm not great at conjuring up recipes on the spot at the market. Though I'll always relish my Saturday market trips, I could get pretty use to this.

One of the offerings that was included in my first box were Italian prune plums-- the small oblong variety that are darker and sweeter than the more common round plums. I remembered a recipe for an Italian Plum & Port Crostata in Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts, and had some leftover homemade puff pastry in the freezer, so this tart came together quite quickly (even without pre-made crust, it's pretty simple). I LOVE the dark complexity the port reduction adds to the sweet plums, and you can experiment by adding other spices like ginger, cloves, peppercorn, or black cardamom. I brought it to the DC Square Dance and even had a slice left to share with my friend Mike, who was stopping through town on Monday with his band Hiss Golden Messenger

Italian Plum & Port Crostata

Homemade Puff Pastry or Nothing in the House pie crust, halved (I used puff pastry, as I had some frozen)

1 1/2 cups ruby port
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 Thai chile, seeded and minced (optional, I couldn't find any so opted out)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 pounds Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon heavy cream or beaten egg, for brushing
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling 

1. Prepare whichever crust you're using as per the directions (find links to them in the ingredients list above). Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out into a 12-inch round and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Do not flute edges. Place pie plate in fridge while you prepare the filling and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Simmer port and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a saucepan until reduced to about 1/2 cup, approximately 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add chile, if using. Cover and let cool, 10 minutes.

3. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, plums, cornstarch, cinnamon, and port syrup. Pour into the chilled pie shell and fold over overhang to make a rough edge. Brush dough with cream or egg wash, and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Bake 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake 45-60 minutes more (Martha calls for 90 minutes more, but in my case this would have been too long), until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Let pie cool completely and serve with honey ice cream, if desired.

Related recipes:

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Friday Pie Slice: North Carolina Edition

Alright. Gonna try to get this little segment goin' again.

1st slice. My friend April McGreger's new book Sweet Potatoes from UNC Press' "Savor The South" series just arrived in the mail. I can't wait to make sweet potato-habanero hot sauce, sweet potato sonker, sweet potato donut muffins, etc. etc. etc...

2nd slice. Last weekend I trekked down to Asheville, NC to hang out with pals at Harvest Records' Transfigurations II Festival. I made a little country-ish mix for my road trip and thought you might enjoy it too. Find it here.

3rd slice. On that trip I got to finally visit Tara/Smoke Signals Baking's beautiful little enclave in the hills of Marshall. If you're in the area, check out her upcoming pie classes and Saturday PIZZA NIGHTS!

The tasty crumbs. I also got to hang out and make pie for & eat pie with one of my favorite musicians and long-time pen pal Michael Hurley! Check his Nothing in the House post from a few years back.

Find past Friday Pie Slices here

Pictured above: Butterscotch Pie with a Meringue Top and Butter & Lard Crust

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Campfire Skillet Crisp

One of the drawbacks of shooting film, and multiple cameras* at that, is that there can be so much lag time between shooting, finishing the roll, and getting the developed photos back. Here it is September and I'm finally sitting down to share some photos, words, and a campfire recipe from a canoe trip back in May. But there are a few weeks of summer yet, so hopefully this will come in handy for your summer and fall camping trip cuisine.

This spring at NELP, I co-lead a canoe trip to the Debsconeag Lakes, just under the shadow of Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine. I jumped on the trip last minute--I thought I'd be leading a "Rough 'n' Tumble New Age Lumberjack Road Trip" to Rangeley, ME, but when not enough students were compelled by the promise of orgone accumulators and chainsaw collections, I joined up with my friend and co-worker James to even out canoe numbers and do a little tracing of Thoreau's footsteps (and paddle "steps") in the Maine woods.

Because we were paddling and staying at the same campsite for the three days, we didn't have to be concerned with backpacking weight. So I snagged our skillet from the kitchen and started imagining all the campfire cooking and baking possibilities.

The first day we paddled to our campsite among pine trees on a white beach, set up tents, and then paddled to the other side of the lake which boasts an ice cave along its shores. It was a hot day, especially for May in northern Maine, but when we entered the cave, it felt like we were descending back in time to the cold of winter. Judging from the ice stalactites dripping from the ceiling it was probably just above freezing.

That night we took the students out for a night paddle with no lights. It was a magical surrealist experience, seeing the stars almost perfectly reflected in the water (or as Thoreau calls it, "Sky water") which felt strangely thick and dense--like paddling through oil-- but somehow safe and comforting. We read them the passage from Walden in "The Ponds" when Thoreau describes his night fishing, "It seemed as if I might next cast my line upward into the air, as well as downward into this element which was scarcely more dense. Thus I caught two fishes as it were with one hook," and asked them what might be that second fish. 

The next morning for breakfast, I sliced up some strawberries and bananas into the skillet, scattered on a flour and sugar mixture I'd prepared back at camp, put on a lid, and stuck it on the hot embers of the fire. After about 25 minutes, we had a breakfast crisp, warm and bubbling, with a buttery, crispy top.

You could make this with any fruit you have on hand. I'd recommend mixing the flour mixture at home and storing it in a plastic bag until you're ready to use, then cut in the butter at your campsite (don't forget your pocket knife). It makes a fine camp breakfast or dessert and it fueled our mile-long portage and day of exploring waterfalls and lakes, through a rainstorm and all. 

Strawberry-Banana Campfire Crisp

3 large bananas, cut into 1/2-inch slices
12 oz. strawberries, sliced (instead of strawberries & bananas, you can use about 2 1/2 lbs. of any fruit)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, oats, sugars, spices, and salt. If you're preparing the crisp at camp, pour into a gallon-sized ziplock bag and bring along with you (along with butter and fruit.).

2. If preparing at home, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut butter into the flour mixture (if preparing at camp, you can do this with your hands in the ziplock bag). Slice fruit and arrange on the bottom of the skillet. Pour butter and flour mixture over top of fruit.

3. If preparing on a campfire, cover skillet with a lid or tin-foil and place on the hot embers of the fire. If preparing at home, place in the preheated oven uncovered. Bake for 25-30 minutes until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden and crispy. Serve and enjoy!

Related recipes:
Peach-Blackberry Cobbler
Plum-Cherry Crumble

*Camp photos shot on an expired disposable film camera (didn't want my good camera to get wet, so excuse the grainy lo-fi!) and close-up crisp photos shot on my Canon 20D.