Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Homemade Apple Cider Doughnuts on a String

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. 

Apple Orchard

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. 

Homemade Apple Cider Donuts in box

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.

Apple Cider Doughnuts on a string

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

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.

Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies

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, close-up

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 Tablespoon. olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup gruyère, grated
1 Tablespoon 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

Pizza on peel with ingredients

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!
Mobile Wood-fired Pizza Oven at Big Switch Farm

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.

Bradley prepares drinks at Big Switch Farm

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.

Drizzling oil on homemade pizza on peel with ingredients

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"

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!

Wild Blackberry Galette

Follow Big Switch Farm on Instagram here.

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