Apple Rhubarb Pie & Apple Core Vinegar

I’ve been plotting to make apple pie all week long, ever since I arrived here at The Lord’s Acre and discovered the gift of a bag of crisp apples welcoming me. For most of my life, there was no hesitation in what to do with them: chomp straight into them, savor each juicy bite, polish them off, core and all.

Now that I am avoiding sugars and sweeteners, including fruit for the time being, I have to get creative. I decided the CRAFT potluck this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to play around with the quintessential American dessert, hone my pie making skills, and enjoy my favorite fruit vicariously. And so I spent the week seeking out a pie pan and all-purpose flour, finding creative ways to bake in my tiny new kitchen with minimal cooking supplies, and fantasizing about a gorgeous latticework crust. (Thanks to King Arthur Flour for the guidance.) Cutting off the rhubarb flowers provided me with a few stalks to throw into the pie on a whim as well.

I forgot one small detail however: aluminum foil. Which, as it turns out, is pretty crucial, with a lattice top in particular, if you don’t want your crust to burn to a crisp and your filling to dry out — especially if your tiny oven runs rather hot. Ironically, after a week of buildup, offering half of my precious butter and much of the morning to cutting pastry dough with knives and rolling it out with my water-bottle, then carefully coring and cutting thin sliced of apple with a paring knife, I ended up with precisely that. The filling was still delicious, so I hear, even if it had to be scraped away from the bottom crust that took an overnight soak to finally remove from the pan.

Lesson learned, hopefully. I’ll be more prepared next time I make a pie… which amazingly enough, somehow, I still have a hankering to do. In the meantime, I turned the leftover filling into an apple-rhubarb crisp that was an unequivocal success.

But most importantly, I acquired what I was truly most interested in — apple peels and cores to turn into vinegar. As soon as I first heard of this simple and innovative way to transform what we usually just toss into one of the more incredible substances on earth I knew I had to try it for myself. The process may take several months, especially since I didn’t add any sweetener to the mix, but it looks like it will be exciting to watch. Now, a day later, it has already turned light yellow, smells slightly like vinegar, and has gotten quite “fizzy” at the top. So cool, makes the rest of the apple saga worth it. Thanks to HubPages for such clear guidance. Excited to see how it turns out!

Apple Rhubarb Pie
Double pie crust (I made a double recipe of sourdough crust)
6-8 apples, cored and thinly sliced
4-6 stalks rhubarb, chopped
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon, to taste
1 teaspoon cardamon
1 tablespoon freshly grated or minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar (or sweetener of choice)
1-2 tablespoons cold butter (optional, I forgot it and it was fine)

Roll out bottom pie crust and press into greased pie pan, then return to the fridge to chill. Mix together apples, rhubarb, spices, salt, and sugar, then spoon into pie crust (it will likely arch above the rim of pie pan a bit, which is fine. Distribute small dabs of butter around the surface of the pie. Return to fridge and roll out top crust, Cut into lattice or use whole with a few slits cut into it. Preheat oven to 425F and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce to 350 and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until bubbly. Cover with aluminum foil after the first 20-30 minutes to keep from over-browning the crust or drying out the filling (especially if lattice top). Let cool before serving.

Apple Rhubarb Crisp
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour (whole wheat, all-purpose, gluten-free, whatever you wish)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
Apple rhubarb filling (same as above)

Mix together dry ingredients, then cut butter into it until in coarse crumbs.Line the bottom of a small greased baking pan with filling, then spread the crumble over the top with a spoon. Preheat oven to 350F and bake for 40 minutes, until bubbly and topping is lightly golden and crisped. If you like it darker and crispy, try increasing the heat to 375F for 5-10 minutes.

Apple Scrap Vinegar
Cores and “heels” of 6-8 apples
A few cups water
A tablespoon or so of sugar or apple cider vinegar (optional)

Place apple scraps in a quart jar. Fill jar with water until about 3/4 full. Stir in sugar or apple cider vinegar if desired to kick start the fermentation process. Weigh down with another jar or a plastic bag with enough water to bring liquid above the level of the apple scraps. Let sit for 2-3 weeks, in a relatively cool spot if possible. Check every day or two to make sure apple scraps remain below liquid, and skim off any “bloom” if necessary. ( I occasionally had to readjust the weight and remove a couple tiny scraps to eliminate floaters, but so far have had no problems with scum accumulating at the surface).

Strain out the solids, then cover the jar with a cloth or paper towel and leave to ferment another month or two, stirring every day. The process will take longer without the boost of added sweetener. Check the flavor every week or so. When soured to your liking, put a lid on the jar and store in a cool place.

Note: Sugar ants seemed very attracted to the fermenting vinegar. I placed the jar in a larger bowl of water to avoid having to deal with drowned ants.

Posted in Breads and Baked Goods, Fermentation, Garden Originals, Gluten Free, Sauces, Condiments, and Dips, Snacks and Sweets | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Hot Velvet Bundt Cake

Yet another casual idea that grew to epic proportions.

I originally decided to make a chocolate chili cake came back in February, in honor of a fellow Borner Farmer’s birthday and her passion for spicy food. I knew it would also be well received by the hot pepper aficionados here at Chrysalis Earth Farm. I pieced together a recipe for a chocolate chili loaf cake, based heavily on a “Chocolate Yogurt Cake” from BakedBree. Alas, the timing didn’t work out quite right… the rest of the household was feeling under the weather, had already overdosed on sweets, and was heading out of town for a week.

And so the thought sat simmering on the back burner for a month, with a pinch of this inspiration and that tossed in every so often, until it finally emerged transformed into Hot Red Velvet Cake. Pulling the final beet bed to make room for salad mix firmly planted the idea to incorporate beets into my mind… especially since it allowed for such a catchy name!

I am admittedly playing fast and loose with what is generally considered “red velvet cake” — a vibrantly red chocolate layer cake with cream cheese frosting or roux icing. (If we had any cream cheese in the house, it would have been easy and awesome to make a cream cheese glaze.) As I dug a little deeper into the matter, I realized that what we know of now as a “red velvet cake” is merely a by-product of the food industry. Ben Starr provides a fascinating history of red velvet cake and a carefully developed recipe for an authentic “mahogany velvet cake.” I was happy to return to the roots of this classic cake: non-alkalized cocoa powder, and its natural brick red color.

Along the way, I stumbled upon a recipe from A Beautiful Plate that convinced me to make a bundt cake. Seemed particularly appropriate considering I originally welcomed my soon-to-be friend with a parsnip bundt cake three years ago. And, besides, it’s just so much easier to pop a bundt cake out of the pan and glaze it than carefully construct a layer cake.

And so, in gratitude to the many sources of inspiration that came together in this truly unique and delicious cake, and especially for the fantastic woman who taught me to appreciate hot chilies, I present to you: Red Hot Velvet Bundt Cake!

Red Hot Velvet Bundt Cake

1 3/4 cup flour (I combined whole wheat, spelt, and oat flour. I imagine all-purpose or whole grain pastry would work well.)
2/3 cup cocoa powder (non-alkalized if possible)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons ground chili of your choice (I used just one teaspoon since Buena Mulata was what I had on hand — a Caribbean pepper almost as hot as habanero. It gave the cake a distinctive kick without overpowering it.)
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup honey (or sweetener of choice)
2 eggs
6 oz. plain yogurt
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 cup beet puree (great way to beets too tiny even for pickling!)

Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons water (just enough to make glaze pourable)

In a small bowl, combine together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sweetener until light and fluffy, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in half the dry ingredients until smooth. Whisk together the yogurt, water, and vanilla extract, then incorporate into the batter. Gradually mix in the beet puree and remaining dry ingredients until smooth. Preheat oven to 350F and grease bundt pan thoroughly. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Allow to cool about 10-15 minutes, then flip onto plate and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, whisk together glaze (you want it to be very thick) and pour over cake before serving. Truly exceptional!

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Sourdough Potato Bread

I’ve always loved the taste and texture of potato bread, so I figured it was high time to try my hand at a sourdough potato bread. Gina, of Home Joys, provided a great starting point (as well as a fascinating glimpse into the life of a Mennonite homesteader… I am so impressed by all that she holds so graciously, and definitely want to come back to read more, especially her ideas about gardening with children.) I should have know better than to try to bake bread during the week, even with an electric mixer. I once again got busy and wasn’t able to return to the dough for several hours after each rise — it was clearly over proofed, yet amazingly still rose fine. The loaf was a bit prone to fall apart and sour for my taste, no doubt because of the neglectfully long rises. Nonetheless, it seems quite promising and definitely worth trying again soon, when I have a more relaxed day to give it the proper attention.

UPDATE (4/9/17): Gave it another try, with a sweet potato in place of the potato and all by hand — I was delightfully surprised at how manageable, even pleasant it was to work with this dough, and how quickly it hit the smooth, springy, elastic stage despite being all whole wheat. I started it first thing in the morning, and stuck it in the oven just before bed, so that I was able to take advantage of a relaxed, balmy Sunday afternoon rather than try to rouse a sluggish starter on a frosty night. Rose wonderfully, vigorous and fun to work with. Made a loaf of bread (a little small for my 9″ loaf pan) and 16 small dinner rolls. The only slight setback was that I only had room for one pan at a time in my oven, and am still learning how to adjust for the oven running rather hot. The rolls could have used less than half an hour baking time or slightly lower temp. They turned out rather on the dry, bland side. I nibbled through a few and then ended up sticking them in the freezer, probably to use as bread crumbs. The bread I baked at 300F (according to the oven knob, at least) for 35 minutes. It turned out beautifully soft and light, perfect mild taste and texture to enjoy fresh or toasted all week! I imagine I will come back to this stellar recipe before long.

Sourdough Potato Bread

Sponge:
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups sourdough starter
1-2 small potatoes or sweet potato, boiled, mashed, and cooled
2 cups water (reserved potato cooking water + additional as needed)

Mix together, cover with a towel, and leave overnight, or around 8-12 hours.

Dough:
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
3 teaspoons salt
1 egg
3 cups whole wheat flour (up to 1 more cup as needed unti l no longer sticks to side of bowl)

Mix in butter or oil, salt, and egg, then gradually incorporate flour. Let rest 10 minutes, then knead by hand, or for five minutes with electric mixer, until fairly elastic. Place in a greased bowl and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 3 hours, or until almost doubled. Grease bread pans or baking sheet and shape as desired. (I had enough dough to make one large loaf and four burger buns, but you could also probably make two small loaves, or lots of dinner rolls.) Let rise another 1-3 hours, until about doubled… if you let it go longer, it will be sour! Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 30-35 minutes. (Half an hour was perfect for the buns, another five minutes might have benefitted the loaf. For smaller rolls, 20-25 minutes might be more appropriate.) Let rest for a few minutes before removing from pan to finish cooling. Enjoy!

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