Posts Tagged ‘baking’

caramel apple custard pi

Caramel Apple Custard Pie

4 apples, cored and thinly sliced (peels on is fine if you don’t mind a rustic texture and the added health benefits… or if you’re just lazy, you can tell yourself its for the former reasons)
1-2 tbsp butter
1/4 brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. whole milk or buttermilk (buttermilk gives this a delicious tang that complements the apples and sweetness- try it!)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F and roll out your favorite pie crust (I used organic whole wheat from Breslin Farm so I feel like this is health food when I have two slices for breakfast… the cup of butter in there notwithstanding, haha)… saute apples in butter in a heavy pan, sprinkle with brown sugar and cook over low heat until softened and caramelized. Let cool slightly, then arrange apples in the pie crust in an even layer.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Dissolve the brown sugar in the milk and whisk all remaining ingredients together with the eggs. Pour custard mixture over pie (hot tip- pour in half, then top up with the rest once the pie is in the oven so you don’t slosh it everywhere). Bake until crust is golden and the custard is lightly set in the center- will thicken as it cools. Try not to eat it all in one sitting.


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get baked, crust-punks!

I’ve been in home-baked limbo for awhile. I killed my starter long ago, sometime between the move from Hyde Park to Bridgeport, then was oven-less in our loft for awhile, then had a brief but steamy no-knead fling… but now I’m back to the real thing! I’ve now got two new starters, a wheat and a rye chef for making levain chillin’ in the fridge, and have made a sourdough pesto rye loaf (and am now in the pesto donut hole- used the last of the frozen stuff from the fall, and am far from having fresh basil ready to make more. Will taste all the sweeter when I do!) and sourdough wheat pizza.

My bread bible is Bread Alone (Baking with Julia is my favorite pastry primer, alongside the Tartine pastry cookbook), along with some photocopied sheets from a Peter Reinheart workshop on whole grain breads at an IACP conference that was held at my culinary school while I was in Chef Kelson’s baking class- work for free on a Saturday and meet a bread-guru? Don’t mind if I do! And someday, we’ll get to employ the knowledge in Kiko’s book there to build a clay oven (and warming bench!) for breads, pizzas, and casseroles… till then, it’s the trusty baking stone, spray bottle, and cutie-pie vintage Chambers oven for the win.

It (or rather, they, as we’ve ended up with two of them, the copper-colored one that came with our cooktop, and a stainless one we rescued from a date with the curb… both Craigslist finds. Someday we’ll have a kitchen big enough to stack them and have the double-oven I’ve always drooled over…) was made in the early 1950’s in Shelbyville, IN, and will probably still be baking away when my grand-nieces are ready to learn. I love well-made things, that pre-date planned obsolescence. It’s fairly efficient too- well-insulated with rockwool, plenty of thermal mass in the cast-iron floor, and the kicker is that the switch to shut off the gas to the oven also closes a damper in the bottom to seal off the inside- a little like a space-age straw-box cooker. They were advertised to “Cook with the Gas Off!” and were designed so housewives could put a casserole in the oven, bake for a specified amount of time, then shut-it off, go get your hair-did, pick up little Johnny from Little League or Susie from knitting class, or whatever… and dinner would be hot and ready as soon as Dear Darling stepped through the door and changed from suit to sport jacket. The culture may have changed, but the utility has not…

I have a freezer-full of spent grain from the fellow’s wheat-beer brew last Saturday ready to turn into sourdough spent grain bread from those recipes for the Nite Market this weekend… we’ll also have jars of herbal tea (lemon balm, raspberry leaf, mint, and rose blend from our gardens), honey, jars of sage-lemon wine mustard, some other Alewyfe Farm preserves and salsas, hopefully another batch of caramelized onion confit, canine cookies for your dog friends, and some strawberry-porter chocolate cupcakes for sale, with tasty adult beverages to share as well! We’ll be at the ReBuilding Exchange from 6-9 this Saturday along with 40 or so other food artisans, and it’s a private event so there’s a $2 membership fee at the door. More details here!


Don’t be fooled by the flier… this shot is from the last Nite Market back in the fall, when those jars of green tomato salsa and raspberry jam were still warm from the canner! We’ll have a few jars this time around and they’re still summer-fresh!

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A little lamb…

Alefellow’s grandmother gave us this gorgeous antique Griswold cast iron lamb cake mold. My jaw dropped when he pulled it out of his suitcase after flying to visit her and help sort things for her estate sale before she moved to smaller quarters… and even more so when I opened it up, and found inside a yellowed envelope from the Moody Bible Institute that contained an article from the Chicago Trib from the ’70s with various lamb cake recipes and frosting (the glossy white marshmallow egg-white frosting came from there)…along with a page of notes from his grandma of reminders of things to do to make sure the cake turns out well, and yields for the various frosting and cake mixes she used with it, but I couldn’t believe that also there, in a small plastic sleeve, was the ORIGINAL TAG with recipes that came with the mold, which dates from the 1930’s-1950’s… Priceless. Of course, that’s the recipe I used… pretty dense for the modern palate, like a heavy dryish pound cake, but it looked amazing and tasted pretty good. I tried to serve it at our Easter BBQ, but no one wanted to cut into it as it was too pretty, so they ate instant tiramisu instead. Their loss… we’ve been eating it for breakfast with coffee and it hits the spot. Here he is in pictoral pastoral splendor, from naked to fully clothed with coconut bits and dried fruit features. Enjoy!

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fat tuesday

Happy Mardi Gras y’all! I made two king cakes, one for The Plant, and one for our homebrew club meeting tonight, and big pots of chicken and sausage and vegan gumbos for staff/volunteer lunch today… there’s plenty more gumbo (king cake is only for the quick) so come volunteer Thursday and get a tasty Nawlin’s lunch (that is, if you don’t actually keep Lent. BYOFK, in that case… bring your own fillet knife, and grab yo’self a fish to fry).

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For the record, chickens LOVE pie. Pumpkin pie, past its prime is deftly devoured and disappeared down beaks, after a bit of squabbling, wing flapping, and “hey, that’s my pie!”, “no, you seem to be mistaken… you ate yours… this is MY pie. Nomnomnom.” (no, they didn’t get that whole thing, just the last piece that sat on the counter too long and sprouted three fuzzy dots of mold. Chickens don’t give a cluck!).

Pie is a hit, but they are indifferent about nipples. Specifically, the “poultry nipples” which dispense water, mounted underneath a hanging five-gallon bucket with a submersible aquarium heater on a temperature controller that turns on whenever it’s below freezing, to free us from the worry and chore of constantly defrosting their waterer- they now have liquid water available in their coop at all times (added bonus- the design makes it impossible for them to poop in the thing, fill it with bedding, or otherwise muck it up, which chickens are adept at). Only problem? Getting them to use the darn thing. They’re red, like the base of their other waterers, which is supposed to be an “attention-getting” color for chickens. Mine didn’t get the memo. I’ve tried tapping it so that drops of water come out as they watch, which results in them pecking at the ground where the droplets fell but remaining oblivious to the source above them. I tried holding them and gently touching their beaks to the fount- mmm, tasty magic trick on my part apparently, no hoped for Helen Keller-AHA-moment… w-a-t-e-r… WATER! Hey, did you know there’s water in here? And its nice and warm, and here we’ve been eating snow and freezing our little chicken tongues off? Bitchin! I’d try finger-spelling it to them but I know that’s hopeless.

Yes, weird mammal over there. Why are you squawking about the nipples on that bucket when there's water in this dish? And solid water under that? I am chicken. I care not for the care you (or that other human) put into building the waterer to ensure my care. Now how about you throw us some of that nice corn and then go clean off the poop tray under our roosts?

How does the waterer work? Picture a water bottle for rabbits or other small animals- if you had a hamster or guinea pig as a child I’m sure you’re familiar with the mechanism- little ball bearing at the end of a metal tube is held shut by gravity and water pressure (sorry, not an engineer, people) and releases small drops of water when tapped. These work the same way, but with a little peckable stick thing that releases the water on a diminutive threaded valve that can be installed on the underside of just about any container. I keep hoping maybe they’ll run into it one day, get water on their head and finally look up, and that the one clumsy or bright bird (whichever) will figure it out to teach the others. Till then they persist in eating snow and ice with apparent relish, and drinking from dishes whenever I set them out for them. Any tips on training them to use the wonder waterer? I’m at a loss. They look like this, http://www.avianaquamiser.com/chickennipple/ (though we bought ours for about $12 for a 5-pack from an amazon seller, as we didn’t need the whole “kit” or pre-assembled ones that they sell, just the nipples thank you very much) and if I can get the girls to take to them would highly recommend them over the traditional style of waterer. I have yet to try the grape trick listed in the manufacturer’s troubleshooting page (http://www.avianaquamiser.com/troubleshooting/) but will give it a go… any other suggestions for titillating treats (sorry, couldn’t help myself) that will stick on the underside of the fount but not gum up the works?

In other news, we have a new member of our flock of three (now four). “Goldie Hen”, who was described as maybe a Buff Orpington, but maybe Minorca (she’s a wee thing, with a comb that flops slightly to one side… though her pale brown egg and gentle demeanor give credence to Orpington), was a rescue listed on the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts list by a neighbor of her former owner. He’d gotten her as a chick last Easter and kept her in a cage as a house pet, and called her Colonel Sanders until she started laying eggs. Apparently the novelty of a chicken in the house wore thin (I can’t imagine- our three lived in an oversized dog crate in the kitchen for three days before we finished the chicken tractor, and it was three days too long). He was going to turn her loose “for the coyotes or whatever” but luckily his neighbor found us first and brought her over. We’re keeping her separate from the other girls, in the chicken tractor which is totally stuffed with straw that she can burrow in to keep her warm until she acclimates to being outdoors all the time. I’m not sure what he was feeding her, but she can’t get enough good organic layer mash, scratch, slightly-off aquaponic arugula, and oyster shell… I wonder if maybe she was eating birdseed before? We’ve gotten one adorable pullet egg already and hoping that she and the other ladies can get along so she can stay with us- I’m a little worried about her holding her own, as she’s a little timid and hasn’t been around other chickens before. Pictures coming soon!

La di dah, scratching in straw...

Wait a minute, who's this? (Goldie Hen has never seen another chicken before. Weird!)

"whotheheckarethey I'mjustfineinhere thankyouverymuch".

Someone's been sleeping in MY bed (this from the chickens who'd totally ignored the smaller coop since moving to the Chicken Palace of Luxury). The straw is always fluffier on the other side...

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OK, aggies! It’s on. (actually, it WAS on… this is the invite and recap from Cider Pressin’, 2011… we will hopefully do this again next year, so stay tuned if you missed it!). We had a lot of questions. Now we have solutions!

So, we have the makings of a “whizbang” grinder (new garbage disposal and small stainless sink from the ReBuilding Exchange, small tabletop with opening to mount the grinder… just need to mount the disposal, wire a cord, and test it) {CHECK}. We also have a sweet lunker of a screw-driven fruit press that I’ve been itching to try out! We have big mesh bags to line the press (these are retired, after repairs will be usable for hop bags and such, but even the jumbo brewing bags were too small for the press and thus kept bursting at the seams. Save yourself $5 and the hassle and stitch up the hem and sleeves of old tee shirts, if you’re doing this at home).

We have a source of apples- Molly Breslin from Earth First Farm (owned by Tom and Denise Rosenfield) in Michigan will provide us with organic cider apples! If you missed the pressing, you can buy their apples and their cider already pressed at a few places around town… check their website for more information: http://earthfirstfarms.com/ ! She can deliver them to the Logan Square farmer’s market… I’m going to order our apples Tuesday the 24th, so let me know before then if you’d like to reserve a bushel or two for the pressing! You can pay me back the day of the workshop… I’m ordering 3-4 for us for the workshop (unless enough other people want apples- you should get 2-3 gallons of cider per bushel- bring a new bucket or jugs to get it home!). I’m planning to make 5 gal of hard cider, drink some fresh, and maybe try some vinegar if we get enough? We’ve got buckets of honey, so I think a cyser is also in order! I also plan to can applesauce with a half-bushel or so- that could be another workshop if folks are interested? It’ll probably be nippy, so a the first gallon or so should definitely get mulled… maybe on the woodstove if it’s extra chilly!

And we have a date: Sunday, November 6th, rain or shine (we have a pop up tent we can press under if the weather is anything like today). 11 AM-?
Location: Alewyfe Farm (the red brick cabin). Email me if you need the address!

Bring a snack to share, warm clothing, and if you have them, your shoveling muscles- in the interest of future pressings, we have two apple trees that have spent the summer in large pots- they need to get heeled in (or planted if we determine their ideal spots?) before the ground freezes. Also, we have bees, so though they’ll probably be mostly tucked away for winter, they might be interested in apple pulp… heads up if you’re allergic. We’ll have some homebrew on hand (Trappist blend with Logan Square crabapples from last fall) and if I pull the taps now so it’s not gone, a little bit of the hard cider I made last year with Seedling Fruit cider- dry, tart and tasty! Knowing me there will also be some eats…

Please RSVP… that way I can tell the chickens how many deviled eggs we’ll need.
Also, if we have more willing hands than apple jobs, and folks are inclined, we’ve got tools and there are tons of things to do! We’ve got a “barn” that needs raising (a shipping crate that needs stilts to stand on and to get tarped… fences to hang… mulch to move… branches to chip… but mostly we can stand around and have fun figuring out how this apple thing works- washing, chopping, grinding, pressing, and sampling!

We got through 12 bushels on the group press date in about as many hours- should go a lot faster next time now that we know what we’re doing, and have a feel for how fast to feed the apples without overheating the grinder! To all who came, thanks for your willing hands and good cheer… hope to see you again next time!

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