Recipe – Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

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I’ve had this recipe tagged as “experimental” in my recipe file for months but it’s time to post it. I get consistently raving feedback whenever I make it for parties and gatherings. I hope you enjoy it as well if you try making it.

Like most quick breads, this works best if you have one bowl for dry stuff and a separate bowl for wet stuff. Freshly milled whole wheat gives my bread a really nice texture but any wheat or white flour should give good results.

Preheat oven to 325F

Yield: 2 loaves (8-9″ pans) or 1 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

Dry Stuff

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (if grinding from fresh wheat berries like I do, it’s 450g of berries and you want a relatively fine grind).
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (if old, use 1/2 tsp as nutmeg loses potency quickly)
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
Wet Stuff
  • 1/2 cup honey or sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter or neutral-flavor oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups “pumpkin” puree (butternut, buttercup, and other winter squash often have more flavor than pie pumpkins)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Add-In
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (my favorite are Guittard Extra Dark 63% Cocoa, pricey but well worth it in my book)
  1. Whisk dry stuff together
  2. Whisk wet stuff together
  3. Add dry to wet, whisk until just combined.
  4. Add chocolate chips and gently mix or fold with a spatula to thoroughly combine.
  5. Grease pans and scoop batter into them.
  6. Bake at 325 for about an hour for loaves. Check for doneness with a cake tester of choice, it should remove cleanly. Allow to cool on wire racks for 15 before trying to remove from loaf pans.

If there’s anything unclear, please ask in the comments. Enjoy!

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Recipe – Cherry Galette

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Next time I make one I’ll try and remember to take a picture with the better camera.

After trying a number of pie crust recipes, I’ve admitted to myself I just hate making pies. What I do enjoy, however, is a very similar dessert called a galette. Basically a rustic pie, the pastry is easy to handle and you’re not looking for the delicate flakiness of a traditional pie. You actually want a little heft to it, because you eat galette slices like a piece of pizza, not with a fork.

We buy tart cherries from a local orchard that’s a bit over an hour away. It’s a little hike but we’ve never had better cherries. Their picking season for fresh cherries is very short, about 10 days, but they typically have frozen cherries available year round. I recently bought 7 gallon bags when we ran out. We especially like their Balaton cherries, which is a Morello-type (dark) tart cherry from Hungary, as apposed to the bright red Montmorency-types. Montmorency cherries are a bit astringent for fresh eating, even for us, but we’ve come to love the Morello-types for their balance of sweet and tart. I think they have much more flavor than the Bing cherries available in the store, though no one grows sweet cherries commercially here, so I don’t know if truly fresh sweet cherries would change my mind about them.

Alpha eats them straight out of the freezer for a snack, I’m turning some into dried cherries in the Excalibur as I write this, and I’ve been making this delicious dessert on a weekly basis. Like most of my desserts, it’s not super sweet, so it can double as breakfast as well. I’m going¬†to grab a piece with my morning coffee after I finish this post ūüėČ

Crust

  • 3/4cup white flour
  • 1/2cup whole wheat flour
  • 2¬†teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 tsp¬†salt
  • 1/2¬†teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2¬†cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/3 to 1/2cups ice water
  1. Pulse the butter, flours, sugar, salt, and cinnamon together in a food processor until the butter is in pea-sized chunks.
  2. Slowly pulse water into the dough until it comes together. Avoid adding water too fast, as a wet dough is very hard to roll out.
  3. Place a piece of parchment paper or pastry cloth down on your work surface and flour it well. I bake galettes in a 14″ greased pizza pan, rolling the dough out to roughly the width of the pan, then carefully transferring it to the pan.
  4. Put the pan in the fridge until the filling is ready.

Filling

  • 4-5 cups of pitted Morello-type (dark red) pie cherries, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 cup sugar. If using Montmorency-type cherries, you may want to increase sugar slightly.
  • 3 tbsp arrowroot flour or corn starch. Note:¬†If using other binders, you may need to experiment a little to find the right consistency. Use your favorite cherry pie recipe as a guideline.
  1. Cook cherries in a medium pot, covered, on medium until they start to release juice.
  2. Uncover, reduce heat to medium-low, add sugar and starch. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to gel. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly as the oven preheats.

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Transfer filling to the center of the crust. Carefully fold the edges over. If you break the pastry and some juice leaks, it’s not the end of the world, it happens nearly every time to me. It will burn a little in the pan but the galette will still taste great.
  3. Bake for 50 minutes or until crust is lightly golden brown.
  4. Best served after chilling in the fridge for at least one hour.

If you make the recipe, share your thoughts in the comments. Enjoy!


Homestead Diary Week Ending May 13th

Saturday the kids and I got out to the farmer’s market. Besides buying the season’s first asparagus and rhubarb (our asparagus needs one more year to establish and our better-established rhubarb isn’t ready for harvest yet) they helped me pick out some annuals to add a shot of color to the garden perimeter. They had a lot of fun getting involved, and helped me layout the design when we got home too.

I also bought some herbs: peppermint, chocolate mint, oregano, lemon balm, thyme. I started our basil a little late but it will be ready to transplant in a few weeks.

On Sunday morning before the ¬†Mother’s Day brunch my sister hosted I went through my tomato seedlings and picked out a few I thought were worth transplanting. I did a really bad job managing the transition from indoor to outdoor growing and killed 2/3 of my seedlings, and many of the rest aren’t in great condition. I’m hoping the strongest survivors will make it but they’re definitely behind where you want seedlings to be at this time of the year here.

The light Sunday morning was ideal for photography so I snapped quite a few shots. I brought out the SLR but knocked image size down a bit so I don’t have to deal with the labor of resizing images before posting. The files are still big but hopefully not so big that I run up my storage allowance too quickly.

The best looking of the tomatoes I transplanting, burying the stems to encourage good root development.

The best looking of the tomatoes I transplanting, burying the stems to encourage good root development.

Gooseberry blossoms.

Gooseberry blossoms – and by the end of the week (see below) they have made fruit.

A shot of the seedling nursery. I had to run out in the heavy rain we got Tuesday and take everything out of the trays to keep them from drowning.

A shot of the seedling nursery. I had to run out in the heavy rain we got Tuesday and take everything out of the trays to keep them from drowning.

The kids call this particular bleeding heart the "queen of hearts"

The kids call this particular bleeding heart the “queen of hearts”

Tulips are so cheery. Can't wait to plant more this fall.

Tulips are so cheery. Can’t wait to plant more this fall.

Some of the new herbs. The chocolate mint in particular is delicious.

Some of the new herbs. The chocolate mint in particular is delicious.

The most life I've spotted on any of the blueberries I planted.

The most life I’ve spotted on any of the blueberries I planted.

The annuals we planted.

The annuals we planted.

Celosia picked out by Gamma.

Celosia picked out by Gamma.

Pansy picked out by Beta.

Pansy picked out by Beta.

Alpha picked out this dahlia as a Mother's Day present for the Alchemist.

Alpha picked out this dahlia as a Mother’s Day present for the Alchemist.

Wednesday we went up to the same farm we get strawberries, apples, and pears from to buy some plants from their greenhouse. I got a few tomatoes, peppers, and then some more perennials. Before we left we spotted something that made me very happy.

Baby strawberry!

Baby strawberry!

Solanum starts

Solanum starts

Painted Palette

Painted Palette

A type of geranium

A type of geranium

Canadian ginger

Canadian ginger

Gamma loves fiery-colors so this Heuchera caught his eye.

Gamma loves fiery-colors so this Heuchera caught his eye.

Thursday became a cooking day. I made a cherry galette. My replacement grain mill grinds corn much better than the original design so I made my first batch of skillet cornbread in quite some time. I’m experimenting with granola bars again in an effort to mostly eliminate commercial snacks (and go through the obscene number of oats we have in inventory).

My last cooking experiment was making sauce from dried tomatoes. I used up the last jar of canned tomatoes this week and needed to move on to the 26 quarts of dried tomatoes we have. I rehydrated the tomatoes 1:1 in hot water, first bringing it to a boil then keeping it on medium low until the tomatoes looked plump. I ran them through our Squeezo food mill and then seasoned the sauce the way I always do:

Per quart

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp dry minced onion
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • scant 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

The sauce only needed a little extra reduction (much of it provided by the onions rehydrating) before it was ready to jar up and put in the fridge. My plan, now that I have a good sense of the method, is to make it in several quart batches and then freeze in freezer-safe deli containers. Yield was about 75% of the water I started with so I have enough tomatoes left in the pantry to make about 17 quarts of sauce. At 1-2 quarts a week that should get us through until they’re back in season again.

The finished sauce.

The finished sauce.

Thursday night we spotted something very cool. My rabbit-proof fence must not have been very rabbit proof because I found a rabbit nest in one of our strawberry beds. The babies are about three weeks old: eyes open, full fur coats, and erect ears. They’ll be leaving the nest any day but for now their momma will return at dawn and dusk to nurse. I think I know where she was getting in and have fixed it but I’m leaving the gate open until the babies are ready to move on.

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Weather for the next few days promises to be cold, rainy, with lows near freezing. Spring in Wisconsin tends to ping-pong around a lot and this year is no different. That said, I’m happy to have spent a good portion of the past week in the garden. It hasn’t fed our bodies yet this year but it has fed our souls.

I’ll close out this week with one last picture.

Baby gooseberries!

Baby gooseberries!


Recipe – Best Waffles Ever

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The waffle recipe in¬†The Food Lab cookbook makes the best waffles I’ve ever had, but it’s fussier than I¬†prefer for a breakfast recipe. After a little experimentation I came up with a version that’s simpler, preserves all of the virtues of the original, and even improves it a little when the crunchy, nutty flavor of freshly milled whole wheat is added to the mix.

Yield: varies depending on the waffle iron, but it makes 16 4″ square waffles on mine.

Dry Stuff

  • 5 ounces (1 cup) white flour
  • 5 ounces (1 cup) whole wheat, ideally fresh stone milled
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • scant 1 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Wet Stuff

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2.5 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  1. Preheat waffle iron.
  2. Whisk dry stuff together in a large bowl.
  3. Measure buttermilk into a 4 cup liquid measure or a medium bowl. Add remaining wet stuff, whisk together.
  4. Pour wet stuff into dry stuff, whisk until just combined.
  5. Use the appropriate amount of batter for your waffle iron, adjust settings to achieve desired doneness. Enjoy!

State of the Larder on the eve of Samhain

Lacking a good data point for 1) how much we eat of staple foods through winter and 2) how things store I’ll likely not be making any more large food acquisitions excepting meat. I could score more local apples in quantity, but I’ll limit myself to what we’ll use for fresh eating and baking in November, December, and¬†maybe January. I could also easily acquire more squash and root veggies among other late fall/winter crops, but we’ve got a lot already in the house and¬†I’d rather take the risk of avoiding waste, even if we end up needing to fall back on the non-local food system during winter.

To give an idea of the food I’ve amassed going into the lean times, I’ve broken it down below. Some things we already know we’ll want more of (dry cherries particularly) next year but others I don’t have a good idea about.

I think I’ve struck a good balance between scoring good deals on prime, in season produce, and not over-extending financially or oversupplying leading to waste. A verdict update at Beltane (May 1st) will show how we did, but I’m sure I’ll have remarks in the ongoing budget locavore series.

Dry Goods

  • Honey (local) – 1.5 gallons
  • Wheat (hard red winter) berries (bought via a co-op from Montana) – approx 280 pounds
  • Oats (rolled) (bought via a co-op from Iowa) – approx 290 pounds

Fruit

  • Apples (all sourced locally)
    • Apple butter – 10 pints
    • Apple chips – 18 gallon bags
    • Applesauce – 34 quarts
  • Cherries (sourced semi-locally ~60 miles away)
    • Dried – 5 pints
    • Frozen – 1.5 gallons
  • Pears (all sourced locally, we’ve kept most for fresh-eating)
    • Preserves – 4 half-pints
  • Strawberries (all sourced locally)
    • Jam – 3 pints
    • Dried – 3 quarts

Veggies

  • Green beans (all garden) – 3 quarts dry
  • Peppers (mild) – 1/2 gallon dry diced
  • Potatoes (some garden, the remainder local) – approx 80 pounds
  • Snap Peas (some garden, remainder local) – 3.5 gallons frozen
  • Tomatoes (approx half garden, half sourced locally) – 32 quarts of canned crushed/sauce base, 25 quarts of dry for rehydrating into sauce or using in sun-dried pesto sauces.
  • Winter Squash (some garden, the remainder local) – 63 assorted (mix of medium varieties like acorn, buttercup, butternut, and a few others)
  • Zucchini (all garden) – 10 quarts of dry chips, 52 cups of frozen shredded

Tart Cherry Zucchini Bread

Tart Cherry Zucchini Bread

If it were up to the other four members of the family, I’d never make any zucchini bread other than chocolate chip. It’s delicious, sweet, and decadent – but a little too much like dessert for my personal taste. Every so often I’ll experiment with variations¬†and 2015’s series of experiments has been using tart cherries. It took a couple iterations but I think I’ve nailed it. It’s not health food but it hits the spot for me with a nice blend of sweet and tart.

Wet Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup neutral flavored oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt
  • 2 tsp dry lemon peel. If using fresh zest, that’s about one lemon’s worth equivalent.

Dry Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Fold-in Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded zucchini (or other summer squash)
  • 2 cups pitted and chopped tart cherries (fresh or frozen)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Add dry ingredients to bowl and whisk until just combined.
  4. Fold in the remaining ingredients with a spatula.
  5. Scoop evenly into two greased loaf pans or one greased 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan.
  6. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer (should come out clean) after 1 hour, though it often takes up to 1:20.
  7. If using loaf pans, allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before flipping the loaves out.

Preserving the Harvest (so far)

We’re a bit less than a quarter through our growing season in southeastern Wisconsin. Our freezer is 90% full already, much of that from our pig purchase back in March, but there’s also some produce in it as well. The dehydrator is current humming, and I’m already pining for a second one to reduce the processing bottleneck. A pressure canner would be nice too. But what have I accomplished with the tools at hand?

Fruit

Fresh fruit is the best – when it’s fresh – but we all know there’s huge stretches of time when the only “fresh” fruit is supermarket fare trucked in from many, many miles away. Cashflow and the desire to spend on our future selves via debt and investing rather than food is going to prevent a 100% local food year, but 2015 has drastically reduced our ‘food miles’ already compared to last year.

  • Strawberries: If I had enough dehydrator space, I would have dried 100% of it. Alpha, Beta, and the Alchemist all took turns helping me lay out slices on trays. It takes roughly 2 man hours to fill an Excalibur up with ~10 pounds fresh berries and then another 12 hours or so to dry them. The nice thing about dried strawberries is that you can’t overdry them. And they’re incredibly delicious. I canned some jam but, to be honest, I hate canning and fruit stays most nutritious when frozen or dried – in which case, you can make small bath preserves at your leisure throughout the year. Next year I will aim to dry 100% and then make batches of my “strawberry sauce” as needed. Barthel’s Fruit Farm is my preferred local supplier.
  • Blueberries: The closest they’re grown is Michigan. Next year I’ll try to track down a good way to buy them in bulk. We tended to visit my grandparents in MI during the season and would regularly buy 10lb crates for a fraction of the supermarket rates. I did nab a good sale ($1/pint) a couple weeks ago and tried them in the dehydrator. I won’t do that again. They take a long time, even after you ‘check’ the skins by blanching them and they dry to a crisp, crunchy form that’s not even that yummy. Freezing, small batch canning, and fresh eating will be my plan for any future bulk purchase or supermarket sale.
  • Cherries: Tart cherries are incredible.¬†Cherry season here is very short. The orchard we went to (Steffen’s) had a bumper crop this year and¬†hoped to last a week before being picked clean. This year was our first year going there, and we were very impressed. We picked 2 gallon pails and had pre-ordered 7 more pails. Both the Montmorency (light) and Baloton (dark) cherries were delicious and surprisingly sweet compared to tart cherries I’ve had from other vendors. The fruit price, whether u-pick or pre-pick, was incredibly reasonable (~$1.35lb). The real kicker was the nominal fee to have them all run through an automatic picker. No way in hell am I going to pit 70 pounds of cherries! Because we’ll be leaving on vacation soon, I have elected to freeze some for jam and butter use later and drying what I can. Drying cherries for eating without reconstitution is a bit annoying. If you overdry them, they get brittle and hard, so you have to check the trays every few hours after the first ~12 hours to pick through them to remove the ones already at raisin consistency.
  • Rhubarb: I haven’t had enough harvest at once to justify running the dehydrator, so I’ve just been freezing for later use in baked goods and as small batch sauces/jams.
  • Still to come: I may not be able to get to this orchard in 2015, but there’s another semi-local place that carries more unusual things like gooseberries and currants. I’d like to try some. And of course there’s the big apple season. There are lots of apple orchards here, but Barthel’s is our favorite. Depending on the processing bottleneck, I will probably dry 100% of the preserved harvest. We don’t have a root cellar (it’s a big want of mine, not sure if we will ever do it in this house) to store them fresh, and applesauce is very easy to make from dried apples. (In fact, 19th century books like the Laura Ingalls books almost always refer to it as “dried applesauce”.)

Vegetables

  • Snap Peas: I froze nearly all of it. Dehydrating them whole takes a very long time and I’m not convinced they’ll be tasty when reconstituted.
  • Green Beans: I’m hoping dehydrated green beans are tasty when cooked, because I’m doing that for 100% of the harvest. Except for the thickest ones, they dry quickly.
  • Kale:¬†I’ve had a few excess harvests where I tried the leaves and crumbled into powder for winter smoothies. In that use it’s okay. Some folks use kale powder as a parsley substitute in garnishes.
  • Zucchini: Dried “chips” of these are¬†incredible. Zero seasoning required and absolutely delicious. If all I made in the dehydrator were strawberries and zucchini chips, it would still be worth the $200 price tag.
  • Still to come: Winter squash¬†of the varieties we grow¬†can store ¬†up to a month in our basement after field curing before starting to lose quality. Helpfully, that 1 month window ends after apple season, so that’s when I’ll start prepping them. I’ll experiment with leathers, but I’m expecting to dry most of them in raw slices for later reconsitution in soups and puree form. And of course tomatoes. Barring disease (touch wood!) we should have an excellent crop from the garden whenever it gets hot enough to ripen. I’ll dry¬†what I am able to (cherries for eating, paste and slicing for reconstitution or pesto duty), but the spoilage window on ‘maters is very short, so whatever can’t fit in the dryer will get canned as basic crushed tomatoes.

Huh, now that I’ve written all of that out, I can’t believe I’ve done so much already and the growing season is only a quarter through! Besides learning the best approaches for each food, I’m learning what I want to make the process even better in the future. I think a second dehydrator is a lock, though I’ll use my personal $ to buy it, since this local food quest is really mine and I don’t mind funding it with my allowance. I’m looking at the meat stocks taking up space in my freezer and wishing I had a pressure canner, but I also don’t make many soups even in winter. I’m far more likely to get a second freezer, possibly also via personal $. When I researched sizes, 7 cuft was the best for $/cuft, and I figured we’d ultimately need a second one anyways (especially if we want to buy more variety of meat instead of just pork), so this is not surprising.¬†The advantage of two medium sized freezers instead of one large 20+ cuft model is that we can eat them down enough to merge the two together, then defrost and turn off the empty one as our stores dwindle in late winter/early spring.

Another thing I’ve pretty much decided is that we will¬†not do a CSA again, unless the later boxes revise our opinion. While it represents wasted money, I’m glad I at least tried it once. But there are three huge flaws with our CSA (Tipi Produce), which on research was the most price competitive option locally:

  1. Getting overwhelmed with produce that either can’t be preserved or not easily preserved. I’ve hit salad fatigue dammit! We couldn’t keep up with the greens from the CSA and gave away 25% of it, plus nearly 100% of the mesclun I grew.
  2. Receiving things I’m just not that wild about. I like experimenting, and have discovered we¬†do like a few new things (sweet salad turnips, yum!), but I’m receiving more ‘meh’ veggies than I anticipated when I was researching their past boxes.
  3. Plain-ol’ lack of value. To my mind, a CSA share should fall in between the price of the farmer’s market and the supermarket. In my tracking spreadsheet to date, that just has not been the case. We’re actually paying a premium over the farmer’s market for produce that’s ranged from good to mediocre,¬†and has been¬†sloppily washed compared to the FM. It’s not particularly more convenient, either, to pick up a box rather than brave the crowds at the FM. Where we live, there are bikeable markets (two very close, one that’s further away but well worth the longer ride for larger selection and better prices) 4 days a week, so there’s lots of flexibility if I needed more veggies than what the garden was providing at a given time.

I don’t want to rag on the hard-working folks on the farm too much, but that’s just how I see it personally.