Fall Harvest Cakes

fall harvest cakes_n

These delectable individual-sized cakes are packed with the flavors of autumn – honeycrisp apples, crunchy pecans, and caramel.

Taking advantage of fruit, vegetables, fish and wild game during times of seasonal abundance is a celebrated part of our kitchen, but it hasn’t always been easy to do so living in the Arctic bush. Back in California, between farmers’ markets and our own modest garden, our kitchen was stocked with ripe, heirloom tomatoes, freshly picked raspberries and peaches so ripe they had to be eaten over the sink (or outside under our peach trees).

Since moving to bush Alaska, we’ve been shipping up frozen fruits and vegetables during our annual summertime shopping. These have been supplemented with “keeper” produce such as  squashes, potatoes, onions and apples. We’ve managed to keep many of our traditions intact by pulling seasonal items from our pantry and freezers at the appropriate times, but we’ve missed enjoying fruits and vegetables freshly harvested from local farms.

This year, we decided to sign up with a CSA (community supported agriculture). Our “local” CSA, Full Circle Farms, is based in Carnation, Washington, nearly 2,100 miles away. Offering freshly harvested organic choices, Full Circle delivers to the San Francisco Bay Area, Idaho, Washington, and to Arctic Alaska! It has been a long time since we’ve had peaches and nectarines as perfectly ripe as the ones Full Circle has been sending, In fact, all their produce so far, from leafy greens to tomatoes to avocados have been spot on.

As part of our order last week, we received honeycrisp apples. This variety is sweet and crunchy with a pleasant tanginess – a balance that seemed begging to be paired with caramel. The pecan topping gives these cakes a savory crunch.

Fall Harvest Cakes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 2 cups shredded apple
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 4-5 caramel candies, or 1/4 cup caramel sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tin.
  2. Cream butter and yogurt.
  3. Gradually add sugar to butter mixture. Beat well.
  4. Thoroughly mix in eggs, one at a time.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and mace.
  6. Gradually incorporate flour mixture to sugar mixture.
  7. Stir in apples.
  8. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin pan.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle on pecans and caramel (sprinkle chopped candies or pour on sauce).
  11. Bake for 10 more minutes. Cakes are done when wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  12. Cool on wire racks.

The Year-End Pantry: Applesauce Caramel Cookies

Applesauce carmel cookies_n

Wrapping up another year in the Arctic before we go to our summer home in Seward, these caramel-topped applesauce cookies were a terrific way to work through the last of our supply of applesauce. 

A few lonely jars, bottles and boxes remain atop the cabinetry that lines the walls off our kitchen. Over five meters (sixteen-and-a-half feet) of uninterrupted shelf space that in August was packed tight to the ceiling with everything from chocolate to olives to nuts to jarred jalapenos is now mostly space. The remaining jars of salsa, soy sauce, sun dried tomatoes, Cholula and assorted other items stand like lonely sentinels overlooking our kitchen. It is the same throughout our house as freezers and pantries that had once been packed and piled with nine months worth of food are now nearly empty. And while our spice racks look full, it’s a deception. Many of the bottles are empty or nearly so. Our bulk order for next year went in to Penzeys Spices last week.

Applesauce is a healthful moistening agent in a number of baking recipes. It’s also terrific in oatmeal, as a blintz topping and in pancake batter, and makes for a light snack on its own. When we lived within driving distance of Northern California’s Apple Hill and the numerous orchards there, we made our own applesauce. Up here, we annually purchase a couple of cases of Tree Top Organic from Costco. The cookies in this recipe feature the fall flavor of applesauce in a light, soft cookie. The crunchy carmel-flavored topping adds another layer of sweetness and texture.

Applesauce Caramel Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2  1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • caramel topping (see below)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and mace.  Set aside.
  3. Cream sugar and butter together.
  4. Add eggs and applesauce and mix well.
  5. Add in dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
  6. Drop tablespoons of batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 1 – 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until edges of cookies begin to become golden brown.
  8. While cookies are cooling, prepare topping.

Caramel Topping

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, heavy cream, brown sugar and granulated sugar.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally until mixture just begins to boil and the sugars are melted.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in vanilla.
  5. Scoop caramel mixture from pan with a teaspoon and drip onto cookies.
  6. Let caramel topped cookies fully cool before enjoying them.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from Chef In Training

Rocky Road Ice Cream

rocky road_nRich chocolate ice cream coupled with homemade marshmallows put this ice cream flavor in a top-two tie with Cloudberry Sorbet among our all-time favorites.

Really good chocolate ice cream can be made with really good Dutch processed cocoa. But great chocolate ice cream adds in depth of flavor with quality semi-sweet chocolate. This recipe topped the charts by not adding ordinary marshmallows, but adding extraordinary homemade marshmallows to the ingredients.

Rocky Road Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 5 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup marshmallow pieces
  • 1 cup chopped almonds

Directions

  1. Warm 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa.
  2. Bring to almost a boil (mixture will steam) and whisk in chocolate chips, whisking until smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in remaining cup of whipping cream. Pour mixture into bowl and set aside.
  4. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the original saucepan.
  5. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
  6. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  7. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula and creates a custard (and reaches 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer).
  8. Pour the custard into the chocolate mixture  and stir until smooth.
  9. Then stir in the vanilla.
  10. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.
  11. Freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  12. During the last 10 minutes of churning, add in almonds and marshmallow pieces.

Recipe adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker.

Arctic Anpan 2 Ways: Azuki and Caribou Cha Sui (Sweetened Red Bean and Marinated Caribou)

Anpan with Sweet Azuki Paste_n

Delicious steamed buns filled with sweetened red bean paste were the finishing touch to an Asian-inspired meal. All that was lacking was a cold Sapporo Beer… The beer will have to wait until summer.*

Wintertime fishing, birding or just bike riding with my daughter Maia in Japan is indelibly linked with one of my happiest food memories: stopping by a local bakery and purchasing piping hot steamed buns filled with sweetened bean filling (anpan) or marinated pork (nikuman). The filling was so hot we’d have to be careful not to burn our tongues. Those steamed buns were the perfect on-the-go snack on chilly days.

Anpan ready for the steamer_n

Filled with bean paste or marinated meat and ready for the steamer…

Known as bao or baozi in China, steamed buns were on our list of items to try making this year. With Maia in Point Hope visiting over winter break from Berkeley, the anpan and nikuman Barbra created turned out just like the ones we’d enjoyed back in Japan. After devouring anpan with sweet red bean filling, we all could imagine the buns stuffed with a variety of other fillings: vegetable mixtures, curry, barbequed caribou, fruit, or even chocolate!

Anpan freshly steamed_n

Light, freshly steamed, piping hot and ready to be lifted out of our fish poacher, anpan definitely fit the category “comfort food.”  The ones we made were about the size of tangerines.

Because we rely on our Zojirushi bread machine to regulate the temperature for consistently rising dough, the following recipe has been created for the dough cycle of a bread machine. As an alternative to steaming, the dough can be given an egg wash and baked at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. A recipe for Caribou Cha Sui follows the anpan recipe below. Click here to see a recipe for sweetened red bean filling.

Anpan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp extra light olive oil
  • 1  3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Directions

  1. Place first 6 ingredients into pan of bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Set machine to dough cycle. Start.
  3. After cycle is complete, punch down dough on a lightly floured surface.
  4. Sprinkle baking powder evenly over surface of dough.
  5. Knead dough for 5 minutes.
  6. Divide dough in half. Place half of dough in a covered bowl.
  7. Cut the remaining dough into 12 equal pieces.
  8. Roll dough pieces into balls and then flatten. Make sure that edges are thinner than the center.
  9. Fill dough with 1 teaspoon of desired filling. Bring edge of circle up to pinch closed so that none of the filling is showing.
  10. Place filled dough on a small piece of waxed or parchment paper. Continue with remaining dough balls.
  11. Repeat process with dough that has been covered in the bowl.
  12. Let all filled dough balls stand covered for another 30 minutes.
  13. Steaming process could be done in a steamer basket or a wok. I have a fish poacher with a raised grate and used this to steam the buns.
  14. Bring water and 1 tbsp vinegar to a boil in steamer.
  15. Place as many buns as will fit in steamer, allowing for about an inch between buns so that they don’t stick together as they cook.
  16. Cover with lid. Steam over boiling water for 15 minutes.

———————————————————————————————————————

Caribou Cha Sui (Works well with venison, moose, elk, lean beef or similar meat)

The first step is to create a marinade and let the tenderized caribou absorb the flavors overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, make a filling with the marinated caribou and stuff the anpan. The filling will make enough for 6 steamed buns (nikuman). This recipe is best started a day in advance to ensure the meat is properly marinated.

Ingredients (Makes 6 nikuman)

Filling:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb caribou, pounded/tenderized till 1/2 inch thick or thinner
  • cha sui marinade (see below)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onions
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup beef stock (we use Better than Bouillon)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • extra light olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place tenderized caribou in a glass bowl or container and completely cover with marinade.
  2. Cover glass container and place in refrigerator overnight.
  3. The following day…
    1. In a medium-sized frying pan, heat 1/2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles in pan.
    2. Sear caribou on each side to seal in the juices.
    3. Reduce heat to medium and cover pan. Continue cooking for 3 minutes on each side. Meat should be cooked to “medium.”
    4. Remove pan from heat and place cooked meat on a cutting board to rest a few minutes.
    5. Dice cooked caribou into 1/4 inch cubes and set aside.
    6. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and beef stock and set aside
    7. Wipe out the pan used to cook the caribou. Heat 1/2 tbsp oil over medium heat.
    8. Add diced caribou and onion to pan. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
    9. Add soy sauce, honey and sesame oil to pan. Stir fry for another minute.
    10. Add cornstarch and stock mixture to pan and continue cooking until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
    11. Place caribou in bowl to cool prior to filling anpan rolls.
    12. See above directions for anpan to complete recipe.

Cha Sui Marinade:

Combine the following ingredients in a glass bowl:

  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced or chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry fennel
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • pinch salt

*Point Hope, like many bush villages in Alaska, is dry. Every now and again a certain meal calls for a special adult beverage. At these times we miss being able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. Most of the time we are content to wait until summer, which we spend in the “wet” town of Seward, Alaska or traveling.

Chocolate Pots for Two

Chocolate Pots for Two_n

Creamy dark chocolate pots with an almond essence are an elegant dessert, perfect for two.

Our holiday guest has left and we are back to just the two of us in our home in the Arctic. I like to scale down recipes so that Jack and I can enjoy freshly made sweets without having too many around to tempt us. These chocolate pots are rich and delicious, and half-cup servings provided a gourmet finish to a meal of caribou stroganoff. While I flavored these with a hint of almond, adding orange zest, a sprig of mint, or a very thin curl of lime peel would be among numerous other delectable variations. We topped the pots with a chocolate covered pomegranate.

Chocolate Pots

Ingredients: (For two 1/2 cup servings)

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Directions

  1. Place chocolate chips, sugar and cream in a small pot.
  2. Heat chocolate mixture over low heat. Stir continuously until mixture is smooth. Turn off heat.
  3. Whisk yolks and extracts in a small bowl.
  4. Slowly pour half of the melted chocolate mixture into egg yolks while whisking to temper eggs.
  5. Pour egg mixture back into small pot.
  6. Heat pot over low heat while stirring continuously for 3 – 5 minutes. Mixture should thicken slightly.
  7. Pour chocolate into two decorative ramekins.
  8. Let chill in refrigerator uncovered. Serve fully chilled and topped with something fun – a candied nut or a chocolate covered espresso bean.