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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Just Desserts

That's what we got last night! Thinking that it might be nice to have a mid-month pick-me-up, my sub-group of localvores in Burlington convened for a potluck consisting solely of after-dinner sweets.

In addition to black bean ice cream, I brought a German apple pancake that my friend Allaire and I made. The dish is basically an egg-enriched batter poured around hot apples fried in cinnamon and honey, then baked quickly in a hot oven. Here's a picture of it before and after baking in the batter:

Cooking_apples Apple_pancake

This version turned out really salty; I'm not sure why, but I guess I may have to adjust the recipe a bit. We substituted blueberry vinegar for lemon juice, to keep it local, and that may have made it taste a bit weirder than usual. I'll try again with this in a few days.

Other, tastier treats on the table included a strawberry cake with honey-caramel frosting (made with frozen local berries), little cups of sweet custard made with fresh corn and topped with a currant-and-blueberry sauce, and an entire watermelon from the Intervale (one of the crunchiest I've ever eaten). Oh, and to cut all of the sweetness there were also tangy, spicy, homemade "quick" dill & garlic pickles, cured in the fridge, and lots of lemon balm tea.

Desserts_1 I haven't really missed sugar this month, partly because there's an abundance of maple syrup and honey. I don't put either in my herbal tea these days, but whenever I want a sweet treat, it's easy to add a bit of maple syrup to some milk for a quick drink. Baking with liquid syrups has also been much easier than I expected. I had been dreading burning every baked item, or having them turn out goopy, but so far cakes and other sweet dishes seem pretty straightforward. The trick is to add a pinch of baking soda, which cuts the natural acidity of both honey and maple syrup, and makes it act more like sugar. Courtesy of my friend Mandy, vegan baker extraordinaire, here's a handy formula for sugar conversions:

Honey: 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of granulated sugar, then reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees. Honey tends to make things darker and chewier.

Maple Syrup: Substitute 3/4 cup maple syrup plus 1/4 t baking soda for each 1 cup granulated sugar and reduce liquid by 3 tablespoons. Use a lighter grade if you want to avoid a heavy maple flavor.

I find it's usually helpful to beat the additional baking soda right into the honey or maple syrup before you add it to whatever you're making. They honey will turn an opaque, creamy color, but that's normal.

Frittata_with_beans Oh, I did make that frittata last night, and had it again for lunch today. Here's what it looked like. I think the finger foods made the meal: the cherry tomatoes were delicious, and the raw green beans were so good and crispy-crunchy that I wonder why anyone would ever cook them. Normally I'd spend lots of time prepping and steaming green beans, but if it's not chilly out, now I think I'd rather eat them fresh, by the handful.

Dinner tonight will either be more roast chicken or something else cobbled together from various leftovers. And afterward? Gahlord and I might try to make something Mandy mentioned last night. Localvore carmel corn: popcorn topped with hardened honey-butter. Good heavens.


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salty or not, damn that apple pancake looks mighty good!


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