Apple Crisp for Breakfast

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We have one apple tree. The first year we lived in this house it was loaded with apples. Come October we had plenty for pies and jam and whatnot. Last year we had exactly zero apples. Spring frost got all the blossoms. This year we returned to the bounty of that first year.

These are Red Delicious apples. Those are your standard, stereotypical apples. You know the ones. They look like, well, like a storybook apple–red and shiny and tapered a bit at the base. They are terrible. Well, most of them are terrible. I would never buy Red Delicious apples from a supermarket; they are bland and mushy and dry. But these Red Delicious are, indeed, delicious.

These are sweet and juicy and crisp. I took advantage of their current ripeness to make an apple crisp today. I woke early, the only one awake, so I got cracking. I peeled and sliced and stirred and assembled a fine apple crisp. After 45 minutes and a house full of apple odor I pulled a perfect breakfast from the oven.

I know apple crisp is not your typical American breakfast, but if we can eat donuts and danishes they we can eat a fresh apple crisp. And it was, as expected, enjoyable to consume. I only had one bowl, at first, but I did have seconds later in the morning. Hard to resist, that.

I put the rest in the fridge, even though it is tempting to eat the whole dang thing. A guy needs to eat something for breakfast tomorrow, you hear what I’m saying?

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Full-On Summer

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My daughter, freshly home from summer camp, and my wife and I picked some blueberries today. My son is at a running camp for mornings this week so it was just the three of us. We went late in the morning. The sun was up. It was hot under that sun. It was, as I mentioned to my family, a full-on summer day.

We each picked two quarts, to get your standard flat of berries. It takes some effort but it is worth the time and effort to pick one’s own berries. A quart costs less than a quart from the market and one has control over the quality of the berries in the basket, if you know what I’m saying. We got fat ripe berries and only fat ripe berries.

We did do some sweating at Owl’s Head Blueberry Farm, where we spent only an hour, but not only did we get blueberries but the place has a stellar view. It was one classic summer hour. We ate plenty of berries and my wife tossed a couple of quarts into the freezer later in the day. Hopefully we can pick more before the month is out and add to that freezer stash. They are great to have on a winter morning. Pancakes, anyone? Muffins?

A couple of times this summer, including this week, I have made granola. It is easy to make and, again, worth the effort. If you are going to eat granola, making it means you can make it just how you like it. It is not that difficult, even if it does take some time. The granola I made a couple of days ago includes these ingredients: oats, salt, oil, maple syrup, sunflower seeds, almonds, wheat germ. Simple.

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Tomorrow morning I plan to have more blueberries for breakfast, with some yogurt, and some granola tossed on top. Sweet, tangy, crunchy. If you can beat that for a perfect summer breakfast, you let me know.

Morning Bagels

When I mentioned to my wife late in the day yesterday that I was thinking about making bagels for the morning, but that we were out of bread flour, she volunteered to go out right that minute to get said flour. Once that happened I couldn’t very well not make bagels. So I made some bagels.

As I have said before here, making bagels is a piece of cake. OK I didn’t say it was a piece of cake but I did say it was easy. It is actually easier than making cake. Last night I churned up some yeasted dough in the mixer, cut it into pieces, and made some rings out of it to rise overnight.

Here is what it looked like pulled from the fridge in the morning:

IMG_3138After it warmed up a bit, and a big pot of water came to a boil, I dropped them into the bath for half a minute or so. Then I let them dry a bit on a rack:

IMG_3139I lined a baking pan with parchment paper and laid them out:

IMG_3140About 15 minutes of baking later, BAM! Bagels ready to eat.

IMG_3141A little cream cheese or, as my wife likes them, hot and naked, and breakfast is on. So easy. A piece of cake you might say. Total time, including clean up: hour and a half. Get someone else to clean up and it is a lot faster. I am thinking we need to make this a regular thing this winter. Fresh bagels when the snow howls? That’s what I’m talking about.

Breakfast and Biking and Building

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A stop on the Burlington bike path

We slept out on the porch last night. A section of it is screened, so we set up cozy beds on the couch and had our Z’s outside. We woke up later than I thought we would, given that the birds are singing at 4:00, about 7:00. I gathered some things while my son rubbed the bleariness from his eyes and then we headed to town.

First stop was Penny Cluse Cafe. They have the best breakfast around. My son had buttermilk pancakes, which he said were almost as good as mine. Right thing to say. And he wasn’t even after ice cream. I had beans and eggs and corn muffins–not something I typically have at home, which was the idea. Coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice–we were good to go on the meal front.

Next stop was the Ski Rack to pick up my son’s bike that had gotten some service. We rolled that outside, pulled my bike from the roof rack and, with full water bottles and some snacks, we headed to the lake. We passed the waterfront area and headed north on the bike path.

It could not have been a more perfect morning. Sunny, just warm enough, the lake and sky a summer blue. We pedaled our way several miles until we came to the bridge across the Winooski River. We stopped to look out at the river and the lake and the wetlands. Then we went a little further into Colchester.

Looking back toward Burlington

Looking back toward Burlington

We parked our bikes and checked out the lake, just off the bike path. Now that the water is finally low enough we could walk out to the marsh. We saw a couple of great egrets, a great blue heron and I finally heard marsh wrens. Those marsh wrens bring me up to 172 different bird species I have found in Chittenden County this year. I am aiming for 175, at least. I think I’ll make it.

We also saw basking map turtles

We also saw basking map turtles

Then we headed back south and parked our bikes outside ECHO, Burlington’s science center, to do some building. The rotating exhibit currently features KEVA planks, flattish rectangular blocks. There are some amazing structures there on display. We got there just in time for one of their daily challenges. We had five minutes to build a bridge. We teamworked it and did pretty well:

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I had started my own bridge before the challenge started and decided to enhance that one:

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We will be back to build some more this summer while the exhibit lasts. It is way fun.

Back home, my son got picked up to hang with a friend. I got some more painting done once the shade shifted around to right spot. We won’t have quite the blast tomorrow, but I am hoping it will be a decent one. We will sleep on the porch again and wake to the morning sun. No Penny Cluse tomorrow, but I can make pancakes at home. Apparently, they are pretty good.

Who Knew Pancakes Could Be So Good?

So buttermilk pancakes are the classic pancakes. Every time I hear about pancakes, at a restaurant, in a cookbook featuring some awesome breakfast, even on a box of powdered mix, it is all about buttermilk pancakes. Supposedly they are just “so good.” I have made lots of pancakes. I feel like I have a pretty good basic recipe. It does not involve buttermilk.

The waffle recipe I use is made with yeast. It requires making the batter the day before and letting it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. It takes some planning but good gravy those puppies are delicious. Recently I wanted to try something different so decided to try to make pancakes using yeast. I made that batter with some yeast and some baking soda. They came out really well. In fact, they were the best pancakes I had ever made.

I have never made pancakes with buttermilk in part because I never have buttermilk. I mean, what else do you make with buttermilk besides buttermilk pancakes? It isn’t exactly an item to keep stocked in the pantry. Or the icebox. Or whatever. I’m not going to go out and buy buttermilk when I can make perfectly good pancakes with regular old milk.

However (and you knew there would be a however), our CSA share recently started offering buttermilk. Our CSA share works a little differently than others. We get a quota of points each week and can use them for whatever they have–produce, eggs, honey, flowers. Last time we were there I grabbed some buttermilk–from a local dairy farm. I figured it was time to try making me some buttermilk pancakes.

I adapted the yeast pancake recipe I used before, adding buttermilk instead of plain milk. And let me tell you, those pancakes were crazy good–fluffy and light and buttery, and soft on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. Daggone those babies offered some good juju to my taste buds.

Next time we pick up our share I plan to get more buttermilk. I need to make more of those pancakes. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
extra butter for the griddle

Whisk together 1 cup flour, the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl.

Warm the buttermilk until just warm–too warm and it will curdle (but if it does, don’t worry, just mix it right in). Mix this into the the flour mixture thoroughly and set aside, covered with a towel. Let rise for about an hour.

Whisk together the remaining flour and sugar, the baking soda, and the salt in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs and melted butter together in a yet another bowl. Make sure the griddle is heating at this point.

Stir down the yeast mixture and add the egg/butter mixture until well blended. Add the flour mixture slowly, stirring all the while, until just blended. Pour small amounts onto hot griddle and heat. Once each pancake is brown on one side, flip only once to brown the other side and to cook through. Do not be tempted to flip them again as they will lose their loft and will not be nearly as good.

Scrape down the bowl with a silicone spatula to get all that tastiness cooked up.

Waffle Explosion

Yeast Working Overtime

Yeast Working Overtime

My yeasted waffle batter certainly rose. When I stirred the warm milk/butter solution into the flour/yeast mixture last night, I was afraid I was being impatient and combining it too soon. My concern was that it was still too hot and the yeast would be killed. I am aware it is a living thing every time I make something with yeast. I did not want to wait any longer, however, so mixed it and stored it in the refrigerator to rise slowly. Good thing I put it on a plate.

My worries about killing the yeast were unfounded, as you can see. My bowl could not contain the risen batter, but once I re-stirred it it sank back down to a reasonable volume, so I heated the waffle maker and made up some waffles. We can only cook one at a time and so I kept dishing them out, all the children (sleepovers happening last night) getting a half or a quarter at a time. It isn’t a quick process. With fresh fruit and warmed maple syrup, however, it was well worth.

Does it take a lot of time and effort? Dude, yes. But I will so make them again, many times, they are that good. If you never make waffles, or if you are still making quick-rise waffles, you are missing out. Go old fashioned and introduce yourself to yeasted waffles. You will wonder why you never met before.

Breakfast not to be beat

Breakfast not to be beat–the chef gets a whole waffle after serving everyone else

Busy Kitchen Today

Ready to dress some pizza pies

My daughter is into making cupcakes lately. She got a cupcake cookbook for Christmas and has been busy crusting its pages with flour and eggs and confectionary sugar. She wanted to make some chocolate cupcakes today but did not want all of them to be chocolate. She was making half a batch (I mean, we can only eat so many cupcakes) so had to halve the ingredients to start with. Then she split the batter and planned to add cocoa to one half. She had to halve twice to figure out how much cocoa to add. It was a good math problem. And what a mess.

That got cleaned up. No problem. The kids have friends over for the night so we made homemade pizza for dinner. I spent some time slicing and sautéing and grating toppings so everyone could make their personal pie. I made the dough, even though we did not have enough flour when I started. I didn’t know we were short on flour but I found out soon enough. My wife was out and so eventually brought more, but the dough sat for a while before I could finish it off. It was quite the sponge.

Making individual pizzas takes lots of counter space. It was a respectable mess to attend to, but I cleaned up most of it before dinner and the rest after those pizzas were consumed. Dishes done, pots washed, counter wiped down. We’re good. Then it was time to make breakfast.

As a treat for the weekend and the sleepovers, I figured I would make waffles. The problem with that is that I need to start the day before. I used to make your usual baking powder waffles but once I tried yeasted waffles there was no going back. You make them with yeast instead of baking powder, as you may have guessed, which means they need to rise. Of course, if I let them rise on the counter I would have to get up a 3:00 am. Not happening. So I whipped up the batter and stashed it in the refrigerator. Slow rise, ready for breakfast.

This, of course, was one more mess to clean up, which I accomplished with a rosy attitude. I like a clean kitchen. I think I’ve got all the loose kitchen accoutrements and plates and spatulas washed at this point. I was thinking I might have a little ice cream. But that would mean another bowl to clean. Nah. Who needs ice cream anyway?