chestnut applesauce cake (tree cake 2.0)

you may remember last year i made damian tree cake for his birthday. this year i discovered chestnut flour. have you ever had chestnut flour? it’s so yummy! so sweet and mild! it’s a gluten-free baker’s dream. i got super excited about chestnuts after reading mark shepherd’s book, restoration agriculture. chestnuts will save the world! don’t worry, mesquite will save the world too. think of mesquite as desert chestnut… i don’t hear paleo and gluten free folks raving about chestnuts, but i’m pretty sure it won’t be long until they do. we just need a celebrity chef to make a chestnut bacon doughnut or something and next thing you know it’ll be chestnut everything in all the health food stores. right now it’s still a bit hard to find. i found some chestnut flour at whole foods, and found super affordable bags of organic peeled chestnuts at the korean market. i also found acorn flour at the korean market, which was quite the thrill, let me tell you.

so, the cake. it was so good! so so good. it was very easy to assemble, it held together well, rose nicely, had a moist crumb and great flavor. and the whole double recipe was devoured in minutes. with such wholesome ingredients, i’m thinking of making another just for snacking. sorry i didn’t take any pictures. we ate outside and the sun went down so it was too dark for my crappy phone camera.

chestnut acorn applesauce cake

adapted from fanny farmer’s applesauce cake

1/4 cup melted butter of coconut oil

1/2 cup coconut or date sugar, or honey

1 cup apple sauce

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups chestnut flour

1/2 cup acorn flour (available at asian markets)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

mix it all up, pour into a greased 9in pan and bake at 350 (in the sun oven, of course) for 40 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. top with whipped cream if desired.

eating mesquite

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the biggest tree on our property is a wild honey mesquite. it’s loaded with pods right now.

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damian picked a bowl full and put it in the vitamix. then he sifted it (the empty hulls on the left make a good mulch or carbon addition to compost)

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and then i was ready to bake!

after getting really excited about eating mesquite (blood-sugar balancing, high protein super food), i was disappointed when i started looking for recipes and couldn’t find any that used exclusively mesquite. the flour is delicious on it’s own, but it does have a rather strong flavor. so if you want baked goods like you grew up with, you’re gonna want to mix it. sometimes i do want baked goods like what i am used to, but i also like to let foods be what they are and not try to turn them into something they are not. i do not like foods that need quotation marks. soy “cheese,” almond crust “pizza,” chicory “coffee,” raw cauliflower “mashed potatoes.” no thank you. i like my cauliflower as cauliflower, pizza as pizza. but when it comes to mesquite, how can i let it shine as itself? what is it?

i’m gonna find out. we tried pancakes with 100% mesquite. they were fine, tasty, even, with yogurt and blueberries, but it took a lot of eggs to get them to hold together, and i got the feeling something like a scone or biscuit would be more suited to it’s properties. the cinnamon and caramel notes remind me of graham crackers, so i started there.

they turned out delicious! the mesquite flavor shines. when i make these again though, i’m going to do the same recipe but make them thick like scones. yours will not be this messy unless you also have a two-year-old “helper” -see, quotation marks are not a selling point! also you will use two trays instead of one…Image

 

(that dark spot is on my camera lens, not the biscuit)

i know i just said i wanted to use 100% mesquite, but i also wanted something really yummy, and i’m just learning, so i used half mesquite here. i’ll post more recipes as i discover what works.

Mesquite biscuits

adapted from smitten kitchen’s graham cracker recipe

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup mesquite flour

3/4 cup  brown sugar, lightly packed (i used turbinado, because that’s what i had)

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen

5 tablespoons milk, full-fat is best

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Topping (optional) i didn’t do it because i wanted to feel good about eating them for breakfast)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

[Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor or electric mixer, you can cut the ingredients together with a pastry blender. Just make sure they’re very well incorporated.]

combine milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be soft and sticky. cover and chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.

flour your work surface and roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle and cut it into squares (or use a cookie cutter for fun shapes.) (or make scones!)

Place the biscuits on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, 

joys of summer in the desert

living here in the desert, we can expect high temperatures around 100F (37c) most days from mid may to september. this year june was a glorious exception and i found myself shivering in the chill on several evenings since i just don’t expect to be cold in the summer here. ever.
now that it’s july, summer has come in earnest and a lot of people have skipped town. the folks who are left mostly fall into two categories; those who don’t want to be here and those who do. the people who don’t want to be here complain about the heat, and scuttle around from air conditioned car to air conditioned house to air conditioned work place.
the people who want to be here understand the beauty and simplicity of a lazy summer in the quiet desert. they have mastered the art of the siesta and come out at night to play music and drink beer. they don’t move too much or too fast during the hottest part of the day. instead they close the curtains and sit under the swamp cooler with a good book and some chilled watermelon cubes. early mornings are good for watching wildlife and exercising, afternoons are good for naps, movies, and meditating. evenings are good for grilling, sitting outside, and sipping margaritas.
when i first moved here, i have to admit i was more in the first camp. i remember before we had our swamp cooler hooked up i had a particularity rough afternoon and i cried to damian, “i just need a dark, cold, wet cave! you can just leave me there and i’ll lay there and it will be dark and cool…” the heat can go to your head, but now that i’ve learned how to stay hydrated (i put lemon, Himalayan salt and trace minerals in my water) and i’ve learned not to try to accomplish much in the middle of the day, i think i’m making my way into the second camp.
recently we went on a sunset picnic to the national park with ely, christina, ben and rebecca. the park was almost deserted and the air was so nice as we watched the stars come out. i thought, ‘this is what to do in the summer! there’s no reason not to have a picnic every night and watch the shooting stars and satellites.’
here’s a few photo’s i took last night.
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