Saturday, February 07, 2009

I Dried My Best

As I've been working to meet my personal challenge this winter of eating almost exclusively from my pantry, I've noticed that while I've had no problem working vegetables -- even the dried ones -- into my menu planning, I've hardly touched the fruit.

So as I started my list of things to do this weekend, I decided to give some attention to baking with dried fruit.

First, I needed to replenish my granola supply, so I whipped up a batch that used home-dried raisins, a bit of candied orange peel, and chopped heartnuts. (Other local ingredients included the oats, and the maple sugar and syrup.) That should be a good topping for oatmeal or yogurt in the mornings.

Then I looked through my copy of Making & Using Dried Foods and settled on a recipe for dried apple-cherry bran muffins. I soaked the apples and cherries in hot water while I mixed together other ingredients.

Naturally, I didn't stick to the recipe exactly. Since I didn't have any bran handy, nor wheat germ, I decided to use local cornmeal and then finish the batter with local spelt flour. (Other local ingredients: milk, eggs, candied orange peel, hicans.)

And because lately I've been too lazy to make muffins, I greased a square baking pan and spread the batter in that.

I haven't seen a cake come out of the oven so evenly formed in a long while, and the fragrance was irresistible.

So once the cake had cooled a while, I cut a small slice and enjoyed it with mid-morning tea. The cornmeal and spelt combine to give the coffee cake more flavor and substance without making it heavy -- the crumb remained moist and delicate. And the fruit flavors, enhanced with a bit of cinnamon, vanilla, and Fiori di Sicilia (orange-vanilla flavoring), gave the cake a bright, refreshing taste.

If using dried fruit makes pastries taste this good, I'll have to bake with them more often instead of saving them for special times!

And perhaps I'll have to put away more this coming summer.

Dried Apple and Cherry Coffee Cake

Based on a muffin recipe from Making & Using Dried Foods, this recipe could be varied to use any dried fruit in your pantry. If making muffins, grease or line the tins and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

1 c chopped dried apples
1/2 c dried cherries
1 c cornmeal
2/3 c milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 drops Fiori di Sicilia (optional)
2 eggs
1 c brown or maple sugar
1/4 c melted butter
1 c spelt flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c chopped candied orange peel
1/2 c hicans or pecans

Place dried apples and cherries in heatproof bowl. Cover with hot water. Let stand 1 hour, until softened. Drain. (Reserve liquid for a sweet recipe that uses hot water.)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 9" square baking pan.

In large bowl, combine cornmeal and milk and let sit until milk is mostly absorbed. Add vanilla and Fiori di Sicilia, eggs, sugar, and melted butter.

In small bowl, whisk together spelt flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add to wet ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

Fold in soaked fruits, candied orange peel, and hicans or pecans. Spread in greased pan.

Bake at 400 F for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool before slicing and serving.

Serves 9-12

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