pineapple vinegar

birthdays are fun, maybe…anyway, i was given a copy of the book, mastering fermentation, for my birthday.  there are so many recipes to try.  in my cupboard is almost always a batch of kombucha so fermented things are something i enjoy.  my first choice in recipes, pineapple vinegar.  why?  it just sounds so different that i had to try it.

the recipe calls for piloncillo, a pure cane sugar product that is found in latino markets.  the sugar is formed into a cone or a disk and to use it, you have to grate it.  because it is a pure cane sugar product, it is not refined and it is dark like brown sugar.

the recipe calls for the peel and core of a pineapple.  not a problem.  i work in a restaurant that uses pineapples daily so getting someone to save me the peel and core was as simple as asking them to do it.

the pineapple peels/core are combined with the piloncillo and allowed to sit undisturbed in a dark place and ferment.


this is what it looks like after two weeks.  there is definitely a change-it is cloudy.

there is a sediment on the bottom that is the byproduct of the sugar fermenting and an odd mixture of stuff on top.  it also tastes like vinegar-yes, i am a little crazy and i tasted it out of curiosity.  after two weeks, the mixture is fed two tablespoons of grated piloncillo.

stay tuned for the next report, this could take a while, at least 6 weeks.

pina colada cake

this is the story of two cakes.  one a beautiful cake and the other, a shipwreck.  or train wreck, take your pick.  either name will work.

as i have mentioned before, i work in a demonstration garden with my fellow master gardeners.  it is my responsibility as the project chair to round up the volunteers and maintain the garden.  to do this, i have resorted to bribery; it works out so much better than whining and begging…since i go out to the garden every sunday morning, i have made it a habit to take a freshly baked cake with me.  sounds easy but it is a challenge to come up with a different cake each week.

the result is that every week, i create a new recipe.  sometimes, it is as simple as substituting an ingredient or two in an already successful recipe.  other weeks, it can be complicated as i attempt a new formula all together.  most of the time, the cake works out and i am able to make minor adjustments to use the next time i bake the cake.  other times, not so much.  this last time, really, really not so good.  and by not so good, i mean the cake was self destructing from the moment i took it out of the oven.

 don’t you love the ski slope effect?  trust me, it went completely down hill from here…

as i stood there looking at my sad cake, i watched in horror as more and more of the sides of the cake just fell off and littered the tray.  so sad, so embarrassing.  how would i fix this?  there wasn’t any time to bake another cake, i would just have to bring it out to the garden and hope for the best.  the best laugh that is.  shirley quickly dubbed it a total shipwreck.  and honestly, it was-no harm, no foul, just lots of giggles.  she and lynn were astonished that i could have baked this.  so as you see, even a pastry chef is capable of a shipwreck every now and then.  the mistake here, i tried to temper the acid level of fresh pineapple by adding a little baking soda to the recipe.  guess what, the cake did not need any tempering.

so this week, when i set out to bake a cake for my gardening friends, i had a new challenge; no eggs.  we have a couple of new volunteers that both follow a mostly vegan diet and the eggs needed to go.  luckily, they were both okay with a small amount of butter but definitely not the eggs.  and luckier still, i happened to have a package of ener-g egg replacer in the pantry and a supply of coconut milk and coconut oil.  i also had the determination of a baker scorned; i simply was not going to be pushed around by a cake.  no, i was going to win this thing, we were going to eat pina colada cake and it was going to be a good cake.  no ifs, ands or buts.  just a really good cake!

recipe notes:  to get a nice pineapple flavor, use fresh, ripe pineapple.  peel, core and cut enough of it into 1″ cubes to make 2 cups.  place the pineapple in a food processor and pulse to produce tidbits.  do not let the machine run for more than 5 or 10 seconds at a time or you will quickly make puree.  put the pineapple tidbits into a mesh strainer and press out as much of the juice as you can.  reserve the juice for the syrup that is poured over the warm cake.  2 cups of chunks should yield 1 cup of tidbits and 1/2 cup of juice which is what you will need for the cake.

for the liquid in the recipe, i have used coconut milk.  to get the best texture without it being gummy or overly moist, use a light coconut milk or an unsweetened coconut milk beverage.  these will add moisture without excess fat that can make the cake greasy and heavy.

for the vegans, use all coconut oil(2/3 cup) and ener-g egg replacer(4 1/2 teaspoons mix to 6 tablespoons of warm water).  for the not so vegan, you can do as i did and use half unsalted butter(6 tablespoons) and half coconut oil(1/3 cup) with the egg replacer.  and for those of you throwing caution to the wind, you can also just use 3 large eggs, and all butter but you will have to use  coconut milk to be able to call it pina colada!

if you have never used ener-g egg replacer, it is easy!  follow the instructions on the box and use as you would real eggs.  place the powder in a mixing bowl, whisk in warm water and let it sit while you start mixing the recipe.

pina colada bundt cake
1 bundt cake serving about 12
*before starting-read the notes above!!!
1 cup fresh pineapple tidbits*
ener-g egg replacer equivalent to 3 eggs*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened*
1/3 cup coconut oil*
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup coconut milk*
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt cake pan.  place butter, coconut oil, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine.  with the motor running, pour in the egg replacer and process until smooth.  pour the mixture into a mixing bowl with the pineapple tidbits.  stir to combine and distribute the tidbits evenly.  sift the flour and the baking powder over the batter and fold it in a few times.  sprinkle the coconut milk over the top of the batter and fold together until no streaks of flour or butter remain.  scrape the batter out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.  smooth out the top and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour.  while the cake bakes, make the syrup by combining the juice and the brown sugar in a small sauce pan.  bring the mixture to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  set it aside while the cake bakes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool.  prick the surface of the cake with a fork and spoon the glaze over the top of the cake.  allow it to cool completely before slicing.

hummingbird cake with cream cheese icing

when it comes to southern desserts, red velvet cake and chess pie are popular choices.  let’s not forget banana pudding, it is always on that list too.  and it wasn’t until i moved to nashville that i even heard of a hummingbird cake.  since learning to make one, i must say, it is one of my favorite cakes.  
when describing a hummingbird cake to someone unfamiliar with it, i always compare it to a carrot cake.  the two cakes have an oil base with lots of raw produce and nuts in them.  a carrot cake is a blend of raw carrots, pineapple, shredded coconut and walnuts while a hummingbird cake is a combination of bananas and pineapple with pecans.  both cakes have a generous amount of cinnamon in the batter and they are both decorated with cream cheese frosting.  but honestly, they don’t taste anything alike except that they are both mouth watering good!
since i was taking this cake to a pot luck dinner, i decided to make it easier on everyone; i baked it in a tube pan rather than the traditional 3 round cake pans.  the result was a huge cake that fed our large group easily.  
so here are a few hints.  do grease and flour the pan-you will be sorry otherwise!  the bananas should be ripe but not mushy.  the perfect state of ripeness; a few black freckles and an obvious banana scent before you actually open the skin.  ripe pineapple will give the best flavor but you can use a small 8 ounce can of crushed in a pinch, just realize it will not add the same amount of flavor as the fresh.  whether you use fresh or canned pineapple, make sure you add the juice too-don’t drain it or the cake will be on the dry side.
hummingbird party cake
serves 16 or more
2 cups pecan pieces
2-3 bananas, ripe
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks, about 1/2 pound
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup canola oil 
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 recipe of cream chess frosting
preheat the oven to 350.  grease a large tube pan and dust it with flour.  place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  measure out 1 cup for the cake batter and reserve the rest for the garnish.
place the bananas and pineapple into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the fruit is chopped to the size of peas.  pour into to a mixing bowl.  add the 1 cup of pecans, brown sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and salt.  whisk until blended.  place the flour, baking soda and cinnamon into a sifter and sift over the batter in the bowl.  fold this all together and pour it into the prepared pan.  
bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.  allow the cake to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before taking it out of the pan.  to remove the cake, place a cooling rack over the top of the cake and invert.  set the rack down and remove the cake pan carefully.  allow it to cool completely before frosting.
cream cheese frosting
4 ounces of regular cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar, sift after measuring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup toasted pecans (from the cake recipe-not additional)
cream the cheese with the sugar and vanilla.  spread it over the sides and top of the cake using a spoon to create swirls.  sprinkle the nuts over the top of the cake.  can be refrigerated but let it come to room temp before serving.

join me for a tea party

this is a first for me.  generally, i do not use this blog to generate support for causes or charity but today, i am changing that.  as a woman, i know how important it is to go for the dreaded yearly pap smear.  i also know just how scary it can be to hear that the results were not normal.  thankfully for me, the news was just a higher level of abnormal cells than is acceptable and the only treatment needed was to freeze my cervix.  years later i can say all is well and part of that is due to my diligence and my husbands wonderful(thanks to his employer!) health plan.  even though i go for that test each year, the risk for ovarian cancer still exists for me and every other woman on the planet.   even more frightening than that revelation is the fact no matter how many general exams women have, ovarian cancer most likely is not diagnosed until it has spread beyond the ovaries since there is no test available to detect it.  the worst part is that many women never have anything more than mild symptoms and when it is discovered, it is in an advanced stage and often comes with a 50% or less survival rate.  but before you think that i am all doom and gloom, know this, there are tests available to screen women for their risk factor and best of all, we have organizations like the ovarian cancer research fund helping us find early detection tests, better methods of treatment and ultimately,  a cure.

so by now you must be asking yourself, why is she prattling on about this and what does it have to do with a tea party?  it’s simple, as a featured publisher on foodbuzz, i am participating in a challenge and helping to raise funds for the ocrf and at the same time helping myself and all women out there. the fact that they also turned this into a contest of sorts does not hurt.  foodbuzz will donate $50 to the fund just because i entered a recipe into the tea party contest and i have a chance to see my blog chosen as part of their top 9 takeover. the top 9 takeover is a partnership between foodbuzz and electrolux to help raise funds as well as awareness for ovarian cancer and research.  so join me, and my good friend kelly ripa(no i don’t really know her but it sounds good) as well as the folks at foodbuzz and electrolux for a tea party with a cause and let’s get the word out there.  so, let’s get this tea party started!

when i am not working, i spend a lot of time in the garden.  each week, i volunteer my time for the master gardeners of davidson county and i work in a research and demonstration garden-demo garden for short.  since i am always baking something, i bring a cake with me each week.  but since this week i was baking for the tea party, i decided on little pineapple jam tarts.  made in a mini pan, these dainty little treats were perfect for the garden as well as any tea party since they could be eaten out of hand.  they also look rather elegant when arranged on a fancy cake pedestal.  keep your eye on them as they tend to disappear quickly-i saw that with my own eyes.  when my fellow gardeners heard what was in my cake box, they abandoned the garden to sample the tarts.  so began our typical work day tea party in the garden; a little weeding, a little chatting and a little snacking among friends.

pineapple jam tarts

24 miniature tarts
adapted from david lebovitz
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1  egg yolk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal-i used blue cornmeal since i had some
2 teaspoons baking powder
jam or preserves in any flavor, about 1 3/4 cups-jelly is too thin for this so only jam or preserves should be used.           

preheat the oven to 375.  lightly grease a mini muffin pan or enough pans to get 24 tarts.  cream the butter with the sugar, salt and vanilla until light.  add the egg and yolk and mix well.  add the flour, cornmeal and baking powder and mix until it comes together.  using a small scoop-size #70, portion the dough by making 24 scoops.  reserve the rest of the dough-roll it into a 6″ log and chill until needed.  shape the tart shells with your fingers by pressing the dough evenly around the inside of the cups of the tin.

using the same scoop, place one scoop of jam into each tart shell.  i made some pineapple jam using about 4 cups of pineapple chunks, 2 cups pineapple juice, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 vanilla bean and 4 thick slices of fresh ginger.  pulse the fruit in the food processor and then combine all ingredients and cook until golden and thickened.

using a ruler, score the dough log into 1/4″ segments.  use a knife to carefully cut the slices of dough.

place one slice of dough on top of each tart and sprinkle with sugar if desired.

bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes.  allow the tarts to rest in the pans for 10-15 minutes.

carefully lift each tart out and place on a rack to cool completely.

thanks to foodbuzz, kelly ripa and electrolux for taking women’s health so seriously by supporting the ovarian cancer research fund.  and ladies, remember to schedule that yearly exam.

upside down

Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
oh the golden age of disco…sing it diana, sing it!!! in the mean time, i’m baking pineapple upside down cakes. two rounds today and i am pleased with the results. while not a difficult cake to make, it does take some organization. if you let the syrup get cold in the skillet, it takes longer to bake the cake and the result is a syrup that can burn and a cake that can be dry.
once again i am forcing you to drag that old skillet out of the cupboard. cook the syrup until it boils.
arrange the pineapple slices over the syrup in a neat pattern so that it looks pretty when you turn it out of the pan
carefully spread the cake over the pineapple slices and syrup. do this gently or you will rearrange the pattern.
place an empty pan under the skillet in the oven to catch any syrup that boils up and over the sides of the skillet
pretty caramelized pineapple slices over a tender cake, warm and gooey from the oven.
Upside down You’re turnin’ me…