Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recipe Remake: thumbprint cookies with Hawaiian ingredients

I'm currently collecting recipes that can be made with only island-grown ingredients. Grains pose a particular challenge, since they are the staple of so many people's diets but aren't grown here. Breadfruit (called 'ulu in Hawai'ian) is a potential grain-substitute in many recipes. In addition to being a plentiful, local food, it is healthier than grains, too!

In the following recipe, I've adapted one of my favorite cookies to use 'ulu instead of flour, macadamia nuts instead of pecans, and coconut instead of oatmeal. It uses no additional sugar or oil. I used cardamom instead of more traditional spices, because I love the way the delicate complexity of the spice interacts with the sweet 'ulu flavor. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and other cookie spices could be used instead or in addition.

The resulting recipe is easy, healthy (for a dessert), and can be sourced completely locally! Plus, these cookies are gluten free and vegan, and still: delicious! The proof? They won Best of Show in the Puna 'Ulu Festival recipe contest a few weekends ago. It was my first cooking contest entry - I was so delighted!

*award winning* P┼źnana Cookies

for about 2 dozen cookies:
1&1/2 cups ripe 'ulu, steamed - use breadfruit that is sweet and mushy
1 cup finely chopped raw, unsalted macadamia nuts
1/2 cup shredded, dried, unsweetened coconut
Pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
tart jelly/jam - liliko'i ginger jelly is especially ono
Macadamia nut oil for pan, optional
Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Mash steamed breadfruit using a crank processor, a potato masher or a brief pulse in a blender.  The resulting paste should be sticky and clumpy, like buttermilk frosting.
Put the macadamia nuts, coconut, salt and cardamom in a mixing bowl and fold in the breadfruit paste, much like mixing butter into a batter until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Either wipe a cookie sheet with macadamia oil or use a non-stick cookie sheet.  Take about one tablespoons of breadfruit batter and roll into a ball.  Form the dough into a nest with an impression on top for the jelly.  Wet hands can help form the well-structured nest.  Fill the sheet with the nests about 1 to 2 inches from each other.  Then add about 1/2 a teaspoon of jelly to each nest.  Liliko’i jelly is ono because of its bright, tart flavor, but any firm jam or jelly will work.
Put the cookie sheet into the oven and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom and/or top.  Remove and cool on a rack.  Enjoy!

Now the pictorial tutorial:

Choose breadfruit that is soft (from ripeness not from bruising!) - it will usually be a golden color, but sometimes still green. A 2 lb breadfruit should be enough for a single batch. Steam for about an hour, then cut off skins and cut into chunks.

We use a simple hand-crank food processor.

Not much processing is needed for ripe breadfruit. It's consistency should be somewhere between mash potatoes and frosting. If the breadfruit does not stick together, try adding a little splash of water.

Processed ingredients (breadfruit, coconut, nuts, cardamom, salt) before mixing.

I've found that folding the breadfruit into the dry ingredients, much like you would fold butter into flour, works well. Mix with a spoon or spatula until ingredients are evenly distributed.

Use a nonstick cookie sheet or grease a regular sheet. I put a light coat of macadamia nut oil on my non-stick sheets. The oil isn't necessary, but increases browning. Take about a tablespoon of batter an shape a nest. Make sure the sides and bottom are solid, so the jelly can't leak during baking.

Add about 1/2 teaspoon of jelly to each nest. I use my homemade liliko'i-ginger jelly. I think any tart, bright flavored jelly or jam would be delicious.

In my oven set to 350 deg F, these cook for 25-30 minutes. I take them out when they start to brown. Then, they cool on a cookie rack.
Using the same batter and adding dark chocolate chips instead of jelly makes pretty darn good chocolate chip cookies. These are made with Scharffenberger chocolate chunks my mom sent. Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Simple Tangerine-Turmeric Marmalade Chutney

I have been pursuing the fruit pinups in The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. Drool. But it's really just unattainable aspiration, what with the complicated recipes, the mainland stone fruit ingredients, and the author's more-Anthropologie-than-Anthropologie outfits. However, I did find Rachel Saunders's descriptions of different types of marmalades quite useful, since this time of year our six tangerine trees are loaded. Luckily, I decided to ignore the Saunders's indignant dismissal of citrus that does not stick to its skin. (Our tangerines are definitely loose-skinned.)

Inspired by Blue Chair, I turned to the internet to find a simple marmalade recipe. I found exactly what I was looking for through my friends the Evil Mad Scientists. I adapted their recipe to fit my own needs and vision.

I call this a marmalade chutney because I boiled the water out until the mixture was very thick, leaving very little "jell." It's mostly flavored fruit rinds and fibers. Because I like my desert-foods as healthy as possible, I used very low sugar, and I used palm sugar instead of cane sugar. Palm sugar is lower glycemic than cane sugar, but it also imparts a brown sugar taste and a dark color. In this recipe, it works well with the other flavors.

The recipe below makes a very bitter marmalade. When I first tasted it, I thought it was too bitter, but later I found that I love its complex, adult taste with sourdough rye bread, or bread with almond butter, or crackers and cheese, or really any way I can find to scoop it up. If you'd like a less bitter marmalade, try soaking the peals overnight in water (and discard the water).

I used turmeric root with the tangerines because it is so healthy, because I currently have a lot laying around, and because I love the yellow color. I also found that it deepens the flavor. I think other spices would be amazing as well, I put cinnamon in this last batch and will try cardamon next.

The recipe:

10 tangerines, about 3.3 pounds
2 cups water
2 oz fresh tumeric root
1 cup palm sugar
other spices?

Your marmalade can only be as flavorful as the fruit you use, so try to select ripe, juicy specimens of yum.

Cut up the entire fruit, including the skin. I trimmed some of the most fibrous bits and took out the seeds, but everything else is good. Cut up the skins in any size/shape that appeals to you. The slices break down during cooking. 

Here are the leftover bits from 10 tangerines - not much waste when making a marmalade.

Grate turmeric, and prepare any other spices, and add to tangerines.

Add about 2 cups of water to the tangerine pieces and boil for about an hour to soften them.

Add sugar. I used 1 cup, which is probably about the minimum amount for a condiment for sweet snacks. Add more if you'd like a more traditional (sweet) product. Simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours. Make sure to stir frequently, because it does like to burn. (The distraction of my neighbor's cows in my garden made me lose a batch. Drat!) A little bit of burn probably won't affect it too much, though, so make sure you taste it before throwing a batch away.

During this cooking time, pectin is oozing out of the peels and fiber. It's the pectin that will cause the marmalade to jell when cool. To see if it is ready, you can put a small dollop on a cooled plate and see if it forms a jell or skin or if it stays watery.

Pour into a jar to enjoy now, or can in canning jars. Opened jars should be refrigerated. Makes about 5 cups.