I'm visiting Michigan right now, and there's a decent selection of apples in this portion of the state. Consequently, we've had the opportunity to do a couple of tastings from local apple cider producers. Tandem cider is a small producer with an enthusiastic brewer. Is "brewer" the right word? In any case, Tandem makes an English-style cider, which allows most of the sugar to be turned into alcohol. This makes for a complex and often subtle product. Two of their ciders are effectively without any noticable carbonation. It's not at all what one would expect if one has only had, for example, Woodchuck as their only cider experience. Indeed, before a tasting, they are sure to ask if you've had apple cider before, to gauge how shocked you'll be when you taste. If you go to Leelanau, please do go by. Just look for the building with the Tandem bicycle as a sign.

Making your own hard cider

There's this site called instructables. Its purpose in life is to have step-by-step instructions of doing just about everything, all generated by users, with the ability to comment and so on. A lot of these projects are electronics, or carpentry, or steampunk, or what-have-you. Cool stuff, but not useful for However, instructables recently held the Hungry Scientist Contest intending, I think, to give me all sorts of crazy things to link to whenever I'm feeling lazy. In this case, they gave me one of the front runners, Home Brew Hard Cider from Scratch. This takes about 20lbs of apples and turns it into fizzy, tasty, alcoholic cider. There's juicing, there's pasteurization, there's brewer's yeast, there's special valves to keep the wrong critters from colonizing your cider. It's got it all. If you don't have a juicer, you could do like JohnnyT and build your own cider press from things you have laying about. I'm not sure all of those materials are food safe, but people are adventurous.

Recipe book gaps

It was time to do something about all the apples that we had, so yesterday we decided to make a pie. A lemon custard pie. No, it was an apple pie, of course. I had a pie crust left over from when I was trying out the Whole Foods frozen pie crusts. They are, incidentally, not as good as the Pillsbury roll-out pie crusts, which, as we know, are good enough that it makes it hard for me to work up the effort to learn to make pie crust properly. Tried it once or twice, haven't quite gotten the knack. The biscuit method is not my best. However, I only had one shell, and I didn't feel like either making a crust or buying one, as that would have gone against the whole "let's use up this pie crust in a quick pie baking scenario" idea. Fortunately, my friend Stephanie, the last couple times I've made the apple pie, has suggested using a crumble topping instead of a pie crust. I figured this would be a good time to take her advice. So I turn to the index in Bittman's How to Cook Everything and look up Crumble. Nothin'. I check the pie index, and can see no crumble toppings. I check the tart index, and can find nothing there. I desperately try to remember what I was trying to think of that wasn't a tart, because I knew that wasn't right, and eventually failed completely to come up with the word 'Cobbler'. Today I remember, but the oven was pre-heated, and I really didn't feel like wasting a bunch of time trying to figure out what I was trying to think of. [amtap book:isbn=0471789186] So I leaf through Cookwise, but that would require far too much thinking to figure out what I wanted, and was not for the quick "give me the recipe now, in small unmarked bills," situation that I was in. I grabbed Professional Baking and turned to the pie section. I was in luck! There was a picture of an apple pie with a crumble topping. Hooray! Only there was no recipe for a crumble topping. All of the toppings they had that seemed similar were for going under the pie, and I, again, didn't feel like experimenting. [amtap book:isbn=0688102298] [amtap book:isbn=0471464279] So my wife, eager for pie, suggests going for one of our spiral-bound books of Southern cookery. I do so, and there is exactly what I need, except I had to ditch the oatmeal as I had none. The general idea is to combine a bunch of solid fat (I used shortening (trans-fat free, mind you)), flour, and brown sugar with a bit of baking soda until it crumbles, and you're set. Done and done. The pie is tasty, it has a crumble topping, and I know of some gaps in many of my cookbooks. A good learning experience, with pie to boot. I suppose next I'll need to check through and see if I can find the crumble topping by looking up 'Cobbler'. But first: pie.

That's a big pastry

PastriesI'm doing some travel for business. I got a new job recently (and got married, and went on a honeymoon, and was in a bit of community theatre), which is part of the reason you've heard little from me recently. However, as I'm getting the old posts back, I'll post some more new stuff in the meantime. So, as I said, I'm doing some business travel. In this particular trip, I was staying in Visalia, California, which is near Fresno in a very agricultural part of the state. Behind my hotel, I could see the back of a building with the sign, "Bothof's Bakery." Already, I was tempted. Now, the hotel had free continental breakfast, but I decided to break a few bucks out of my personal money and eat a proper breakfast. The downtown area where I was staying was not one for long business hours, so most places were closed between 9:30 PM and 8:30 AM. However, the bakery was open whenever I dropped by in the morning, which was early as I was still on Eastern Standard Time. The owner, or someone whom I presume was the owner), was very nice and quite talkative. A good sign for a little local bakery. There were two main display racks of goods, one with petit fours and cakes and the like, and the other with pastries proper. The first day, he directed me towards a, for lack of a better term, ginormous turnover, which you can see above. I also chose the apple fritter, as it looked tasty. The fritter was a bit too sweet for me, so I only had a bite of that. But the turnover I enjoyed immensely. The crust was super-flaky, and the cherry filling was delightful. Close observers will note the Starbucks Iced White Chocolate Mocha in the edge of the photo. Now, there are two local coffee houses, one of which I tried an espresso at shortly after consuming the turnover. It was dreadful espresso. Everything I hate about espresso, that had it. And I quite enjoy espresso, properly made. I attempted to go to the local organic shop, but apparently they don't open until 8:30, and by then, it's nearly lunchtime on my EST clock, so I had to skip their potential delights. Still, it's all better than eating at the local Burger King or similar, and I try to do my best to eat locally whenever I travel, business or otherwise. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the effort is generally worth it.