Filed under: baking, recipes, where the flour went | Tags: 48th ward, apple cake recipe, Chicago, ernie constantino, flour, industrial harvest, wheat, whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour
An addendum to yesterday’s post on Edgewater / Care For Real. Ernie Constantino, who hooked me up with Care For Real, Tom Robb and Mary Ann Smith, was introduced to me at least in part due to his excellence at pie baking. He lives in Edgewater, so he and his partner stopped by one chilly Saturday morning and took home 40 pounds of whole wheat pastry flour. Ernie has since become one of my most dedicated test bakers, sending me detailed reports on flour performance and recipes. Here’s Ernie’s recipe for apple cake. Happy Thanksgiving!
Ernie Constantino’s Apple Cake
Ernie’s report: “the cake was well-received in spite of my feeling it was way too sweet! … so if you forward this recipe, please give them my notes that the sugar could be reduced by at least 1/2 cup (btw, I used Turbinado/Raw sugar) and also the amount of batter was too much for a standard bundt tube pan …. also it was very moist which is good taste-wise but it crumbled easily esp. with the amount of apples called for in middle of cake … nutrition-wise, I think with the unpeeled hand-picked apples and WWPF*, canola oil, OJ, walnuts and eggs, it’s a winner!”
*whole wheat pastry flour. Ernie is not the first person to use this acronym, though I’ve avoided it.
This recipe is un-adjusted to reflect Ernie’s notes above. You can decide about the sugar yourself.
|Chop and combine||6 apples
1 Tbl cinnamon
5 Tbl sugar
|Mix in large bowl||2 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbl baking powder
1 tsp salt
|Whisk and mix with above||1 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup orange juice
2 cups sugar
2 ½ tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
Pour half of batter into greased tube pan. Spread half of apple mixture on batter. Pour remaining batter then remaining apples on top.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 90 minutes.
Filed under: hunger, project updates, recipes, where the flour went | Tags: 48th ward, care for real, Chicago, donation, edgewater, edgewater community council, flour, food pantry, industrial harvest, mary ann smith
So without further ado: the final flour donation in Chicago was to Care For Real, a food pantry in Edgewater. Edgewater was home base during my stay in Chicago, and it was good to me. Well-treed, not too gentrified with a wide variety of buildings and residents (many of them immigrants or refugees), Edgewater is tucked away by the lake on Chicago’s far north side. True, it’s less convenient to get to most other places in the city, but it’s also a refuge from the rest of the city. I described it to husband Rob as “the Brooklyn of Chicago” and when he came to visit he agreed.
I wanted to give back to my home away from home, and it seemed appropriate that the donation to Care For Real was the last one. I was introduced to Care For Real and its director Tom Robb by Ernie Constantino, who works for 48th ward Alder(wo)man Mary Ann Smith (for readers who are not from Chicago, the 48th ward includes Edgewater; an Alderman is similar to a city councilperson). The pantry is run out of a tiny storefront in the 6000 block of North Broadway. Care For Real, like all the food banks and pantries I have talked to, is bursting at the seams trying to serve the ever-growing numbers of clients in need. When I asked Tom how much flour he wanted, he said, laughing, “I might freak out if it’s over 700 pounds.” When I arrived, I understood his reply. There was a front room where the clients signed in and picked up food; it contained a packed waiting area of about 20 chairs, a small school desk and several tables overflowing with food donations from the big grocery stores that are practically right across the street. In back was a couple of offices and a maze of racks, cabinets and refrigerators all crammed into a space maybe 20 by 40 feet, maybe not even that much. Here is what part of it looks like:
Mary Ann Smith also showed up for a little meet & greet and to pose for some photos on her way to another meeting. Here we are “unloading the van” (which basically means that Nate and a few volunteers did most of the unloading and we all stood around and got in the way of everyone trying to do actual work and took pictures of it).
There was just barely room for the flour in the storage racks. Fred, who volunteers weekly, was both strong and nimble enough to maneuver 14 bags of flour into place on the shelves. I was a little worried about the lack of refrigerated space for the whole wheat pastry flour, but with the holidays coming up, the staff assured me that it would not sit for long.
We had our friend T in town for a night this past week. His presence at our dinner table was a good excuse to get back on the baking. I turned to an old standby, pita bread. Homemade pita – with a pocket and everything – is so much better that store bought pita does not make it on my shopping list anymore. Pita is also less time-consuming than loaves, and pretty easy for dilletante bakers such as myself to get great results.
Here’s my recipe:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/4 cups flour (I used 1/3 white flour, 2/3 whole wheat flour from Fairhaven Mills co-op)
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar (I usually don’t add the sugar, but supposedly it makes them brown more quickly and gives more food to the yeast)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet) yeast
I primed the yeast by putting it in the water, adding just 1 cup of flour, and letting that sit about 30 minutes till it was bubbly on top and puffy. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix it up and give it a quick knead and let it rise for about 45 minutes. Then divide the dough into 4 equal parts and form it into balls. Let the dough balls rise for about 10 more minutes, then press them into 8-inch rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Bake on the bottom rack of a 450 deg. oven for 5 minutes; you definitely don’t want to overdo it. The pitas will puff up while baking (if you’ve got kids, the puffing will be quite a treat to watch), taking on their signature “pocket” form, and may get slightly brown when they’re done, but don’t wait for them to get brown before you pull them out of the oven – you want them to stay pliable.
The whole wheat dough made for a pita that had more flavor, but was grainier and not quite as decadently divine as the standard white flour pita. I kind of forgot that with whole wheat you need more water / less flour which probably would have improved the results. They were still better than store-bought, especially when piled with homemade babaghanoush and falafel and veggies. We never made it out of the kitchen, preferring to stand and nosh and catch up as other friends dropped in to say hi to T.
In the middle east, pitas are made in 800-degree brick ovens like pizza (in fact, pizza itself, and the word pizza may have evolved from pita, which basically means bread or flatbread in several languages). The very high temperatures are what cause the puffing. The yeast goes into shock somehow and aids in the puffing, along with steam. In searching online after the fact (here for a whole wheat pita recipe and check out the comments here for lots of useful tips), higher oven temperatures – 500 degrees – and a bit of misting in the oven with a spray bottle are recommended to encourage puffiness.
Filed under: Food Geography & Culture, recipes | Tags: culture, holiday greetings, InCUBATE, interfaith dialogue, middle eastern cooking, noah's pudding, potluck, residency, traditions, turkey
As we were proceeding through our tour of Chicago winter farmers’ markets a couple of weeks ago, Anne took me on a side trip to a middle eastern grocery store in Andersonville. Middle Eastern and North African folks happen to be among the world’s largest per capita wheat consumers – Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Turkey, Tunisia and Iran all rank in the top ten, according to statistics from the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization. The grocery carried an appropriately large variety of wheat and wheat-based products – cracked wheat, bulghur, semolina flour, several different varieties of wheat berries, pasta, and fresh-baked pita bread. Most intriguing, was the bag of pearled wheat berries from a Turkish importer labeled “Wheat for Noah’s Pudding.” No explanation or recipe on the package, so of course I had to buy it and turn to that great library in the sky, the Internet.
Noah’s Pudding, it turns out, is a very special traditional dish in Turkey. Legend has it that back in biblical times, when the waters receded from the great flood, Noah cooked up all the grains, nuts and fruit that were left on the Ark into a tasty stew of a dessert to celebrate and give thanks. Recipes therefore vary depending on the source, but all of them include one or two different types of grains (wheat, barley and rice are all common), cooked with one or two types of beans (chickpeas and white beans, typically), some sugar and some geographically appropriate dried fruits (apricots, figs, raisins). Nuts (walnuts, almonds or pistachios) and pomegranate seeds are sprinkled on top along with some cinnamon and even rose water for a bit of a gourmet touch. It’s served cold or at room temperature, and is sort of a cross between oatmeal and rice pudding. I’m usually not so much for pudding-y things and was dubious about the inclusion of the beans, but the combination of textures and flavors was surprisingly good (next time I do want to try the rosewater).
Perhaps I was inclined to like it because I was so pleased to find a dish that mirrored on a small scale what Industrial Harvest is actually all about. Both Muslim and Christians in Turkey and other places around the Mediterranean prepare it as a gesture of sharing and goodwill between different peoples and religions. It’s customarily made at a certain time of year, prepared in huge batches (if you search online for recipes, you’ll find they make 30 portions or more) and shared among neighbors and the poor – tradition dictates giving a cup to 40 neighbors to the east, west, north and south, no matter their race, religion or how you may feel about them. In more recent times, religious and cultural organizations (particularly those with interfaith or intercultural ideals) in the US have picked up on this tradition and use it to celebrate goodwill between religions and cultures. I shared my batch with my fellow students at the Adventure School for Ladies, with plenty left over to serve at the InCUBATE symposium potluck the following night.
For those of us who have been turned off by the dogma, judgment, money and politics that is unfortunately associated with religion, Noah’s Pudding seems a refreshingly straightforward and tasty way to generate actual goodwill. So make some and share it. Happy holidays!