Lemon Sorbet Bubbly and The Mennonite Writer's Conference

Oh hey, Katie here! 

As you know, within this project, there is the work of the whisk and the work of the pen - The cooking and writing portions of a cookbook that is. Let us not get too focused on the pie (as I tend to do) and forget that the literary muscle needs its own honing and affection and body building. Which is why tomorrow I board a plane for the east coast and last night I had Lemon Sorbet Bubbly Dessert otherwise known as Sgroppinos. 

So first... on the Writing Front…

This photo is purely foreshadowing for the whisk work later in this post.


"The Butters" by Leah

I must say I was completely honoured  (I’m half Canadian so you might see the queens “u”  pop up every now again in my blogging. Jus reppin’ my Canadian brothers & sisters!) when Katie approached me about the book. What happens when everything comes together perfectly?  Jenga! No, I'm pretty sure it's called Jenga. Anyhow, moving right along... 

 The bible says, “Man cannot live on bread alone".... Well obviously the man in question was not a Stuckey, culinarily speaking of course. He clearly had no knowledge of the carb hussies we were bread from. (No pun intended.)  You see most of our meals revolved around what we were soaking, soppin', or toasting.  So naturally half of our fridge and cabinets consist of condiments for said bread.  Since we all know from my interview that my desert island food is Cinnamon Toast we were never short on Cinnamon Sugar - But that’s more of a lazy comfort food. So for this, my first blog post, I thought we would keep going with the Cinnamon craze, but instead find it in my favourite duo: Welcome to “the Butters.”

Remnants of a homemade batch by Katie

If you have ever been to the Essenhaus’ you will find a very curious squeezy bottle on the table full of what I can only describe as Eve’s Evil - Apple Butter - so perfectly spiced, so perfectly smooth. I will never go back to jam or jelly if I don't have to, and I’m guessing if you know the joys of Apple Butter you wont either. If at all possible I will always pair my fruit butter with it’s perfect counter part - Home made fresh butter. So here's my favorite apple butter recipe followed by what some folks this is magic (but is actually quite simple) - homemade butter!

Apple Butter
14-16 Macintosh Apples
20 ounces Apple cider ( I use Wellesley Organic)
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
Ground cinnamon to taste
Water as needed*

Some people use pressure cookers, some prefer over ripe apples, but after many tests I fell in love with my recipe.  It just takes patience and a good nose J 

1. Peel, core and roughly chop 14-16 Macintosh  (Macs are my preference but any apple will do thought they'll give you slightly different results. If you want more tang try a granny or gala apple.)

2. Place apples, apple cider in a large heavy bottom pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer...
Once the apples are mushy and apple cider is reduced, add the cinnamon sticks and brown sugar and stir til combined.

3. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally until apples are saucy and a dark brown color.
Note: Much like you would want to carmelize onions, let your apples reduce a bit each time before you stir them. You want to ride a fine line between carmelizing the sugars and burning the bottom of you pot. If they do start to burn, add a bit of hot water, but do so sparingly as you want to keep the sugars moist - Too much water will give you an applesauce taste and texture.

5. Once you’ve got the desired color and taste, remove cinnamon sticks and add ground cinnamon. As you're adding cinnamon, keep in mind that it will develop over time as well.

6. Then use a hand mixer or blender to blend and create the smooth, buttery texture. Be careful as mixture is thick and hot. Splattering hot Apple butter on your arm is not part of this recipe
Note: If using a regular blender, do not close the lid entirely before you turn the machine on - the heat and pressure of the butter will make it basically explore and splatter out. So leave the top cap lifted slightly as you turn it on. 

7. Cool and enjoy!!

Homemade Butter
Picture making homemade whipped cream and then going way way way too far with it. The method here uses a stand mixer but you can also do this by hand... it'll just take a bit longer. Though you'll have some muscle to show for it!

2 quarts of heavy cream
Coarse sea salt (to sprinkle on top of finished butter, if desired)

1. Use the whisk attachment on a standing mixer. Cover ever so carefully with plastic wrap, or towel and turn on high. Keep very close attention as the fats will form around the whisk and the buttermilk will fall to the bottom of the bowl. If you don't wrap it with plastic or a towel it will splatter all over your kitchen... Ask Katie about this!

2. Unwrap mixer when the liquid and fat have separated and remove all butter from whisk. If you want to use this butter in baking, form it into a ball and smack or squeeze out the excess buttermilk/water as it may affect your baking. If you run your finger across the butter and there are no beads of water - you’re good! Store butter in airtight container in the freezer. 



The Food Story of Leah Stuckey

"The macaroons sort of cemented things." - Leah Stuckey

"That's where this Jewish Kosher Retirement Facility came in..." - Leah Stuckey

Generally speaking, Mennonites have never been loners. We travel in hoards, live in little bunches, take over towns, and then smother each other with an excess of whoopie pies and personal questions. Makes sense then that something just audibly clicked in my community-oriented ear the first time I talked to my dear friend and pastry chef, Leah Stuckey, about The Shoofly Project. A lustrous light bulb flashed above my head, heartily smacked me on the back, and then blinked its message directly in my eyes: “You need a coauthor! And not just anyone. You need Leah Stuckey!

A coauthor: As in - Someone who can clean the crap of out of some pig intestines (pun intended), who understands pie crust as high art, who knows the meaning of "Menno" cuisine = Leah
Someone I adore, trust, and can laugh at inappropriate jokes with. Someone who I wouldn’t mind having meal after meal after meal with = Leah.
Someone who is passionate about a challenge = Leah!

So it is my pleasure, with drums rolling in my ears, to introduce you to the one and only
Leah Stuckey… The Shoofly Project’s new coauthor!

I met Leah my first week at Hesston College, standing in the dorm hallway, nervous and probably a bit sweaty (me, not Leah). Immediately I was immediately doubled over in laughter as Leah hiked up her pants and interprets some SNL skit for us. Sold!... We spent that year pretending to be hunched over textbooks at Newell’s diner late at night, but mostly engrossed in our own college dramas and the cheese fries.

Our food bonding was truly cemented a few years later though when we once again joined forces at Goshen College. I had taken a job as a “Muffin Girl” (I kid you not) at the cafĂ© where Leah was a cook – Bread & Chocolate. Again we hung out at odd hours– circa 5:30am (luckily with less grease and drama) to make breakfast for the good people of Goshen. I was constantly amazed that despite the freezing cold of northern Indiana winter, and despite the dreaded early hour, Leah could still send me into snorting, laughing hysterics over pretty much anything.

As you can see… this journey just got a lot more fun. Soooo with no further ado… Leah Stuckey!
(Note: italicized comments in parentheses are mine.) 


Cloud Cliff Bakery, the Mennonite Name Game, and a Pie Crust

Every Mennonite knows the nuances of the well-known "Mennonite name game", the dance and banter between two Mennos who are first meeting as they attempt to find a common thread between themselves in their geneaology. A little something like this... 
"Katie here.... Yes, I'm a Boyts. You may know my grandfather Jim - he lived in Elkhart for years. Randy? He's my dad, Jim and Belle's second child. Oh you remember him playing playing high school basketball... Neat. Pam?  - That's Randy's older sister - my aunt. You were in Pam's class? Oh you're actually Pam's husband's cousin? So we're in-laws?! Great!"

This all really boils down to a man named Willem Malten, who is not Mennonite actually. Willem is the owner of Cloud Cliff Bakery in Santa Fe, what was once a cafe, an institution as I've heard one writer call it. It closed just a few years ago but Willem still sells his artisan bread at the Farmer's Market, and uses the cafe's large kitchen to bake it. So every Friday a group of folks - volunteers, apprentices, employee, and a variety of Willem's friends gather to bake bread. I joined on as an apprentice and Fridays have quickly become Cloud Cliff day for me. 

Willem and Satanka showing off Satanka's break-time guacamole

Every Friday is a bit different, one quieter than the next, one more voluminous in bread than the next. But there is a constant sense of ritual.... 


A Farmer Ken Connection and Quatre Epices

Quatre Epices -  a spice mixture that in French means "four spices", which is deceiving because the recipe I have from Robert is actually made with 8. Anyhow, it can be used in almost every dish imaginable, savory and sweet, including duck confit.  The recipe for it is at the bottom of this very post - to be dashed in your mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, roasted chicken, etc, etc, etc. If need or desire be, skip the duck adventure and scroll on down... No offense taken. 

It's true, every woman needs a source of duck, and I am no exception. I became entranced with the dish of duck during my second session at The Chef's Studio where a theme quickly became apparent - all things duck. I can still pull recipes from that session's notebook and smell the aroma of duck fat, those intoxicating molecules which cling to every object it glides by.


The Pie That Binds Us

My Monday morning mind is feeling frantic, trying to decide what to write at the moment. There's just so much to say... I mean I know that moving to a new place comes with its own ornery momentum - a fierce slope, either up or down depending on the day, which hurtles you along towards what you hope is... balance.
New people and spaces.
Routines and habits.
Markets and vendors.
Ingredients and soil.
An Entire Culture.

So I resist the urge to skulk into my quiet corner of this desert amidst this high volume of newness, and instead I clean up the clutter up of my desk, make some lists (see below), and feed the birds.

The birds, it seems, have become a calming fixture here which help to prevent any aforementioned skulking. These sweet desert beasts just feast and feast beginning at about 7am, returning throughout the day for snacks. I am lucky - for their presence, but also because bird seed is cheap.


The Recipe Testers Guild

I think it's fair to say we have an actual solid structure, a concrete building to warmly house the ideas and plans of this endeavor. The walls of said structure are being fashioned out of:
1. A Table of Contents
2. A Timeline - The goal is to be finished in 18 months!
3. A Chosen Chapter to start from - You guessed it... Pies and Tarts!
4. A Working List of The Shoofly Project Recipe Testers Guild!

(There's one more piece of that structure that I'm so excited to talk about that it's all my long, cold fingertips can do to not type the very words my heart is calling out to type. Alas the time is not quite right. My heart will have to hold. But don't worry... you'll be the first to know.)

And anyway today we're talking about The Guild. (The word "guild" is inspired by Keturah who appears to have gone to her very own Guild with some frequency as she mentions it in her diaries quite a bit. I'm currently reading 1972.) This particular guild we're talking about is for folks wanting to help test recipes. Recipes that will eventually go in The Shoofly Project final cookbook. It's like a communal way of ensuring that the food tastes good, the recipes make sense, and everything is accurate.

You don't have to be a good cook to be part of the guild, in fact it's great to have folks who consider themselves "bad" cooks. (Though I bet you're just being modest.) And it's great to have folks who consider themselves wizards in the kitchen. (Though if you're actually calling yourself a wizard, I'd call that weird.)

Young, Old, Any Country, Every Background, Whatever Palate.
Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free, Meatheads, Sugar Seekers...

Here's how it'll work...
1. If you haven't yet, let me know you're interested in joining.
2. We'll then send you a recipe. (at some point)**
3. Which you can then make. And eat!
4. Which you then report back on... How did it go? Did the recipe make sense? Did it taste divine or like concrete with a dash of nutmeg? 
5. We then use your dynamic feedback to adjust, revise, develop, and ultimately write a cookbook.

In exchange you get...
1. To eat!
2. To be part of something called The Guild. And that's pretty much awesome. Fact.
3. To be part of writing a cookbook!
4. To have your name listed on the blog and book! Again... pretty much awesome.

If you've already joined on - Welcome! I'm super excited to add you to the fabric and fashioning of this building. If you haven't yet - We'd love to have you!

**I've not exactly figured out the details of the work flow yet but I'm on it. Details for Guild Member coming soon. 

Now on to some pies...