Boiled Cider

Boiled Cider

The leaves crunching beneath my shoes are shades of orange, yellow, and red. The temperature outside is steadily dropping. A bright pumpkin is sitting outside my window, waiting to be carved. It is beginning to feel like autumn should. 

At the start of a season full of cinnamon and nutmeg, I needed a new staple to liven up my baking repertoire. Since I adore apples (I eat one every day with lunch),  it felt natural to play around with the ingredient a bit further. I first heard of boiled cider last spring, when it was used to add an extra touch to an apple pie. Since then, I have been hooked on the idea, anxiously awaiting fall to try it out in my baking. Boiled cider is just as it soundspure apple cider that has been boiled down into a rich, thick syrup.

Boiled Cider
Boiled Cider

Boiled Cider has an seemingly endless possibility of uses, which is why am I so excited to have it on hand this fall. The syrup can be added to apple dishes to brighten and intensify the apple flavor, including applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, or apple tarts. Boiled Cider can also be heated and drizzled over pancakes, as an alternative to maple syrup. For savory dishes, a spoonful or two can be used to season pork roasts or enhance meat sauces. The list goes on. 

Boiled Cider has a single ingredient, which makes it virtually impossible to mess up. I would suggest springing for a jug of pure apple cider found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It will boil down into a richer, more flavorful syrup than a juice that has been pasteurized. I did not specify a specific amount of juice in the recipe because it is not necessary. You can boil as much or as little cider as you please. Just keep an eye on the pot and, whenever you need another lungful of the delicious scent, give it a little stir. 

Boiled Cider

Boiled Cider is a versatile ingredient and autumn kitchen staple. A spoonful can be added to sweet and savory dishes to lend a bold, welcoming apple flavor. As a bonus, while the cider boils down, it makes the whole house fragrant with the scents of the season.

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Two Years Ago: Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies, Cucumber Zucchini Cream Cheese Slices, Banana Rum Bread, and Vanilla Bean Cardamom Peach Pie
Three Years Ago: Grilled Apricots with Honey Greek Yogurt, Malted Chocolate Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Coconut Pancakes, and Rocky Road Cookies
Four Years Ago: Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes, Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, and Maple Roasted Bananas with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Boiled Cider

Pure apple cider (no sugar added)

In a large pot, pour in the apple cider. Take a wooden chopstick or skewer, place it into the liquid, and mark the height of the apple juice onto the wood. Remove the chopstick and mark the wood into thirds. This will help you keep track of the progress of the cider.

Bring the apple juice to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until it is 1/3 of the original volume. Stir and check frequently with the chopstick to judge how far the juice volume has decreased. Depending on the amount of cider, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to boil down into a thick syrup. 

If fresh apple cider was used, run the syrup through a fine mesh strainer to remove any solids. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake

Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake

It was Sunday evening, the kitchen was a mess, and I was left empty-handed. It was my first weekend baking in nearly two months, and I had nothing to show for it. After traveling most of August and facing the whirlwind of starting a new school year, the longest I had spent in the kitchen up to this point was the length of time it took to fry an egg. This was going to be the weekend I would reacquaint myself with mixing bowls; it was the weekend I would remember why I held baking so dear to my heart.

Instead, I picked through the almonds in a failed batch of granola bars (I can never seem to get them to stay together) and stared at my attempted vegan caramel in disgust. When compared against the jar of bacon fat from breakfast, the similarities were a little too coincidental for my liking. I had reaquainted myself with the kitchen, true, but the scene was not quite what I had envisioned.

Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake

I keep a few recipes on the back burner for moments like this, scribbled on pieces of scrap paper and buried between papers on my desk. I made this coffee cake back in the beginning of June, a gift for my sister and her boyfriend's family. They were going to spend a weekend at their lake home and I thought a cake would nicely round out the weekend. As it turns out, it did.

But, when it came down to it, I didn't want to post this recipe. I didn't want to share it because I didn't think the photographs were good enough. The lighting was stark; the shadows were too dark. Perhaps it is a quality reserved for creators, but the longer I spend with something I have made, the more my vision narrows, focusing only on the flaws until they are the only aspects I can see. After three months of holding onto the photographs, I could find nothing positive with them anymore. My boyfriend tried to sway me in the opposite direction, but I had already criticized my workmyselfto a point where I could no longer see the worth.

Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake

 It has been said that artists are their own worst critics and I am inclined to agree. I often hold myself to an impossible standard with this blog, demanding only the best recipes, photographs, and writing from myself. After putting in a full work week and then some, sometimes "the best" is a little out of my reach.  I'm learning to loosen the reins, to lower the impractical standards, and to continue to keep blogging an enjoyable experience.

I sat down at the computer tonight, looked through the photographs again, and laughed at myself. With some time to clear my head, the flaws I couldn't escape from earlier seemed to fade away. I had forgotten what this cake was all about, what this blog was all about. Food is about sharing and togetherness. It is about experiencing and expressing joy with the ones that you love. It doesn't have to be pretentious or perfectthe intentions just have to be true.

I lost sight of that for a moment and it seems silly to admit all the trouble that happened over a simple coffee cake. If ever I should lose my way again, please point me back to this imperfectly perfect cake and remind me, softly, of why we gather here. 

Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake

Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake is a simple cake for everyday occasions. The base is a buttery cake made rich with the addition of sour cream. An espresso cinnamon topping is sprinkled on the top and in the center of the cake to add a burst of flavor. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I sprinkled chocolate chips with the topping, complementing the flavors already present. Serve this cake with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk and you cannot go wrong.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Banana Chip Cookies and Vanilla Bean Malt Cake
Two Years Ago: Dark & Stormy (with Ginger Ale), Blueberry Cream Cheese Cupcakes, S'mores Pancakes, and Maple Roasted Peaches with Coconut Whipped Cream
Three Years Ago: Plum Clafouti, Basic Pie Crust, Banana Cake with Chocolate Glaze, and S'mores Pie
Four Years Ago: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins, Brown Sugar Coconut Bubble Tea, and Whole Wheat Baguettes

Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake

Yields 10-inch bundt cake

For Cake:
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (228 grams) sour cream (or plain yogurt)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour

For Topping:
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon espresso powder
6 ounces (170 grams) miniature chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Heavily grease a 10-inch tube or bundt pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until uniform.

Gradually fold in the salt, baking soda, baking powder, and flour. The batter will be thick. Set aside.

For the topping, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and espresso powder in a medium bowl. 

Pour 1/2 of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the topping and half of the miniature chocolate chips over the batter. Pour the rest of the batter over the top and sprinkle it with the remaining topping and chocolate chips.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing and transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

 

The Calm of the Coast

Oregon Coast

“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. 

“Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”

― Hugh Mackay

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast

In August, my boyfriend and I took a long drive along the Oregon coast. It is the third time I have taken this trip in the last five years, which feels remarkable since this small stretch of coast is so far away from the place I call home. Though the company for each drive may have changed, the shoreline has stayed the same. It is the same whispering waves and coniferous trees that call me back to them, reminding me that I can never stray for long.

Reminding me that this place is a space where I belong.

The air hung heavy with fog during the three day's drive, obscuring the ocean from the vistas and beaches. I have long felt that the ocean holds many mysteries and this time it seemed to be holding its cards close. Surrounded by a thick, unrelenting fog, the world felt smaller and intimate. I could hear the vast ocean roar with its melodic fierceness, but I could not see it. Periodically another person would walk by along the beach, a shadowy ghost in the distance, the fog disguising any details. 

It was beautifula heart-wrenching beauty that drills into your very soul.

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast

Despite the fact that it was late summer, the beach was cold, accompanied by an uncomfortably brisk wind. I had my windbreaker zipped up to my chin, hands in my pockets to keep in the warmth. With the fog wrapped around me, I was more or less alone, left to my own thoughts with little distraction. 

After dealing with feelings of depression on and off for the last year, the smell of the ocean brine and the rhythmic waves brought on a sense of calm. I did not feel the joy I thought I would when I planned this trip months earlier, but I did feel more at peace. The beauty of nature has its own restorative powers. The laughter at the sea lions' bark, the disappointing hunt for a sand dollar, the loneliness of the fog, and the sadness of the sea all brought me closer to myself. 

I felt whole.

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast