Monday, November 8, 2010

Saturday Baking

Doesn't it seem like as soon as the weather turns cooler you just want to turn the oven on? Well, the weather started changing around here around the middle of October and sure enough I spent two Saturdays in a row baking lovely things for breakfast and sharing. The warm sweet aromas coming out of the oven and the occasional burst of bright sunshine through the orange and red leaves makes fall a not so bad time of year after all.

Making sweets or baked goods while following a traditional foods lifestyle can be challenging for a couple of reasons. Evidence is stacking up from all sides that sugar and simple carbohydrates in refined flour are just not good for you. Sally Fallon recommends the use of rapadura, an unrefined cane sugar, instead of refined white sugar or adapting a recipe to use honey or maple syrup. These sweetners, while still very high in sucrose and fructose that can wreck havoc on all but the very most stable blood sugar levels, do contain some of the trace nutrients of the original plant material. Traditional wisdom reminds us that tempering our sweets with adequate fats can help regulate our blood sugar so I always try to include nutritious ingredients and a full compliment of butter, eggs or coconut oil.

The other problem with baking is the problem of grains. Sally Fallon teaches us that though whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains, they need to be processed properly in order to neutralize anti-nutrients and release their full potential. The usual methods for neutralizing phytates are soaking in an acidic medium, sprouting or fermenting using sourdough methods. I won't even get into gluten free baking, oy! Sprouted flour can be used in any recipe that calls for wheat flour with minimal or no changes to the process. Soaking and fermenting require completely different processes and honestly, are a bit outside my range of motion on a typical Saturday morning. I take comfort in the knowledge that white flour, though not adding much nutrition, is not removing vital minerals through the action of phytic acid. My baked goods are treats, not staples in my diet, and so I don't worry too much.

This recipe, though, circumvents most of these problems by being grain free and refined sugar free. It is based on a recipe in the great cookbook White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matt Mickler, a lovely collection of authentic recipes reminiscent of the author's childhood in rural Mississippi. The original is called Sweet Potato Pone and is a mix of baked sweet potatoes, heavy cream, molasses and eggs baked into a sweet treat. I subsituted the sweet potato for canned pumpkin and the heavy cream for coconut milk to make a healthful, easy baked treat for any Saturday morning.

Pumpkin Molasses Custard (or Pone, if you prefer)

1 can canned pumpkin (or 2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin, winter sqash or sweet potato)
1/2 can coconut milk (or 1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk)
3 eggs (or 2, if that's all you got)
1/2 cup molasses (give or take - a big hearty glugg out of the jar will do)
spices to taste - I used 2 tsp cinnamon. Nutmeg, ginger or cloves are not out of place here.
1/2 tsp salt

Combine everything in a mixing bowl and then pour into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until set and browned to your liking. It really can be eaten anywhere from still a little jiggly to brown and firm so take it out whenever you just can't stand it anymore.

Serve with whipped cream, cold heavy cream, chopped nuts or just a spoon. It's very rich but very tasty.

What do you like to bake up on these cool, rainy, autumn mornings?