Wild Things Roundup: Acorn Sweets by Kiva and Loba
Our family had a wonderfully wild foods infused Thanksgiving this year that was especially rich in roasted Acorns and White Fir, as Oak and Fir trees are common plants in the canyons and mountains of our bioregion. Despite the fact that there was not even a single acorn on the Oaks this year because of the severe drought the SW has been experiencing, we had enough stashed to create an incredibly tasty Thanksgiving dinner. For this Acorn themed Wild Things Roundup, I’m including recipes by both Loba and I, and all sweet! While our family isn’t particularly sweetener centered, we decided that the holidays are a great time to share these decadent recipes.
Here we have a recipe for Acorn syrup, one for Cranberry Acorn Compote and one for Acorn Cheesecake that utilizes the first two recipes.
My apologies for the lack of food preparation pictures, I’m afraid we were all too busy celebrating and cooking and eating to bother with a camera.
Here are a couple of previous acorn posts I’ve written.
Please Note: We’re using our local SW acorns from species such as Quercus gambelii, Q. emoryi, Q. turbinella & Q. grisea which only need to be roasted before shelling and using. If you live somewhere besides the SW, your acorns may be more labor intensive and require leaching.
Simple Acorn Syrup
The point of this recipe was just to find another concentrated acorn preparation so that I could add more acorns to everything. Especially combined with maple syrup, this is a great way to add the rich, nutty flavor to many desserts. Just try to avoid drinking it straight out of the bottle.
- 1/4 C Roasted and smashed/ground Acorns
- 1.5 pints of water
- 13 oz Sugar or about 3/4 C Honey or Maple Syrup
- Pinch of salt
- Decoct acorns in water for appr. half an hour to an hour.
- Strain, reserving liquid and saving acorn pieces for other recipes.
- Add sweetener and salt to 1 pint of the decoction (if you have any leftover you can use it for tea)
- Simmer for 45 min or until reduced by about 1/3 of volume.
- Store in fridge or other cool place.
Cranberry Acorn Compote
This recipe results in an aromatic and rich compote that works great as a topping but it’s really pretty hard to resist just eating it out of the pot as soon as it’s done. The White Fir (Abies concolor) is an incredible match with the sweet-tart flavor of cranberries.
- Reserved acorns from Acorn decoction or syrup recipe (about 1/3 C after being decocted)
- appr 3 heaping Tb Honey
- 4 Tb White Fir Infused Olive Oil (oil infused with other evergreen needles or even Rosemary could work here)
- Handful of dried Cranberries (sweetened)
- 1/4 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 medium sized crisp Apple like Honeycrisp, diced
- 1 Tb butter or Acorn infused butter
- pinch of salt
- Grind acorns (preferably while still damp from decoction) with food processor or mortar & pestle to a rough meal
- Stir in honey and place on low heat on the the stove
- Let barely simmer while stirring frequently for half an hour
- Remove from heat
- Place cranberries and 1 Tb of White Fir oil in small skillet or pot
- Cook over low heat for appr. 1/2 hour (can be done concurrently as the Acorn honey is cooking)
- Add cranberries and oil to acorns and honey, stir well
- Saute apple in butter until tender but still crisp
- Stir apple, vanilla, salt and remaining Fir oil into acorn mix.
- Allow to sit for a few hours before eating
Makes about 1/2 C of compote. If you wish to use this compote to make a thick topping for your cheesecake, you’ll probably want to double the recipe.
Acorn Cheesecake with Cranberry-Acorn Compote Topping
As soon as Kiva made her magnificent compote, we knew it had to be made into something truly worthy of its genius. Pie was on our minds. Kiva suggested cheesecake, and offered the use of the lovely acorn syrup she’d just made. I gladly tinkered with my favorite recipe to make this version. Cheesecake is one of those things I’m always happy to provide. I was thrilled to remember I’d just found a bit of acorn meal hiding in the pantry to flavor the crust. Try as I might, I couldn’t wipe the slightly anguished look on my face the whole time I was eating it– it’s that painfully good. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so sad to see that cast iron skillet empty.
The crust is gluten-free and very reminiscent of traditional graham cracker crust in flavor and texture. You could substitute wheat flour for the oat flour, but you’ll lose the crumbly effect. If you don’t have any in your kitchen, oat flour can easily be made without a food processor by rubbing rolled oats together in your hands– makes your hands really soft, too!
The acorn meal I use in the crust is from Southwest acorns that I have simply roasted before being ground into flour with an ancient metate and a coffee grinder.
- 1/2 cup melted butter or acorn infused butter
- 1/2 cup acorn meal
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- several grinds fresh nutmeg
In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Form into a cohesive ball of dough and press into the bottom of a 9” cast iron skillet (if you have one without a wooden handle) or a 9” pie dish (not a tart pan– too shallow). I like to bring the crust only about halfway up the sides of the pan, making it fairly thick. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, watching carefully. Be sure to take it out as soon as it gets evenly browned. When pressed with a finger, the crust will collapse a bit and seem a bit too fragile. Taste it to make sure it’s cooked all the way through before adding the filling.
The piima (a cold process culture somewhat similar to yogurt) I use in the filling is made with half heavy cream, half half & half. I like to soften the cream cheese in the warmer of my woodstove while I’m making the crust. Setting the packages by a sunny window or in a bowl over some steaming water for a half hour or more works well, too. Don’t be tempted to skip or reduce the rather large amount of alcoholic substances– they help provide a lovely depth and a great balance to the acorn flavor. Be sure to taste the filling before putting it in the crust– you may wish to add a bit more acorn syrup, if it doesn’t seem sweet enough to you. Also, please know that I bake my cheesecake in a woodstove oven, so the timing is not terribly reliable– this one is truly worth watching like a hawk! Do be sure to set the oven temp as low as I mention, it will result in extra creaminess. You could even bake this in a water bath to make the edges of the cheesecake as creamy as the middle, if you’re really devoted to perfection. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet of the proper sort, this would be an extra good idea.
- 2 8 oz. packages Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup piima or sour cream
- 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 4 tablespoons Kiva’s Acorn Syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, preferably homemade with cognac or brandy
- 2 tablespoons spiced rum, or 1 tablespoon cognac and 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 tablespoon Acorn Infused Butter (see Kiva’s recipe)
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and softened cream cheese, then beat in the piima or sour cream, the Acorn Syrup, Acorn Butter, vanilla and rum. Taste and adjust if you like. Pour into crust and bake at 325 degrees until just set, about 35 minutes. I find it perfectly done when it’s puffed up around the edges but the center is still just the slightest bit wobbly. Closest attention must be given, however, to find this magic moment. Cool and refrigerate before serving, if you can stand to wait that long. The center will firm up perfectly after proper cooling, and maintain an ecstatic level of creaminess that can be lost if the whole pie puffs up in too perky a manner.
After the pie has chilled completely, cover the top with the Acorn Compote. Serve slices with black chicory coffee, or Acorn-Fir Tea barely sweetened, and if you’re being crazy-indulgent, maybe some homemade whipped cream or homemade eggnog on the side, as we did.