Yesterday Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving, giving thanks and celebrating those things that we are thankful for. Some people are confused about why Canada has Thanksgiving a month ahead of the US – why can’t we all just celebrate it at the same time, like Christmas? – or wonder if we indeed have a Thanksgiving, or a holiday similar, at all. Yes, Virginia, we do.
There are gripes about the chronological inconsistency of it: you see recipes for pumpkin pie from your Canadian neighbors’ blogs and you wonder where did the time go? Thanksgiving already? Yes, in Canada, but for the other half of North America, you still have a month to think about the Thanksgiving turkey (and that pumpkin pie).
But why? Why does Canada celebrate Thanksgiving earlier than America? Well, Canada has simply been celebrating Thanksgiving longer than America – going back to 1578 when Martin Frobisher returned safely from his search for the Northwest Passage and since 1879 celebrated every year but the dates being proclaimed annually and changed year to year, making it an unstable holiday, (at one point from 1922 to 1930 it was celebrated on November 11th, what is now Remembrance Day) until the Canadian Parliament proclaimed it as the second Monday in October in 1957.
With that said, one of the things I’m thankful for are your comments, like this reader’s comment (hello, Miss Kitty!) suggesting for the lemon millet biscuits to be used as a shortcake base. I rediscovered her comment and her suggestions when I was busy approving comments and going through Z’s Cup of Tea, doing any necessary link updates (I still find a lot of clicks to links from my old blog address whenever I check my blog stats and I’m still in the process of updating those links; if you come across any, let me know), editing typos that I missed the first time – who knew that a pot could be a poet? – all of which that fall under the general category of “blog maintenance”.
What things in your life are you thankful for?
Thinking of Miss Kitty’s idea, I decided to make an apple cobbler. I used the dough for the lemon millet biscuits (omitting the lemon) for the biscuit part. This cobbler is like having apple pie, but much more casual and much less work. No need for fussing over pie crusts, whether trying to make one from scratch or dealing with “soggy bottoms” (personally, depending on the kind of pie, I don’t mind them: I think it adds character), all you do is partially cook apples over the stove before baking them in a pan with spoonfuls of the biscuit dough-batter plopped on top. And what’s even better is that you can have it any time of day – for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack.
(Speaking of pie crusts, I think I have a pretty good idea for a gluten-free pate brisee. Now I just have to get it out of my head and give it a run.)
For the first few rounds of the cobbler, I did not use xanthum gum (I discuss using it or not, and the differences, below in the head note) and I felt that it was missing something: the dough wasn’t as thick as I remembered it for the biscuits and I started to look hard at the dough and rack my brains. Then it hit me: I missed xanthum gum – and then it hit me even harder – I’d forgotten to include xanthum gum in the recipe for the lemon millet biscuits! I’ve since fixed my mistake and edited the recipe, and I apologize to anyone who tried to make those biscuits and were ending up with something that didn’t match what I was describing. Try again with the xanthum gum and it will be proper biscuit dough. I promise you.
(Below, the cobbler made with xanthum gum.)
There are two variations of this cobbler, making it a kind two-in-one recipe, which depends on whether you choose to leave out the xanthum gum or choose to use it. Making the cobbler without the xanthum gum gives a very thick, wet mix that’s kind of in the middle, between dough and batter – as I describe in the instructions. The second version, with the xanthum gum, is a thick batter that I would say much resembles wheat bread dough but slightly stickier – and that’s the consistency you should get if you’re making the lemon millet biscuits (see above paragraph) – and when it’s baked, it’s like dumplings. Break the dumplings up when you serve them and it’s like having bread pudding.
[Update] The other day I made a double batch of the dough for two cobblers. I was short of the double amount of cornstarch, ending up using 4.1 ounces of cornstarch with 1 cup millet flour and 1/2 cup sweet rice flour, along with the rest of the ingredients doubled. It still worked out and the dough was perfect: it was smooth enough to roll between my hands and I could hold it without it sticking to my skin.
I’ve also found that apple cider or apple juice works well if you’re low or out of milk, although the batter does tend to separate (the fat from the coconut oil) if it sits. If you use the apple cider, you don’t need to use honey.
About 1 tsp. coconut oil, butter, or Earth Balance
1 1/2 pounds apples, quartered, peeled, and chopped
1 tsp. ground cinnamon or more, suited to personal preferences
1/2 to 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup millet flour
2.6 ounces cornstarch
1/4 cup white or sweet rice flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. xanthum gum (optional, see head note)
4 tbsp. solid, soft coconut oil (not liquified), unsalted butter, cold or room temperature, or Earth Balance, cut into pieces*
3/4 cup coconut milk or soy milk
1/4 cup honey
1/2 to 1 tsp. almond extract (optional)
*If you use Earth Balance, omit the salt.
Preheat oven to 435ºF. Partially cook the chopped apples with the coconut oil (or butter or Earth Balance). Sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples and stir to fully coat the apples. Continue cooking until the apples are slightly softened, and strings of a gooey juice starts happening but the apples should still be hard and fairly crunchy. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Dump the apples into a baking pan, preferably glass (it can be lined with parchment paper or not – your choice) and spread across in one even layer. Drizzle with honey over top.
Biscuit dough: Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and add coconut oil or butter, cutting with a fork or pastry cutter until balls about the size of small peas form. Pour the coconut milk or soy milk in, stirring until the dough just starts to come together, and mix in the honey last. If you’re making this without the xanthum gum, will be along the lines of a thick, wet mix that’s between the lines of dough and batter (see photos). If you’re making this with the xanthum gum, the dough will soon come together after you’ve added the milk. It is sticky and it should be thick enough that you can form it easily with lightly floured hands or it will stick to your skin (see photos). Either version of dough smells and tastes remarkably like wheat dough but slightly sweeter.
Assembly and baking: Plop spoonfuls of the biscuit dough over the filling – it’s okay if it doesn’t cover the entire surface. The first version of the dough (without xanthum gum) spreads a bit over the apples (as seen in the photos). The second version (with xanthum gum) stays put once plopped on and doesn’t spread at all as it is thicker and subsequently stiffer than the first version. Dust with extra cinnamon, if desired, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are baked (they’ll feel solid and the tops may crack a little) and the filling is syrupy. Serve warm with coconut milk vanilla ice cream or other favourite cobbler accompaniment of choice depending on the time of day, or on its own. Enjoy!
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