Monday, November 24, 2014

Cider Belly Donuts

So today I had to venture into downtown Albany to complete a very mundane errand on State Street. To wash the bad taste of bureaucracy out of my mouth I decided to pop by Cider Belly Donuts over on North Pearl as I have been vaguely curious about the joint since it opened. Also, it seems that lately we are all supposed to be super psyched about donuts. I am a sucker for fads...

I guess I should say that I don't really care about donuts other than cider donuts and cider donuts are inextricably linked with the experience of getting cider donuts in my mind. You go to the orchard/farm stand (Altamont Orchards or Indian Ladder for example), you poke about, you go stand in line, you get your sack of warm donuts. That is pretty much it. So I am vaguely suspicious of buying and eating a cider donut in the middle of a city. But I tried to forget all of that nonsense and just get a sack of donuts.

When you get close to Cider Belly you are greeted by the not altogether unpleasant stench of cooking donuts/donut grease. The decor is pleasant and the goods and donuts are attractively displayed. I ordered a 1/2 dozen sugared cider donuts to go and left with my prize for the reasonable sum of 5 dollars American.

I detected no warmth from the bag of donuts but I sort of expected that as I popped by at around 1100, well after the probable morning rush. I walked them back to my car which I had parked on the roof of the Sheridan Hollow garage. I had received a coupon for a free coffee at Cider Belly and as I don't drink that particular beverage I decided to leave it laying about for some lucky Albanite to discover. I put it on the emergency box in Stairway #2 on the roof level of the garage. For all I know it is still there.

Moving on to the business at hand. Here is one of the Cider Belly donuts.

Nothing like enjoying a cider donut on a rainy day inside a Toyota on the roof of a parking garage with a bleak view of urban decay and smoke stacks... 

Here be the crumb of the donut.

I thought the donut was OK. Sweet enough with a spicy sort of flavor and crusty with a cake-y texture. Very aggressively cider flavored in comparison to the other usual suspects in the area. 

If I was in proximity to Cider Belly again I would definitely pop back in to see what else they have going on. But I do not consider this to be a destination for "cider donuts." Separated from the traditional cider donut experience these are just pretty good donuts. If we are talking "cider donuts" give me the bag-mix beauties they churn out at Indian Ladder any day. 

All this said, Cider Belly is a charming joint with quality products and if you are down there you should give them a whirl.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Vichy Pancakes. (Pancakes W/Stewart's Vichy)

I am very interested in what I like to call -- "the lore of our grandmothers." All of those strange and wonderful tidbits of advice that have been passed on through the generations... If you go in the woods keep a piece of bread in your pocket as a ward against fairies, throw salt over your shoulder into the devil's eyes, pour Dr. Pepper on your ham... I delight in all of this wisdom of the ages.

When I posted about Stewart's Shops "Vichy" soda a year or so ago I was advised via the tweeters that wise old Upstate New Yorkers have been using Vichy as an ingredient in pancakes! Haha! I live for this sort of stuff. I made a mental note to give this a go and have only this very morning gotten around to some experimentation.

In the original advice which I received it was stated that Vichy was used instead of buttermilk or milk. I suspect that this is not entirely true. Vichy contains Bicarbonate of Soda which will only act as a leavening agent in the presence of an acid. I suspect that wise ol' timey pancake wizards were supplementing their standard buttermilk (contains requisite acid) pancake recipes with a bit of the Vichy right before cooking to give the pancakes an extra bit of lift. At least this is my hypothesis... And I will be testing it in the future. But for starters I thought I might see if adding a bit of Vichy would do anything in and of itself when thrown into my standard workaday pancake recipe.

I don't like pale, flabby white flour pancakes. On the rare occasion that I want to eat a pancake I go with a whole wheat solution. My recipe is - 3/4 cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 egg, 4 tablespoons melted butter, salt, and around 1 1/2 cups whole milk. This time I dialed back the milk by 1/4 cup and was a bit conservative with the salt as Vichy is very salty.

What I did was to prepare the pancake batter as per usual and let it rest for 5 minutes while I heated the pan and what not. Right before cooking I stirred 1/4 cup of Vichy into the batter.

I did notice that the pancakes looked like they were getting a bit more lift than usual during cooking.

Perhaps the bicarbonate of soda in the Vichy reacts with the acid in the baking powder for some additional bubbly action. I don't think it could be the small amount of CO2 in the carbonation, but what am I? Some sort of scientist?

The pancakes cooked up very nice and brown but this is probably just because of my next level pancake skills.

I apologize in advance for my shoddy pancake photography but I am adhering to my strictly unprofessional standards for all pictures included in my posts... I am attempting to show you in the following picture that these were in fact some light and fluffy-ass pancakes.

It occurred to me afterwards that I really should have done a control group of pancakes sans the Vichy for comparison's sake. But that really sounds like a lot of work... So I probably will just rely on the very un-scientific opinion that it was the Vichy that was responsible for the fluffy-ass qualities of these particular pancakes. 

I encourage everyone to conduct extensive at home research into this fascinating topic. I am tentatively going with the opinion that Stewart's Vichy adds strange and magical properties to pancake recipes. 

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