Strawberry Season Is Open At Eckert’s Farm

Photo taken by Tom Smith

Photo taken by Tom Smith

We had gone all the way to St. Louis last weekend on the hopes of getting a start on strawberry season! Sadly the weather was really bad and rainy.  Never fear we had someone to take our place to enjoy picking strawberries! With over 1oo years, Eckert’s Farm is celebrating strawberry season by offering you the best berries and family fun. Not to confuse you, Eckert’s Family Farms are located in Belleville, IL but it is much closer to Springfield than Chicago!

Photo taken by Tom Smith

Photo taken by Tom Smith

Picking strawberries is one of our go to activities.  For the child free, you can still enjoy your time with strawberry sangria and of course all the berries you want! Not that parents can’t enjoy some sangria, but it’s not something you always find at a pick your own strawberry farm.  Plus it is a great idea of what you can do with your strawberries after picking!  Don’t just think about pies or jam. Use those hard earned fruits in refreshing drinks and snacks! 

Photo taken by Tom Smith

Photo taken by Tom Smith

Strawberries is not all you will find during your adventure.  They also have a petting zoo with some adorable goats.  As well as tractor rides to get you to and from the strawberry fields.  Always a plus if you have younger pickers that may be tired after attempting to eat their weight in fresh berries.  Don’t lie, we all did it at one point! I still wonder why they don’t weigh you before and after…but I am happy that they don’t! 

Photo taken by Tom Smith

Photo taken by Tom Smith

Of course, there are more than just strawberries.  Produce availability changes from week to week so be sure to check out their website.  As of now, there is fresh asparagus! This isn’t just a strawberry farm! They have seasonal picking all year round including apples and Christmas trees! So be sure to plan your trip before strawberry season is over! 

Virtue Michigan Apple Sticky Buns

virtue cider variety case Baking + booze + fruit should be the norm because oh my goodness does it go together beautifully. These buns are literally the most caramel apple-y thing I’ve ever tasted. Adding hard cider to both the apples and the caramel really brings the apples to LIFE! As part of my extended Beer Baking project, today we’re going to talk about Virtue Cider. Virtue Cider is located in Michigan using only locally grown apples.  Gregory Hall decided to master cidermaking and if you taste their variety of ciders, then you will agree they are one of the best you can get! 

Virtue sent over a multi-pack of 4 different ciders: Michigan Apple, Brut, Michigan Honey and Michigan Cherry. So you may see me use one of the other flavors in another recipe. I make no promises, but I’ve been thinking about cherries and cherry cider.  But for now we are all about the gooey combination of caramel and apples and cider!  Today we’re using the Michigan Apple in a pillowy, apple-y, boozy apple sweet roll AKA schnecken or sticky bun as its known here in the states. Typically sticky buns have nuts and you could definitely add a layer before you put in your buns. virtue cider michigan apple sticky buns unbaked

For years now I’ve been using some form of booze in everything I make with apples from pies to apple bars. This recipe lends itself to using cider in both the apples and the caramel. The cider caramels aren’t really a new idea, but I’ve never seen it in a sticky bun. If you need to source the cider, then you find out more about the cider house here! You may even want to take a trip to Fennville, Michigan to get it from the source!

Virtue Michigan Apple Cider Sticky Buns
A Michigan apple sticky bun using Virtue Michigan Apple Cider. This is a schnecken style with gooey caramel and apples for the ultimate apple treat.
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Dough
  1. 3/4 cup buttermilk
  2. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 3 large eggs
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 4 1/4 cup flour
  6. 1/4 cup sugar
  7. 2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast
Filling
  1. 4 apples, peeled and diced (I used Pacific Rose)
  2. 4-8 Tablespoons sugar
  3. 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  4. 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  5. 1/4 cup Virtue Michigan Apple Hard Cider
Cider Caramel
  1. 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  3. 1/4 cup reduced Virtue Michigan Apple Hard Cider (reduced from 1 cup)
  4. 2 Tablespoons corn syrup
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
For The Dough
  1. I layered everything in the bread machine in this order and put it to work. An hour and a half later I had gorgeous elastic, perfectly risen sweet dough. This recipe makes enough to make a dozen buns or rolls. If you want to make the dough by hand, leave me a comment and I’ll include the entire recipe.
For The Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, cook diced apples and sugar until par-cooked 5 -7 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice and cornstarch, pour into saucepan. Then add the Virtue Michigan Apple Hard Cider, heat until the sauce thickens and glazes the apples. Set aside to cool.
For the Cider Caramel
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup Virtue Michigan Apple Hard Cider to a rolling boil and reduce to about 1/4 cup. This will take 10-15 minutes. When reduced add rest of caramel ingredients and bring to a boil, making sure dark brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour in either two 9-inch round pans or a 13x9-inch pan.
Assembly
  1. Take your freshly risen dough and on a floured surface; stretch, pat and pull it till you reach a 12 x 16 inch rectangle. With the 16 inch side being horizontal to you. Spread cooked apples on dough leaving a 3/4 inch area all along the top topping free. You’ll need this edge to be able to seal your rolls when you roll them up.
  2. Tightly roll dough up. When finished pinch all along long side to form a seam and seal rolls. When sealed, gently stretch dough to 18 inches in length. Place seam side down and cut into 1 1/2 inch slices with a serrated knife. Place these in a greased 9×13 inch baking pan or two 9 inch rounds, cut side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place till doubled in size or place in refrigerator to rise overnight. (Mine took about 40 minutes to double, but it was warm out)
  3. When doubled in size, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake till puffy and golden brown 20-35 minutes. Mine took 26 minutes to cook. Don’t be scared if they seem to bulge up in the middle of the pan. This is due to the caramel underneath, they’ll settle down after cooling a bit. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto serving platter and serve.
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