American Indian desserts are all the rage these days. You will find many different dessert recipes to blow your mind. Native Americans of old were strict and devout worshippers of the sun and moon, and the desserts available today will make you appreciate the world more too.
Many a Native American dessert recipe is cooked with acorns, which is still a part of the majority of North Native American dishes and cuisines.
Today, Native Americans are a significant demographic in America. While their food recipes are a taste of their traditional culture and heritage, their traditional Native American desserts are comparatively very modern and something that you can even eat on a regular basis.
These desserts are rarely found anywhere else. The only places where you might get them is at a proper Native American food outlet. These desserts are mostly served as Native American Thanksgiving desserts.
The acorn is one of the primary products of the traditional Portuguese agroforestry system known as Montado. It is characterized by sparse but dense vegetation and used mainly for pastoral or agricultural production. The main tree species that produces the acorn is the oak tree, especially the cork oak. Once ground and toasted, the acorn can be used for polenta or bread in combination with corn flour and wheat.
Acorn bread and flour are something that can simply not find in most local markets. So you will be on your own, and that is the fun part! After you acquire the ingredients, this is a very easy Native American dessert recipe.
History of how Native Americans made use of acorns
Acorns were traditional food items for the Native Americans, especially the indigenous people of California where different species of oaks were common.
This provided stability of the resource.
The Californian Indians were not farmers at first, they were hunters and gatherers for the most part. There was a ready supply of seaweed, native fruits, native vegetables, foul, rabbits, fish and deer. Even so, it was said that acorns were a very important dietary part of the Native Californians.
This was because acorns were found everywhere and very easy to gather. They also lasted for a very long time. Hence, Native Americans began storing acorns for as long as two years as insurance against poor production years.
Some people preferred white acorns because they were sweet and could be eaten without leaching. The most common oaks in the San Francisco Bay are the Valley Oak, the California Live Oak, the Black Oak, and the Tan Oak.
Most types of oak trees are endangered due to deforestation and land being turned into housing developments or pasture. The Live Oak is the least threatened because it is a deciduous tree and remains healthy and green all year long.
Acorns were used in the Californian region to make bread, porridge, and soup. There were 16 species of oak trees overall that provided acorns. Since the nutritional value of acorns is very high, Native American people did not see the use of developing farming and agriculture. In fact, the reason that Native Americans in California developed an immunity to most diseases was that acorns provided such ample nutrition for the human body!
Different tribes had their own recipes and methods of integrating and cooking acorn into their meals. Most Pomo tribe members prefer the Tan Oak because they feel the acorn from this tree has more flavor. On the other hand, most of the MiWuks prefer the Black Oak because it takes less time to leach and gets rid of the tannin in the acorns as well.
Be wary of acorns that fall off before the season
Acorns are gathered in the fall after they become ripe. You might have occasionally noticed acorns without their ‘little hats’ lying on the ground early in the season. These fallen acorns usually have a bug inside of them. When a worm flips itself inside an acorn, the acorn gets heavier and all the activity causes the acorn to break free from the tree. When the acorn is ripe, they will fall off the tree without external influence.
If you see any holes in the acorns, you should throw them away immediately. Some people store the ripe acorns at first, dry them out and then sell them later. Others first shell them, then dry them, and then store them in a dry place.
Acorn bread: Nutritional value
The nutritional value of the acorn bread per serving is as follows:
- Calories: 501
- Protein: 7.5g
- Total Carbohydrates: 55g
- Total Fat: 30g (Saturated Fat 2.9g)
- Iron: 7%
- Calcium: 4%
- Vitamin C: 0%
- Vitamin A: 1%
Why do we need acorns for the flour?
Most of us must have heard that acorns are poisonous, which is absolutely true if you have improperly processed acorns or unprocessed raw ones. Because they contain a very high level of tannins, they can make you very sick.
Tannins are a compound that are found in several commonly consumed items like tea or wine, but in a very small quantity. As long as the acorn has been processed correctly, they are actually very good for the health. They have carbohydrates for instant energy along with proteins, and high-fat content.
Acorns are also very plentiful.
One healthy oak tree is capable of producing about 1,000 lbs of acorn in a single year. Even if you account for moisture and the shells, there will be a significant amount of consumable calories left over for processing and consuming.
Lastly, acorns are some of the most common types of nuts you will see. They are practically found everywhere in the northern hemisphere. Some acorns are much better than others for consumption. You can definitely find an oak tree that is full of them almost any time of the year, but especially in the fall.
How do you grind acorns into flour?
There is a very important aspect of making any recipe using acorns. Properly ground acorns can work wonders for your dish. If not done properly, your dish could end up a disaster. Here is how you grind and convert your acorns into flour:
- Gather the nuts in one place. Remove the caps from each and place them in the freezer overnight. This will keep them fresh and also make them easier to crack open.
- After you remove them from the freezer, toss them in water so that they do not turn brown. In the water, continue the peeling process. Once done, pour the water and the acorns into a blender and blend them for several minutes.
- Transfer the solution into a large container and freeze it overnight. Once the paste settles down, you can pour off the excess water. Add more fresh water and stir the paste. Place it in your fridge and let it sit for one more day. By doing this, you are leaching out the bitterness of the acorns.
- After the final soaking, drain off the water by placing the paste onto a cheesecloth or clean towel to absorb as much water as it can. In order to dry the paste completely, spread the paste onto a baking sheet and place it in the oven on the lowest setting. As the drying continues, stir the paste to speed up the process.
- Alternatively, you can also boil the water that contains the acorns. You will see that the water will turn brownish-black. Change the water every 20 minutes. Heating the acorns in water will get rid of the tannins. Once you have successfully gotten rid of the tannins, the acorns will taste like sweet pasta – a bit bland but not bitter.
- Once the paste is dried, it will look a bit clumpy. With the help of a grinder, grind the acorns into flour. Alternatively, you can also make use of a blender or food processor. Though you might get a fine flour, you will still see some larger pieces.
- Sift the flour with a fine mesh sieve so that the larger clumps are separated. Alternatively, you can make use of a mortar and pestle to grind these large pieces down. You can also just grind the larger clumps again in your grinder.
- Repeat the sifting process and again separate the larger clumps. Grind them again and keep repeating the cycle till you end up with a plate of finely-grinded acorn flour.
Acorn Bread ingredients
- 320 ml of boiling water
- Three tablespoons of olive oil
- 7g of active dry yeast
- 10g of salt
- 250g of white flour or all-purpose flour
- 250g of acorn flour finely ground and leached
Native American dessert recipe: How to make acorn bread?
Here is how you make an acorn bread from scratch:
- Start by mixing the white flours and the acorn flours in a large bowl. Add some salt and yeast to each and do not let them mix together for some time.
- Add the olive oil in the middle and then mix everything up. Smooth all the dry ingredients together and knead it till it is smooth and does not stick to the bowl.
- Transfer the dough into a bowl greased with olive oil and cover it with the help of cling film. Leave the bowl for at least two hours at room temperature and wait till the dough swells up in size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and press to release the air inside it.
- Shape the dough according to your wish and leave it in a plastic bag at room temperature for another two hours.
- In the meantime, heat your oven to 220°C and put a water-filled tray at the bottom. Put the bread in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Once the cooking in the oven is done, get your bread out and set it aside to cool.
Other types of dishes that you can make with acorns
There are a lot of dishes that make use of acorns. Some include:
- Acorn griddle cakes
- Apache acorn cakes
- Manataka acorn bread
Alternatively, acorns are used to make coffee, liqueurs, sweets, and soups in the Alentejan tradition as well.
The above is one of the most authentic Native American desserts to come from America. This acorn bread might also be one of the most scrumptious desserts that you will ever taste.
Additionally, it should also be noted that you will not find a Native American dessert recipe that is this easy to create and does not require you to shop a lot. Aside from the acorns, you need mostly everyday ingredients to make this Native American dessert recipe. The cooking time is also not as much as most people might think.
Overall, Native American sweets are certainly unique and you must try them at least once in your lifetime.