Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pineapple Ration Cake

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to sample an official Canadian army ration pack.  I posted all about my experiences sampling it, and for the most part my opinion was mixed (You can read more about it here).  I had several people mention to me, online and in person, how much they enjoyed reading about my experience.  Most of the people that commented to me were, or are, members of the armed forces in various countries.  A few friends of mine who happen to be in the armed forces were so taken back that they offered me even more ration packs to review if I wanted.  Since I figured writing ration pack reviews again might be repetitive, both because I've already done it, and someone else is doing it better than me (click here to check that out).  I decided that I would instead try several experiments using ration packs.
The first experiment that I thought I would try is to take the elements of several ration packs, and try to make it into something else, something better maybe.  Since this is my first time trying this, I decided I would go for something that was in my skill set.  I decided that I would try and create a (slightly) more epic dessert out of some of the dessert ration packs.  The first thing I had to do was collect my ration packs. For this I was granted access to a ration pack stash, it was amazing.  It was like shopping at the  most boring grocery store ever, since everything was either in a nondescript foil pack or plain cardboard box.  While looking through the packs I was inspired for what I wanted to create, pineapple upside-down cake.

To make this sweet treat I would need fruit, some kind of syrup or sugar, and some kind of cake.  The fruit was the easiest to find as canned (bagged in this case) fruit is a staple of ration packs.  For this project I figured that a mixed fruit salad would work best.  This would give me pineapple, cherries, and even some peaches, just to mix it up a bit.  For the syrup/sugar, I went with a maple dessert bar that comes drenched in a maple syrup.  This would provide me with the syrup, and maybe some cake as well.  I also picked up several packages of date squares, these might give me the crust/crumble to make for a perfect cake base.
So with ingredients in  hand I got started.  My plan was simple, I started by draining the fruit, and laying at the bottom of my loaf pan in a pleasant pattern.  For this cake I used 3 packs of mixed fruit salad. The biggest problem I had in this case was the lack of pineapple.  There was some, but not nearly as much as I'd hopped for.  I put the cherries down, and ended up using more peach than pineapple, but I think that's OK.
About 3 hours before starting, I took out the maple cake, and started to drain it.  I let it sit for the 3 hours so most of the maple  would drain from the cake.
I also scrapped all of the crumb/crust from the date squares, and set them aside to dry out for a little while.
Once the fruit was placed in a nice pattern, and the maple cake drained all of the maple syrup. I added the maple syrup to the fruit.  At this  point I wasn't happy with the amount of syrup, so I added a bit of the juice from the fruit as well.  I put the fruit in the oven to let the syrup thicken a little bit.  Once it had been bubbling for a few minutes, I took the fruit out of the oven.
While  the fruit was cooking, I smashed up the  maple square and added it to the crumb from the date squares.  At this point all of the cake ingredients were much dryer than when I had taken them out of the packages.  This was a good thing because I figured they would  instantly absorb the syrup from the fruit.   My first thought was to ad some butter to the cake crumbs to help them stick together, but Allison mentioned that this would be cheating since ration packs do not come with butter.  As the fruit was ready, I took it out and carefully layered on the cake crumbs.  I had to be careful not to push the cake into the fruit as it might ruin the design, but I wanted the cake crumbs packed down enough so they would hold together.
Baking the cake crumbs didn't take too long since they were already cooked.  At this point I just wanted to heat them up, and let the crumbs absorbed some of the syrup.  I probably let it stay in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes, then it was ready to serve.
I thought since my military friends were nice enough to give me the ration packs, I would let them sample my creation.  Overall it was a success.  I was worried that the crumb bottom would completely fall apart, but it didn't, I was even able to flip the cake over while  serving it to reveal the fruity bottom/top.  The syrup was perfect and it held the crumb together fairly well, and held the fruit together perfectly.  Everybody was happy with the results, and I was given the best compliment I think you could receive for this experiment.  “This is probably the best thing that's ever come out of a ration pack.”


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