Gathered.

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I’ve been busy this week. During the summer months, it’s typical I’ll find myself with a bounty of fruit that begs to be transformed, post-haste.  I’ll be out running or hiking and will come across a bevvy of ripe fruit and can’t help but take advantage of it. Friends know that I’ll willingly take a parcel of fresh fruit or veggies off of their hands. I’ll spend hours canning, baking, jamming and sharing the vintage that comes from many well-spent hours of toil.

5A1CB076-9F04-4FDC-93EA-FC8F583B86B0.JPGSweating it out on a hot summer night in my steamy kitchen; it’s what I love. It fuels me; nourishes my soul.

And who doesn’t want an excuse to eat cake for breakfast?

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almond and apple cake

This week I’ve been busting my way through crab apples, cherries, and what looks like a variety of McIntosh apples. My ability to judge the pectin content of crabapples could stand for improvement,  as what was meant to be a stunner jelly was more akin to a simple syrup. A gorgeous siam-hued creation, but quite viscous, none the less.

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No matter; I’ve passed jars  along to willing and appreciative recipients. I also made a voluptuous and silky smooth apple butter with vanilla and ginger undertones that’s so heavenly I’m reluctant to share, though I’ve dutifully gifted a jar to the generous apple donor (she deserves at least one, right?).

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I’ve taken the surplus and added them to an incredible almond-olive oil cake; something reminiscent of my pear and almond cake from this post. Needless to say I couldn’t trust myself around it’s seductive scent and had to share the love with my colleagues so as to save my waistline. Thank goodness for these willing recipients…and for rigorous physical activity!

cherry polenta crumble


All that aside, when I started this blog, my intention was to share with others a little extension of me; a window into the quirks and inspirations that are part and parcel of my personality. I’ve been admittedly out of practice for some time, working through bouts of feeling uncreative and not taking time to share what fuels me. And ultimately, what fuels me is exactly that – creativity. It’s the antidote.

Expect to see posts with a bit more frequency in the near future. For now, take a few minutes out of your day to make this cake, and by all means, share it!

Enjoy, and much love,

J

Almond and Apple Cake

 

1 cup almond flour

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 c. chopped candied ginger
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*combine the above in a large mixing bowl.
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1 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
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*mix wet ingredients; fold into the dry ingredients.
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1 cup peeled, chopped apple and 1-2 peeled apples, sliced into thin crescents
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* add chopped apple to cake batter; pour into 8-9 inch springform pan, or other cake pan. Top with apple slices.
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Bake at 350 for ~50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

Soup as Temptress.

There are synchronistic moments when an idea will come along that aligns with what I am needing and craving right now. Like a soup that mandates a long, slow pause in the frenetic activities of the day; something to draw out and accentuate the slowness of things, while simultaneously rewarding one with something of deep satisfaction and flavor.
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I remember tucking away a recipe I’d discovered for a spicy pork soup about a month ago; I was completely drawn to the flavors, however laboring over a soup for two days was simply not something I was in the space for. But there was something about it that held me, and I knew that I would draw upon it for inspiration, when the timing was right.

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Therefore, upon waking up from a hasty nap to find grey Seattle skies and buckets of rain, making an unctuous, warming soup felt like the most natural thing to do.
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What I loved about this soup is the layering of flavors to build complexity. Meaty pork bones are caramelized, then set to luxuriate with umami-rich seasonings and aromatics in a long-simmering broth. I embellished it a bit by adding warming spices like cinnamon, ginger and chile, along with star anise, which imparted an intoxicating aroma and heat.


I’ve never made a stock this sexy, with velvet undertones and a sheen that glimmers like gold in the moonlight.
It was worth every second of my attention and was definitely a labor of love.
For something this good requires time, patience, generosity, nurture; much like that of a lover, along with intuition of what will ignite the senses; bring one to their knees in adulation and appreciation.
And ultimately, begging for more.
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At first glance, this recipe may seem rather laborious, however once the stock is prepared, the remaining components are fairly straightforward and easy to pull together. There’s minimal chopping and actual hands-on time. As usual, I made modifications to suit my taste and intuition, however i highly recommend pounding the furikake with sesame oil into a paste to release the intense bitter-sweet oil that mingles so nicely with the seaweed.

I could see how additional condiments like toasted coconut, slivered black garlic and a healthy squeeze of lime would only add to the delight of flavors coming from this dish.

Enjoy, and much love,
J

Spicy Pork Noodle Soup with Aromatics
*Inspired by Gingerroot’s Spicy Sesame Pork Soup with Noodles

For the stock:
1.5 lb bone-in pork shoulder
1 ham hock, smoked
1 small bunch scallions
1 onion, quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-4 large pieces
3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp red chile flakes
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp tomato paste

Method:
Preheat oven to 400. Place meat on an oiled roasting pan and roast for ~30 minutes.
Turn, then add to roasting pan the onion, carrot and scallions. Roast further for ~20 minutes, then remove from oven.
Scrape meat and vegetables into stockpot, using a little water to deglaze pan and add any remaining bits to the pot.
Add ~14 cups of water to pan, then toss in the remaining spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered for ~2.5h, or until the meat begins to pull away from the bone.
Remove meat from broth, and test for doneness, if it easily shreds into pieces, then it’s done. If not, continue to cook for ~30-60 minutes longer until the meat is ready. Set meat aside in refrigerator for later soup assembly.
Let broth cool in the refrigerator overnight to allow fat to separate from stock. Setting the pot in a large ice bath will expedite the cooling process. Once cool, remove layer of fat from the surface.

To prepare the soup, you will need the following:
1 tbsp mirin
1/4 cup furikake (sesame-seaweed blend)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp of red miso paste
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded (~4-5 cups)
1 tsp sesame oil
reserved pork
~8 oz rice vermicilli noodles
chopped scallions
cilantro
sambal oelek (chili paste)

Method:
Set stock over medium high heat and add mirin.
Grind the furikake and sesame oil into a paste with mortar and pestle, then add miso.
Add to that miso paste; whisk into stock. Let simmer for ~30 minutes.
While stock is simmering, prepare cabbage. Place a large pan over medium heat and add sesame oil and cabbage, allowing cabbage to wilt for ~5 minutes before adding the reserved meat. Cook for a further ~5-10 minutes.
In a separate stockpot, boil water for noodles; prepare per package recommendations. Set aside.

To assemble the soup:
Layer rice noodles, then pork/cabbage mixture in large soup bowls. ladle hot broth over each bowl, then top with scallions, cilantro and a healthy dose of chili paste. Add additional condiments, as desired.

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On Procrastination and Chocolate.

Teaser; no chocolate here, though I must say that I made a fabulous chocolate rye brownie recently that I highly recommend trying. You’ll find the link here.

~I needed something self indulgent after a weekend of crafting gifts for others.

FullSizeRenderWriting recipes at times can be challenging. I like to buck the line at precision; and there are times when my “recipes” are just an approximation of this and that. Needless to say, this works much better in the realm of cooking, rather than baking, as there is a bit of science and technique one must follow.

IMG_9827That being said, sometimes it’s perfectly reasonable to “go offline” and trust instinct to guide us in the kitchen. Sometimes precision lies in the imprecision. As in life, occasionally we need to deviate from the path in front of us, the recipe, the method, and allow internal wisdom to navigate.

IMG_9828There are an abundance of holiday cookie ideas floating around at the moment, and I was struck by the simplicity of this Japanese tea flavored almond cookie. That’s often all it takes, an idea, an inspiration, and what follows is an outpouring of measures to translate it into something of my own (along with the mental inventory of what is in my pantry). This cookie had me thinking about shortbread. I’ve been making shortbread from a recipe I’ve refined over the years, a mash of several great ideas, that offers a perfect balance of sandiness, crisp and sweet, and I thought about adding a bit of matcha tea powder to flavor the dough.

As a ran through the park, other variations of tea-infused shortbread cookies came to mind, and by the time I’d arrived home, I’d committed myself to several hours in the kitchen. I was able to produce a batch each of earl grey, matcha and chai varieties before running out of flour…which led to the invention of a rye flour shortbread, flecked with pieces of candied and dried ginger.

IMG_9830In retrospect, I might boost the salt a bit, add an extra pinch. Increase the tea to 2.5 or even 3 teaspoons, and add a bit of freshly grated ginger to the rye version.

IMG_9776Use the recipes that follow as a template; an approximation of wet:dry, and tailor to suit your taste. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Errors are the building blocks to perfection.

IMG_9835These cookies go well with tea, obviously, or tucked into a lunchsack for an afternoon treat. There are fairly benign and can be justified is eaten any time of the day.

IMG_9837I’m trying a method-driven writing technique, rather than the standard approach, however the ingredients are all there. I hope you enjoy it.

Much Love,

J

Tea-Infused Shortbread

*This recipe includes rye flour, which pairs well with ginger. For a more truly authentic shortbread, use 1 cup unbleached flour, omitting the rye, and 2-2.5 teaspoons of ground tea of choice to sub in for the ginger.

Beat 1/2 cup butter wth 1/3 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

Add to that 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger and 3-ish tbsp chopped candied ginger.

In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup unbleached flour with 1/3 cup rye flour, 2 tbsp tapioca flour (if you have it – makes them really light and sandy), 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp powdered ginger.

Mix it all together until just combined, then turn out onto some parchment and knead together, minimally.

Roll out 1/4-inch thick, then let dough rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Using cookie cutters of choice, cut and set on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for ~16 minutes, turning about halfway through. You want them to be just barely golden.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on baking sheet, then move to baking rack to cool completely.

Decorate, as desired 😘

This post is dedicated to D. Thank you inspiring me to cook, create, write, not to mention doing the dishes! I miss that.

In Which She Finds Salad to be More Her Liking.

Pear Almond Upside-Down Cake

Pear Almond Upside-Down Cake

To put it mildly, writing this past year has been a struggle. During the past several months, I’ve had to wade through the cobwebs of my mind for a bit of inspiration. It’s been a bit frustrating and has at times left me feeling somewhat forlorn.

Enter: Summer Fruit.
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Being a city gal no dirt call her own, I get my perishables from the Farmer’s market, brick-and-mortar, and a bit of foraging. In Summer months, I’ve got dear friends and family who generously share with me a bit of their harvest.

This year, it seemed to come all at once. Tomatoes, pears, plums. The kind of fruit that requires one to be ready for action. Needless to say, I produced several small-batch wonders.
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~An orgasmic caramel-vanilla pear butter
~A zippy plum chutney
~Blushing strawberry preserves.
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And then the cakes…I have made several over the past couple of weeks. I’ll debate anyone who disagrees with me that cake is a perfectly acceptable stand-in at breakfast. Add some eggs, or plain yogurt, and there you have it: a complete meal. My favorite cake as of late is a variation on this olive-oil ricotta cake in which I substituted some cornmeal for part of the flour.
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But what’s carried me through this past week and sustained me throughout the long hours and hectic days is a hearty dish of my own genesis. I was perusing the internet and reading a post on grain salads in one of the Food52 columns, which got me thinking about my pantry. Needless to say, it had been a while since I’d done any serious shopping and my cupboards a bit paltry, however I had a bit of red rice tucked away, along with some coconut chips, from which sparked an interest in a salad fleck with toasted coconut and pistachios, and a kaleidoscope of colorful veggies, complemented with a spicy ginger miso dressing.
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This salad was so bright and hearty, the pistachios flecking about like little green jewels. It’s appealing on a multi-sensory level. I ate it for several days running.
I imagine this salad would easily lend itself to substitution, say; wild or brown rice, farro, wheat berries or another grain. Ditto that for the pistachios. The key is to let the grains cool thoroughly before combining them with other ingredients. I like to line a pan with parchment and pour the grains out onto the parchment to let the excess moisture evaporate before mixing with the other components.
Buddha's Salad

Buddha’s Salad

I’m calling it “Buddha’s Salad,” because, well…it feels appropriate.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Buddha’s Salad
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3 c. cooked red rice (or sub another grain)
2 c shredded red cabbage
1 c shredded carrot
1/2 c. finely sliced green onion (green parts only)
1/2 c. fresh cilantro
1 c. toasted coconut chips
1/2 c toasted pistachios
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For the dressing:
1/4 c rice vinegar
2 tbsp miso paste, more to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp grated ginger (I often cheat and use the Ginger People brand grated ginger)
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
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Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients; toss with salad mains to coat. Eat with exuberance.

Forced Recreation.

Where have you been, Beautiful Wallflower?
Ahh, there’s a question…
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I enjoy telling my story through pictures, because an image can capture the emotion of the moment; it can both affect and effect. It’s communicating to the world from the lens of the observer. Images become indelible memories of experience, of time.
Tender, vulnerable, revealing.
A fine way to get to know someone, really.
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In the past month, I have attended festivals
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Made more baked goods than a girl probably should
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Ran faster than the wind
Sought comfort and rejuvenation with friends
Celebrated birthdays and milestones
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And sequestered myself with a cold…
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As my inbox gets bombarded with loads of good things to create, my neighborhood filled with new restaurants to try, I am still called to the kitchen, with a yearning to create. I’ve been baking my way through Zoe Nathan’s Huckleberry, annotating what changes I’ve either made, or need to make, to ensure success the next time around.PicFrame
I’ve made at least four (five?) recipes now, and continue to be inspired by the gorgeous photography and straightforward directions.
Zoe has reignited my love of the teacake, that perfect excuse for a sit-down with a good cuppa something steamy.
I was inspired to make a citrus-fennel cake recently, a variation of her lemon kumquat poppy teacake.IMG_6434
I had a fragrant Cara Cara orange on hand that was begging to be put to use, and I always have several lemons at the ready. But fennel! I don’t know why it came so strongly to mind, however the subtle anise-like flavor seemed just the right thing pair with the citrus.
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And holy mackerel! This is by far one of the best cakes i’ve made in a while. The crumb, dense and buttery, was exactly what one might expect from a proper tea/pound cake. The flavor, so citrus-y and bright; the toasted bits of crushed fennel rounding out the experience better than I could have imagined.
 This recipe will be in regular rotation, for sure.
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Citrus-Fennel Tea Cake
Inspired by Zoe Nathan’s Lemon Kumquat Poppy Teacake
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Ingredients:
1 c butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
zest and juice of one large lemon and one orange, separated (~1/4-1/3 cup juice)
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp heavy cream
1.5 c flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly smashed
4 tbsp sugar
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Method:
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan. I like to line the pan with parchment, which eases removal of cake from the pan.
Using your fingers, massage sugar and zest together until fragrant. Add to mixing bowl with the butter and salt.
Mix at medium speed until fluffy and light; about 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl periodically.
Sift baking powder and fennel seeds into flour; set aside.
Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and cream.
With mixer on low-medium speed, slowly drizzle egg mixture into creamed butter and sugar. Mix on medium speed for ~1 minute.
Add flour and mix just until combined; no more than ~10 seconds. It’s okay if there are still bits of unincorporated flour; simply fold into batter with spatula.
Scoop dough into prepared pan and bake for ~60 minutes. Cake is fully baked when an inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean. Let rest 10 minutes, then remove from pan and set on a cooling rack.
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While cake is baking, prepare the glaze: in a small saucepan, combine juice and sugar. bring to a boil, whisking while the sugar dissolves, turn heat down or a minute and allow the juice to reduce, just a bit. Brush over top and sides of warm cake.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J

…and it was like she never left.

In a more relaxed moment, I found myself scrolling through pictures and finding several that were part of a vision unfolding; scenes I’d meant to post and then got waylaid by frenetic holidays and activities that were heartfelt and fulfilling, yet left me a bit emotionally spent.
Savory Bread Pudding with Wilted Chard and Mushrooms

Savory Bread Pudding with Wilted Chard and Mushrooms

With the new year, and clear(er) vision, I’ve created goals and aspirations, and been taking steps toward achieving them. All well and good, however it’s so important that I get lost in the process of Being at least for a small amount of time daily.
And the truth is that I haven’t dedicated time to my craft; writing about my experience, that spark that ignites when I have an idea and run with it. That bit of cleverness and openness; that flexibility that comes (truly) from an aversion to running back out into the cold for another stick of butter, fruit or cream.
That Delectable Poached Pear and Almond Tart

Poached Pear and Almond Tart

It’s time to get back on the proverbial horse. Writing, creating, sharing and remembering these experiences  are an essential aspect of my self-expression. It gives me great joy to make beautiful food and share it with friends and family.
Pork Dumplings (Star Anise-Scented Broth)

Pork Dumplings (Star Anise-Scented Broth)

Raspberry Balsamic Preserves

Raspberry Balsamic Preserves

I’ve included a few visual samplings of things made recently that are worthy of a nod.
And so when overcome by the need for a bit of something sweet, I consulted past repertoire for this salted almond and honey pie. 
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Being a fan of tiny things, I thought I’d make tartlets, so as to enjoy and share more readily. I filled half of the tartlets with honey custard, and the remaining with homemade raspberry balsamic preserves; the latter lovingly gathered from my father’s garden this past summer.
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Recipes for pâte sucrée (aka: tart crust) abound on the internet, however I’ll include a simple recipe that I’ve been using reliably for some time. Feel free to let the imagination go wild with the fillings. These baked up nicely in a 375-degree oven in ~40 minutes.
Enjoy, and much love.
J
Pâte Sucrée
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, very cold, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
ice water, as needed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pulse dry ingredients in a food processor, or combine well in a large bowl.
Add butter and either process or use a pastry blender to cut into flour just until the mixture resembles fine peas.
Add egg yolk and pulse or mix until combined.
Add just enough water (no more than a tablespoon) to bring mixture to a somewhat cohesive mass; it should still be a bit crumbly.
Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours, or overnight.
Press into well-buttered tart pan(s) and fill as desired.
Bake filled tartlets until set, ~40 minutes

Obsessed with Autumn.

There’ve been countless good things coming out of my kitchen lately. Probably too many to mention, however I’m tempted to give it a go, if only for future inspiration. The past month I’ve been doing more living, experiencing, tasting, loving; and I haven’t felt much interest in writing about food.

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However, with a trove of inspiration swirling around in my head, I thought I’d share with you.
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I made this incredible pear and buttermilk upside-down cake that would knock your socks off:
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I followed David Leibovitz’ direction to tuck thin slivers of garlic and anchovies into a lamb shoulder, which was later roasted to perfection, and served it with a mixed root vegetable mash and possibly the best pan gravy I’ve ever had. I elevated it to the sublime with a preserved lemon, olive and parsley relish. I know I’ve done well when I find myself audibly moaning with satisfaction in the midst of my workday lunch. No apologies.
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And then there was this little gem of an idea found in Amy Pennington’s cookbook Urban Pantry. I could feel my eyes widening with anticipation at the apple quince butter, and was instantly inspired. I started calling around the local markets for quince, and made not one, but two batches, modestly adapted, richly spiced, and perfectly sweetened. I’d planned to follow with a persimmon-pear butter, however after two days of first degree burns from boiling fruit, I’ve given myself the week off.
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Moving on…
With several persimmon on hand and in need of some baking therapy, I set out to make this beauty:
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Having leftover buttermilk on hand, I added it to the cake, along with persimmon purée, and the resultant cake came out ultra moist. I also folded in preserved walnuts and chopped persimmon to give the cake a bit of texture. A straightforward swap for regular walnuts would be equally satisfying; however the preserved walnuts are reminiscent of candied fruit, their bittersweet flavor complements the cake well. Easily justified for breakfast with a bit of yogurt, not that one needs an excuse to eat cake.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Persimmon and Walnut Cake
Note: I prefer the taste of hachiya persimmon over fuyu, as the fuyu tends to have a bit of a chalky, bitter aftertaste. Use ripe persimmon in this recipe; ones that have a bit of give when pressed. 
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Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
3 eggs
3 persimmon (purée two of the persimmon; chop and set aside the remaining)
1 cup buttermilk, or plain yogurt
1/2 cup preserved walnuts, chopped, or 1/2 cup plain walnuts
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Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter a medium-sized bundt pan, or a regular 9×9 pan.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl; set aside.
In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Cream until light, ~5 minutes. Add lemon zest.
Add eggs, one at a time, mix well.
Add pureed persimmon and combine.
Alternate addition of flour and buttermilk, adding one half of each at a time. Mix just until incorporated.
Fold in chopped persimmon and walnuts.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for ~40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool for ~5 minutes in pan, then invert and cool completely on cooling rack.
This cake will keep for 3-4 days at room temperature, however I don’t anticipate it’ll last that long.