Must. Have. Cake.

I’d like to say this post was full of lyrical ingenuity until…I accidentally deleted it.

Ergo, the runner-up:

Not having responsibilities can be a bit of a mixed blessing. See, I’ve been feeling a bit stretched over the past month, so when Dad said not to worry about contributing to the holiday nibbles this year, I took it with a measured degree of welcome. I’d been attending to the holiday tradition of homemade marshmallows over the previous week, finding most kitchen surfaces blanketed with wisps of powdered sugar and fondant and really didn’t mind putting my feet up and enjoying the ambiance while someone else was wiping beads of sweat from their brows. A fantasy for most home cooks, I realize.

Regardless, I don’t feel like myself unless I’m doing some sort of culinary excursion, and I didn’t want to miss out on the fleeting opportunity to engage with some cranberries.

I could wax on about the health benefits of cranberries, however I must admit that the majority of my culinary endeavors have more to do with what I’m craving, along with something that provides a certain aesthetic. I shop with my palate, and well, my palette. I’d found a bag of these pert little orbs languishing about in the market and took them home with the idea of making a seasonal chutney or compote and then promptly forgot about them for a week, only to rediscover them when I was feeling a bit cakey.

I thought about making something along the lines of the oft-prepared ricotta olive oil plum cake that I love so much, then decided to go for something a little juicier, a bit more of a sparkler. Macerating the cranberries with some oranges and a bit of sugar and vanilla to sweeten them up, I wanted a cake with a dense crumb that would act as a perfect foil for the fruit. A simple sponge, similar to pound cake, that requires equal weight flour, sugar, butter and egg.

The cake is quite elegant on its own, however dressing it up with a bit of Greek yogurt dried with syrup made the perfect excuse for breakfast snacking. I mean, honestly, I can justify cake most any time of day.

Enjoy, and much love,

J

PS – Happy Holidays! Here’s to snowy adventures. 

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

~10 oz fresh cranberries

1 orange, peeled and diced

1 tsp orange zest

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 c. sugar

Let the above mingle for a bit, then preheat oven to 350 degrees while preparing the following:

2/3 c. butter (at room temperature)

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp salt

*cream until light, then fold in:

2 eggs

Beat until airy and well-incorporated

Sift the following into a bowl:

1 1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp orange zest

Briefly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.

Pour the fruit into a buttered 9-inch cake pan, then spread the cake batter evenly over the top of the fruit.

Bake for ~30 minutes until done; the cake should be golden and have a light spring in the center (inserting a skewer or knife in the center should come out clean).

Let rest for ~20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan before inverting onto a serving plate.

Serve on it’s own, or with a little whip cream or yogurt, as desired.

 

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
*
*combine the above in a large mixing bowl.
*
1 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
*
*mix wet ingredients; fold into the dry ingredients.
*
1 cup peeled, chopped apple and 1-2 peeled apples, sliced into thin crescents
*
* add chopped apple to cake batter; pour into 8-9 inch springform pan, or other cake pan. Top with apple slices.
*
Bake at 350 for ~50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

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.

Aiming for Perfection.

It’s no secret that I love a good cake. Or a cookie, or a pie. When I’d happened upon a recipe for a ricotta-based cake recently, I had to try it. I am a huge fan of ricotta cheesecake, and after making several flour-based cakes with yogurt or buttermilk, I had no doubt that incorporating ricotta into a cake would result in something rich, moist and luxurious. I fantasized about it for days and proceeded to make it over Mother’s day weekend (you’ll find a in image of the finished product in my last post).

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Berry Tartlets with Lemon Curd

Berry Tartlets with Lemon Curd

While the flavor was superb, especially alongside freshly-made mango sorbet, I was not pleased with the consistency. I was craving a cake with a firmer crumb, one would pair well with a velvety cup of black coffee or tea.

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Needless to say, I was sucked into the vortex of time by other responsibilities (and not to mention, tartlets!). I’d nearly forgotten about the cake until last Sunday. After a leisurely day spent with friends, I was gifted with a jar of grapefruit marmalade, made by my most fabulous and talented friend, Lisa. The peel was candied to the point of jewel-like perfection; the fruit bathed in bitter-sweet syrupy goodness. At that moment, thoughts of a Ricotta and Cornmeal Cake with Grapefruit Marmalade began swirling about in my head.
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I’m rather pleased with the consistency. Dense, but with a delicate spring, the cake pulled easily away from the pan’s edges and turned the most glorious of nut-brown. The cornmeal gave it just the right amount of toothsome crunch I was hoping for, and kept the cake appropriately moist. Dots of marmalade tucked into the batter gave it a flirty and sweet astringency, however what brought it all together was the marmalade syrup that was drizzled on top while still warm.
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I’d meant to reserve a slice for photographing, however this cake didn’t make it more than two days. Needless to say, I received many accolades and had to restrain myself from buying more ricotta at the grocery this afternoon.
Grapefruit Marmalade

Grapefruit Marmalade

Enjoy, and much love,
J
Ricotta and Cornmeal Cake with Grapefruit Marmalade
Ingredients
10 tbsp butter
3/4 c sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 eggs, separated
1 c ricotta, drained of excess water
1/2 c unbleached white flour
1/4 c cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c grapefruit marmalade
Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Generously butter a medium-sized bundt pan, or an 8-inch round pan.
In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients. set aside.
Combine butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Cream for 2-3 minutes, until light, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, then add ricotta and lemon zest.
Mix in dry ingredients with a few swift turns. Be cautious not to over-mix.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg white until firm, but not dry. Fold into batter.
Pour about half of the batter into pan. Drop spoonfuls of marmalade onto batter, then cover with remaining batter.
Insert a skewer or the handle of a spoon into batter and swirl slightly to incorporate the marmalade; smooth top of batter.
Bake for ~50 minutes, until cake is set and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from oven; cool on rack for ~10 minutes then invert.
While cake is cooling, quickly warm 2 tbsp of marmalade with 1 tsp of honey. Pour over inverted cake.
**Note: this cake keeps well on the counter for 1-2 days, or in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, one can imagine.
I didn’t find the need to test that theory.

Virtue by Way of Cake.

My breakfast lately has consisted of a noble mix of hemp, chia, pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds embedded in yogurt and almond milk, with currants, wild lingonberries and just the slightest kiss of honey.
Chia Pudding
I like to follow it up with a handful of Girl Scout cookies. What can I say?
Moving on.
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This past week has left me with little enthusiasm for cooking, however last night found me wanting to bake.
I recalled my friend Lisa serving up a sliver of her grapefruit olive oil cake some time ago. I’d begged her for the recipe, to which she said nothing, then several days later, I received a link to the blog where she’d discovered it. You can find it, here.
Grapefruit and Fennel Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Glaze

Grapefruit and Fennel Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Glaze

So with a ripe grapefruit already on hand, my mind went immediately to this cake. I’ve made it several times, with little tweaks here and there. This time around, I added a whiff of fennel seed to perfume the cake, not overpowering; rather like a silent partner, giving a little boost from behind the curtain.
The glaze evolved from other items on hand, some candied citrus peel, sugar and sweet-tart Meyer lemon juice.
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This is the kind of cake can easily be justified as breakfast with a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt, goes well with afternoon tea, or any other time when the need for a bit of sweetness strikes.
Grapefruit and Fennel Olive Oil Cake
Enjoy, and much love.
J
Grapefruit olive oil cake with Fennel seeds and Meyer Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Sarah’s recipe for Olive Oil Cake at The Yellow House blog
Ingredients:
For the cake:
1 c granulated sugar
3/4 tsp fennel seed (whole, not ground)
1 heaping tsp grapefruit zest
juice of 1 grapefruit (~1/2 cup)
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
3 eggs
2/3 c olive oil
1 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp each baking soda and sea salt
For the glaze:
1/4 c Meyer lemon juice (you may substitute grapefruit juice, as desired)
1/4 cup each brown and granulated sugars
2 tbsp candied citrus peel (optional)
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Brush inside of a bundt or rectangular pan, ~9×5 inches; flour. Shake out excess flour and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients; set aside.
  4. Gather a small bowl and, using hands, rub zest and fennel seeds into sugar until fragrant.
  5. Whisk into sugar the eggs, juice, yogurt and olive oil until well-combined
  6. Pour wet ingredients into dry; quickly whisk together until smooth; about 30 seconds
  7. Bake for ~45 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Let cool for ~5 minutes in pan, then invert onto serving plate.
While cake is baking, prepare glaze:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.
  2. Heat over medium-high, without stirring, until boiling.
  3. Allow to boil for ~60 seconds; remove from heat.
  4.  Spoon glaze over top of cake, and allow to cool completely before serving.

Beg, borrow and steal.

A good friend of mine once said to me ‘There are no new ideas; just reinventions of old ones’. While I’m not entirely certain he’s correct, it’s provided comfort on days when I’m feeling unimaginative or uninspired. This year, as I struggled against the current of Time, I didn’t know if I’d be able to show up with the same creativity and personal touch that has become not only a source of joy, but a signature. 

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And so in the midst of an extremely full calendar, I’ve found myself turning toward the talented women in my life…and perhaps the internet. This post is rife with ideas borrowed, heavy with perspiration, and bountiful with Love.
Candied Orange Peel

Candied Orange Peel

My dear friend Lisa, is truly inspiring. She manages the kitchen with deft and ease. To spend an afternoon in her home, watch her dance about the kitchen, confidently balancing multiple dishes with grace ands ease (along with the occasional errant curl whipping about her forehead) is just dreamy. This week, she gifted me with a wedge of panforte, personally-crafted with home-made candied citron. I fell in love with panforte several years ago, while I was traveling in Italy. More confection than cake, rich with nuts, dried fruits and spices, lending bitter and sweet elements; it beats fruitcake, hands-down. Lisa knows that every year, I make a visit to PFI to purchase panforte for my father, secretly hoping he’ll share a wedge with me. Without fail, as soon as it’s out of my hands, he tucks it safely away so he won’t have to share his precious dessert.
I’ve never considered making it at home; I imagined it would be way too labor intensive. Of course, when I asked Lisa to give me the verbal how-to, she said with a tone of both assurance and challenge that I could, indeed, make it myself. She shared a link to this incredible blog, visually appealing and rich with recipes and text; http://www.remedialeating.com.
The list of ingredients was daunting, however the method merely involved tossing it all into a bowl, combining with honeyed syrup heated on the stove, and a stint in the oven for about an hour. Simple. 
 
mise en place: panforte nero

mise en place: panforte nero

And so, over the next two days I went about, crafting home-made citrus zest and panforte nero. I won’t bother lending the recipe; you can find it here.
What I will share is my experience. As the hours passed, labor lent way to meditative practice. I found that there was nothing to do but just…be…and wait. I found the steps startlingly simple, and yet requiring a commitment. On more than one occasion, I felt myself smiling, full, expressive and joyful. And the aroma! That citrus scent filling the air as oranges bubbled away in simple syrup; the warmth and complexity wafting from the oven as the panforte baked. Being greeted by sweetness every time I went out and returned home. This is what I love. This is what I crave. And I will keep baking and borrowing as long as I need to get through this holiday madness.
Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Heaps of Love,
J

When life gives you cheese…

What does one say when offered a couple of pounds of fresh chèvre? An exuberant “Yes!” of course. David’s mother had a bit of chèvre left over from an event and thought I might be able to make good use of it. I had no idea what to do with such generous bounty, however I found myself envisioning something baked, and sweet. It was not long before I started scouring my books and the Internet for cheesecake recipes, however I never found exactly the right one.

See, I rarely follow recipes verbatim, rather, I use them as a template and let my intuition and the ingredients take their own form. I have a bit of experience making quiche; the marriage of eggs and dairy yielding a savory, creamy custard. Cheesecake has similar components, so it was just a matter of getting the right proportions so the whole thing didn’t end up a liquid mess. Or worse. I have had my fair share of quiche coming out of the oven, gently caramelized with the appearance of perfection, only to find it runny in the center.

I avoided adding lemon, as I thought tanginess from the goat cheese would lend the perfect balance to the sweet, richness of the cake. I also wanted to keep it as un-fussy as possible, using minimal ingredients. So many recipes called for additions of sour cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone…in the end I went for a good old-fashioned ratio of two parts goat cheese to one part cream cheese. I also learned something along the way. It is a bother to separate eggs, beating and aerating the whites into gentle wet clouds, only to have them flatten completely while trying to incorporate them into such a rich base. I’ll save you the trouble with this recipe.

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In order to make this bad boy, I strongly recommend reading the recipe through, so as to be prepared for the steps involved. While they may seem a bit laborious at first glance, it’s totally worth taking the time to do this right. This recipe uses a bain-marie, or water-bath technique, which moderates the heat and promotes even baking and consistency. When using a spring form pan, it may be necessary to wrap a layer of foil around the bottom and sides of pan to prevent any water from making it’s way into the lovely cake.

And lastly, unless you plan to serve this cake at 2am, it’s best made a day before serving, as it takes several hours to set and chill.

Must haves:

9-inch spring form pan

roasting dish or other large dish that will accommodate the pan

For the crust:

3 oz graham cracker squares

3 oz ginger snaps

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

16 oz chèvre

8 oz cream cheese

3/4 c unbleached cane sugar

Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla (though I prefer the former)

4 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Blitz graham crackers and ginger snaps in a food processor, or if you prefer a messier route, crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. You’ll want about 1 ½ cups of crumbs. Put into a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Combine the crumbs with melted butter and press into pan, allowing a bit to inch up the sides.

    Ginger-graham crumble

    Ginger-graham crumble

  4. In a large bowl, cream together the cheeses, sugar and vanilla seeds/vanilla; beat until light.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating fully.
  6. Pour into springform pan. If there are any gaps in the seal, wrap the pan with a layer of tinfoil.
  7. Set pan into roasting tray; fill tray with water to within an inch of the rim.
  8. Gently place the tray in the oven and bake for ~1 ½ hours.
  9. Give the cheesecake a gentle shake; it should be somewhat yielding, but not loose. If it is, add another ten minutes to the baking time.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for least an hour, then chill in the refrigerator several hours further.
  11. Serve as-is, or garnish with pomegranate seeds, fresh berries, quince paste…the possibilities are endless!

Much Love,

J

Cheesecake with chèvre

Cheesecake with chèvre