Cake for breakfast.

“Okay, but why are you sorry?”

“Because you got mad.”

I’m at the stage in whatever process I’m in – book-writing, middle-management, big-kid parenting, all of it – where I would like to turn a few pages back in this choose-your-own-adventure story of life. I accidentally set a meatloaf and four sweet potatoes on fire on the barbecue this week and then cried because Nick ruined dinner by spraying it with the fire extinguisher. How could he. If a little char adds flavour, what might a little incineration do? I guess we’ll never know.

“But do you know why I got mad?”

“It’s just something you do sometimes when I break stuff.”

Remember when we were teenagers and the high school teachers had us fill out those aptitude tests to find out what we should be doing with our lives, as if that meant anything? I took the test twice because my first result was “street performer.” I have no musical talent and it rains for months at a time here. My second result was “embalmer,” and I panicked because HOW WOULD THAT EVEN WORK? (Side note: what the hell, 1990s Surrey School District administration, did you buy the discount testing package?!) I was terrible at science and failing math and worried that I wasn’t meant for anything that would support my future cat family and ability to finally own a pair of Mavi jeans. Instead of aptitude tests, teachers should tell teens about all the things they will have to juggle one day, effectively and with a smile, and all their “what am I going to do with my life?” fears would be replaced by “how can I avoid all of that?”

Maybe worrying about your future career path is pointless. Maybe they should give kids parenting workshops so that they know what to do when they inevitably find themselves bested by the world’s sassiest five-year-old.

Aside from “marry rich” and “don’t teach your children to talk,” I don’t have many answers. But perhaps I can make a suggestion? Don’t try to be the kind of parent and partner and worker the internet thinks you should be, at least not all at once, and don’t sign your five-year-old up for soccer and T-Ball at the same time while you try to write a book and work a full-time job on five hours of sleep per night. Another suggestion? Eat cake for breakfast.

Ontbijtkoek means “breakfast cake” in Dutch, and the Netherlands is a place that in a lot of ways has its priorities in order. There is comfort in something that feels just a little indulgent, but still a little nutritious. Not that nutritious, though it has a reputation for it; traditional recipes for this particular delicacy boast of the whole-grain goodness of rye flour, and that there is no fat to speak of in the bread. Traditionally, it also calls for a bucket of honey and molasses and sugar, but that is beside the point. Health! Health?

I wouldn’t exactly call this health food, but I wouldn’t call it junk either. It is wholesome, somewhere between a bread and a cake. Drier than cake, but sweeter than bread, if that makes sense? It’s a very nice way to start your day, especially with a big cup of coffee or tea, and a generous smear of butter and a drizzle of honey. Coffee and cake for breakfast are how I’m surviving the chaos of little boys, and grown-ups who want to add to my to-do list and food that just engulfs itself in flames at RANDOM and not through any fault of mine. I’ll let you know if it works.

Ontbijtkoek

The rye flour in this loaf makes it more substantial than a typical loaf cake, and the molasses means it’s not as sweet. It’s virtuous cake, if there’s such a thing, and it’s meant to be eaten in the morning.

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup fancy molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dark rye flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan, and set aside.

Whisk together milk, molasses and egg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, rye flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves.

Gently work the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until dry ingredients are just moistened but not lumpy.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. After ten minutes, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. Will keep for about three days.

Coconut caramel pound cake.

pound cake

This was one of those weeks that really makes one appreciate the simple things; the kind of week where at the end of it, my salvation came from the basics – eggs and butter and sugar and flour, a bit of pasta, a bag of onions, and a few frozen sausages. The week started with some debit card fraud that cost me most of what was in my bank account, and an unavoidable trip to the local mechanic that threatened to eat up the rest.

It is also December, as you might have noticed – on top of everything, I’ve got places to go and potlucks to participate in and when you’ve got a cookbook pending, it is poor form to show up at these things with a two-liter bottle of store-brand pop and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. If you’re not going to bother washing your hair or dressing like an adult, you should at least show up with a salad, I guess.

But I haven’t been to a grocery store all week, which is silly because there’s one half a block away and I’ve managed to hit up the liquor store in the same vicinity twice. I am a caricature of a woman unraveling. Imagine a lot of leggings and cat hair.

December is reason enough to unravel and as a good a time as any. ‘Tis the season for demands on top of demands and far more debits than credits. And it’s so easy to fall into an exasperated funk and find yourself yelling at everyone; this is not what the season is all about, I’m told. I know it’s hard advice to take sometimes, but we need to go easy on ourselves. Take breaks. Take shortcuts. Make pound cake.

Pound cake will solve a great many of your December problems. It’s cheap – at its most basic it is literally just butter, sugar, flour and eggs – and it benefits from sitting around a while, so it’s best to make it a day ahead. It’s cake, so people will think that you tried. It’s cake, so everyone will like it.

This is grandma-level stuff right here, the kind of thing that will stand the test of time. A glazed pound cake recipe in your back pocket will get you through all kinds of things, and up to 98 per cent of what December can throw at you.

This is not one of those Bundt-pan pound cakes; make this in a loaf pan. Make it the night before you want to serve it, and then plop it out onto a plate or into a container and take it wherever you need to go. This is not fancy. Let someone else handle fancy – your job is to get through the holidays, deliciously.

Coconut caramel pound cake

Cake:

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Sauce:

  • 1 14-oz. (398 mL) can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan, then line it with parchment paper so that the paper peeks over the sides by a couple of inches.

Using either a stand mixer or an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to beat the mixture. Once you’ve added your last egg, add the vanilla and salt, and continue to beat until thoroughly mixed.

Using a spatula, fold the flour into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, a third of a cup at a time until just moistened. Pour the batter into your loaf pan, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, simmer coconut milk over medium heat with brown sugar until the mixture reduces by half. Add the vanilla and the salt, and set aside.

Using a toothpick, poke many holes into the top of the still-hot cake. Pour the coconut milk mixture over top, and let sit until cool. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for at least eight (up to 24) hours before serving.

To serve, reheat in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate, peel away the parchment, and cut into slices. Serve as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Something to Read: Fannie Farmer Cookbook & Baking Book

30days

Yesterday we spent the day in Porteau Cove and it was rainy and everyone ended up damp to their skin but it was fun and Toddler had a fabulous day and when we got home I still had to put Easter together so last night, I didn’t end up posting (I did watch a few cooking shows off the PVR and eat about a pound of Easter candy though, so that’s got to count for something).

Easter prep

I had meant to tell you about the Fannie Farmer cookbooks, which you likely already know about as they’re classics but if not, you should know about because they’re classics. So I might as well tell you about the Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, which are two of my most essential kitchen resources (both edited by Marion Cunningham). My aunt had asked for the recipe for Lazy Daisy cake, as she’s celebrating her PhD candidacy and it’s her favourite cake, so the timing is all kinds of right.

The Fannie Farmer cookbooks are pretty much the family cookbook where I grew up; my grandmother used them and I inherited her three copies; my mom has several copies (since I ruined her first one as I’m messy and irresponsible and not careful with things). If I’ve ever wondered how to make anything, even before Googling it, I check in with Fannie. Chances are the answers are all in there, probably with my grandmother’s notes.

Cuddles_FF

The thing I like about the cookbooks is that they’re reference as much as they are books of recipes; there are instructions on selecting cuts of meat and what each cut means, information and recipes for cooking for the sick, and a great many recipes that can be made on even the tightest budget. If you know someone about to move into his or her first home away from home, Fannie Farmer is a great gift.

I have a couple of really old versions of the books, and I keep them because they were my grandmother’s, but also because they’re pretty funny. For example, from my 1973 version which purports to be a facsimile of the original (circa 1896):

Banana Salad

Remove one section of skin from each of four bananas. Take out fruit, scrape, and cut fruit from one banana in thin slices, fruit from other three bananas in one-half inch cubes. Marinate cubes with French Dressing. Refill skins and garnish each with slices of banana. Stack around a mound of lettuce leaves.

I love recipes like these. So gross. So delightful to imagine someone serving banana salad in French Dressing to company.

But seriously, Fannie Farmer.

Here’s the recipe for Lazy Daisy Cake, followed by a recipe for Lazy Daisy Topping, both from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book. “Because this light and delicate cake is so easy to make, it is an ideal dessert for a lazy day. The topping is a rich butter-caramel glaze, and it is good.”

Lazy Daisy Cake

(Makes one 8-inch square cake.)

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Lazy Daisy Topping (see below)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8″ square cake pan.

Warm the milk with the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs until they are foamy and feel like they’ve thickened slightly. Slowly whisk in the sugar, then add the vanilla.

Sift your dry ingredients into another bowl. Stir the dry mix into the egg mixture and beat until the batter is smooth.

Check that the butter has melted into the milk; if it has, stir into the batter and mix well. If it hasn’t, give it another minute or so.

Pour your batter into your pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

While your cake is baking, prepare the Lazy Daisy Topping (recipe below).

Spread the topping over the warm cake and brown slightly under the broiler for about one minute, paying attention all the while so that it doesn’t burn. Serve the cake from the pan.

Lazy Daisy Topping

(Makes about 1 1/4 cups, enough for one Lazy Daisy Cake)

  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted if you wish

Combine butter, cream and sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir over medium heat until melted. Add the coconut. Pour the frosting over the baked cake; cook under a hot broiler for about a minute, until it bubbles and browns slightly.

Guest post: Taslim Jaffer’s Extreme Chocolate Cake

It’s just about time for the holidays – Hanukkah starts this weekend! – and while we’ve moved in and are just about finished with living out of boxes and garbage bags, we’re not fully settled yet. With moving and work and not having done anything festive yet, I’m just not feeling the seasonal buzz  … so to remedy this, and to add a little sweetness to this now-neglected part of the web, I’ve invited another local blogger to share a treat she makes for her family during the Christmas season – her name is Taslim, and she blogs about inspiration and creativity at Let ME Out!! Releasing Your Creative Self. We met at an event for Vancouver mom bloggers this past spring, and I was impressed by her enthusiasm. I don’t think she even owns crankypants! I guess I wouldn’t either if there was more cake in my life.

***

The Cake That Makes Me Look Like the Goddess of Baking

Another Christmas potluck – possibly the fourth of the season, thus far. While digging through my wardrobe, trying to find the most elastic waist on a pair of pants, a skirt, a dress (anything really, at this point) I thank my lucky stars that finding a recipe to please a crowd is infinitely easier than this. One year, I will find a dress that’s as rich as the ganache on my Extreme Chocolate Cake. One year, I will find a skirt that slips on as easily as this cake slips out of a bundt pan.

IMG_5532

But this year, the ooohs and aaaahs as I enter a party will all be for the gorgeous hunk of chocolate I carry in my hands. And rightly so. I slaved over it for hours and needed to call in a cleaning crew to help with the aftermath…

NOT!

IMG_5547

Here’s my easy-peasy, make-em-think-you’re-a-goddess recipe.

Extreme Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of dark chocolate cake mix (515g) – I usually use Devil’s Food
  • 1 package of instant chocolate pudding (4 serving size)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup cooking oil
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ cup chocolate chips (I don’t usually add these. Seriously, not needed, though you may beg to differ!)

For the ganache (glaze):

  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 4 squares of bittersweet chocolate (1 oz or 28 g each)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan.

Beat together all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a large bowl on low for 2 minutes, scraping down sides twice or three times. Beat on medium for about 2 minutes until smooth.

IMG_5537

Stir in the chocolate chips. Turn into prepared pan. Spread evenly.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (although if you use the chocolate chips, you will end up with chocolate on the toothpick). Let stand in pan on cooling rack for 20 minutes before turning over on to a plate to cool completely.

To make the ganache, heat whipping cream in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate. Stir slowly until the chocolate has melted completely. Let sit – after a few minutes it will be a little thicker, but still pourable.

Slowly pour over the top of the cake, allowing some to run partially down sides. Let set before cutting. Serves 16 very happy people, or 1 lucky husband and 2 ecstatic kids. (Maybe I had a couple slices, too!)

IMG_5548

About the author

Taslim Jaffer

Taslim Jaffer is the voice behind the inspirational blog Let ME Out!! Releasing Your Creative Self and author of the Let ME Out!! workbook series. She also shares her motivational stories in the Heartmind Wisdom Collection anthologies.  Recently, Taslim combined her two loves of art and social change in her new line of inspirational, pay-it-forward type cards called Make-A-Wave cards.  She is happiest at home in her wool socks and sweats with her husband and two beautiful children where she writes and raises funds for the literary arts. You can also find her on stage sharing life-gained wisdom and joy. Connect with Taslim on Facebook and Twitter.

A recipe for apple cake.

My mom sent me home with big bag of apples last Sunday, and though I eat a lot of fruit and put apples in Nick’s lunch bag each morning this week, I still have quite a few left over. I also had the last of a bag of oatmeal in my cupboard, and a few handfuls of pecans left in my freezer. I have currants, and they’re drying out. And Nick’s dad called to ask if he could come see the little pork chop this afternoon, as it’d been awhile and he was headed out of town so it would be a while longer before we’d see Nick’s parents again. Last night some friends came over for fried chicken, and this morning my apartment smelled like fried grease and dirty dishes.

The situation was ripe for cake-baking, and oh, I thought I was clever. I would whip up a quick cake batter, toss in a couple of those apples and nuts and maybe the currants, and maybe throw an oaty, streusely topping on the whole thing so when Nick’s dad arrived at least there would be something to go with a cup of tea, and maybe it would seem like Nick and I have our shit together a little more than we actually do. I shoved most of the dishes into the sink and covered them with soapy water and got to baking.

And then I pulled my well-worn copy of Fannie Farmer off the bookshelf to check one little thing, and the book flipped open to a spot I use quite a bit, to a recipe for an apple cake with raisins and walnuts, one so close to what I was doing that I am certain I didn’t invent it after all. I make the sour cream spice cake on page 344 quite often, and there was the apple cake, just the other side of the page on 343 where it’s been all this time, where I must have seen it a million times but never thought about it.

In high school, Hunter S. Thompson was my favourite writer. I bought every single one of his books, including an exorbitantly priced used copy of Curse of Lono – illustrated by Ralph Steadman, it cost a little more than I made in four weekends working the cash register at Farmer Ken’s. Every night I would fall asleep watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I replaced my VHS copy three times, and the DVD twice. I own a copy of the not-popular Where the Buffalo Roam, and even if it isn’t brilliant, it’s still important to me.

It was reading Hunter S. Thompson that I began to understand how a literary voice could be distinct, and I poured myself so deeply into his writing that when I typed my own words, they were accented with his. Without practice and spending the time to figure out my own voice, I emulated his (poorly). I became editor of my high school paper as part of my journalism class in Grade 12, and though it started as a respectable publication, I was unjustly handed a C+ at mid-term for my efforts by a teacher who graded on personality. I stopped caring about journalistic integrity and by the end it was my own personal tabloid and rant rag, a tribute to my misunderstanding of Gonzo Journalism. The school’s administration refused to approve publication the last issue due to the amount of questionable content, which I thought meant I was totally badass. In hindsight, I was probably just a jackass.

By the time I finished university, I had fallen under the sway of Kerouac and Vonnegut and Whitman and Ginsberg, as one does, and went through phases of trying to be more like each of them, with predictably little success. The hardest thing about learning to write is learning to write simply and honestly, and to learn to distinguish the difference between being influenced and copying outright.

Like a lot of people, until 2008 I was pretty certain the Internet was for nerds (forgetting how big a nerd I have always been). I didn’t know what blogging was, but it sounded lame. And then I discovered The Bloggess, and I related again to a weird person doing awesome things with words, and it was like I was 17 again – “I can do that!” I thought. And so I started this blog, and again couldn’t help but copy another writer’s tone, her syntax, her delicious use of profanity and run-on sentences and sentence fragments. I am a little embarrassed about the whole first year or so of this site, because I was trying so hard to write in a way that I thought sounded good and that I thought people would like.

I feel like I have grown with this little blog, and now the words you read are written the way I would speak them. If in three years this embarrasses me, I’ll let you know.

Learning to cook is a lot like learning to write. You find recipes that suit you and what you have in the fridge, and you practice them, and eventually you think you have what it takes to ditch recipes and go it alone. And maybe you do. But if you are passionate about something you immerse yourself in the culture of the thing and soon you are using what you’ve learned, applying other people’s ideas and techniques and style to your work.

Every day I learn something new about food by eating in restaurants and watching the Food Network and reading food writing in magazines and books and on blogs. I cook almost every day, and I often write about it, but I would be lying if I said that every dish I’ve ever posted here is a complete original. Maybe there was no recipe in front of me, and maybe I wasn’t even thinking of a specific thing I’d seen or read about or tasted, but the influences are there. I’ve used thousands of recipes, and I don’t know the point at which the ones I’ve memorized and remade hundreds of times and tweaked and recreated become mine. Any recipe I’ve written myself has likely been touched by something I experienced somewhere else, or something I saw but thought I could do better.

Maybe you own a recipe the first time you change the recipe. Maybe a recipe is just a list of ingredients, and the ownership comes with the instructions and the presentation and the story you tell alongside the dish. Recipe ownership has been a topic of discussion on Twitter and at Dianne Jacob’s website (here, here, and here) about this, and I don’t know what’s right. There are only so many recipes for any one thing (for example, lemon bars), and chances are that if you search the ingredients for the thing you invented or that you make all the time without a recipe, Google will produce a match. Cooking is derivative. Writing can be too. And if you knowingly reproduce a recipe on your blog, you have a responsibility to give credit and link back to the original (or to where you can buy the book online) the same way that if you use prose that someone else has written, you would place the text in quotation marks and provide a reference.

Every English teacher I ever had claimed that there are only seven plots. In spite of this, people keep telling stories. So maybe there are no original recipes, and maybe every dish is just a creative re-telling. Maybe all cooks and all artists steal and the magic is not in making it look like you have created something when you haven’t, but in showing the way in which you’ve made something old new.

Anyway, here’s a recipe for apple cake. It’s kind of like this other apple cake I know. If you’ve got the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, it’s on page 343.

Apple Cake

Adapted from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book

Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. maple extract (no maple? Vanilla’s fine)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 medium firm-fleshed apples (such as Gala, Granny Smith, or Red Delicious), diced to 1/4″
  • 1 cup whole pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (divided)
  • 1/2 cup dried currants

Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8″x 8″ cake pan.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar, oats, and half of the pecans. Mix with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating continuously until batter is smooth. Add maple extract.

In yet another bowl, add both types of flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk to combine.

Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until just moistened. Fold in apples, remaining pecans, and currants.

Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle oat mixture over top of the batter, and then bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm, with tea or coffee. You can say you invented it, if you like.

Canadian Pudding.

Our 2011 was a busy year, and many of its outcomes were unexpected. Nick was diagnosed with late-onset Type 1 diabetes. I found myself pregnant and then had a baby. We needed a bigger apartment, and a  two-bedroom opened up across the hall. Nick and I agreed on paint colours and the apartment got painted and nobody cried. I didn’t gain weight over Christmas. There were surprises at every turn, and we handled them surprisingly well – I’m impressed with us.

How was your year? I hear grumblings every now and then, and read them in blogs and on Facebook, about how 2011 was a hard year for a lot of people. It was a year of change and no money and tumult and bad weather, and the overwhelming sentiment last night and this morning seemed to be “Good grief, it’s finally over.” (We didn’t all go to Paris. We all deserved to, though.)

Maybe 2012 will be easier. My hope is that it’s a year of creativity and learning to do more with less – I hope this for me, and for all of us, because it doesn’t seem like life is going to get cheaper or easier for anyone anytime soon. I want to write more. I want to spend fewer dollars. I have to do both, but it’s becoming woefully apparent that I am unable to do either without serious focus and discipline. I want to find opportunities to write for money, which would solve both of my problems.

I want to fit into a smaller dress size without eating less cheese. I want to expand my repertoire of home-cured meats. I want the baby’s first word to be guanciale. These are lesser goals, perhaps, but smaller challenges make the bigger ones seem less daunting. Lara at Food. Soil. Thread. has a great take on resolution-making, and is in the process of achieving 101 of her own personal goals – I encourage you to check out what she’s doing and find your own inspiration.

And in the meantime, a goal that’s totally doable: eat more bacon. Let me help you with that.

Canadian Pudding

If this seems weird, I promise you that it is but in the most worthwhile way. It’s sweet and salty and maple and bacon and bourbon all play so nicely together, and when I served it to my friend Tracy she said that the bacon was a pleasant surprise, because she didn’t know what the taste was at first, and she liked it. You can scrap the bacon if your guests aren’t daring, I suppose.

(Serves four to six.)

Cake:

  • 2 strips thick-sliced smoked bacon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 tbsp. bourbon
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup hot water

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a pan over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel, and then chop into bits.

In a 1 1/2 quart casserole or baking dish, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, pecans, bacon bits, and nutmeg. Stir in milk and butter until dry ingredients are just moistened.

In a separate bowl, mix butter, bourbon, maple syrup, and water. Pour over cake mixture. Do not stir.

Bake for one hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.

Happy New Year. I hope 2012 is good to you.

Nectarine kuchen.

This week has been my first week off work, and the days are long. Where last week I spent my days in a panic that I wouldn’t get everything done before this kid arrives, now I am beginning to think he’s never coming. The doctor assures me that “we’re close,” but that all I can do now is wait.

Patience is not my virtue, and “any day now” is not enough information to make plans around.

It’s a weird feeling, this lack of a sense of purpose or structure. In the absence of a real to-do list, I don’t do much of anything. I should probably finish addressing the thank-you cards from my shower. I should put the laundry away and do something about the kitchen floor.

I was proud of myself yesterday because I made dinner, a word that if I were being totally honest would be placed in quotation marks. We eat a lot of take-out. During the day, when the light in this place is most oppressive, I wander up and down Granville Street because I am told that walking will help speed things along. At home the cat no longer feigns interest in our conversation, though we do spend long hours napping.

The evenings are much nicer. The light is softer, and people come over. I feel most like myself in the evenings.

My parents called on Saturday to tell us they were going to come over on Sunday to bring baby things and dinner. There are still local peaches and nectarines at the markets, because the season was late this year, so I grabbed the last few big nectarines in the bin and decided to make dessert, which counts toward my total productivity for the week and also means cake for breakfast until the leftovers run out – double win.

The nice thing about this dessert is that you do it in bursts with long stretches of sitting down in between. You make the batter, and then it rises, and then you put the batter in a pan, and it rises again. You make the topping, and it macerates, and then you bake the thing. Not much standing, at least not for too long.

It’s also fun to say – kuchen, or “kooken,” and oh how I wish I spoke German. And while I wasn’t sure of it as an after-dinner treat, this kuchen would certainly be lovely with tea in the middle of the day if you were going to have company some Sunday afternoon. It’s not too sweet, with a coarse, bread-like crumb and slightly yeasty taste that was nice (but not what I was in the mood for post-pasta). You’ll want to serve it warm, ideally the day it’s made, but it does reheat well.

I’ve made minor adaptations to the Gourmet Today recipe, as I didn’t like the lemon in it and wanted a touch more vanilla. And while the Gourmet recipe calls for those cute little Italian prune plums, I am not ready to bid farewell to sweeter, muskier stone fruit just yet. In winter this would be nice with a whisper of cinnamon and topped with poached pears or thin slices of orange.

Nectarine kuchen

(Based on plum kuchen recipe from Gourmet Today, page 733; serves 8.)

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, warmed to about 110°F
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into tablespoons (room temperature)

Topping:

  • 1 lb. nectarines, pitted and sliced to between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick
  • Half of one vanilla bean, scraped
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar

Butter a 9″x13″ baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine yeast and water and let stand until foamy, about five minutes.

In a large bowl, beat 1 3/4 cups flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and yeast mixture at medium-low until smooth. Add butter, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, sprinkle dough with remaining 1/4 cup of flour, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Leave to rise somewhere warm for 45 to 60 minutes (until doubled in bulk).

Stir batter until flour is thoroughly mixed. Pour batter into prepared pan, cover, and let rise until doubled, another 45 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine nectarine slices with vanilla bean and brown sugar. Toss to coat, and let stand at room temperature, about one hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Drain liquid from nectarines, and arrange nectarine slices over top of dough. They can overlap. Bake until cake is golden and fruit is tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.