I’ve been baking this friendly cake for a few months now in one variation or another. First, I was just fascinated by the ingredients in the original Almond Cake recipe (see photo below), which belongs to Molly Wizenberg and was adapted by Mark Bittman and Sam Sifton…and later by me along with a few thousand others. It starts with boiling an orange and a lemon together for a half hour, removing the seeds, and puréeing the now softened peels. Nothing I’d ever done in my not-so-extensive cake baking career; still, I was sold. There’s no butter but there’s plenty of olive oil, making it taste and feel seriously Mediterranean or just Spanish… and keeping it moist for a few days right on the old proverbial counter. That’s even in Colorado at altitude where bread becomes crouton material in 15 minutes flat. The original “Tarta de Santiago” or St. James Cake (very similar to the almond cake I kept making) is a middle ages and Camino de Santiago specialty still baked each July 25, for the feast of St. James. One couldn’t have asked for a better plain cake or maybe even one with more spiritual flavor. Think gently citrusy and uber nutty pound cake only lighter. My dad, who abhorred all things frosting, would have inhaled it. Only thing my cake needed was a little barely sweetened whipped cream or a few berries, as you see in my photo. Or just a cup of coffee (black) if you were my dad. Maybe a small Armagnac if you were me.Continue reading
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I’m not a big cake baker and certainly not much of a cake eater, but lately I find myself working on cakes. There are probably a few reasons but one is the number of impressive cakes posted on Dorie Greenspan’s engaging and active facebook group, BAKE AND TELL. Some of these folks bake their kids’ favorite chocolate birthday cake (more my speed) and others create pastry visions (think marzipan) unseen at many professional bakeries. Yikes. But it’s all fun and there’s lots of learning and togetherness– the internet at its best. Another thing going through my mind has been finding a cake my good friend Tony can eat and still stay on his healthy regime, which means no white flour, no dairy, and not much sugar. (I’m nearly there on that one; a pan of cake with his name on it is in the freezer for the next time we play Pinochle. We’ll see what he thinks.) This last Sunday, I woke early to drink coffee and exercise (I know–me?!) and saw a few cartons of sorta sad-lookin’ berries (Poor babies.) in the fridge when I got the milk. There was also a container of ricotta — couldn’t even remember what I’d needed that for, but it passed the sniff test. What could I make with berries and ricotta? Well, folks, that’s what Google’s for, isn’t it? Up came Ina Garten’s “Blueberry Ricotta Breakfast Cake.” Luckily I have the book it’s in (Go-To Dinners) and read it through twice thinking about how Alyce would make and bake this cake. And here’s what happened; I changed it as I went along…Continue reading
Looking for Thanksgiving? Try my THANKSGIVING, AN INTIMATE VIEW (Redux) or click “Thanksgiving” in the subject cloud for more info than you really wanted.
There really is a song, “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake,” and somewhere in my stacks, I even have the music for it. This chocolate cheesecake, which can be made gluten-free (Double Chocolate with a nut crust) or not (Triple Chocolate with a chocolate wafer cookie crust), is without a doubt the cake you’d bake were someone ultra-special about to knock on your door. The wonderful original recipe by well-known baker and writer Abigail Johnson Dodge (author of the fun new book SHEET CAKE) is one I found in FINE COOKING magazine — or on its website–a number of years ago. (The famous site is no longer available, more’s the pity, though another site does have the recipe. See TIPS below.) I’d make it for one person’s birthday and someone else would say, “Can I have that cake for my birthday?!” Or I’d carry it to a dinner party only for the host to pull me to the side and whisper in my ear, “I’d really love that recipe!” It’s just that kind of cake. Everyone craves it, especially chocolate lovers. Even fine fruit folk (my apple and cherry pie people) have been known to ask for an extra slice to take home.Continue reading
There’s no doubt it’s a blog record to post three cranberry recipes in a row and I promise you it not only wasn’t planned, I had little idea it had happened until this morning. Perhaps cranberries were on the brain, on sale, or in my heart, but I don’t think so though I adore them unabashedly. Just an oh-so-odd coincidence. Right then.Continue reading
If you asked me what my favorite dessert was, those who know me are sure I would not say, “apple pie.” When a friend bakes one, naturally I’ll have a small piece. Without regret. But it’s pretty darned weird there are two apple pies on the blog within a month. I’m not a betting woman, but if I were, I sure as heck would have betted against that happening.Continue reading
When fall finally arrives (not sure it’s here yet), it’s time to bake again — and by November, it’s time to think of baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I am anything in life, I am a pie baker. I’m not a county fair blue ribbon winner, but I’m something better — I’m the person folks like to see walking into their house or the church potluck with a pie basket on her arm. It wasn’t always that way, but pie baking is a progressive art or one that is a lifelong undertaking. I began with pies that didn’t taste badly, but were pale and puny at best and were luckily called out by older, experienced pie bakers in the mid-70’s. (“You could have left that in the oven a while longer.”) Even now, hundreds and hundreds of pies later, there’s the occasional crust that won’t hold together, for example, and gets ceremoniously dumped straight into the garbage can. It doesn’t faze me anymore, but pies continue to be educational as long as you’re willing to bake them. If you don’t bake one for a while and then assume you’ll be fine, that pie may or may not bake into something worth eating with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.Continue reading
In September as the peaches wane and the apples are just ripening, here in Colorado we have trees and trees full of plums. These aren’t the big old black, handful plums we see a bit later on, but rather are the small dark purple, firm-when-ripe Italian prune plums. While excellent for snacking, perhaps they’re even better for baking since they tend to hold their shape and aren’t overly sweet. You might think of plums as the fall bag-lunch fruit —and I do, too— but for the past few years I find I adore a beautiful plum tart or, in this case, crostata.Continue reading
I know this story is starting to sound familiar to my faithful readers but the other day my friend Christa came to the front door with a bag of apples from her tree. She and her husband Jim had already given quite a few away, but the little green apples just kept coming. Could I use some? (Could I?!)Continue reading
It came without warning. All of a sudden it was the end of June. It was nearly the 4th of July. Dave and I were both off by about a week and had no idea why. This man’s birthday is July 3 and yesterday he said to me, when I asked about a birthday dinner reservation, “What? Is my birthday this weekend??” Why, yes it is!
In the meantime, I’d been working on a risotto post for the blog. Having a fun old time making the risotto, finding the dishes, taking the photos, writing the text and recipe and so on. Except I had nothing for the immediate holiday. Necessity is the mother of disaster sometimes, but hopefully not here. (Watch this space for the risotto love coming up next week or maybe even the week after.)Continue reading
SUMMER WEEKNIGHT MEAL PLANNING IS DONE. MAKE THESE 20 FUN RECIPES 3X EACH. Print them, along with a shopping list, place in a 3-ring binder or save them to a word file so you know just where they are for the next couple of months. Then make them again…and again!
Tired of trying to figure out what’s for dinner on any given night in June, July, or August? The summer struggle is real even if you sometimes take the time to write down the week’s menu and make a grocery list. Cooking at home for yourself, friends, or a family is a big commitment, but it’s also a wonderful thing to do to focus on health and togetherness; improve the use of your time; and rein in that food budget. Here’s a post highlighting 20 fun, MORE TIME AT THE TABLE lighter/easier recipes you can make over and over again — or with variations. I had an awful time choosing between so many yummy dinners and had to leave out things like Shrimp Ratatouille and BBQ Chicken Grilled Veggie Stack — next time, right? You can be sure your planning, shopping, prep, and cooking will become simpler/faster as you become better acquainted with each meal. Just click on RECIPE HERE to take you to the post, then scroll down to the recipe (there is sometimes a “jump to recipe” button) and print. Do throw in a COOK’S OFF! night every now and then so you can order pizza, go out, or let someone else make eggs and toast when you’re tired. If you like, make a big batch soup or extra chicken breasts once a week you can then also use for lunch. After the recipes, I’ve included some seasonal desserts, meal-planning basic information, cooking with kids ideas, and a few great links to get you going. So choose your favorites, make that grocery list (keep it on your phone from month to month?), and then it’s time to get busy with happy summer cooking!Continue reading