Category Archives: desserts

Upside-Down Fig Rosemary Cornmeal Cake

I wish there was still some of this cake in the kitchen. Sadly, it’s long gone. Lee and his sister polished it off with ice cream on Monday night. Oh I got my share. I tasted the sticky corners of the pan after I first inverted the cake onto a plate. I had a nice, big slice the night after our second triathlon. It was exactly what I needed and I was so glad I’d baked the day before. This is the best thing I’ve baked for a long time: it’s fruity, herby, sweet and nutty without being overpowering. It’s dense but still dessert.

I made this for the figs. They practically begged me to do it. I have this problem with figs, you see. When the short-but-sweet fig season finally gets going I have to buy them. I buy them en masse and then remember that I’m the only one in this household that actually likes figs. I vaguely remember giving Lee one once, long ago, and having him say “Is this supposed to taste good?” Ha!

So, we have figs. Then there’s the rosemary and cornmeal, and not just any cornmeal but purple cornmeal. I came across this recipe (the second one) while searching for an upside-down fig cake and the thought of rosemary and walnuts with my gooey fruit was captivating. I also happen to have fresh rosemary from the CSA box in my fridge and walnuts in my pantry. This kind of ingredient alignment almost never happens to me!

I used rosemary and walnuts from the above recipe but found my cornmeal inspiration from Cake Duchess and her Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake. I almost recruited the peaches from my fruit drawer at the sight of this beauty and went right for the purple cornmeal I’d bought for some other grand plan a while back.

I should have taken a picture while I was mixing the batter. The purple color was incredibly intense. It darkened as the cake baked but I still like the dark purple notes in the finished product. Wouldn’t a yellow and purple swirl be fun?

I promise this is the last thing. There’s two things I learned when baking this cake:

  1. Even though it may seem like the butter-sugar concoction you’re coating your pan with is going to cook itself into a stuck-on mess it really isn’t. Everything is going to be fine. Butter is magical, even in reasonable quantities.
  2. Don’t invert your upside down cake out of the pan until you’re ready to serve it. I couldn’t wait to see mine to I flipped it as soon as it had cooled and I think the glossy topping soaked into the cake by the time I sliced it the next day. It might have soaked in even if I’d left the cake upside down but I’m guessing it would hold up better.
  3. I lied! I learned 3 things! Make a cake with cornmeal and fruit and you can eat it for breakfast without feeling like you’re eating cake for breakfast!

 

Upside-Down Fig Rosemary Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients

  • 8-10 ripe figs, halved and stems removed
  • 1 cup cornmeal, preferably stone ground but only purple if you feel like it. Yellow would be lovely too.
  • 3/4 cup flour of choice. I used barley flour.
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (or another egg)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place butter in a square or circular cake pan or a 10 inch cast-iron skillet and place this in the oven for a few minutes till the butter has melted.
  3. When the butter is melted, add 1/4 cup brown sugar and stir to combine and evenly distribute the mixture.
  4. Place halved figs on top of the sugar/butter layer cut side down so that they cover at least most of the bottom of the pan. Sprinkled rosemary and walnuts over between figs. Set the pan aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift/whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer or by hand, beat coconut oil and remaining brown sugar until well blended.
  7. Add eggs to the oil+sugar. Reduce mixer speed to medium, if using, and beat well.
  8. Mix in milk, applesauce, and vanilla.
  9. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, mixing on low until just combined.
  10. Pour batter into pan/skillet, distributing it evenly over the figs.
  11. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  12. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. To remove it from the pan, run a plastic knife or spatula around the edges of the cake. Place a tray, plate, or cutting board on top of the cake pan. Holding the edges, quickly flip the pan and the tray so that the tray is not on the bottom. You might need to shake the pan a little to get the cake to fall out but it should come out smoothly. You might want to wait till shortly before serving it to invert the cake so it keeps that fresh, glossy look.

Notes

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Apricot-Plum Cobbler

Fruit finds it way into my house in waves. Some days there is seemingly too much for a family of two, even two enthusiastic fruit-eaters, to consume. Lee and I always manage to polish it all off somehow.

Bananas are easy. One goes in my breakfast every morning. Two or three of whatever else is around go towards my lunch and snacks. Lee gets his two to 3 fruit a day whether he likes it or not, assuming he eats the lunch I pack him.

Lately, stone fruit rules my countertop, fruit basket, and fridge. I feel like I have cherry pits coming out my ears and had to take a break from apricots after a total apricot overload last week. My one complaint about summer fruit is this: Why is it all so soft and delicate that transporting ripe fruit in a lunch box leads to a squished mess? You can’t just throw a plum or a fig or a handful of blackberries in a bag and go. These things require armored protection. My lunches away from home are bulky and heavy thanks to all the necessary fruit containers.

Enough ranting about summer fruit’s annoyances. Lets talk about damage control, and by that, I mean dessert. Last week I found myself with a bag of plums from a generous co-worker’s tree and a fridge full of half-smashed hand-me-down apricots (they came to my aunt’s house via a friend who brought them for a jam-making session and then to me when the jam making was over and there were STILL apricots rolling around).

These were good apricots and exceptionally delicious plums – juicy with barely sour skin and bright pink insides. I probably would have eaten all of them as-is if Lee and I hadn’t gone out-of-town last weekend. I wanted to use up some food before we left. July 4th came along and I thought there might be people around to help us eat a giant dessert.

I threw this cobbler together without a recipe, which meant I got to leave the sugar out of the filling and forego making the topping from scratch. Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking Mix served nicely and I swear we didn’t miss the extra sweetness in our fruit. As one test subject observed, vanilla ice cream balanced out the slightly sour plum skins in the filling (For some reason, those skins actually increased in sourness when cooked!).

 

How about a crude formula rather than a recipe?

roughly 6 cups plums and apricots, pitted and cut into quarters + 1 teaspoon tapioca starch (or equivalent corn starch) + maybe 2 tablespoons honey

+ your favorite biscuit mix or recipe for the crust

preheat to 350, mix fruit etc. in one bowl, crust in another bowl, pour fruit into prepped baking dish, spread crust on top, BAKE

mine took about 25 minutes

serve with ice cream. yum

 

I got to test out my giant Le Creuset pie dish for the first time. This beautiful, red dish needs to come out of the cupboard more often!

Now, why did I just buy tons of figs, peaches, cherries, and a honeydew melon? I’ve already baked something with the cherries, coming here soon.

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My Ideal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think I’m suffering from a blog identity crisis. Scratch that, it’s more like a general life identity crisis coupled with the feeling that I want to do more but I’m already doing too much. Is that even possible?

I want to cook and bake every day, to swim, run, practice yoga, and lift weights. I want to take the dog for a long walk every day. I want to bring mountaineering back into my life but I love sailing multiple days a week. My job is awesome but I wish I could work more and do different things around the museum.

Lee and I should really take that honeymoon we never had (one that does not involve the boat).  We’re also excitedly planning our next trip to Pirat and where we might sail next. Until then, we really want to get somewhere on all our house projects! At some point, we want to have a family.

I want to grow by blogs and share all my recipes, thoughts, and experiences with more people. I don’t really know how to accomplish this, though, and I don’t think I can do everything on my list.

In an ideal world, I’d strategize and plan. Everything would fall into place. In an ideal world, I would bake these chocolate chip cookies every week until Lee and I were sick of them.

This recipe came on a card in my Foodzie box from months ago. A small bag of Red Winter Wheat flour from Community Grains accompanied the recipe. I knew as soon as I looked through the box that I would be making these cookies. Somehow, though, the flour sat in my cupboard for months while I made other recipes. The time just wasn’t right for this one.

Finally, last week, it was time for cookies. I needed that therapeutic routine of softening butter on the counter, getting out ingredients, measuring them into my grandmother’s mixer, and scooping dough into little balls. Watching that dough transform into perfect cookies in the oven was really just a bonus. I had already eaten enough of it off the mixer paddle to be satisfied.

The dough was grainy – in a good way. The cookies are just the right kind of chewy – not that kind that feels like a bite of mostly sugar and butter but the kind where you know you’re really sinking your teeth into something good. It’s almost like each little grain of winter wheat is in there crying out to be savored as a whole food and not just some vehicle for sweet-tooth satisfaction.

I only make a couple of minute modifications to the original Community Grains recipe. I cut down the sugar a little bit and refrigerated the dough for a while before baking. I’ve read that this is a good thing to do (BraveTart know’s all about making a good chocolate chip cookie). I love having perfectly round, thick cookies and chilling the dough makes a big difference!

Make these. They will not disappoint. If you live in California and need some local winter wheat flour, I encourage you to check out Community Grains (or maybe you’re not local but you still want to try some of this fabulous flour).

 

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: About 2 dozen

Adapted from Community Grains

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups red winter wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz soft unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 oz chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In an electric mixer, mix butter, sugars, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until completely blended.
  2. Switch speed to low, add eggs, and mix until smooth
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the mixer and mix until just incorporated.
  5. Add chocolate chunks, and, if using, toasted chopped walnuts. You can stir these in with a spatula or using the mixer on slow.
  6. If you have time, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least half an hour (but the longer the better).
  7. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Line a cookie sheet or two with parchment or a Silpat.
  9. Spoon walnut-sized portions of dough onto the cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden.
  11. Remove cookies from the oven and let them cool for a minute on the pan before transferring them to a wire rack.
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Two Left

My kitchen was full of food when I left town last week. I had spent Friday grocery shopping, baking bread, and making cookies. I wanted to make sure Lee would have enough to eat while I was gone without subsisting on chips+salsa.

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Look at those crunchy, buttery edges and chewy, oaty mountains of cookie!

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He ate pretty well on his own. Most of the sourdough loaf I’d baked was gone when I got home last night and Lee had left me a few cookies (four to be exact). Given the deliciousness of the cookies, I’m surprised he was able to restrain himself. These particular cookies came from the Foodzie Cookies & Confections Cooking Box that my mom sent me a few weeks ago. We ordered boxes for each other when they went on sale post-Christmas. I’ve had my eye on Foodzie’s extravagant Tasting and Cooking Boxes for a while but couldn’t justify buying one for myself. Isn’t that what moms are for? It was a perfect gift exchange.

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I photographed the goods as soon as they arrived.

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Only the recipe and one of the ingredients were really in the box. The rest came from my pantry.

After Lee and I each ate one for dessert last night, only two cookies remained. I have a feeling they’ll be gone by tomorrow!

I can’t decide which I love more: the cute recipe cards with cookies recipes from fantastic bloggers or the mouth-watering selection of special ingredients for those cookies. The edibles are ample supply for cookie baking and then some. The cards will add some heft to the cookie section of my recipe box and will probably be butter-stained in no time.

The recipe for Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pistachios from The Vintage Mixer caught my eye first. I’m just an oatmeal cookie kind of girl. Every chewy, sweet bite of oats brings me complete dessert happiness and satisfaction, no milk dunking necessary. Rather than a vehicle for chocolate, sugar, or frosting, an oatmeal cookie is a real food all by itself. It’s what’s inside that counts. In this case, the Benjamin Twiggs Michigan Dried Red Cherries went a long way towards making an excellent cookie.

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I must confess, I used the walnuts and pecans that were already in my pantry rather than buying pistachios for this recipe. It’s hard to find shelled pistachios that aren’t already roasted and coated in salt! The nuts I used were great but I’m determined to have green hunks of goodness in my next batch of Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pistachios.

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