Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For you, I'll bake two.

I know I get excited about produce, but I never realized how apparent it's become until the other day, over lunch, plum cake, and rosé, with a good friend of mine, who mentioned that since me at my most excitable usually has something to do with produce, I should probably just realize that I love this city. We were discussing Seattle and all its merits, discussing thoughts of new cities, and nostalgic thoughts of home.  I have a romantic love of New York, and truthfully I'll probably end up there someday- at least for a little bit- but when it comes right  down to it, I just don't think I'll ever be able to get over having a plum tree in my backyard. Ever. 

It's plum season.  You know what that means...

Plum cakes for days. So many plums, cakes, and everything in between, that I just couldn't decide. 

So I made two. I've been trying to formulate thoughts on which cake is better, forcing tastes on my friends and coworkers, and  concocting all sorts of taste tests, but I just can't. I love them both. Therefore, you get two. 

The first- a (semi) traditional Italian Plum Cake is light, fluffy, nutty, and just altogether beautiful.  Plus, I just finished Blood Bones and Butter, which I loved, and which stirred up so many desires for travel, Italy, plums, and apricot juice I could hardly stand it.  I say semi traditional because I used buttermilk instead of milk in the above recipe, for no real reason other than that's all I had. I like the softness and tang it gives the cake, so for now I'm sticking with it. 

The second cake is a bit more rustic and a bit more my style, and if I was forced to choose (absolutely forced), it's maybe just a tad bit better. Plum Corn Meal Cake. Light, fluffy, gritty in the best kind of way, and insanely moist. 

I substituted blue cornmeal for the yellow cornmeal in the above recipe because, one, it's delicious and two, it's just better. 

Trust me. 

But when it comes to the plum cakes it's still a toss up. I like them both. I really do. You can decide. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Now's not really the time.

I have a lot of fruit in my fridge. I've had a lot of fruit for weeks. I can't eat enough of it and while I've been baking with it, really these things are mostly delicious enough on their own.

So I've been baking a lot of cookies.  I know now isn't really the time for cookies, but I've been doing it anyways. There is something almost meditative about baking cookies in the morning. The day is young, not too warm yet, and you feel like, covered in flour, you just may be the only person awake. It's a feeling that from time to time can give you goose bumps. Clearly, I haven't done much in the way of real meditation, but this is what I've got and I'm pretty sure it has the same effect. Plus, by the end, you get to eat cookie dough.

I've always been a fan of no nonsense baking. Not cutting corners per say, but baking with a bit of wiggle room, or panache, if you will.  I think that's why I am so obsessed with Christina Tosi of Momofuku's Milk Bar. She really doesn't mess around. Also, she doesn't bring her eggs to room temp before adding them to the mix. I've been a fan of doing that for years and have felt guilty about it for just as long. I'm glad someone finally told me it was ok. It's a huge weight off my shoulders. Really, it is. 

So with the authority of whatever higher baking Gods that be, here are my new favorite cookies.  I've also been thinking they would be really great with some maple soft serve and maybe some bourbon....

Either way they're pretty delicious. 

Corn Cookies. 
Adapted from the Milk Bar CookBook

Basically the only thing I changed was swapping corn flour (I didn't have any on hand) with stone ground corn meal, the blue kind in particular. I think the corn meal adds a nice grittiness to the cookie and combined with the corn powder gives great texture, crunch, and chewiness all at the same time. Basically, it makes for the perfect cookie trifecta. 

And don't worry, I'm determined to get some soft serve soon, but for now you'll have to settle for a cold glass of milk. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

the in-between days.

I love summer. I love sun and ice cream, summer dresses and midnight swims. I love it all. I also love the fall. Thoughts of new boots, the first needed sweater nights, pumpkin this and that, and scarves. Lots and lots of scarves.

But the time of year I love the most is the in-between days. Here in Seattle we are almost full swing in the middle of this in-between season. The days still mostly summery, the nights and early mornings cool, and the air thick with the first sents of fall.  It's a time of utter limbo. Pumpkin beers begin popping up on shelves, I start to crave pumpkin pie, but at the very same time we still have late summer strawberries and field grown tomatoes. Basically, it's the time when a lot of good things- the best things in fact- all collide.

It's the perfect time of year.

It's also the time of year my thoughts begin to be mostly and mainly focused on huckleberries.  For me, this season holds a lot of promise. It will be my second huckleberry feast and my second time experiencing the in-between Seattle days. I couldn't be more thrilled.  Huckleberries, besides being the perfect fruit for baking- tart, sweet, and small are still new to me, so every time I see them, eat them, or even really think of them I feel like a kid on christmas morning. Each one a tiny present with endless uses and applications.

Mostly I like them in pies. Or in cobblers, or in crumble bars, or in coffee cake, or in spice cake, or, or, or. Ok, so I like them in a lot of things, but in keeping with the tradition of today's post, I have a truly in-between days recipe for you.

Chocolate Pudding Brownies with Huckleberry Jam. 

Yep. For real. It's the Jam (literally).

To make the Jam: 
I totally made this up so feel free to experiment. My version is how I like most things- on the tart er side of sweet.

2 cups huckleberries
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
pinch salt
zest and juice from one lemon

Cook all ingredients over medium to medium low heat. Watch it bubble, thicken, and reduce. Pull off heat and let cool. This jam is also good with yogurt, toast, or you know vanilla ice cream. 

For the Brownies: 

I've made these bad boys before. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen here a few months ago, I called them Cupboard Brownies.  I still feel they are the most perfect I need chocolate and I have everything I need brownie, but while licking the batter spoon (I still do that- in fact- sometimes that's the only way I eat desserts) this time around, I was struck by how much the batter looked and tasted like chocolate pudding. You know the kind.  Instant, ready in minutes, and in my house growing up a rare treat. I was never one for Jello, but I've gone through some serious instant pudding phases in my life. First when I was eight and loved nothing more than eating the vanilla flavor straight out of the fridge (door ajar) with a spoon almost to large to fit in my mouth. Then again when I was in college and it was about the only thing I "baked." Needless to stay, chocolate pudding helps you write papers, it really does.  And after thinking about instant pudding for the past twenty minutes or so, I may just be entering a third pudding stage, but we'll see.

But, back to these brownies. They look like pudding, taste like pudding, and while they are quick and not at all fussey to make, they are far from being instant. Truthfully, that's probably a good thing.  I followed the exact same recipe this time as above, except I added another extra pinch of salt to the mixed batter.  I think they're perfect now.

So after following these steps, right up to pouring the batter into the greased 8 by 8 pan, spoon your huckleberry jam on top of the chocolate batter and use your spoon or rubber spatula to twirl and mix the jam into the top layer of the brownie.  You could mix the chocolate with the jam first before pouring into the pan, but I prefer the swirl method because, once baked, you are left with dense ganache like chocolate brownie on bottom, topped with a layer of juicy jamey chocolate goo.  And I do mean goo in the best, most pudding like, rich kind of way. As much as I love instant pudding, I feel very confident in saying that these brownies will best even the best box of jello brand. Very confident.

Also, just as instant pudding is best cold out of the fridge, I find these brownies to be best when cold. I stuck mine in the freezer to speed up the process for 30 minutes and then shifted them to the fridge.  Also, they are very rich and and a little sticky because of the jam so I would recommend slicing them like cake and serving with a spoon, or cutting into bite sized pieces, like above. 

But whatever you do, instant pudding or not, I think they're pretty good. And given they right mood, they may in fact be perfect.