Tag Archives: cooking


Ready to Proof

Each year, as I write down my list of resolutions for the upcoming months, I section off a portion of the items to tackle in a “Food” category. They typically range from specific projects, to broad scope themes such a portion control, to monthly challenges and a general overall reminder to not be afraid to try new things. As days pass, I return to this list and make notes of tasks I’ve accomplished, or at least those I’ve worked on – the later is something I highly recommend. It can be a bit dispiriting to look back at the list at the end of the year and see nothing completed, but if there’s a note that says “hey, I tried” it’s not nearly as depressing. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I see the “let’s get in shape this year” bullet point.

One of the food challenges that has been on my New Year’s Food Resolutions list for longer than I care to admit (okay, fine, since you asked, I think we’re on the third year) has been a baked good with its own recognizable shape – Croissants.

After watching the much beloved Julia Child work her magic on The French Chef via Twitch with her croissant recipe, I realized the process may not be as challenging as I had built it up in my mind to be. With an arsenal of cookbooks in my kitchen, I decided upon using Sarabeth Levine’s recipe as my guide. Croissants are a bit time consuming, but what I found the most challenging during the entire process was making sure I had my timing down in terms of what day I would make the dough for what day I wanted to bake the goodies off. Ultimately, timing was on my side, and these were the perfect Easter morning delicacy! Given that this was my first time trying my hand at croissants, I may adjust my baking time on my next go-round — the finished product was a bit too browned for my liking, although that might also be due to their rather diminutive size. Still, another checked item off the ol’ resolutions list and another success from Levine!

Baked Croissant

Adapted from Sarabeth Levine’s Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Croissant Dough
Makes 2 batches of croissants

2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 ¾ cups bread flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons bread flour

*Make the dough at least two days before using

  1. To make the détrempe, sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm milk (105° to 115°F) in a small bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to bloom, about five minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, then add the sugar. Add the remaining 1 cup cold milk.
  2. Mix the bread and pastry flours together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture and the salt to the bowl of the stand mixer with the yeast and milk mixture. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, adding enough of the remaining flour mixture to make a soft, sticky dough. Do not overmix. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, knead a few times to smooth the surface, and shape into a ball.
  3. Dust a half-sheet pan with flour. Place the dough on the pan and cut an X about 1-inch deep in the top of the ball to mark it into quadrants. Sprinkle with flour on top and refrigerate.
  4. Immediately make the Beurrage. In a clean mixer bowl with clean paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium speed until the butter is almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue beating until the mixture is smooth, cool, and malleable, about 30 seconds more. Transfer the butter to a lightly floured surface and press any remaining lumps out with the heel of your hand, and shape the butter into a 4-inch square. Place the beurrage on the half-sheet pan next to the détrempe and refrigerate all together for about 15 minutes.
  5. Flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the end of the X at approximately 2, 4, 7, and 10 o’clock positions. [For a visual on the dough making process, I highly recommend looking into Sarabeth’s cookbook, as she has fantastic step-by-step photos and I neglected to take any.] You will notice four quadrants of dough between the crosses of the X at the north, south, east, and west positions. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten and stretch each quadrant out about 2 ½ inches to make a cloverleaf shape with an area in the center that is thicker than the “leaves”. Use a tapered rolling pin to roll each “cloverleaf” into a flap about 6-inches long and 5-inches wide, leaving a raised square in the center. Using the side of the rolling pin, press the sides of the raised area to demark the square.
  6. Place the butter in the center, on top of the dough square. Gently stretch and pull the north-facing flap of dough down to cover the top and sides of the butter square, brushing away excess flour. Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap of dough up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the dough so that the open ends now face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the now north- and south-facing flaps of dough to completely cover the butter, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6-inches square.
  7. Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough so the four folded over flaps face down, with the open seam facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top of the dough to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside the dough. Roll the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like you would fold a letter, brushing away excess flour. This is called a single turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  8. Lightly flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam of dough facing you. Dust the dough with flour. Roll the dough out into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the right side of the dough 2 inches to the left. Fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side. Fold the dough in half vertically from left to right. This is a double turn, also known as a book turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  9. Repeat rolling and folding the dough into a final single turn (see step 7 for a reminder). With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece of dough tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
  10. The night before using the dough, transfer the frozen dough to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight, about 8 hours. Once defrosted it will begin to rise, so make sure to roll it out immediately.

Egg Wash

Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling the dough
½ recipe Croissant Dough, thawed overnight or for 8 hours in the refrigerator
1 large egg, well beaten
You will also need: two large kitchen bags, two tall glasses, and very hot water

  1. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Dust the work surface well with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the open seam of the dough facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heaving rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Don’t press the dough too hard; let the weight of the rolling pin do much of the work. If you change the position of the dough while rolling, it is important to keep track of which side contains the seam.
  2. Turn the dough with the seam facing you. (If you’ve lost track, look carefully as the sides of the dough – you should be able to discern it, even though it is faint.) Using a pizza wheel and a yardstick, neatly trim the rough edges. Cut the dough in half lengthwise to make two 16-by-6-inch rectangles. Fold each rectangle into thirds, place on a half-sheet pan, and refrigerate uncovered for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator. On the lightly floured work surface, unfold the dough strip and gently roll, allowing the weight of the rolling pin to smooth the creases created by folding the dough. Using a pizza wheel, starting at the top left corner of the strip, cut down to make a half-triangle with a 2-inch base; set aside. Measure 3 ½-inches from the top left corner of the strip and make a notch with the wheel at this point. Cut down diagonally from the notch to meet the bottom left edge of the dough strip to make another triangle with a 3 ½-inch base. Continue cutting, alternating diagonal cuts, to cut out 6 triangles. The last cut will also yield a half-triangle with a 2-inch wide base.
  4. Place a triangle with a 3 ½-inch base on the work surface with the base of the triangle facing you. Stretch the bottom slightly so it is about 5-inches wide. Pick up the triangle. With one hand, hold the dough triangle at the bottom and stretch it with your other hand until it is about 7-inches long. Return the triangle to the work surface. Starting at the bottom, roll up the triangle, and finish with the tip underneath the croissant. Place on one of the prepared half-sheet pans. Curve the croissant by bringing the two ends closer to each other, crossing the two ends over each other and pressing together if needed. Repeat rolling the remaining dough triangles, placing them on the half-sheet pan with decent space between them. Overlap the two 2-inch base half-triangles at their long sides and press the seam together. Roll up as described for the large triangle and add to the half-sheet pan. Alternatively , gently stretch the 2-inch base half-triangles into modified triangles, with a large base and small tip, and roll as described for smaller, slightly odd croissants.
  5. Repeat cutting and rolling croissants with the second half of the dough. Once all croissants have been cut, shaped, and set on the two half-sheet pans, choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip each pan into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag. Place a tall glass of very hot water near the center of each pan. Wave the opening of each bag to trap air and inflate it like a balloon to create “head room,” being sure that the plastic does not touch the delicate dough. Twist each bag closed. Let stand until the croissants look puffy but not doubled, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Remove the glasses from the bags, then the pans. Lightly brush the croissants with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until the croissants are crisp and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes longer, rotating the pans halfway through. Serve warm or cool to room temperature, if you’re able to resist the flaky goodness.

Flaky Goodness.jpg


Beans in a Cheesy-Lemon Broth – aka A Big Bowl of Comfort

Beans Edited.jpg

I’ve been noticing lots of posts and photos circulating of beans – dried, soaked, and set to simmer on the stove top until perfect. With a bag of precious Rancho Gordo Mayocoba beans stashed in the pantry, I thought it was about time I give this old comforting classic a shot.

The last time I recall having dried beans, now so many years ago I was barely able to see over the stove, they had been on the shelves so long that, even after a good soak and a slow simmer, they were still crunchy. Not in a good way, either. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant to try my hand at beans, but after reading up on the subject and seeing the precious heirloom legumes at a local natural and gourmet food store, I was excited to see what would come from the little bag of jewels.

All I can say is – I have been placed under the dried beans magical spell. I’m already excitedly planning to scour the dried beans aisle to see what I can find for my next batch, and plotting other things to do with these delectable little pods of wonder. Mixed with some fresh herbs, a bit of Parmesan rind, a squeeze of lemon, and bacon, the beans transformed into tender, nourishing bits of comfort wrapped around intense flavor. Do yourself a favor and grab a bag next time you’re at the store and prepare yourself for a truly transforming experience.

*Please forgive the photos – I grabbed my camera in excitement at what my dutch oven held and realized that my battery had become exhausted over the holidays, leaving me stuck with nothing but my iPhone to rely on.


Beans in Cheesy-Lemon Broth

6 slices of bacon
1 1lb bag of Rancho Gordo Mayocoba beans (or similar), soaked in water overnight
4-6 cups chicken stock
2-4 cups water
1 3-inch piece of Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf, torn in half
2 sprigs fresh rosemary – 1 whole, 1 finely chopped
1 sprig fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated Parmesan and your favorite olive oil for topping

  1. Cut slices of bacon into ½ inch wide piece and render in a 4-qt dutch oven or other sturdy pot on medium heat, cooking bacon in batches if necessary. Cook bacon to your crisp-ness preference, but be sure the fat renders and is left in the bottom of the pot. Remove cooked bacon and set on a paper towel to absorb excess fat, set aside for later.
  2. Add beans to pot, stir to coat with the bacon fat, and add 4 cups of liquid (I used a half chicken stock/half water mixture). Bring beans to a full boil and let cook for five minutes, skimming foam off the top as needed.
  3. Lower heat to a simmer and add Parmesan rind, bay leaf, the whole sprig of rosemary, and kosher salt. Set beans to simmer, covered, for at least two hours. Check on bean tenderness and, if necessary, add more liquid and allow to simmer longer as needed.
  4. When beans are nice and tender, remove the Parmesan rind, what is left of the rosemary sprig, and the bay leaf pieces. Add the finely chopped rosemary and oregano and lemon juice. At this point, taste the broth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  5. Just before serving, add cooked bacon pieces to beans and stir. Serve warm with plenty of both beans and broth in each portion. Top with grated Parmesan and a hearty drizzle of olive oil.

Beans Cooking Edited.jpg

Rosemary Focaccia

I have recently begun experimenting more with bread making. While back at school it was difficult for me to really do anything big in the kitchen, and making bread never seemed like an option. So, while I visited home during summer and winter holidays I looked up some simple, rustic bread recipes.

One of the first recipes I decided to try was, oddly enough, for Rosemary Focaccia. I had gotten the cookbook Sarabeth’s Bakery as a Christmas present and decided I wanted to try her recipe. I am so glad it was the first bread I ever truly tried. It is AMAZING.

The process may seem a little weird to anyone who has never made this type of bread before, the first time I made it the whole thing baffled me, but it really creates an incredible crusty, fluffy, flavorful bread. Plus it’s soaked in olive oil, which gives the loaf (if that’s what you can call it) a nice fruity and fresh feeling. It will also make the whole kitchen smell of freshly baking bread and rosemary, which are two of my favorite smells!

Rosemary Focaccia

1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups cold water
3 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
1 3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
4 Tbsp. high-quality, fruity extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for the bowl
You will also need:
a spray bottle filled with water
two tall glasses
very hot water (enough to fill the two tall glasses)
a “kitchen-sized” plastic bag

Place the 1 3/4 cups cold water and rosemary into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, let stand until frothy (about 5 minutes), then add to the water and rosemary in the stand mixer bowl.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low-speed, gradually add half the flour, then the salt. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed just until the dough is smooth and it cleans the bowl, about 3 minutes. Do not over-knead. Gather up the dough and shape it into a ball.

Coat the inside of a medium bowl generously with olive oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (or a towel). Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Pour 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a half-sheet pan, and spread evenly with your fingers. Punch down the dough and transfer to the oiled pan. Using you hands, coax and stretch the dough to fill the pan. If the dough is too elastic, cover the dough in the pan with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes, then try again.

Choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip the pan into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag and place two tall glasses of very hot water in the bag at opposite ends of the pan to keep the plastic from touching the dough. Tightly close the bag, trapping air in the bag to partially inflate it. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy, about 45 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450˜° F. Fill a spray bottle with water. Remove the glasses from the bag, then the pan. Using your fingers, gently dimple the top of the dough. Drizzle the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil over the top of the dough. Using the palms of your hands, taking special care not to deflate the dough, very lightly spread the oil over the focaccia.

Place the focaccia in the oven. Aiming for the walls of the oven (and not the top of the focaccia), spray water into the oven. The water will create steam to help crisp the focaccia (and it will not harm your oven, it’s just water). Bake until the focaccia is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes before serving. Cut into rectangles and serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Sarabeth Levine and Sarabeth’s Bakery


Yesterday was the official start of the season of spring, which means (at least according to recent TV commercials) it’s also the start of grilling season!

What? What do you mean our grill doesn’t look ready? What makes you say that? Is it the bit of snow that is still on that little tray? Or the grill scraper that is still partially buried? Oh. I see. It’s all the snow that is still piled up all over the deck and around the grill that makes it so we can’t even get to it, never mind use it. You know, you may have something there.

Ok, so moving on then, I bet that wonderful raspberry bush we have is looking wonderful and like it can’t wait to start sporting little red berries as the long, warm, sunny days arrive.


Check out the snow build up on our neighbor’s little shed there too, pretty cool huh?

Alright, so while us Alaskans (at least my other foodie friends and I) cry a little every time the warm weather is mentioned in the lower 48 and every time we see something online, or on TV, or in the newspaper, or hear something on the radio about spring being here, that doesn’t mean we can’t begin our anticipation of warmer, brighter days ahead.

Although, we still want that record snow fall. Three more inches of snow, then spring. Like, spring instantaneously. Thanks.

Until then, just delve into these tasty Apricot-Oatmeal Cookies for a bit of a sunny and warm feeling.

Apricot-Oatmeal Cookies

8oz (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups diced dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
In medium bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla to butter and sugars.
In another medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.
Mix dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.
Add in diced dried apricots, mix until apricots are dispersed through dough.
Measure out dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned on the bottom and edges.
Let cool on wire rack.

Makes about 4 doz smallish cookies.

Dig in and enjoy a hint of spring/summer!

Happy Pi(e) Day!!

Just popping in to say a quick Happy Pi(e) Day!! Celebrate with this amazing Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie! Just look at those meringue peaks…listen, they’re calling out to you…

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest

3 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar

Crust – Blend flour, sugar, and Meyer lemon zest in processor. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over and stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfulls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes.

*Dough can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Roll out dough disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Gently roll up dough onto rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Press into dish. Fold dough overhang under, even with edge of pie dish. Crimp dough edges decoratively. Freeze crust until firm, about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line frozen crust with nonstick aluminum foil. Fill foil with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Continue baking crust until golden, about 10 minutes longer. Remove crust from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Let crust cool on rack while preparing filling.

Filling – Whisk sugar and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in Meyer lemon juice. Whisk in egg yolks 1 at a time. Stir in Meyer lemon zest. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and boils, about 10 minutes. Spoon warm filling into crust; smooth top.

Meringue – Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt in large bowl until very soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, continue beating until mixture is stiff and glossy. Using silicone spatula, spread meringue over warm filling, covering to crust edges and creating peaks and swirls. Bake until meringue is pale golden, about 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack and serve.

Recipe adapted from: bon appétit Desserts cookbook

Chocolate-Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Ever find yourself with the last banana of the bunch that has just become over ripe? Well we did earlier this week. My family, my dad and brother in particular, really love us some bananas. There is usually a bunch that is just beginning to turn ripe in our fruit bowl next to a smaller bunch (usually just 2-4) that are nice and perfectly yellow. Which makes it so we always have a banana ready to be eaten and we never run out of bananas, because by the time both bunches are gone it’s time to go food shopping anyway.

There are times, like this past week, when our banana craze gets away from us and suddenly we find ourselves with over ripe bananas. The kind that are perfect for banana bread. If things get really out of hand, we have been known to freeze a few of these perfect baking bananas to use at a later time, but that wasn’t necessary this week. Instead, this week we only had one banana ready for the loaf pan.

This was a problem. When we make banana bread we use at least two bananas, not one. Which also means that when we freeze bananas we tend to freeze them in pairs, because we’ll just end up using two anyway, right?  Suddenly I found myself with a challenge: Bake something with this banana without having to thaw out any others.

I took to the internet looking for recipes (as I often do). Luckily I didn’t have to search too far before I found a great recipe for chocolate-banana cupcakes that used just one banana!

These cupcakes are wonderful: they are fairly light, very moist, and very chococlatey with just a hint of banana. The recipe didn’t make too many (my batch only made 11), but for a small family with some to give away, it happened to be the right amount. I decided to top these beauties with a peanut butter frosting, mostly because I liked the idea, but also because the frosting from the cupcake recipe I found used another banana. That would ruin the challenge, although I will have to try it some time soon. The frosting was soooooo good. One batch of frosting was more than I needed to cover all the cupcakes, so we had a bit left over to spread on other things, like apple slices.

The cupcakes were a hit with the whole banana loving family (well, except for brother as he’s on the other side of the country, but nevertheless) and were perfectly moist and delicious. I hope we have just one banana get nice and over ripe again soon so we can have some more cupcakes. Oh, did I mention they’re also vegan? Well, the cupcakes, not the frosting.

Notice the cute Snoopy and Woodstock cupcake liners? Thanks craft store!

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup ripe banana (about 1 banana)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Frosting:
1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup ripe banana (about 1/2 banana)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Whisk in the coconut milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract until incorporated. Mixture will still be a little lumpy because of the nature of the banana, but whisk out as many large lumps as you can. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in banana mixture. Stir until just smooth (do not overmix).

Pour into liners, filling each with 3 tablespoons of batter (cups should be no more than 2/3 full). Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

For the frosting:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed

To prepare the frosting cream together the butter and peanut butter until well combined.  Add in the powdered sugar and half the milk and mix until smooth, fluffy and your desired piping consistency. (I actually used some milk and some heavy whipping cream to lighten it up a bit, plus it was in the fridge)

Cupcake Recipe adapted from: Love and Olive Oil
Frosting Recipe adapted from: evilshenanigans


Time Keeps on Slipping…

It seems like I keep losing track of time lately. I could have sworn it was barely February and suddenly the month is almost over. My plans for getting my applications to graduate schools in by Thanksgiving took a nose dive as I am still trying to pull everything together. A couple of days this past week I wondered when Mardi Gras was and had been contemplating making a King Cake for such occasion, only to get online today to find out today was, in fact, Mardi Gras.

On occasion, time actually can work in your favor. I woke up to my alarm this morning and a friendly reminder that I had a dentist appointment just before noon. Before long it was time for me to head out the door and after a rather thorough brushing (is it just me, or do you spend more time than usual on your teeth just before a dentist visit?) I grabbed my bag and took off to my car. I slung my bag over to the passenger seat, put my keys in the ignition, and turned.


A quick call to my Dad, who knows more about cars than I will ever pretend to, confirmed that the battery was probably dead and in order for the car to start I would need a jump. With no one home to give said jump, my only option was to call the dentist’s office and reschedule.

Suddenly I found myself with a sizable chunk of time free, so what to do? Bake! What did you think I was gonna do? Shine my shoes? Actually…they are looking a little worn…

Although it isn’t the best season for them, when I saw plums at the store this weekend I knew I had to get some and make something delicious with them. This super tasty dream was made true with a little help from Dorie Greenspan. See, I called her up and said “Plum cake?” and she came running over to dance around my kitchen while we made tonight’s dessert and belted it out along with Adele, who had just happened to also stop by…at least that’s how I wish it had happened. In reality it was just me, a bunch of plums, and a pinch of cardamom.

The resulting cake is sweet, succulent, and slightly spicy. It is juicy from the plums, which add their own depth of flavor and offer a bite as well. The actual cake is moist, soft, and intriguing from that hint of cardamom. Dorie mentions having it with coffee as an early morning treat and, after the taste I had tonight, I am looking forward to a slice for breakfast tomorrow!

Dimply Plum Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums, halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together.
3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer to low-speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter, jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes – during which time the plums’ juice will return to the fruit – then run the knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours