Friday, August 28, 2009

Blueberry Raspberry Kirsch Pound Cake

What a week, a broken fridge, an ancient car in need of repairs to pass inspection, fraudulent charges on our credit card and at the end a wonderful new cake. Maybe the week wasn't so bad after all. Well, you can be the judge.

At this point I could relate details of my week, the path I had to clear through my house for the fridge to be delivered. The four and a half hours I spent waiting for the fridge to be delivered willing the path to stay clear rather then returning to its natural state of clutter. I could also rant about the fraudulent charges, from my husband's card to an online dating service, in New Zealand. Aside from being puzzled at using a stolen card number for such a traceable thing there was the response when I called Yahoo Personals, the umbrella company for the New Zealand dating service, who wanted to know my yahoo ID number, the name of my favorite uncle, where I spent my summers as a child, address, alternate e-mail address.... Hello! The charges are fraudulent, therefore I don't have an account with you nor do I know any of the security info for this account.

But this cake is much more interesting then all of that. I have been dreaming of making this cake since I first read the recipe in April. It is from Molly Wizenberg's book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table, that I received for my birthday. Once I read the recipe all I had to do was wait until blueberries and raspberries were both in season. I had a hard time finding the kirsch called for in the recipe, but based on David Lebovitz's recent blog post on it I realized it was not an ingredient I should leave out. It really is integral to the cakes depth of flavor, what makes it more then just a pound cake.

As I have previously mentioned I sometimes make cakes to bring in to work and from the start I planned to make this cake for work, when both berries were in season. A normal person would have bought the fruit from the store and baked the cake during the day. However I have been told that normal is not the first word that pops into peoples heads when asked to describe me. So my boys and I went berry picking with friends and I baked this cake when they went to bed.

We delivered the cake to work, took a slice each, accepted compliments on the cake and then left. The one slice I had was not enough and that afternoon I baked the cake again for us. Molly states on her blog that this cake freezes well, so I made it in two loaf pans. We ate one, faster then I would like, and the second one I froze for the winter.

The version for work I made with all purpose flour, the one for us I used half all purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour. (my favorite whole wheat pastry flour is sold out until the farmer harvests more in October, the downside to buying local). With all that whole wheat goodness, the berries and the eggs we decided this makes a fine breakfast.

I mixed mine up in the stand mixer instead of the food processor that Molly uses. I have a food processor but it has a crack in the bowl, it still works fine for pesto and grating cheese, batters are out though. Other then that and the use of half all purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour for the cake flour, my only change was in technique. I add the baking powder and salt before adding the flour. I almost always mix cakes and muffins this way, you can make sure any dry ingredients other then flour are well incorporated without worrying about over mixing the flour and forming gluten. This means for other recipes I just ignore the step that calls for combining the dry ingredients in a separate bowl before adding. I add everything but the flour, mix well and then add the flour.

Pound Cake with Blueberries Raspberries and Kirsch
adapted from Orangette

5 large eggs at room temperature (place in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes to warm up)
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 Tbsp kirsch
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter at room warm room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 Tbsp all purpose flour (for mixing with the berries)
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries

Generously butter a 9 cup Bundt pan or two 4.5 cup/1.5 Qt loaf pans and then dust it with all purpose flour, shaking out the extra.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attachment until thick and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the kirsch and the butter in 1 Tbsp sized pieces and beat until it is thick and fluffy. This should take a couple minutes, stop once to scrape down the sides. Add the baking powder and salt and mix to combine well. Add both flours and turn the machine on and off on low in short pulses until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.

Toss the raspberries and blueberries in a large bowl with 2 Tbsp all purpose flour before using a spatula to fold them into the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan or pans and smooth the top. Place in the center of a cold oven and turn the oven temperature to 300°. Bake until a knife or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. For both pans for me this took 1 hour and 25 minutes. Cool in the pan or pans for 5 minutes before inverting on to a cooling rack to cool completely.

If you wish to freeze the cake wait until it is cooled completely and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place the wrapped cake in a freezer bag.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Pancakes are a standard breakfast around here. At this point I have changed the original recipe so much that the one we use is completely my own. We make them enough that both Lewis and I have the recipe memorized. This means it is much faster to prepare a batch as there is no referring back to a recipe to slow you down. Because of this these even get served on crazy school mornings. It also means I can tell you what happens when almost all of the ingredients get left out, cooking before having coffee is always a dangerous activity if you were hoping for consistency.

My boys love this recipe and at this same time they often take them for granted. If they appear too frequently they have been known to whine and ask why we can't have popovers, crepes or something else equally time consuming. I wonder if the two of them will ever realize just how spoiled they are at the table?

On the way back from vacation in Cape Cod we stayed with my brother and his family. Before going away I made up a triple batch of the dry ingredients for pancakes so we could make breakfast for both families. My brothers says his two daughters are both horribly picky eaters, vegetarians who pick the tofu out of things and discard it. When we made these pancakes for breakfast my brother had to insist that his oldest daughter, Vina, try one. She grudgingly took one bite and then happily devoured three pancakes.

While she was eating them Vina declared our pancakes "better then daddies", daddies pancakes had already been declared "better then mommies". About a minute later she asked if she had hurt daddies feelings. The answer was no, he was just ecstatic to have something she wanted to eat. When everyone was done with breakfast he quickly followed our instructions for freezing the pancakes to have another day. I don't think I have ever seen him listen to something I have to say quite so closely.

We had a lot of fun at my brothers house, even with my nieces telling Sebastian and Julian that they don't like playing with boys. Most of Julian's best friends are girls and Sebastian has several girls he play with as well, they were both mystified. There was also a small problem with our food joking clashing with the girls fear of meat. Years ago we went through the drive through at the bank and my children were both given teal blue lollipops. Both boys asked what flavor they were. Honestly what food in nature is teal blue? So I told them they were liver flavor. Ever since then teal blue lollipops are liver flavor, sometimes my boys even request liver flavor now. Well at one point all four cousins were sitting around the table and Sebastian told them the lollipops we had for the car ride were liver flavored. As an exacting vegetarian Vina freaked and ran from the table. We convinced her it was not liver, and order was restored. Its a good thing we did not try to serve liver flavored pancakes.

When making pancakes for my family it takes one and a half of the original recipe to satisfy everyones hunger. For 1 and a half times the original recipe we add another whole egg rather then try to divide an egg. I feel the recipe is better with the slightly higher amount of egg that this results in. I have listed the recipe 2 ways below, the original quantities and one and a half times the recipe, this way if you want a larger batch you won't need to do math before having coffee.

Pancake Ingredients (original batch size)

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk (you can use regular milk or buttermilk, the baking soda makes the recipe flexible)
1 large egg
2 Tbsp butter melted and slightly cooled

Pancake Ingredients (one and a half batches: enough to satisfy all 4 people in my family)

3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/8 tsp baking soda (I often just use 1/2 tsp baking soda here)
1 1/2 cup milk (you can use regular milk or buttermilk, the baking soda makes the recipe flexible)
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp butter melted and slightly cooled

Sift the dry ingredients together. Measure the milk and add the egg/eggs to the milk and whisk to combine and beat the egg/eggs (I use a large glass measuring cup and then whisk the 2 together by spinning the whisk between my hands. Both my boys can imitate this move perfectly with their toy whisk). Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, a few lumps are fine, overmixing is not. Add the butter while still mixing in the wet ingredients.

Use a small ladle or measuring cup to pour pancake batter onto a preheated hot griddle that has a light film of butter on it (I set my electric griddle to 350°). If adding fruit evenly press it in to the batter on the griddle, if using frozen blueberries you do no need to defrost them first. Flip the pancakes when they appear to be dry around the edges and holes appear across the surface of the pancakes. If you are unsure if they are done lift a corner of a pancake with your spatula to check the color. Cook the second side until light brown and either keep warm in a 200° oven or serve immediately with butter and real maple syrup. Sometimes I serve them with a fruit sauce like apple or plum.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eating Your Own Young

Four years ago when driving home from vacation on Cape Cod Lewis looked at me and said, "Do you know when animals eat their own young? It's in the car coming back from vacation. At the time he said that Sebastian was 3 and Julian was 5 months. Julian had been sleeping when Sebastian started screaming to wake him up, then they were both screaming. Then out of sheer boredom, and everything that goes along with being 3, Sebastian stuck a piece of Smart Food, the cheesy popcorn, up his nose. We were on a section of the thruway without any shoulder so we had to fly off at the next exit and pull into someone's driveway to extract the popcorn. A week later Sebastian was sitting at the table happily eating Smart Food, while being watched like a hawk, when he asked, "Do you know where you shouldn't put Smart Food?" When I asked him where he earnestly replied, "Up your nose."

Well four years later what we learned on that trip still holds true, you shouldn't put Smart Food up your nose and when we drive home from vacation we understand why animals eat their own young. It was 7:00 p.m. and the boys were in the back seat throwing things at each other and yelling. We were all hungry but there was no way I was going to take my over tired boys who had been hog tied in to their car seats for 3 hours in to a restaurant. Happily at that time we got off the Thruway to get gas in Randolph Vermont and we discovered a wonderful barbecue cart next to the Mobil station.

When we began looking at the menu we were all grumpy. I snapped at the boys as they were their usual picky selves deciding on something they would eat from the menu. The proprietress was really helpful, answering all my questions as I tried to find food that would work. She even let us sample the pulled pork, ostensibly so we would know if the rub on the pork, and by extension the chicken, would be to their liking. Julian refused to taste it, but Sebastian tried it and immediately declared he wanted the pulled pork not the chicken. We were further accommodated in making up a meal combination to suit Sebastian's tastes as he does not like meat sandwiches. Actually, to be honest, when it comes to sandwiches he only likes cream cheese sandwiches, cheeseburgers or grilled cheese. Sebastian ordered a plate of pulled pork with french fries, Julian had a hot dog and Lewis and I split a combination plate so we could try the ribs, chicken, french fries and the pulled pork I already knew I loved.

My favorite from the sampler was the pulled pork, tender, moist and flavorful. I don't know what is in the spice rub that they use but it was not spicy at all without skimping on flavor. I enjoyed the chicken and ribs too, but as I am not a big barbecue sauce person the spice rubbed pork was more to my liking. The french fries were also really good, made with the skins on and I assume by the large bags of potatoes in their trailer, actually made on site from real potatoes.

The menu also listed pulled pork, steak bomb, mixed veggie and supreme cheese quesadillas so vegetarians can find something. The menu states they are all celiac and nut friendly. The shocking thing about this little roadside food stop was the number of cars we saw pulling in to the McDonald's next door.

I would love to be able to report that after that yummy meal we were able to all climb cheerfully back in to the car and finished our journey in perfect harmony. However if I wrote that it would be a lie. Instead we climbed in the car less grumpily then we had gotten out and finished our journey without anyone killing anyone else and the buzz from a great vacation not completely killed. I feel that is a large enough victory given the conditions.

Vermont BBQ
Route 66 Between the Mobil station and the McDonald's at the Randolph exit from Interstate 89 (after Labor Day), Randolph, VT
Pauline Poulin and David Langhans

Last night was the Vermont BBQ's last night next to the Mobil station until September. Until then they can be found at some of the Vermont fairs including Tunbridge and Barton.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer Garden Salad

Sometimes all you need is a light touch to bring out the flavor in your food. A light touch and really great quality ingredients. Yesterday the boys and I stopped briefly at our community garden plot to pick produce for dinner. Their excitement and pride was adorable as they examined all our plants and happily helped harvest onions (although ours are a bit more like overgrown scallions right now), eggplant, nasturtium leaves and tomatoes. They also took the opportunity to pet our corn plants. I must admit as a native New Yorker I am as giddy as they are about growing my own food. I mean really, I grew food!

My plans for dinner were simple, good bread, several cheeses, prosciutto and a simple salad using my garden produce and avocado. I sliced the eggplant lengthwise and coated the pieces and the baby onions with olive oil and grilled them all over low heat. After the vegetables were done grilling I sliced the eggplant into bite sized pieces and chopped up all of the onion that was good (the stalks of the onion gets very charred on the grill). Then I tossed the grilled eggplant with 2 sliced avocados, the chopped tomatoes and the leaves from our nasturtium plant with a splash of high quality balsamic vinegar, the stuff that has been aged for a long time (mine has aged for 21 years) and extra virgin olive oil, then kosher salt and of course freshly ground black pepper.

Our neighbor came over for dinner and watched my strange ritual of photographing my food and I explained about the blog. I explained that I take the photos before I am sure the dish is worth photographing and sharing here. As he took seconds of salad Paul commented, "Definitely worth photographing."

I am glad the salad was enjoyed so much as this may be the end of my garden's tomatoes. Late blight has hit here in the Northeast and the tomato plants in my garden plot are dying. So far the plants in the front of my house look fine, but I am not holding my breath. I go away on vacation for a week soon and I fully expect to come back to dead plants. Apparently the disease developed on the plants grown for the big box stores. Yet another lesson that food, even plants starts, are not supposed to be grown in huge monocultures. The presence of late blight so early coupled with our wet summer has meant the disease is practically unavoidable. The end result is that this year I may need to buy canned tomatoes. I only hope this will make people appreciate small farmers, and the work they do, even more.

The eggplants were still babies when I picked them but I think I was inspired by Foodie Fights Battle #8: Eggplant and White Wine. I won the Foodie Fights Battle #7: Pineaple and Basil so I was a judge for Battle 8. After reading and obsessing over 6 blog posts about eggplant I couldn't stop thinking about eating mine. Now I am glad I did because the results were delicious.