Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Exit the Plums, Enter the Apples
Apple desserts. They just scream fall, don't they? And winter and really even spring. But especially fall. I never make anything with apple in the summer because a) there are amazing short-seasoned fruits on offer and b) by then I've had it up to here with apples.
But as we enter October, I am excited to start filling my house with the smell of cinnamon, sugar and apples. We had a great group of friends over on Saturday for a big dinner. Big as in they all stayed past 1am and much alcohol was consumed. I actually took each couple (there were three) up on their offer to bring an appetizer, which is something I almost never do. I am not a control freak by any stretch, but I do feel that when I invite people over for dinner, I should make the food. But appetizers are something that always seem to be an afterthought for me, so I thought I would appreciate the help.
Since I knew we would have plenty to munch on, I decided to make a hearty soup, fall salad, and a flatbread. I originally thought of this as a more "simple" menu so I could focus more time and energy on a more elaborate dessert. I'm not sure how making 5 things (because of course I ended up making an appetizer) is simple, but there you go. At any rate, I knew exactly what I wanted to make - Country Apple Tart with Spiced Brown Butter. This is a dessert I have made twice now and it is a showstopper. Imagine an apple tart with a custard poured over top. This custard stars brown butter in which cloves, vanilla seeds, and star anise have been cooked. The smell is divine but is no match for the taste. And the presentation is lovely. The tart is not difficult but has several time consuming steps. If you are interested in taking on a long but very worth it project, you can find the recipe here.
For something a little more simple, and to give a final goodbye to baking with summer fruit, I made Dimply Plum Cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours for my clients this week. If you are a food blogger, you are probably tired of hearing about this cake as it was the Tuesdays with Dorie choice last week. (For those of you who are not food bloggers, there is a group that bakes something from this dessert tome each week and blogs about it.) I decided I would double the recipe and bake it in mini loaf pans so each of my clients could have their own cake, rather than a slice. I am no math student, I didn't really try and figure it out ahead of time, I just hoped doubling it would be enough and lo and behold, it turned out perfectly. Here is the recipe as it was orginally written.
Dimply Plum Cake
from Baking From My Home to Yours
Makes 8 Servings
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Scant 1/4 tsp. cardamom (optional)
5 tbsp. 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 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums
Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 inch square baking pan, dust in the inside with flour, tap out excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom, if you're using it, together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with 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 another 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 speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are just incorporated.
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 cute side up in the batter, jiggling the plus a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
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 cool for 15 minutes - during which time the plums' juice will return to the fruit - then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.