Friday, February 23, 2007

The problem with prunes…

…is that I think maybe I don’t actually like them so much, and this cake, it had a strong prune flavor. I still think I am going to need to do some more experimenting – especially since Dorie Greenspan, author of that new favorite baking cookbook of mine, really seems to love them, and uses them in quite a lot of baked goods. I know, some people just swear by them. And, I’ve been feeding them to Milo like crazy. Poor kid. (I’m sure that when he’s a teenager he’ll be so happy to discover that I’ve been sharing this kind of info.)

Anyway, I loved the sound of this cake, Brown Sugar Bundt Cake; goes well with tea, she says (Dorie, not me). And I was really good, meaning I followed the directions exactly (using pears and prunes, instead of substituting apples for the pears and raisins for the prunes – substitutions that would have been much easier (and maybe tastier). And, remember me and the difficulties of buying good fresh fruit and getting it to the appropriate stages of ripeness. Sticking with the pears piece was hard.). Also, Dorie suggests making the cake a day before you want to eat it. It’s one of those “gets better the second day” cakes. So, I did all that, carefully wrapping the cake in plastic to make sure it didn’t get dried out. Still, I was just not that thrilled by the outcome. It was pretty though, as bundt cakes usually are.

For a moment there, I even thought this cake might be the first that ended up with some going in the garbage can. But, in fact, that did not happen. I think slightly less than half got consumed the first night, when Ben and Buzzy and Susan and Jordan came for supper (okay, well, we ordered pizza… hey, I had made a cake, so, my culinary duties were done). The next day, though, it was nice weather, and people were hanging out in the cul-de-sac, so I brought the cake out. Lo and behold, it got eaten. Much of that eating was done by two of my most loyal fans: Alden and Samantha. But Karen also managed to choke down three pieces, all the while saying that it was not her favorite cake. She’s a good friend!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Altitude kicking my butt?

It is, as many of you know, much to my ongoing chagrin and dismay that I do not live near the sea. The fact of the matter is, not only do we not live near the sea, but we don’t even live near sea level. We’re about 5300 feet above sea level here. While this isn’t super up there, in the thin air zone, it’s enough up there to be of note. I tend to ignore this altitude thing in my baking; maybe it’s denial, maybe it’s stupidity; maybe it’s just that mostly I seem to get lucky and my baked goods don’t suffer any ill effects of altitude. People ask, “do you adjust for the altitude?” “Nope.” I blithely reply. I’m alternately too lazy, too cocky, too dumb (those adjustments just seem way too tricky for me to really get my mind around. I’m not kidding). Well, maybe I should be rethinking my bad attitude.

This recipe for Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze came out in a Bon Appetit issue a year or two ago; it’s a Dorie Greenspan cake (she’s the author of my new baking cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, the one my sweet husband gave me for Christmas). Accompanying this recipe was a totally wonderful article about French women, and how they make everything look lovely and glamorous, but how, in fact, they actually put little effort in: they are just damn good at knowing clever short cuts (e.g., where to buy excellent baked goods that look homemade). It was one of those pieces that I read out loud to anyone I could and, for a while, I made the cake again and again. Oddly (I think), the reviews are really mixed, and some people had really bad experiences with it.

In spite of the rather suspect appearance of this cake (I know, it's not that bad, but it does have a noticeable dip in the middle, and Ray called it “horribly disfigured”), it was still as yummy as ever. But, I do wonder if I maybe need to start taking that whole “adjust for altitude” thing a little more seriously.