Plum Cake – a fall affair

plum cake

As the weather gets chillier, at least here in the upper Midwest, we turn our attention over to apples and pears. The summer fruits and berries are no longer available, with the exception of the Italian plum. It has a short little season, which gives one hope and the ability to make it through a winter without stone fruits. ACT NOW, they don’t last long. These little gems are good to eat, but even better to bake with. They aren’t quite as juicy or sweet as their American cousins (of course, once the Italian plums are dried into prunes, and the sugars concentrated, they are the sweetest of all), but they keep their shape well and their skin adds a gorgeous purple color to tarts and cakes.

The brown sugar cake batter and sweet crumb topping are a perfect compliment to the not-too-sweet fruit. It is great for breakfast with a cup of tea and/or with ice cream after dinner. This is a cake that also seems to get better the second day, if there is any left.

Italian plums (more…)

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Sugar Plum Pie with a Folded Flaky Crust.

I know I promised a tour of the spice market in Istanbul, but I had to show you the plum pie I made for my stepmother’s birthday first. When I returned home after a month away my refrigerator was bare, nothing but a jar of capers and a bottle of sriracha sauce. After shopping in Europe the grocery stores here in MN seemed obscene with selection. The produce isle was filled with every fruit and vegie you could ever want, despite the fact that many of them wouldn’t be in season for months. It was both overwhelming and a bit thrilling to have all this at my fingertips. I’d been eating juicy plums and peaches in Italy and had decided to make my stepmother a pie with them for her birthday. They were perhaps a little firm, but they looked and smelled gorgeous. Because it was a special occasion I cooked the plums in champagne and vanilla. I made a tender crust and folded it a few times to add some flaky layers. This is my kind of birthday pie! (more…)

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Caramelized Pumpkin & Armagnac Prune Pudding!

This season is bittersweet as far as fresh produce goes. On one hand my backyard urban farm is just a ghost of its lush summer self and I miss it. But, there are the apples, pears, persimmons, quince and the versatile sugar pumpkin, which are at the height of their season. I also associate the smell of sweet spices; cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and cardamom with cool weather. The mixture of the fruits and spices is baked up in quintessential American classics like apple and pumpkin pies, poached pears and some across-the-pond desserts like persimmon pudding and quince tarts. All of these combinations are pure comfort; warm, sweet and hearty. Another classic pairing that fits this description are prunes & Armagnac. So when thinking about the ultimate fall pudding I layered together pumpkin, spices, the prune combo, caramelized the crust and topped the whole thing with maple spiced walnuts. It is outrageous and something you can eat for dessert, brunch or an after school snack. It was equally tasty hot and served cold.

I used cubes of slightly stale bread, something I always have around, but I have also done this pudding with vanilla pound cake or gingerbread.

*Some big news below! (more…)

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