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Archive for May 31st, 2010

It was the middle of the winter when I got a copy of Rustic Fruit Desserts, the new(ish) baking book by local chef/bakers Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson.  I pass Julie’s wonderful bakery (Baker and Spice) on my way to and from work every day and Wildwood, the Portland restaurant Cory Schreiber founded, is one of the first places we tried when we moved here.  I knew that whatever these two collaborated on would have to be good.

The recipes in the book are arranged by season, so there’s no good reason I haven’t used the book before now, but lately, with summer fruits starting to appear, I am discovering that this book will be one of the ones I use often.

Where did I start?  Well, oddly, it was the apricots that got me going.

For some reason I haven’t ever been a big fan of fresh apricots.  After this spring, though, that is changing.  The produce manager at New Seasons encouraged us to buy some the other week, and I have been keeping a bowlful in the kitchen ever since.  I’ve been eating them right from the bowl, but also experimenting with them in baked desserts. And that’s when I found myself turning to Rustic Fruit Desserts.

The recipe I chose is called stone fruit upside-down cornmeal cake.  And it’s a good one.  The cake is just sweet enough, and even a little crunchy with bits of cornmeal.  The topping — well it’s really just apricots, butter and brown sugar — and that’s just about perfect.

The recipe is very simple — melt butter and brown sugar in a cast-iron skillet, arrange the fruit (cut sides down) in the skillet and top it with the cornmeal batter.  Bake, and then turn the finished cake out onto a plate. It’s easy, delicious, and beautiful.  What more could you ask?

Here’s the recipe.

Stone fruit upside-down cornmeal cake

(adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson)

Fruit Topping
5 apricots
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup packed brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Score the skin of the apricots with a few strokes of a knife, then slice them in half and remove the pits.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and blends with the butter to form a caramel.  Remove from the heat and arrange to fruit cut side down on top of the caramel.

Cake
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cups fine cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.

Using stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the vanilla.

Stir in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and scraping down the bowl as needed.

Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet and gently spread it evenly.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back lightly when touched.

Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes before flipping it over onto a plate.

This cake is best the day it is made but will keep for a few days covered with plastic wrap.

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