Monday, September 14, 2009

Channeling Andy Rooney

I love cookbooks and I read them like they are novels.  Novels I won't pass on to my friends.  I always like to share a great book I have read, and have a pact with friends; i"ll let you borrow the book, but pass it on to someone else when you are done. Typically, I don't want it back. Only twice have I regretted to that rule. I passed on 1st editions of both Wicked and A Confederacy of Dunces.  Had I known when I read them, that they would be possible collector's items, I might have purchased separate "pass on copies" .  But, I console myself by knowing that if  kept they would have eventually been misplaced or lost. It's much better to have loved and lost, than have them yellowing in a box in the back of a closet somewhere.
My cookbooks don't get passed on.  I write in the margins, cross out entire sections and create from those published works of art.  I have never counted the number, but if I have 1, I have 150.  I have a custom bookcase in the office, filled not with literature, but with cookbooks and travel guides.  I am not "a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma."  Five minutes in our house and you know me.  You know everything about me--including what shoes I have worn this last week.
i wear shoes only because society expects it, and public bathrooms are dirty.  If I could, I would go barefoot 24/7.  I hate shoes...or should I say, I hate wearing shoes. I love matching a shoe to an outfit...or having my shoes be the one element of my outfit that reflects my personality--which is saying something as I usually wear all black, all navy or all brown.  I'm a real jackie o, except I'm short, stout, blonde and own a condo instead of a yacht. Anyway, to make a short story shoes come off the minute I hit the threshold. Except for when I am in the kitchen. I have kitchen shoes... because I need to reach the top shelf of the fridge.

I haven't baked in a while. With all my canning, I still have a few pears left. The weather is downright fall-like, and I want to play with flour.  My bedside reading last night was Dorie Greenspan's Baking.  Dorie is an amazing baker whom has written countless recipes and is the author of  Baking with Julia.  She's also quite thin, which naturally makes me suspicious...but that is for another day.
I'm sure she is a wonderful person.

I have earmarked a dozen or so recipes that I wish to try, but have never actually done so.
I am the worst recipe follower. I can't make a recipe as it is written. It's like a mental block.  With baking it is more sketchy than with cooking, as there is actually chemistry involved, but, I'm not cooking for The King.  So what if I make a's hardly ever awful.

Today I wanted to incorporate some of those pears into a coffee cake.  I love cardamom and Dorie's recipe for cardamom coffee cake looked just the trick. Except I changed it up a bit.  The idea is definitely hers...the execution, mine.
This cake is not is a real coffee cake.  If you take a whole bite, meaning top to bottom, it will be sweet enough, moist enough and spiced enough.  If you remove the crumb and then eat the cake...well, you get what you get.
Please refer to the recipe for the method.
Here are the ingredients and amounts I used
Cardamom Coffee Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp  baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cardamom
pinch nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
grated zest of 1/2 grapefruit
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup freshly made espresso--cooled
1 stick butter--melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter
generous pinch of salt
1 /2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup or more toasted slivered almonds
grated peel of 1/2 grapefruit
Peel, core and generously slice 4 cups of pears.  In a skillet, melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter.  Add about 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom and a pinch or two of salt.  Throw the pears in and cook until all caramelly and the pears soften.  Adjust flavors to your liking. They should be sweet, but not overly so.
Pour 1/2 the cake batter in the pan.  Place a layer of pears, then proceed with the remaining batter.  Place another layer of pears on top.  Finally, evenly top with crumb.
Bake, cool, eat.
I made enough pears so that I could put a few on the plate with the cake.  They are also delicious on ice cream, on top of waffles or pancakes, or just eaten by themselves.

post script:  This entry was originally entitled "a good read..." but according to my husband, when I read it to him, I sounded just like mr. rooney.  So I read it again, in andy's voice, and it did sound like something he would say. Mike was right, and I had a good giggle.


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