Wednesday, September 7, 2011

stone fruit tea cake, and how you can have my favorite book

The girls are back in school, and it won't stop raining, and it is possible that I've never seen as many beautiful peaches as I have seen in the last few weeks. Seen? Let me be more precise, caressed, admired, adored, EATEN.  Things all feel a little buzzed this week in a good way, like there are tingles in the air, and exciting events about to happen. Rosie started first grade, and although she had a hard time finding a place to sit at lunch on the first day (I only cried once, Mommy), she reported that today was much better. She's been multiplying things.

I must admit that on weeks like this, I may be guilty of dropping everything to make a cake.

The cakes come about partly because although I am not a housewife, I always seem to want to be on the first week of school. Because there is something deep and satisfying about feeding the family love through this transition. Joey comes home from his new preschoolers sparkly, and exhausted, and all at once inspired and slightly terrified, I think. He wants cake too.

I have decided that right now if you ask me, my favorite cookbook in the world is a little book called Rustic Fruit Desserts. It's a bit like a love affair that I've been denying all along, because I've written about it many times and sung its praises. It's just that I've been resistant to thinking that such a small book would be my favorite, or a book on such a limited topic. Even more, I don't even like fruit desserts. None of it makes sense.
I love this book so much. When fruit comes into the house, I go directly to its perfect petite binding. I look up the ingredient in the index, and then I usually have to start baking then and there. This makes me feel hungry, and inspired and instantly propelled to bake.

I also feel compelled to give this book away. I've bought copies for friends, and I've lent my copy out. I get that way with books--I think Joey's worn off on me that way. Come in and have a conversation with Joey about graphic novels, and you will walk out of here with a stack of books up to your chin.

I can't help it. It's that kind of week. You guys are just too fantastic. I'm giving this book away.
I know another copy will come my way someday.  I'll be ready. But this one? I'm sending it to you.
Despite it's constant use, it is in surprisingly good condition. There might be a few butter stains here and there, and yes, I've made a few notes. I write in pencil, so I'll let you erase them if you don't agree. I think slightly marked up cookbook is better than a new one any day, wouldn't you agree? This cookbook has lived a life.

So let's do it like this, shall we? If I were to ask you today, at this moment, what your favorite cookbook is, what would you say? I'd love some new recommendations. I'll keep it open until Monday night, the 12th. Then I'll choose a winner, and the book is on it's way to you. It will be right in time for apple season! Remember that apple rhubarb pandowdy? Page 16.

And if you aren't the lucky winner, you can still have cake.  This might be one of my favorites from the book yet. The dough is simple and shortbready, the method is deeply satisfying, and it will work with any stone fruit that you have rolling around where you are. And then, of course, you have an excuse to invite a friend for tea.

Stone Fruit Tea Cake
adapted from Corey Schreiber and Julie Richardson, Rustic Fruit Desserts

makes one 10-inch cake

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped stone fruit (can be frozen)
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (or you can use granulated sugar, if you like)

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
Cream 3/4 cup of the butter with the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric beater. You want the mixture to be extremely light and fluffy, and this will take 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the mixture from the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and combine with a few strokes of a spoon just until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, and wrap it tightly. Put it in the freezer for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use the remaining tablespoon of butter to grease a ten inch cake or tart pan. Divide the dough into two equal portions, and pat one of them into the bottom of the prepared pan. You don't have to be fussy about getting the dough to the edges--if there are some gaps, the dough will expand in the oven.
Spread the cut fruit evenly over the dough. Then, break up the second half of the dough into tablespoon-size pieces, and spread them evenly over the fruit. Sprinkle with turbinado (or regular) sugar. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool before serving.


  1. My cookbook is from our old CSA- Farmer John's Real Dirt on Vegetables. It's got a chapter for each of the vegetables that the farm grows- the beet burgers just came out of the oven and they are so good. I love this book! Your cake looks delicious- can't wait to try it.

  2. The cookbook I turn to most often is Bittman's How to Cook Everything, but my favorite cookbook is one I've never actually cooked from: Alice Waters's Fanny at Chez Panisse. Anne Arnold's illustrations in it are wonderful.

  3. Mine's pretty standard veg cupboard fare, but I love Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers. So many great recipes that aren't too difficult and are super versatile. Many a dinner staple was born in those pages!

  4. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is in heavy use right now since our garden is exploding and he not only tells me how to make pickles in 20 minutes, but gives me 5 different variations, all which sound amazing. A veggie lovers bible!

  5. Oh no - I don't have a favorite cookbook! Can you believe it? I used to use the Kripalu cookbook a lot but now I just search online for what I want to make and then I pick the recipe that has most of the ingredients that I have on hand, and then I still alter it. Sometimes I look at the Kinderhof cookbook that was compiled by the parents of the school a year or two ago...

  6. yum. i was waiting for your "kids are in school" recipe! no favorite cookbook...YET ;)

  7. I hope this won't be considered a cheat, but my favorite cookbook of all time is the complete, 28-volume Time-Life set 'The Good Cook: Techniques and Recipes', edited by Richard Olney, published in the late 70s/early 80s. All cooking techniques are illustrated with a series of photographs so you know what the dish is supposed to look like at every step. Absolutely everything you might want to do with absolutely every ingredient, illustrated.

    Buy them used, one or two at a time, in used bookstores (like I did), and/or request them as they become available on BookMooch (like I also did), because a complete set sells on eBay or Amazon for several hundred dollars.

    (And if you don't know about BookMooch… )

  8. Right here, right now, my favorite cookbook is and will always be Fannie Farmer. She has all the basics covered and then some!



  9. I'm totally obsessed with Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. I got it out of the library a few weeks back, cooked a bunch of stuff from it and have been hankerin' for it ever since. I think that means I need to buy my own copy.

  10. I love the idea of getting a well-loved cookbook!

    My favourite cookbook is Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. I read it weekly for inspiration.

  11. Hi Alana! This is Heidi H. - I lived with your parents for a year back at the Farm and have fond memories of your mom's famous kale and salmon. I've been lurking for a while, but this sounded too fun to pass up. You have a wonderful, beautiful blog. I made your tomato tart a while back, and it was sublime. What fun to see your beautiful family and cooking!

    My favorite cookbook at the moment is Recipes From My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan, notably, her shredded carrot salad.

  12. Two cookbooks which never fail to inspire and delight are:(1) John McLure's The Secret Book of the Bread (from Baba A Louis Bakery) and (2) the 1976 edition of d'Avila Latourrette's From a Monastery Kitchen. The former quotes an Old Scottish verse which advises, "Be gentle when you touch Bread," and then provides delectable recipes for breads as diverse as Six Grain and One Bean and croissants. The latter I turn to for contemplation as much as for peasant stew and spinach crepes. And I would be remiss not to mention a book I use weekly: Lorna Sass' Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. Where would I be without my pressure cooker heaven only knows.

  13. I wish I had a favorite cookbook. Having one would have wonderful implications. I don't even know what stone fruit is. I love you and your blog though.

  14. I have lots of cookbooks that I love, but the one I'm inspired by right now is Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant. I made the paneer yesterday while my kids were at school, and cooked it into matar paneer for dinner last night. I'll be posting the recipe on my blog later this week.

  15. So many cookbooks, so little time.... I guess "Laurel's Kitchen" would be my favorite. I bought it as a small paperback in the late seventies and it inspired me to cook vegetarian meals, make my own granola, bake my own bread. It was more than just recipes. A few years ago my husband surprised me with "The NEW Laurel's Kitchen", a larger, updated volume...and I passed on my much worn-out version to a friend.

  16. Do you know, I have been wanting to buy this cookbook for ever and ever, but I keep holding back. (Am I destined for it in a giveaway?) It's just that I have a lot of cookbooks. I am having a hard time putting my finger on a favorite, but my favorite to PERUSE at the moment is Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Real Cooking (from the Ballymaloe cooking school). Haven't made anything from it yet but just love looking at it. And I'm sure I'll make something, don't worry.

  17. The first place I turn is my Moosewood cookbook, but I usually use recipes from my favorite blogs. I'm glad I stumbled across yours today- I'm already inspired! My two faces right now are and

  18. My husband has, gratefully, taken responsibility for dinners. So I get to indulge solely in my current favorite cookbook, which is the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. So much pretty fruit...

  19. I love Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. Though The Smitten Kitchen and 101cookbooks are becoming real go-to sites for me.

  20. oh that is hard as i don't have a favorite that i'm cooking from right as i'm making way to many fresh fruit crisps, baked seasonal veggie pies and applesauce and doing it w/ "whatever" comes to be cooking from a book.

    and i have long wanted to have this book so would love to win - butter stains and all :)

    jacquieastemborski AT comcast DOT net

  21. I was half way done reading this post and already had plans to tell you about a cook book I love; Wild Fermintation by Sandor Katz. I have an extra copy because when my neighbor took too long returning it I bought a new one so if it isnt too weird I could send you a book too. I love the philosophy behind this book. Instead of rigid control over autoclaved pickels and sterile beer, knowledge of natural systems of mircobiology and a beautiful honesty about failures of wine and people are portrayed. The author has been living with AIDS on a people of all sexualities welcoming commune for over a decade. He writes simply and lovingly about his life and love of fermented food of all kinds. Great book!

  22. I'm working my way through a number of canning cookbooks at the moment. My favorite right at this moment has to be that old chestnut, The Ball Blue Book. It simply has everything!

  23. I would have to say my favorite cookbook for the last year (and the one that I currently have 3 copies of for giving away) is Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Nothing pretentions, most things quick and easy, and everything comes out delicious. The cookbook I own the most copies of to share, however, is "Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes" by George Leonard Herter. Mine came from my father (from his mother) and I hoard the out of print copies I can find. I wouldn't say I cook from it (Mary-mother-of-God Spinach or Alexander the Great's Favorite Bananas, anyone?) But it's a delight to read his crazy theories and helpful to know what to do if there's an atomic bomb attack, or if I want to start skinning and cooking badgers!

  24. I am fortunate to have a mom who works at Williams Sonoma and she brings me lots of cookbooks..they have 2 great ones for weeknight cooking (Weeknight Fresh and Fast, and the Weeknight Cook) and although there is nothing groundbreaking within, they help me to create quick healthy meals with a bit of class:) I also use the internet to get meal ideas and of course Eating From the Ground Up is always inspirational and reliable!