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Roasted plum cakes

PA050034PA050044Don’t you just love it when the little something that you’ve just baked turns out every-bit as delicious as you hoped it would?  And every-bit as cute too?  These little plum cakes have been calling to me for years now, and when asked to bring dessert to a friendly little gathering last night, I jumped at the chance to bring these.  Plums, afterall, will be going out of season soon, and I just couldn’t let it go another year.

They consist of a regular-ol’ butter cake batter with a plum-half pressed into the center.  The cake batter rises around the plum, cradling it.  If I were to tinker with the recipe next time (because I can’t help tinkering), I might try peeling the plums first (blanching them very quickly in boiling water, and then shocking them in an ice-bath).  This is because, when eating the cake, the plum separated somewhat from the cake itself, as the plum’s skin created a bit of a barrier between the two.  Aside from that though, they were lovely.  Also, I served them lightly warmed and plain, but I’m sure they’d be just great with some lightly-sweetened whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice-cream right on top…

Roasted Plum Cakes adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
yields 6 little cakes

The original recipe called for using 8-oz ramekins, but I found that the 4-oz ramekins work just fine.

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly whisked just to break up the yolk and white
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3 small-medium sized ripe plums, halved and pitted
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter for coating the ramekins

Place an oven rack in the center-most position and turn the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat 6 4-ounce ramekins lightly with the melted butter and set them on a cookie sheet or baking tray.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachement, cream together the 4 Tablespoons butter, 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar, and the white sugar on medium speed until light in color, about 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for 2 minutes more on medium speed, until the sugar has dissolved into the butter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add half of the egg.  Turn the mixer to high and beat until the egg is incorporated.  Scrape again, and add the remaining egg, beating on high speed, until it’s incorporated.  Scrape, add the orange zest and vanilla, and mix until incorporated.

In a separate small bowl, gently stir together the flour and baking soda.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour to the creamed butter mixture and mix for about 15 seconds.  Add the buttermilk and mix for another 15-20 seconds.  Finish the last few stirs by hand.

Divide the batter equally among the 6 ramekins (about 2-1/2 Tablespoons batter each).  Place a plum-half, cut-side-up, in the center of each ramekin, pushing down lightly.  Sprinkle the plums with the remaining brown sugar.

Place the baking sheet containing the filled ramekins in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick instered into the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool in their ramekins for about 10 minutes.  To remove them from the ramekins, run a butter knife around the edge of the ramekin.  Using a kitchen towel, hold the ramekin at an angle and genltly work the knife underneath the cake, coaxing it out and onto the plate.  If you’ve made them in advance to be served later, re-heat the cakes in a 375 oven for about 5 minutes.  They will warm-through just enough to release from their ramekins.

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For once in my life

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While I’m mostly inclined to continue that title phrase by busting out a little Stevie Wonder, I had actually planned to go a different route.

For once in my life I’ve had the sense to make jam on a day that doesn’t register as one of the hottest days of the year.  Well not yet, anyway.  I’m sure the thermometer will soon spike, and I’ll be left to finish my project in a hot, humid, sticky kitchen, without the faintest relief-breeze.

But in the meantime, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy the cool air next to my jam pot.  I really haven’t made much jam this year, which is totally out of character.  In fact the only jam I’ve made is strawberry.  But then I saw the Elephant Heart plums that Blossom Bluff Orchards had on display last Tuesday at the farmer’s market.  And I thought to myself, “I just can’t go a whole year without that plum jam”.  So I bought a flat and got busy.

Elephant Heart plums are my favorite.  Their skins are vaguely grayish-purple with dark speckles, and their flesh is ruby-red.  They are sweet, but with an edge of tartness, and they have an almost raspberry-like brightness to their flavor.  I just love them.  And of course the jam turns a brilliant red that manages to uplift even the dimmest of winter mornings.

Plum Jam To Keep You Cheerful Through the Winter

  • 10 pounds plums (yielded 16 cups pitted and chunked)
  • 5-6 cups sugar
  • 3 pods of cardamom-optional (because I’m a good Norwegian girl)

Place the plums and the 4 cups of the sugar in a large (I used a 10-quart) pot and turn the heat on high.  Stir regularly until the sugar is completely melted and the plums begin to lose their juice.

Bring the fruit and sugar to a boil and skim any foam that rises. Taste for sweetness.  Remember that the jam will taste less sweet once it has cooled.  Add up to 2 more cups sugar if necessary.  Add the cardmom pods.

Continue cooking at the boil, stirring regularly to prevent sticking.  As the jam reduces in volume, you’ll need to turn down the heat- it will continue to boil even over medium-low heat.  Be sure to stir constantly with a rubber spatula, and be VERY CAREFUL around the hot jam-it will splatter somewhat as it boils.  Wear long kitchen gloves or a towel over your hand so the lava-like splatters don’t burn you.  Reduce to the desired viscosity (*do a freezer test to help determine how thick the jam will be once it has cooled).  Ladle into sterilized jars and either freeze or process in a boiling water bath.

*To do a freezer test, place a small plate in the freezer before you begin.  When you reach a point where you think the jam’s viscosity is right, spoon a little jam onto the chilled plate.  The jam will instantly cool, making it easier for you to decide if you’d like it thicker, or not.

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