A Golden Cake for the Holidays – Fragrant with Spice and Bartlett Pears…

December 13th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Bartlett Pear Cake

Spiced Yogurt Cake with Bartlett Pears

Bartlett Pears on a Turquoise Plate

Bartlett Pears on a Turquoise Plate

I love getting up early on a winter morning and baking in a sunlit kitchen. To me, the scent of fresh baked goods, coffee and fragrant, warm spices makes a house feel comforting and homey. So this morning, when my cat nudged me awake before the sunrise, I started a fire in the wood stove and began throwing open the cupboards and canisters.

Fruit from the fall harvest is still plentiful at my local orchards and markets, and as you may have noticed, I have been enjoying it ! Although I have been writing a great deal about heirloom apples lately, in truth I have a great weakness for all fall fruit – and I am particularly fond of pears. Simply gazing upon their blushing, golden beauty as they bask in the early morning light on my table, I find them absolutely irresistible. Sometimes I will buy a few pears, intending to poach or bake with them, and then I will eat them all before the weekend. The flesh of this sweetly perfumed fruit has such a beautiful, delicate texture, usually I can not control myself. But this time I bought a dozen Bartlett pears at the market, enough for baking as well as for impulse-pleasure.

Last week I mentioned my fondness for Marion Cunningham’s delightful Breakfast Book. Marion’s collection of recipes includes many delicious coffee and breakfast cakes. Also last week, while visiting one of my favorite cooking blogs, Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate and Zucchini, I found a slightly different twist on a much loved, basic coffee cake from Marion’s book. Gateau au Yaourt is a simple and easily modified French cake recipe. Clotilde posted a variation on this yogurt cake with apples and maple sugar, (in honor of her nephew’s first birthday – we are both new aunts, and I was excited to read that she takes this as seriously as I do!). I tried this cake and I absolutely loved it. So, this morning I decided to combine Clotilde and Marion’s recipes together, adding fresh Bartlett pears atop the cake, and the result is quite delightful, (I am enjoying a slice with coffee as I write to share this with you). I think the subtle, exquisite flavor of Bartlett pears works perfectly with this recipe – it’s a simple, easy-to-make treat for this wintery, holiday season.

I am so enamored of Clotilde’s cookbooks that I have ordered several copies to give as holiday gifts this year. Her blog is fantastic, and I was hoping to attend her book signing in New York in order to meet her, but we were hit with a severe snow storm and I was unable to drive to the city. Sigh. Next time! Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris is her latest collection of wonderful recipes. Her instructions are always easy to follow and her style of writing is both clear and entertaining. I could go on and on, but I am sorry, I need to finish eating my slice of cake !


Spiced Yogurt Cake with Bartlett Pears

(with the French influence of Clotilde Dusoulier and American Marion Cunningham)

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2         eggs

1         cup whole milk yogurt (or use sour cream, as Marion does)

1         cup sugar

1/3      cup butter, melted (or use vegetable oil, as Clotilde does)

1         teaspoon vanilla extract

1         tablespoon light rum (I used Puerto Rican golden rum)

2         cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/2      teaspoon baking soda

3         ripe Bartlett pears, cored and sliced in thin wedges

dash  fresh ground nutmeg

dash  fresh ground cinnamon

butter for greasing pan

Warm oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and set aside. Core and thinly slice three ripe Bartlett pears to wedges. Set aside. Grease a 10″ round, ceramic pan or cake dish with butter.  Mix yogurt, eggs, vanilla, rum, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet and blend until just mixed. Pour mix into the greased pan. Arrange sliced pears in a circle atop the cake and sprinkle with fresh ground nutmeg and cinnamon.

Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and test with a stick for doneness. Let the cake sit for 15 minutes before removing from the pan or serving.


Mixing the Yogurt Cake

When mixing the ingredients, remember that a few lumps are OK – best not to overwork the batter…

Slicing the Bartlett Pears

I sliced Bartlett pears into thin wedges and arranged them in a spiral atop the cake. A dusting of fresh ground nutmeg and cinnamon topped things off before I set it into the hot oven…

Bartlett Pears on a Turquoise Plate 2

Bartlett pears look so beautiful on my table, it is almost like having Cezanne to breakfast.

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Two favorite cook books from Clotilde …

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Click here for: Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris

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Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen

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Article and photographs, (with exception of the two book links above), copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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As a matter of personal integrity, all product and book reviews on this site are purely editorial. No payment of any kind is received for mention here. However, The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and any purchases you make at Amazon by accessing the store through links on this site will help support The Gardener’s Eden by netting this site a small percentage of the sale. Thank you !

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Original Sin? Getting My Fill of Old World Temptations and Pleasures in the Apple Orchard at Scott Farm…

November 9th, 2009 § 10 comments § permalink

Heirloom apples from Scott Farm, Vermont

Apples. They certainly are beautiful and tempting. But sinful? Hardly. Although, to tell the truth, I’ve always had a secret, flirtatious ‘thing’ for orchards. Maybe it all started with those stories about wickedness and pleasure in the Garden of Eden. You know, forbidden fruit and all that? Who knows how my mind works. All I can tell you is that somewhere along the line apple groves became mighty seductive to me. And I suspect I am not alone. Old orchards are just plain romantic, and heirloom apples are as alluring as a fruit can get.

I grew up around orchards, and some of my earliest memories are of apple-blossom petal-blizzards and the sweet, earthy smell of mashed fruit wafting from the cider house up the hill. As a child, I remember being held up to a tree and plucking shiny, red fruit from the branches while the old orchard-keeper’s brown, leathery hands held me safe and secure. Later on, I lured my suitors to the orchard on ‘picnics’, where we would spread out a blanket and gaze at the moonrise or watch the Fourth of July fireworks in the valley below. And although none of those romances worked out, my love affair with the orchard is still going strong…

Apple orchards are invariably beautiful. Positioned at high altitudes to take advantage of air flow on chilly nights at either end of the growing season, most orchards have spectacular views. New England is well known for its beautiful fruit farms, however Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, is quite simply the prettiest apple orchard I have ever seen. You may know it too, even if you live far away, because Scott farm was used as the main set location for the 1999 film, The Cider House Rules, based on John Irving’s novel of the same name. Lucky for me, this glorious place is just a short drive from my house…

Scott Farm belongs to the Landmark Trust USA, an organization dedicated to the preservation of historic places. It is a 626 acre property inclusive of the 571 acre historic orchard and buildings pictured here. Some of the buildings on the large property, including the Dutton Farmhouse overlooking Scott Farm, and Naulakha, (Rudyard Kipling’s former home), and Scott Farm Sugarhouse are available for holiday rental, or in the case of the larger spaces, for gatherings such as conferences and weddings.

Scott Farm itself is a working, for-profit business. In cultivation since 1791, the farm is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Zeke Goodband manages the orchard, and how fortunate for Scott Farm, for there is no finer orchard keeper, and no one more knowledgeable about heirloom apples. When Zeke first arrived at Scott Farm, McIntosh apples made up nearly 100% of the orchard. Today, the farm harvests many kinds of fruit, and more than 70 varieties of unusual apples; most of them heirlooms grafted from Zeke’s own, personal collection of cuttings gathered from throughout New England. The apples at Scott Farm are all certified, ecologically raised and hand picked beginning in August and continuing through early November. In addition to growing and selling apples, other fruit and orchard products, the farm also offers fruit trees and lilacs for sale in spring and it conducts annual pruning and grafting workshops.

I thought I was passionate about plants, but what I am discovering now is a another deeper, and far more intense level of hortimania – the world of the heirloom apple collector. With so many beautiful trees and bushel upon bushel of fragrant, mouthwatering fruit – it’s hard not to consider planting a small orchard of my own. Perched on a 1800′ hilltop, my property has a protected, easterly facing slope. I am at once excited and frightened by the possibilities racing through my mind. Yes orchards are beautiful, but raising apples is not for the faint of heart; there are deer, there are insect pests, and there are diseases. And as if that’s not enough, every few years apple crops are wiped out by late frosts – delicate blossoms nipped in the bud.

Still, in spite of the obstacles, there is the siren song. The temptation. Orleans Reinette; Blue Pearmain; Belle de Boskoop; Ananas Reinette; Black Gilliflower; Wolf River… the list goes on and on. Have a look at the possibilities. Do you grow heirloom apples, or are you thinking of planting a few fruit trees of your own? I am certainly considering a small orchard, and I couldn’t keep it under wraps. So I will take you along with me on the apple tour this week. They say Eve tempted Adam with an apple. But I don’t think she needed to do much persuading if she was holding one of these heirloom beauties in her hands…

Hudson’s Golden Gem is an American apple from the early 1900’s, grown from a chance seedling. This variety has crisp, sweet flesh with a slight, ripe-pear flavor. The color is extraordinary…

Blue Pearmain is a New England apple from 1700’s. It is excellent for baking or for eating fresh. Henry David Thoreau wrote about this, one of his favorite apples, in his journals…

Ananas Reinette is an apple first grown in France in the 1500’s. Small and yellow-skinned, it has a hint of pineapple and zesty citrus to its tender flesh. This beautiful apple is suitable for baking or just for eating as a snack…

Black Gilliflower apples are another old New England variety. This apple has an intense aroma, it is a traditional and favorite cooking apple…

Calville Blanc d’Hiver is a French apple with a long history dating back to the 15th century. It has a sweet, bright flavor, reminiscent of champagne. This is one of the best French cooking apples as it maintains an excellent texture in baked goods…

Wolf River is originally from Wisconsin, but it quickly became a popular baking apple in New England, where it was once widely grown. This apple dates back to the mid 1800’s, and is excellent in pies and other baked goods…

Orleans Reinette is a gorgeous apple. This beauty has been grown in France for hundreds of years. An excellent cooking apple, the flavor of this apple is citrus-like, with a rich nuttiness…

This popular heirloom apple dates back to 1803 in Nottinghamshire, England. Bramley’s seedling is an excellent choice for baking, and it is frequently used in pies and crisps…

Belle de Boskoop is the tart flavored fruit used in authentic apple strudel. It comes from the Netherlands…

Zabergau Reinette comes from the Zaber River region of Germany. This apple is used in baking, cooking and sauces, as well as for eating…

Historic, culinary and varietal information is courtesy of Zeke Goodband at Scott Farm Orchard, Vermont

Stay tuned for more apple-mania this week. In the meantime, here are some tasty links:

Some Delicious Heirloom – Apple Recipe Links…

Appelschnitte, (apple pastry w/ iced sheeps milk) at Chocolate and Zucchini (Uses Boskoop and Reinette apples)

Tarte Tatin with Salted Butter Caramel, also at Chocolate and Zucchini

Chocolate and Zucchini is a lovely food blog written by Parisian Clotilde Dusoulier. In addition to being a great recipe source, it is also well written and a good read.

Photographs & excerpts from this photo have been reprinted, with permission, by Grist.org. Click here for the story.

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express permission. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams… 

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