Saturday, August 31, 2013

Don't let me fool you


I hope all of you have enjoyed your August. In the seasonal sense, we kind of missed it. We've been in here, in that cave of newbornness, holing it up and hunkering down and mostly enjoying the view. It's been equally nice and nutty. It's been everything I remember but better. 
I mean, look at these kids! We have kids, plural. Kids. My life flashes before my eyes, and it looks so weird. Beautiful, actually, but weird.

It's been a delight to have Eden with us. It's also been a comedy act. One of those really awful ones where the coffee you just made is just out of reach or you have to go to the bathroom with an infant latched to your breast (maneuver that!). Imagine dinner on the table. Someone else brought it (bless them!) because I called them over to the house at noon, begging for them to hold that baby and entertain that four-year-old--so I could eat. Eat. Not shower or pluck my eyebrows or mow the lawn. Eat.

So they brought dinner. Because they felt sorry for us and because they are generous and wonderful. Eden had been asleep for the hour or two before they arrived that evening, and as soon as I sat down to the dinner she was awake and I got to feed her dinner while trying to feed myself as well. She was in my left arm. I was trying to reach the potatoes on the plate with my free hand and bring the food back to my mouth without dropping butter, salt, and said potato all over her head. Comedy act. Torture chamber. Memories in the making. All of the above.

Don't let me fool you...sometimes it's almost easy. Especially when I've had my coffee--or beer, which went with last night. It was stunning. I got dinner (sans the baby on lap) and a shower and did all the dishes and sneaked in a movie with the beloved and baked a cake. Rare and ridiculous, but so beautiful. I'm waiting for the fallout, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying it.

Because that's what makes this work: no expectations and no worrying about the future. The awkwardness comes. Two steps forward, one step back, so says the midwife. That is the only goal here--that it gets less weird and more delightful daily. So far, we're on the right track.

Be back soon.


Breton Buckwheat Cake with Figs

Adapted from Ms. Swanson who acquired it from Mr. Lebovitz's book The Sweet Life in Paris

I've made this cake many times now, and it is my first baked item since Eden was born. That should probably tell you something. It is another one of those lovely humble cakes we've been making all year. This one is dense, tight crumbed, salt-kissed, and smooth. It reminds me somehow of a cake version of shortbread. It can tend toward dry if overbaked, but somehow manages to still be really good when that happens.

If for some reason you stray from the fig, keep in mind the sweetness of the fruit. It is key. Tart contrast is not what this cake wants. It wants mellow. It wants deep. I might try apricots next year, maybe. Or pears. But really, the drier quality of the figs matched with the mellow, unobtrusive sweetness is just too perfect. More likely is that if there are no figs, I'll leave the fruit out (and cut back to the original 7/8 cup of buckwheat). Curious what anyone else comes up with.

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon plus generous 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 ounces butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum
8-10 smallish black mission figs, about 6 ounces*

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk (cow, soy, almond, or other)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter a 9-10" tart pan with a removable bottom.

In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (by hand or with a mixer). Add yolks and egg, one at a time, beating well after each, and then add the vanilla and rum. Beat well again.

Stir in the flour mixture by hand until just combined. Do not overmix.

Spread batter in the buttered tart pan and smooth the surface. (See note on figs, if applicable.) Stir together the egg glaze and brush it over the top of the cake. Use it all. Don't be shy or fearful. If you've hidden the fruit, drag a fork through the top of the cake in lines at one angle and then drag the fork from another angle to make cross-hatches. Sprinkle the remaining generous 1/4 teaspoon evenly over the top (I like to crumble it).

Slide the cake in the oven and bake for at least 35 minutes, but probably more like 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve plain warmish or at room temperature. Enjoy!

* If your figs are on the larger side of life, you may find it better to cut them into 1-inch pieces. If this is the case, you may also want to hide them in between layers of batter rather than press on top. This works best with figs that are not too ripe.

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