Monday, August 26, 2013

Equally Amazing Feats


It has been a tumultuous week, to say the least. Never one to readily own the characteristic of being "dramatic," nevertheless, the passionate, artistic side of me does swing in stronger sometimes and paint life's moments with additional flair. But always while keeping my feet close to the ground, or so I hope.

With that preface, I can still honestly say that looking back over the last seven days, I've felt a whole lot of gratitude, anxiety, triumph, and despair. It's always a good exercise of humility to put oneself in situations outside of our full competence, and I felt despairingly incompetent as I struggled to smoothly shift gears and keep my car's engine running in the manual vehicle I was so graciously given in this time between owning vehicles. It was a good place to be in the long run, and it's a place I'm glad to have moved maneuvering through parking lots and accomplishing other equally amazing feats.


I hopped on the Bart and enjoyed a day and night in one of my favorite cities, exploring it sans vehicle, which is my preferred manner. The smells of San Francisco's streets are sweet, sour, filthy, and homey depending which street you wander down, and I always leave inspired for future kitchen endeavors by what I eat and drink. I recommend Absinthe for a cocktail (but don't stop at the drink menu), Contraband for a cappuccino and morning pastry, and a donut from Bob's, especially if you see them pulling the buttermilk variety fresh out of the oil as you're passing by. Even (especially?) if it is past ten o'clock at night, and you know they're going to turn around, dunk it in that maple glaze and hand it to you so hot that you almost have to alternate it between each hand for a couple minutes. I've never really raved about a donut, and generally can pass them by without much regret, but this was worth every sweet bite.


A recent cake I baked turned out so well, I'll surely return to it and do wish there had been enough to share a slice with you. Half of it made its way to a brunch with some ladies who are fast becoming essential friends in my new city, and the other half went to work with me, where it quickly disappeared down to crumbs in the break room.

The base recipe is from Dolce Italiano, a cookbook I was introduced to at my pastry station at Ciao Thyme. I know it will eventually make its way into my personal cookbook collection because every recipe I've made and heard others have made from Gina DePalma's pages is worth sharing and repeating. Her recipe titles alone make my mouth water.

This zucchini cake is moist enough to improve over a day and last up to two or three. The original recipe includes walnuts and a crunchy lemon glaze, but I had my heart set on adding in blueberries. Whole grain spelt flour was hanging around my pantry, so I substituted it in for part of the flour and added toasted coconut. I was excited about the blueberry-coconut combination as well, but my coconut strands were so small and my measurement of half a cup so gentle that it hardly came through. Nothing was lacking without, though; this cake can stand well on its own without any tinkering. (If you want to fancy it up, though, go for that crunchy lemon glaze or a drizzled glaze of salted caramel and sprinkling of pine nuts.)


Zucchini Blueberry Cake
Adapted from Dolce Italiano

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-grain spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)

1 cup small wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 10-cup capacity bundt pan.

Combine both of the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl, whisk, and set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until well combined, about two minutes. Slowly add olive oil while mixer is on medium speed. Keep mixing until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the zucchini on low speed until just incorporated. Thoroughly incorporate zucchini in this final step by folding in blueberries and giving it all a final gentle stir.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cakes for 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the cakes comes out clean and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pans.

After 10-15 minutes of rest on a cooling rack, poke down along the edges of the pan and the inner tube with a butter knife, invert, and de-pan.

1 comment:

Rachael said...

I miss making zucchini bread or cake, it has just been awhile. You inspired me to do some gift baking with this recipe.

It's so like you to face a challenge or fear with determination. It's no wonder you have conquered the skill of maneuvering with a clutch & stick through city traffic. Well done, once again!