It’s 6:30 in the morning and dark in our apartment. This is the only time the neighborhood seems mostly quiet, it’s too early for most of the Tenderloin. It’s been so long since I last wrote. Once you’re out of a routine, it’s surprisingly hard to get back into one. Inertia. (So hard in fact, I’ve been working on this fairly mediocre post for three weeks – ha!).
So brace yourselves. Who knows what will pop out of my head and onto the computer screen. I imagine my copyeditor is out of practice too …
Civic Activism. We’re trying our best to stay informed and participate thoughtfully in our democracy. Marching, contributing to causes we believe in, learning from people who know more than us, listening to people who have experienced life differently than us. Many of the changes made by our recent administration are more disheartening and terrifying than I dared to imagine in November when I last wrote. It feels strange to write about baking in the midst of all this, but there is an eternal comfort in cooking a meal to share with people you love.
Painting. I’ve been painting a lot, mostly abstract watercolors. It’s meditative and a lovely way to keep calm. It’s rewarding to make something beautiful and put it out into a world that can be ugly. I’ve been selling my paintings, mostly to friends, with all proceeds benefitting organizations dedicated to social justice, women’s rights and education.
Hotdish. We learned about hotdish on a Wikipedia deep dive. The initial search topic has been since eclipsed by excitement for the native Minnesotan casserole. During this exploration, we found this gem: a hotdish cook-off competition cookbook written by none other than the United States Congressmen and Congresswomen from Minnesota. Always check the Wikipedia source links! The Herman the German Hotdish was delicious. Make it.
Whiskey Before Breakfast. We went recording shopping at a new local spot, opened by some friends of friends. We’ve been digging classic country and folk lately, and we found a few fun ones to round out our collection.
Gateau Basque. Tartine, the bakery I adore that made our wedding cakes, recently opened a new restaurant Tartine Manufactory. We went for dinner and it was great. Fresh, fun and a little different. Uni toast! Plus it smells like baking bread inside the whole place. We had a version of a gateau basque at Tartine Manufactory, and then I dug up a recipe from a beautiful cookbook, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson. I made a few tweaks, and though it’s not quite at Tartine level, it was pretty dang good. Especially after it was topped with a blueberry compote seasoned with the leftover syrup from an empty jar of luxardo cherries. I haven’t written a recipe in months, so fingers crossed this one is reproducible.
Gateau Basque, serves 8
For the dough
1 cup sugar
13 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour (400g)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking power
1 egg yolk for glazing
For the blood orange filling
2 blood oranges (any orange will do)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
For the blueberry topping
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup maple syrup (or luxardo cherry syrup)
a pinch of salt
Cream the butter and sugar together, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, almond extract and then the eggs and egg yolks. Beat to combine. In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Combine the flour and butter mixtures, stirring just to combine. It should look like a soft, tacky sugar cookie dough.
Divide the dough into two balls, wrap each in plastic wrap and flatten into disks. Refrigerate for an hour.
Meanwhile, make the candied orange filling. Slice two oranges very thinly. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water together, then add the orange slices on top. Turn the heat to low and let the oranges simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Every so often, swirl the pan to coat the oranges that float to the top. This will soften the orange peels, but they won’t become hard candy.
Preheat an oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch baking dish or springform pan. Flour a work surface. Take out one of your balls of dough. Quickly roll it out to about the size of your baking dish. Using a spatula and your hands, transfer the round of dough into the bottom of the pan. It’s very soft, so if it falls apart, just press it into the dish. No harm.
On top of the first layer of dough, layer the candied orange slices. I did a few staggered layers. Then roll out your second ball of dough and lay it on top of the oranges. Press the dough down around the edges to seal.
Then, take a fork and create a crosshatch pattern in the dough. Have the tines curving up towards you as you drag them across the dough so your dough doesn’t get too roughed up. Whisk the egg yolk with a pinch of salt, and brush the top of the cake with the egg yolk.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown. While the cake is cooking, make your blueberry topping. In a saucepan, add the blueberries and syrup. Let them simmer on low hea, stirring occasionally, until they are jammy.
To serve, slice the cake and top with the blueberry topping.
With love until I write again,