Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Brown Butter Italian Prune Cake

I haven't written much of substance in a long time. I started a post on Sunday that went something like, "I've been really busy, but I'm going to quickly write about ten of the things that have been going on, and write more of substance later." The next paragraph was, "1) Being busy! As evidence of this, I wrote that last paragraph this morning and didn't come back to it until tonight!" And that was all.

I'm drafting some posts with illustrations, some more recipe recounting (even if that gets boring, at least I'll remember later what worked and what didn't), and a few silly (and true) stories.

In the meantime, I made up my first baked good recipe last night, so I'd like to record it before I forget.

Italian prunes are in season. The first time I ever had one or knew of its existence was at the People's Co-op Farmers' Market in Portland last October. You may have seen them featured in this blog last October when I made a very nearly ill-fated clafoutis.

The original inspiration for this dessert was brown butter. In the cookbook Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce, from which I got to bake absolutely nothing before I had to return it to the library, I read about using brown butter, or caramelized butter, in baking. It became a fixation. For weeks, I pondered which dessert would best suit this, which in-season fruits. I decided on apples.

And then, two weeks ago at the King Farmers' Market, the prunes caught my eye yet again. Prunes were fated to be paired with brown butter. But how?

You don't need to know all of the different ideas I considered and rejected before I decided on something faintly resembling my mom shortbread+strawberries+whipped cream dessert. Here's the recipe.

Brown Butter Italian Prune Cake
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup teff flour (substitute cornmeal or a different low-to-no gluten flour)
1 1/2 sticks of butter (10 tbsp)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp raw cane sugar
1/4 buttermilk (or whole milk with lemon juice added)
1/4 tsp baking powder
8 Italian prunes
3/4 cup heavy cream


At least an hour in advance. Brown the butter by heating it in a skillet until it melts and turns brown. Pour it into a freezer-safe container. Put it in the freezer until it is frozen.

Sift together the flours, baking powder, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Cut the chilled brown butter into cubes. Mix the butter into the flour, preferably with clean hands, until it looks like shortbread dough. So, chunks of butter are okay. It doesn't have to be smooth. Next, mix in the buttermilk.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour the batter into the baking dish, greased or parchment-papered if necessary. (I used an ovensafe skillet.) While you are waiting for the oven to preheat, cut the prunes in half. Make indentations in the dough with your thumb and press the prune halves gently into the thumbprints, folding the remaining dough around them so that the cake surrounds the fruit. Sprinkle the raw sugar liberally over the fruit halves, less liberally over the rest of the cake.

Bake the cake at 350F for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream (with a pinch of sugar, if you'd like) until it forms peaks. Chill until ready to serve.

Theoretically served 8, but 5 of us polished it off last night. Picture coming soon!

No comments: