Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sunday Farmer's Market Brunch for Ten... Part Three: Nectarine/Plum Pound Cake

 Potato Leek Gratin, Farmer's Market Quiche, Almondberry Tarte, Nectarine/Plum Pound Cake, Herb Infused Breakfast Meats.  Served on vintage, hand-painted, artistan signed plates from the Tonalo region of Mexico, 1940' s green Seneca Driftwood glasses, vintage Coorsite ball pitchers, crystal cake pedestals all from my collection.  All vintage wares come from my spelunking on ebay and in flea markets for a fraction of their worth. Shall I blog about my spelunking???(Ikea flutes bought on sale for less than $1 each... I have about 50 stored away for parties.)

Sorry there's not a better picture of this delicious treat!  That's an improvement I'm working on!

I am so proud of this off-the-cuff throw-in that I came up with for our brunch!  Be sure to cursor over the little book icons here for additional tidbits and treasures...
This is another improvisation based on what was available at the farmer's market on Sunday morning.  There was one farmer who had dried fruits, both sulfured and unsulfured.  Beautiful  Nectarine halves and Plum halves.  You can use pretty much whatever fresh dried drupe (stone) fruit you want.  I recommend unsulfured  if you're buying from a farmer for several reasons. Sulfur is used on dried fruits to preserve color and allegedly nutrients.  But it changes the flavor and aroma of the fruit and to my experience gives it a faint bitter aftertaste.   If you're buying it fresh from the farmer they should have some unsulfured on hand.  This will not last long, so just get as much as you need and use it up within a week.  As for color preservation, I don't particularly think that's as important as flavor, and some of the color will come back when you reconstitute the fruit for this recipe.  There are different grades of dried fruit ranging from extra fancy to standard.  The higher grades are what you want for this, if you can find them.  What you get at a farmers market will be fancy to extra fancy typically, which have more moisture and depth of sweetness and flavor.  In your supermarket or grocery store, read the packaging, usually it will tell you the grade.  Otherwise just look for moist, flexible dried fruit.

You can also improvise with what kind of cake batter you use.  Any dense and moist loaf cake or  muffin batter will work.  For this recipe we use a standard pound cake recipe.  You can even make the cake batter from a box mix if you're in a serious hurry.  But pound cake batter is very simple... couldn't be simpler.  In fact I commissioned the Austrian to make the batter for me while I was whipping up some other thing for the brunch.   Pound cake was originally made with a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour.  It has evolved from there...

Alright so here it is!!

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)
 Unsalted Butter you'll need one cup of butter for this recipe.  I don't use salted butter when I cook.  I want to have the most control over salt intake as possible.  Eggs As you know, I'm going to tell you I love brown eggs from the farmer's market!  All-Purpose Flour You'll need 2 cups of this.  I like to get the unbleached sort because it makes me feel like I'm a little closer to nature.  :) Baking Powder  While researching ingredients for this recipe, I learned that this is a combination of baking soda, an acid (such as cream of tartar) and a moisture absorber (such as cornstarch).  This is info I'll keep in mind should I be making something that requires baking powder and I'm out.  If I've got cream of tartar, baking soda, and cornstarch I'm straight!  Demerara Sugar 1 cup will be used in this recipe.  You can use regular white sugar, but I prefer to use  healthier Demerara or Turbinado raw, steam-cleaned sugars in recipes that call for granulated sugar. You'll find this in most larger grocery stores, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc... You can also subtitute other sweeteners but you'll have to experiment around with them to get the flavor and moisture content right... Vanilla You'll need 1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract, or the inside of one vanilla bean scraped into your batter bowl.  But DON'T TOSS THE POD!  Get yourself a jar or airtight, container  and put the used vanilla bean pod inside and fill with sugar.  In about a week this Vanilla Sugar can be used in all kinds of recipes for intensified vanilla flavor.   Dried Fruit  2 cups are needed for this recipe.  I used 1 cup of Nectarines, and 1 cup of Plums.  See my notes above regarding grades and assortments that work. Rum  Even though we have a great deal of rum in our liquor cabinet, most of it we didn't buy.  People bring alcohol as hostess gifts when they come.  Sometimes they bring rum.  If you must use a readily available famous brand get the best they sell.  Yes, even to cook with.  It will make a world of difference.  I try to always keep some Bajan  rum in my cabinet.  My favorite that's readily available in better grocers and liquor stores, is Mount Gay Rum.

Take butter and eggs out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before you're ready to start so they come down to room temperature. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a medium sized saucepan put dried fruit and 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 of brandy or rum, and put on stove on medium heat to reconstitute. 
In a mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer for 30 seconds (til fluffy)
Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla together into butter .
Check your fruit on the stove and stir.  It should be absorbing the water, and becoming rehydrated.

Mix flour and baking powder together.
Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture with mixer on medium speed.
Turn off the fruit. 
Coat the inside of 9x13 inch baking pan or casserole dish with spray Canola oil (or put some oil on a paper towel and wipe entire interior surface of pan)
Pour half of your cake batter into pan/dish.
With a slotted spoon, spread all of your reconstituted fruit in a layer over the batter, leaving the leftover juices behind in the pan. 
Pour other half of your cake batter over the fruit and spread around.  Don't worry if some of the fruit shows through.  This is a rustic cake and that will be just fine.  
Put into your preheated oven and bake until cake is firm to the touch in the center and golden brown.  About 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes then cut into large rectangular pieces, serve warm or room temperature.

You can substitute any of the following fresh fruit for the dried fruit in this recipe:
Pineapples, Peaches, Apricots, Mango, Tangerine.   Simply use them in slices... no pre-cooking needed.

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