“…the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.”
– Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem
No riot of color or chilling air; October’s subtlety in LA is lost to anyone not labeled “native.” Sunburnt leaves wither and suicide in golden sunlight without fanfare. Stifling Santa Ana winds unfurl scents of burning sagebrush with feelings of “prickly dread” and stopped time. Earthquake weather, we call it. Porch lights flicker awake by 6:00, lighting barefoot children pedaling bikes in dusty cul-de-sacs. This is autumn in LA.
Despite the warmth, autumn in my kitchen means roasts and stews – and desserts of pumpkin, apple or pear, like this autumn-inspired Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake.
A buttery-rich cake topped with fresh pears and pecans.
2 Bosc pears, cored, peeled and cut into 12 slices each
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
½ cup pecans
⅓ cup bourbon
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup pecans
3 Tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger
Make Topping: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter a 9” cake pan and arrange pear slices in a pattern on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
Bring 1 cup sugar and water to boil in a frying pan over high heat (not nonstick), reduce heat to simmer and cook, swirling, but not stirring until mixture caramelizes. When colored a medium brown, add pecans and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add bourbon and salt. Pour over pears. Note: At any place along the process, the caramel may seize and crystalize, just return it to the stove on a low heat and re-melt.
Make Cake: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together unsalted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time; beating after each addition (I add a small tablespoon of the flour mixture after each egg to help avoid curdling). Beat in vanilla. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beating after each addition, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in remaining ½ cup pecans and crystalized ginger. Batter will be thick
Spoon batter over pears, smoothing and spreading evenly. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes, invert cake on a serving platter and cool until slightly warm.
Apples, cinnamon and rum-soaked raisins capture autumn in this moist Bundt cake. Coffee cake? Snack cake? Impressive post-meal dessert? It works for all three – you decide.
Autumn in L.A.
Feigning Hollywood starlet ennui, tanned summer leaves serenely suicide from weary trees, “Too hot,” they lament, “I cannot stay a moment longer.” L.A. subtly shifts into autumn, leaving paroxysms of sunset hues to the other coast.
Adapted from Richardson’s Canal House Inn apple raisin cake.
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup dark spiced rum
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cut into ½” dice
Glaze and Icing
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons honey
½ cup powdered sugar
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan, knocking out excess flour. Combine golden raisins and rum in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside and let soak.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk together oil, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in apples and drained golden raisins. Spoon batter into pan.
Bake until tester comes out clean, about 75 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
In a small saucepan, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar and honey and heat on medium until sugar is completely melted and glaze is thickened and bubbling. Brush over top and sides of cake. Combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a glaze and drizzle over cake. Serve plain of with sweetened whipped cream
Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. Set this recipe aside for Easter or Mother’s Day.
If you want your tart a little more “pink” try adding a dash of red food coloring. I kept mine au naturale.
What does one make for a football and dessert party? Considering the season, my schemings first turn to creamy pumpkin, crisp apple, or juicy pear – the fruits of the season. And spices…oh, there should be spices! Cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. Ah, gingerbread. Gingerbread…and pear. Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Cake, warm and comforting; a celebration of Autumn. YES!
How I got from those thoughts to a refreshingly light pink-grapefruit tart, I haven’t a clue. Oh, but I’m so glad I did!
Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. A press-in crust keeps the fuss-factor down.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
5 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, beaten
⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
⅔ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pink grapefruit zest
⅔ cup pink grapefruit juice
Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and melted butter. Pat dough on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake about 20 minutes until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes.
Beat together eggs, whipping cream, sugar, salt, grapefruit zest and grapefruit juice. Pour into tart shell and bake about 30 minutes or until filling jiggles only slightly in center.
Let cool on rack for 30 minutes, transfer to refrigerator and cool completely. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.
Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe ticks all the boxes: easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.
It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, especially in my choice of TV programmes (I couldn’t resist). My current favorite, to no one’s surprise, is the Great British Baking Show. Saturday mornings, before getting my own bake on, I treat myself to an hour of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, a tent-full of amateur bakers and those classic only-in-Britain colloquialisms, such as “scrummy” and “oh my giddy aunt,” that I’m dying to introduce into the common American lexicon.
Before bed, when I’m brain-dead and in need of mindless comfort, nothing beats Escape to the Country; Brits house-hunting for their perfect “chocolate box” countryside cottage. I’ve picked up a few British idioms during my viewing of this show as well – like the aforementioned “chocolate box” as well as “homely.” “Homely” to the Brits doesn’t mean the same as “homely” in the states. It’s their term for homey, comforting, cozy. “The snug with wood-burner is quite homely.”
Combining the two shows leads me to this recipe, which can only be described as “homely baking” – I can almost imagine pulling freshly- baked tins of quick bread from my “range cooker” in my exposed-beamed Yorkshire kitchen, thatching optional.
Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe from Saveur ticks all the boxes – easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.
Myriad spices and preserved lemon come together in this exotically flavored chicken dish with minimal hands-on time, making Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon an ideal recipe for entertaining.
Looking back at one of my old blog posts feels like pulling out an old high school yearbook from a dusty closet shelf. I first prepared this recipe in February 2014. At the time I hit “post,” I was feeling reasonably accomplished and proud to post both recipe and photograph. Four plus years later, I cringe – at the poorly lit and composed image and appallingly written recipe, for starters. What. Was. I. Thinking. In the future, when I’m exasperated by my lack of noticeable improvement, I’ll revisit a post from 2014 to remind myself how far I’ve truly come. Oh, the horror.
1 ½ preserved lemons, sliced (or one fresh lemon very thinly sliced)
In a food processor, process first 12 ingredients through saffron to make a marinade. Arrange chicken, carrots, olives and lemon in a 13×9” pan and pour marinade over and around ingredients. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least two hours and up to one day.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place dish, covered with foil, in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 additional minutes until chicken is cooked through. If desired, broil for an additional 5 minutes to crisp skin on chicken.
To serve, arrange chicken, carrots, olives and lemon on a platter. Degrease sauce and pour over chicken and vegetables. Serve with aromatic rice.
Speaking of school years…yep, gloves, a walking stick, and check out those shoulder pads!