17 June 2010

Delights and Prejudices


Delights and Prejudices was written by James Beard in 1964. The book is filled with over 250 recipes, but each of them is sandwiched in the context of a larger work of memoir. On can never truly extricate themselves from their first kitchen and Beard is no exception. He grew up in the kitchen of his mother who cooked for several hotels in Portland, Oregon. While Beard fell in love with French cuisine, he never strayed from the locally grown produce and fresh ingredients that filled his mother's kitchen.

A newer edition of this title was published in 2001 with an introduction by Julia Child and a foreword by Charlie Trotter. James Beard has fallen out of fashion a bit in recent memory, but this is just the book to bring him back with a vengeance. What makes this book so marvelous is the way the talks about the food. Yes, the recipes are important, but they merely lay a framework for a larger story -- the story of a man who truly loves food and the people who grow it and cook it and sell it and share it.

Huckleberry Cake was a Beard favorite. He adapted his recipe from an old family recipe of Mary Hamblet, a lifelong friend to whom Beard dedicated the book. In some circles it is still referred to as the Hamblet Huckleberry Cake. Huckleberry Cake often has an asterisk stating that blueberries will make a fine substitution. If you believe that then you desperately need to read Delights and Prejudices. Beard makes it clear that only the tart, elusive huckleberry will give this cake the true flavor of the Northeast. (That being said, many of the blueberries that hit the supermarket from foreign lands are picked at a point that they are almost as tart as the precious huckleberry. On rare occasions, huckleberries turn up in the freezer case at a supermarket. If you want huckleberry cake, you need the huckleberry. But feel free to make a Blueberry Cake if you must, Beard won't mind.)

This edition of the book features recipes written like I like to read them -- with the ingredients incorporated into the method.

Huckleberry Cake

Cream 1 cup butter and 1 cup granulated sugar together until the mixture is very light. Add 3 eggs, one by one, beating after each addition. Sift 2 cups flour and save 1/4 cup flour to mix with 1 cup huckleberries. Add to the rest 2 teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, and fold this into the egg mixture. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and, lastly, fold in the floured huckleberries. Pour the batter into a buttered, floured 8-inch-square baking tin. Bake at 375º for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is nicely browned, or when a tester inserted comes out clean. Serve the cake hot with whipped cream, or cold.

On the James Beard foundation website, they have the recipe converted to a modern layout.

Huckleberry Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup huckleberries
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
Preheat oven to 375º.

Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is very light. Add eggs, one by one, beating after each addition. Combine 1/4 cup flour with the huckleberries. In a bowl, mix the remaining flour with baking soda and then fold this into the egg mixture. Add vanilla and, lastly, fold in the floured huckleberries.

Pour the batter into a buttered, floured 8-inch-square baking tin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is nicely browned, or when a tester inserted comes out clean. Serve the cake hot with whipped cream.

Give this one a try and if you have never read James Beard, this is the place to start, and that is my prejudice.

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