24 June 2015

Honey & Jam

In our ongoing disdain for desserts that resemble compost, we have found another ally, Hannah Queen. He lovely new book, Honey & Jam is a tribute to dessert and to baking in particular.  Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Queen picked up a cupcake cookbook when she was 16 and she never looked back. She began blogging as Honey & Jam and it quickly became a "go to" site for bakers.

The obsession, or lack there of, of "deconstructed" dessert is not born out of a desire to relegate dessert to the land of Betty Crocker, but rather from a place of craft and precision. Grind up enough cake, cookie, meringue and scatter it about with jam, coils, jelly, mousse, foam and a sprinkling of herbs and chances are one bite of it will be decent. But take a cake. It is a thing that every child knows. It is vanilla or chocolate. It is predictable...except when it isn't.

The recipes in Honey & Jam are anything but predictable.  Open the book to any page and you will be able to say: Cake! Pie! Cupcake!  But delve into the flavor profile and you find something completely modern. Butter is browned and bourboned. Vegetables take their place with seasonal fruits. Crumbles are enriched with herbs. The result is a collection of recipes that will elevate your baking to a new level.

One of our favorite types of cakes to bake are those that are baked in a single layer and require not frosting.  This is a great example.

Cherry-Almond Brown Butter Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick/115 g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (170 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (70 g) almond flour
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (80 g) pitted whole fresh cherries
1/4 cup (30 g) slivered almonds
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden brown and nutty scented. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, almond extract, and the browned butter.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in the cherries.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle it with the almonds. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust the cake with powdered sugar before serving.

 Honey & Jam is the perfect blend of old-fashioned baking and thoroughly modern flavor profiles. It is quite literally, the best of both worlds.  Betty Crocker is turning over in her grave.

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