So, frankly, as I sit here, I have no idea what to write about in this post. Should I write about this cake, with strawberries whose flavor can be best described as an enigma? Should I write about the book I’m reading (Bleak House)? Should I write about what I plan to read (Dracula, Crime and Punishment, among others)? Or maybe I should write a bit about each.
Let’s start with summer reading. I have really big plans for reading this summer. It seems like, in general, that there are always so many books that I want to read; but it seems like I never have the time to actually make it happen during the rest of the year. So, I decided this summer was not going to be a summer that I spent reading modern novels and novellas, but some hardcore classics! Plus, B&N was having a great sale on their classics. What can I say? Worthwhile sales on worthwhile items are something I have a hard time resisting.
Anyway, those are some of my reading plans. We’ll see if they come into fruition. What about you, what books have you set aside for summer reading?
Now onto that cake. I could go on about how practically perfect this cake is (simple enough for breakfast, haughty enough for dessert; not too sweet; etc.), but I think I’ll let you find that out for yourself.
The overall inspiration for the cake was from Joy the Baker, but the recipes were from Heidi Swanson. In terms of the strawberries, I know that a combination of olive oil, strawberries, and balsamic vinegar may seem strange; but just go with it. In terms of the overall cake, just be sure not to over-bake it. This cake has less fat and sugar than a typical cake, and it will continue to bake in the cast iron after you take it out of the oven.
8 ounces small to medium strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
a splash of brandy
a splash of balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C with a rack in the middle of the oven.
It is important to use a rimmed baking sheet, or large casserole dish for this recipe to catch all of the juices. You can line it with parchment paper.
Halve or quarter each strawberry, depending on its size. Add the berries to a mixing bowl. In a small dish, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and salt into an emulsion. Pour this over the strawberries and very gently toss them to coat. Dump the strawberries onto your prepared dish, and arrange them so they are not on top of each other.
Roast them for about 30-40 minutes, just long enough for the berry juices to thicken; but not long enough for them to burn. Be especially vigilant of the edges in particular.
When the strawberries come out of the oven, scrape them and their juices into a bowl. Add in the brandy and balsamic, and toss to coat. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving or storing. The berries and their sauce will remain fresh, refrigerated for up to a week.
Makes 1/2 cup
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s book, Super Natural Everyday
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour*
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar**
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Roasted Strawberries (recipe above)
3 tablespoons large-grain raw or turbinado sugar**
Preheat oven to 400 F/205 C with a rack in the top third of the oven. Butter an 11-inch cast iron skillet.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, fine-grain sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Whisk in the cooled, melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir briefly, until just combined.
Pour the batter into the skillet. Smooth with a spatula to cover the entire surface of the pan. Scatter the strawberries (not the juice, reserve that to use as a syrup on the cake) on top, lightly pressing them in. Sprinkle generously with the large-grain sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake has set. A toothpick inserted near the center shouldn’t come out completely covered in wet batter.
Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of freshly made, lightly sweetened whipped cream and a drizzle of the strawberry syrup.
*I have been fortunate enough to find a place to purchase this flour, but unbleached all-purpose will also work if you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour.
**My supermarket has started stocking unrefined, pure cane sugar in various forms. If you can’t get this sugar, you can use white sugar and sanding sugar respectively; but I encourage you to use unrefined cane sugar for its mature depth in flavor.