Plum Apple Oat Crisp

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We are on the cusp of autumn here in the midwest, and this dish bridges the fruits of the seasons in a most comforting fashion. It’s a recipe that I think is worth making for the aroma alone. Apples and plums simmering on the stovetop calms my busy mind and reminds me that I have so much to be grateful for. As I look at these photos I celebrate the goodness of the harvest, the joyful opportunity to share kitchen projects with my niece, and the hopeful promise of friends and family who gather together around the table.

I learned the method of making an apple crisp by first cooking apples on the stovetop with sugar, lemon juice, and butter, from Nigel Slater via Orangette. His brilliant method begins by warming a pan of butter and allowing the fruit to release their natural juices and slightly caramelize before adding the topping and finally baking it altogether in the oven. In this instance, the purple plums cook down, bubble up, and turn the flesh of the chopped apples a brilliant ruby red. The color reminds me of those gorgeous sugar maple leaves at their peak of autumn transformation.

Cinnamon, oats, and walnuts finish off the sweet and tart fruit. No flour is necessary for this crisp topping, but there are many lovely toppings that you could choose instead. Be sure to use gluten free oats if you are not able to eat gluten. Enjoy it warm for breakfast or for dessert with a scoop of frozen whipped cream.

Plum Apple Oat Crisp

4-5 apples

12 plums

1 lemon

1/2 C brown sugar

4 T unsalted butter

Chop the apples and plums into bite-sized pieces. Juice the lemon. Mix together the apples, plums, lemon juice, and brown sugar in a bowl. In a large pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat. After the butter is melted and stops foaming, add the fruit mixture to the pan. Next comes the transformation! Lightly stir from time to time. It can take up to 20 minutes on the stovetop for the juices to begin to thicken. You will know that the magic has happened when the fruit is completely coated and the air is filled with that delicious Fall aroma.

While the fruit is on the stovetop, mix up the simple oat topping. Hand mixing works the best for me.

2 C quick cooking oats

1 C walnuts

1/2 C brown sugar

8 T unsalted butter

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t kosher salt

Transfer the caramelized, cooked fruit to a baking dish and evenly top with the oat mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven, or until the topping becomes golden.

pineapple snow torte

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Our latest snowfall totaled around 12 inches, and it left the bare forest branches looking like mixer beaters covered in freshly whipped meringue.  The kitchen imitated nature the following day when my mom put together a frozen pineapple torte recipe from days gone by.  Even though it is an icebox dessert, there is something sunny and warm about the pineapple torte.  Her version reminded me a bit of key lime pie; I suspect because she toned down the sweetness.  I first learned of this dessert when she was searching for a recipe similar to what her mom used to make when company would come over for Sunday lunch.  She kept calling it an old-fashioned recipe, because it states to cook the custard until it “coats the back of a spoon.”  My grandma would plop the fluffy tropical mixture into her metal ice cube trays and put them in the freezer to set up. Refrigerator trays used to have removable dividers with a handle that you pulled up to release the ice. If you took out the dividers, the pineapple mixture went in the bottom part of the tray.  You can skip the freezer part if you please; it’s simply fluffy and delicious as is.  My mom told me that they normally had frozen pineapple torte in hot weather because it was a lot like ice cream. I found it to be perfectly perky and sunny for a February lunch, and I daresay it would be a pleasant finale to a pork BBQ meal anytime of the year.

Ingredients

3 egg yolks
dash of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 can 8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
2 T lemon juice
3 stiff beaten egg whites
2 T sugar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (for a gluten free dessert, select the GF cookies)

Directions

Break egg yolks in double broiler.  Add salt and 1/3 cup sugar; add syrup from pineapple and lemon juice.  Cook over hot, not yet boiling water until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly.  Add pineapple; cool.  Make meringue of egg whites and 2 T of sugar.  Fold in whipped cream and custard mixture.  Coat sides of greased refrigerator tray with wafer crumbs.  Spread half the remaining crumbs on the bottom of the tray (or dish of your choosing).  Pour in fluffy custard mixture and cover with remaining crumbs.  Enjoy as is in parfait cups, or freeze firm for 4 hours and slice to serve.

roasted white peaches and blueberries

1 white peaches blueberries roasted in pan

2 white peaches apples bowl

3 peach halves blueberries

4 white peaches halves butter brown sugar

5 white peaches blueberries before roasting

6 white peaches blueberries roating in oven

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Friday night I was surprised with a beautiful hospitality gift: a box of ripe Michigan blueberries, picked earlier that day by the hands of those that gave them to me. Saturday morning I was delighted to find boxes of white peaches on the in-season produce table at the Farmer’s Market. Both fruits were already delicious on their own, but when an overcast Sunday evening rolled around, I turned on the oven and put them together. The flavors melted into each other with a little help from some butter and brown sugar. A comforting end to a memorable weekend.

Peaches, halved & pits removed / Butter / Brown sugar, mixed with butter / Blueberries

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Baking time will vary a bit depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Delicious alone or with ice cream / whipped cream. The sauce that is created from the juices is perfect spooned over Angel Food Cake.

strawberry buttermilk breakfast cake

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I grew up in a small house in the country. This time of year I could see flickering constellations of yellow fireflies hovering over the bean fields from my bedroom window at night.  Behind our property, the horizon line was divided by a corn field, then woods.  Our house sat sandwiched between these two typical Indiana crops along with a yard that was big enough for kickball games, sprinkler races, and our very own strawberry patch.  It was in that backyard patch where you could find me and my big sister squatting, weeding, and snacking on sun-warmed strawberries on summer afternoons.

Almost every night for dinner my mom made fresh pie or fruit salad that included the strawberries that survived the journey from the backyard into the house. When we reached a surplus of berries, especially those blood red, almost-over-ripened, starting-to-get-mushy ones, my mom would make jam.  I remember the heat from the strawberries stewing on the stove top was no match for the already hot and heavy Indiana summertime air.  The scent that it added to the atmosphere made the humidity not only bearable but luscious.

Maybe that’s why I like this cake. When it is baking it smells just like it used to in our humid, un-air-conditioned house in the country while my mom was stirring strawberries on the stove top and bread was baking in the oven.  I call it a breakfast cake not only because it includes an egg, some buttermilk, and fresh fruit, but because it is a satisfying pairing with your routine breakfast beverage. No frosting or glaze is necessary since the baked cake comes out of the oven with a top crust of roasted red fruit and a crown of brown sugar crunch.  Of course you can eat this cake at any time of day. Eat it after dinner for dessert with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or dollop of whipped cream and single espresso.  Eat it for an afternoon snack.  This cake is not fussy.  It is comforting and just sweet enough to cut the density of the day much like the sumptuous humidity of jam-making days in the country.


Strawberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup – 1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, washed, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.
Put butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.
Transfer batter to buttered pie plate.
Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible.
Sprinkle at least 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or demerara sugar) over berries.
Bake cake 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50 minutes more.
Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack.
Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

morning superpowers muffins

1 morning superpowers muffin half sweet potato 2 roasted sweet potato skinned in foil 3 ingredients morning superpowers muffins 4 empty batter bowl with scoop 4 ready to bake morning superpowers muffins 6 morning superpowers muffin in tinIf ever a muffin were meal-worthy and meaty, this is the one.  It begins with a mashed sweet potato and ends with a team of ‘superfoods’ encased in the batter.  This is the type of muffin that you throw in your backpack before a hike or grab on the way out the door to make up for breakfast.  Or better yet, have it for breakfast, toasted and topped with peanut (or other nut/seed) butter, and you will face the day as a force to be reckoned with!  The recipe below is a riff on a paleo inspired recipe for Morning Glory Muffins.  My version includes dried blueberries, walnuts, flaxseed, and coconut.  Did I mention that there is no butter, oil, or refined sugar in them; they really are super muffins.

Morning Superpowers Muffins

Ingredients:
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato (one small-medium sweet potato)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs (slightly whisked)
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1/2 cup all purpose flour (3/4 cup almond flour for GF version)
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cardamom
1 t vanilla extract
1 t baking powder
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1/8 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)
1-2 T flaxseed
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup raw walnuts
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Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl (in three steps) until fully blended.
  3. Coat muffin tin with cooking spray or papers and divide batter evenly.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely.  Even better the next day.  Makes 6 big ones!