Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Rum Raisin Cake

I know, it’s October and I should really be writing about a pumpkin recipe, right? Listen, I love pumpkin as much as the next person, but I feel like everywhere (EVERYWHERE!) I turn, the word “pumpkin” is screaming at me. From lattes and bread, cookies (even Paleo cookies) and candies, to pancakes, pasta and beer.  I know that pumpkin has a short window in which to take over our minds and diets (basically from October to late November), but I’m going to buck conventional thinking here and give you a recipe for a fabulous cake that will still give you that cozy, warm, autumn feel (and the house smells wonderful as it's baking): rum raisin cake.

I recently got the new baking book from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh called Sweet. Yotam is the chef-owner of several delis and restaurants in London. He is also a prolific author, having written five cookbooks (I also own his terrific cookbook, Jerusalem), and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers. 

Helen Goh is a pastry chef who has worked closely with Ottolenghi for many years as his lead product developer. 
bake prep

When Sweet came in the mail a few weeks ago, I set it aside. With cookbooks that appear to have real promise, I like to wait until I have a chunk of time to relax with it. Depending on the time of day, I either get a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of wine, and settle in. I leaf through the entire book, earmarking recipes that sound good. It’s a lovely way to force myself to “detox” from all things digital, at least for a little while.
my well-tagged copy!
And that’s exactly what I did last week. By the time I was done, there were so many post-it notes sticking out of the book that I knew it was a keeper! My goal was to find a cake to accompany a fall-themed luncheon we were planning. And as you may have guessed, it wouldn’t be pumpkin! 

Helen Goh’s description of how she came up with this cake really won me over: Helen and her son have a tradition of sharing a sundae when they go to an ice cream parlor. On the rare occasion they don’t share, she always orders a rum raisin cone. “This, along with her affection for the rum-soaked retro classic rum baba, was the inspiration for this cake.” I loved this little story. I, too, almost always order a rum raisin cone when I go to our favorite ice cream store in the area, Gelotti’s. The combination of the custardy vanilla oozing with boozy raisins speaks to my soul.

So onto the cake! First off, it’s got a good amount of rum in it. The raisins soak overnight in a half-cup of dark rum. And there’s an additional tablespoon if you make the optional rum-caramel icing.
the gorgeous batter
ready to bake!
just out of the oven
isn't this gorgeous?!

The cake is chock full of butter and sour cream so it’s super-moist. But what really makes this cake stand out is the rum-soaked raisins. The rum infuses the cake with a sweet warmth and the now plump raisins are bursting with flavor. 

Due to time and logistics, I simply dusted the finished cake with powdered sugar (which was lovely), but next time I would try the recommended icing or just add a dollop of whipped cream on the side. You can’t go wrong with any of the additions.
ready for your Fall dessert table

The cake keeps very well wrapped in foil for a few days. In fact, I’m going on day four now and it’s still moist and delicious. 

So, my friends, break out of that same old pumpkin routine and bake up something different! 

Print recipe here.

Happy Fall!

Eat well, stay warm, be happy.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sicilian Pistachio Cookies (gluten-free)

Greetings, Dear Readers.

I feel a bit out of sorts posting a simple cookie article after yesterday's horrible event in Las Vegas (I wrote it last week). Even though I feel depressed and at a loss to come to terms with the senseless violence, and our government's inability to take serious action about realistic gun control, sometimes it does help to cook or bake to relieve some of the stress and anxiety (I know it helps me). Even better would be to invite friends and/or neighbors for a meal, or "coffee and..." to talk peacefully and calmly, or simply to just be together. I hope you and your loved ones are safe.
While summer is my fave season, I do love the Fall - the warm days/chilly nights, country drives, throwing on a cute little jacket, and the luscious flavors of Fall - plums, pumpkins, pistachios, cinnamon, cardamom. 

Last year at this time I was in Sicily (read about my trip here and here). Ahhhhhh. Beautiful, mysterious, complicated, delicious Sicily. How I loved that trip! Feeling a bit “homesick” for my ancestral homeland, I needed to make something to help me get back there virtually. 

Mt Etna's volcanic landscape
The adorable donkeys of Etna Donkey Trekking
That’s when I came across this recipe on Food52 for Sicilian Pistachio Cookies. Pistachios are a huge part of Sicily’s agriculture, especially near Mt Etna, which we visited. We were taken in by the otherworldly volcanic landscape of Etna. The mountain had just erupted a couple of months before we were there and black lava was everywhere.  The trusty, adorable donkeys of Etna Donkey Trekking carried us over craters, through ancient forests, and afforded us panoramic views otherwise impossible. I highly recommend this excursion if you visit the Catania area.

Back to the cookies! These little gems are SO easy to make, and as a bonus to people who need to watch their gluten intake - they are GF! The cookies have it all: crunch, spice, citrus - a trifecta of deliciousness! 
crunch, citrus, spice pre-rolling

What are your favorite Fall recipes? Do they bring back memories of a favorite trip? Leave a note below. And let me know if you bake these cookies!


Full recipe here!