Category Archives: Desserts

Upside-Down Polenta Plum Cake

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Let me say right off the bat that I’m not that fond of fancy cakes layered with fillings and covered in sweet icing. Nor am I mad passionate crazy about chocolate, in a cake or otherwise. I prefer plain, simple buttery cakes fragrant with vanilla or citrus or spice, possibly containing poppy seeds, nuts or fruit, possibly with a nice caramel glaze. Unpretentious, homey, rustic, delicious.

This Upside-Down Polenta Plum Cake, from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now, is one such cake. A batter with a touch of crunchy corn meal is spooned over a syrupy plum compote, then baked to saturate the two layers together into a kind of pudding cake deliciousness. Once out of the oven and cooled slightly, it is flipped over onto a plate, a thick jammy layer of caramelized plums blanketing the pretty yellow cake below. It is best served warm topped with whipped cream.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe. Make it soon before all those ripe, juicy plums now available at farmers markets disappear. But even if plums do go out of season, keep in mind that any fruit, frozen or not, and in any creative combination, will work here.

Upside-Down Polenta Plum Cake
Ingredients
  • 1¾ pounds plums, rinsed, pitted, and sliced ½ inch thick
  • 1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup fine cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup sour cream or plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease the parchment and pan well.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the plums, ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until the plums are tender and the liquid begins to reduce, about 20 minutes. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the remaining 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat to combine. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.
  5. Use a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients. Scrape the batter on top of the plums and smooth with a spatula. Bake until the cake is golden and springs back when touched lightly, 45 to 55 minutes or more.
  6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan 10 minutes, then unfold the sides and invert onto a plate. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
  • Serves: 8

Fast Late-Summer Peach Jam and Cream Biscuits

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There’s one way of making jam that involves sterilizing jars, adding pectin, cooking the daylights out of the fruit and possibly sealing the jars with wax. Thankfully for those of us who aren’t up for all that rigamarole but still like the occasional spread of home-made jam on a biscuit hot from the oven, there’s another, much easier way.  Granted, you have to eat it up quick or store it in the freezer, but somehow it tastes fresher, less sweet, more like the fruit itself.

Thanks goes to Mark Bittman for this easy recipe for peach or nectarine jam, as published in the New York Times. He adds just the right amount of ginger to not overpower the fruit, and honey instead of sugar. Since 1 1/2 pounds of peaches equals only four good-sized peaches, and you probably bought more than that considering the abundant crop of Niagara peaches for sale everywhere now, I’m suggesting you make a another batch swapping the ginger for a vanilla bean. Get yourself some cute jars and labels from IKEA, and you’ve got great little late-summer gifts for the important people in your life.

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Pink Lemonade Bars

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OK, I admit it, I have a thing for lemonade this summer, lemonade the deep pink colour of ripe berries. But this time we’re talking dessert, essentially a classic lemon bar jazzed up with raspberry purée and a shot of pomegranate juice, and lightly dusted with icing sugar. These Pink Lemonade Bars from Epicurious are tart and citrusy, but so very rich, all that blushing goodness sitting atop a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread base. Perfect for hot weather.

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Rhubarb Raspberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

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I’ve been meaning to post a recipe for rhubarb since the snow melted, but the cost has been so high, you’d think it was fancy cheese or artisanal chocolates, and not just a plant that doesn’t need much tending. I guess not enough people grow the stuff, not that it takes special care. I had a patch once, in a nice sunny spot, and it grew as big as me, throwing out enough thick, pinky-green stalks to feed an army. I moved, unfortunately, and must now depend on others to grow it for me.

But good news, the weather has warmed up and the price has come down. So forking over $10 for two pounds of the stuff for this blog post didn’t seem that unreasonable. Besides, I absolutely must, must, must have my rhubarb fix in the spring, and pretty soon it will disappear for another year.

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Tapioca Pudding

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The world is divided into two camps: those who love tapioca pudding and those who don’t. We at Kitchen on Fourth are crazy about it and make it all the time. A dish of soft, slightly chewy tapioca pearls floating in a creamy, vanilla-infused custard is one of the most comforting things in life.

Tapioca, in case you ever wondered, is a starch extracted from the cassava root (thank you, Internet). The flour of the root undergoes a process that turns it into white, opaque pearls of varying sizes that become translucent when cooked in liquid. Tapioca has many uses – as a thickening agent in foods, to make biodegradable bags, for example – and it is eaten in various forms all over the world. In Taiwan and elsewhere, tapioca is an ingredient in bubble tea. The people of Malaysia turn it into savoury chips, and Brazilians enjoy it as a flatbread.  A nearly pure carbohydrate, tapioca offers little in the way of nutrients, but that’s not a problem when it comes to pudding. The milk and eggs take care of that end of things.

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Split Pea Soup

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Well, we’ve turned the corner into 2015 and the holidays are just a memory now. A good memory, mind you: the turkey, gravy and stuffing for 18 adults and three children turned out well in my humble opinion, and in the days that followed, I had fun making litres of rich turkey stock out of the bones. As part of the Christmas recovery process, I also spent a few long, lazy afternoons reading by the fire, rousing myself every so often to stir something on the stove. Slow cooking, that’s what I like.

My favourite output from this calm interlude is this elegant and nourishing split pea soup from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home. The turkey stock came in handy here, providing a tasty foundation, while a ham hock simmered slowly for a couple of hours infused the soup with a lovely rich flavour. The mixture is pureed to a velvety smooth finish, then garnished with chunks of the ham, fresh blanched peas, creme fraiche, and mint.

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Vanilla-Bean Sablés

Vanilla-Sables-DSC_0466The lead-up to Christmas is always stressful, no matter how much time you give yourself, how many lists you make, how organized you seem. It’s the little things that exasperate – like finding parking, the long line-ups in stores, the tiring crush of people. The same goes for working in the kitchen: you run out of things you thought you had plenty of and end up making a ridiculous number of trips to the store.

I’m hosting the big family Christmas dinner this year, which means cooking a turkey with stuffing and gravy for the first time in my life (believe it or not), finding chairs for 20-odd people, and cleaning the house. I freak out every day over one thing or another. I’m sure it will all come together and we’ll have a lovely time, if we can just get there. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m looking forward to a quiet January of reading books by the fire and maybe, just maybe, venturing out for a snowshoe.

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Chocolate Snowflake Cookies

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Before we get started, I want to bring to your attention the new option to subscribe to Kitchenonfourth. Once you’ve signed up – by providing your email address where it says Subscribe to Blog via Email on my website – you will receive an email notice each time I post a new blog. I will also announce each new post on my Facebook page. I hope you like the blog and find it useful. I’m still learning how this all works and appreciate your continuing interest!

Retirement from the work force has given me time to pursue a lot of  fun things, like painting furniture, improving my photography, learning how to knit again, and, it being Christmas, decorating cookies. There’s no end to the cookie possibilities, as you probably know, and one could get all tied up in knots trying to decide what to do. But the way became clear the other day when I chanced upon a set of snowflake cookie cutters, all different sizes nested together, at one of my favourite kitchen stores. With a white-on-dark-chocolate colour theme in mind, I pulled out this recipe for Heirloom Chocolate Cookies found on this instructive website: Good Things by David, and set to work.

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Mimi’s German Apple Cake

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Summer has officially turned to fall and farmers markets are bursting with produce, so much produce you don’t know what to do with it all. But you want it all: squash in their myriad forms and shades of orange; sweet, gnarly parsnips and rutabaga; big bulbous cauliflower in purple and yellow. Late-harvest tomatoes in big baskets can be had at a good price for putting up tomato sauce. And now’s the time to get onions and potatoes for storage in the root cellar, or whatever passes for a root cellar these days.

I’m also seduced by the many varieties of apples – crisp, tasty apples with fun names like Snow, Winesap, and Ambrosia. While visiting friends in Nova Scotia recently, I found Gravensteins – nicknamed “Gravs” – for sale at Bob & The Boys Farm Market along the Trans Canada Highway at Hebb’s Cross, Lunenburg County and bought some for my Mom, who grew up on a fruit and dairy farm just over the way in the Annapolis Valley and fondly remembers heading down to the orchard after school to eat her fill. She also remembers Asterkin apples, but I’ve yet to see those anywhere.
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Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce

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I used to grow tomato plants in my yard until we moved to this house. Now I buy tomatoes at the farmers market, or use canned. Natural elements have made gardening a challenge on this property. For one thing, we have a huge Norway maple which casts deep shade over much of the back yard. For another, we have a whole lot of squirrels.

I tried growing a cherry tomato plant in a pot on our deck this summer, but sadly will not harvest one single fruit because the squirrels pick them off before they even ripen and leave the carcasses all around for me to step on. Squirrels have also eaten all my peony flowers, rose blooms and geranium blossoms, and, even more frustrating, have developed a fondness for our plastic wicker deck furniture, chewing off just enough to break the weave here and there. Soon they will collapse. What is going on? There are so many of the little critters flying through the branches and skittering across the deck at all hours of the day, boldly looking me in the eye, little ones, big ones, black ones, brown ones. I have a sinking feeling they’re nesting somewhere in our rafters, and I’ll hear them scampering around through the ceiling one winter afternoon as I’m peacefully reading by the fire.

Anyway, back to tomatoes. When a friend appeared at our door the other morning with a bowl of cherry tomatoes just picked from her garden, I was overjoyed. Yes, I popped some into my mouth just the way they were, relishing that squirt of fresh sweetness. But then I headed straight to the kitchen to make my favourite fresh tomato pasta, a tried-and-true recipe from Italian cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins, adapted slightly and found here: Epicurious.

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