It’s a shame that I’m not able to post more during my favorite month of the year. School and work has been taking up ALL of my time, leaving me barely enough time just to check my email these days. I feel like I want to hire a secretary just to post all of the lovely things I’d like to share! I’ve been going through tons and tons of magazines, and of course am inspired by the new Martha Stewart. I’m having a pumpkin party in two weeks and my brain has been on overload with great ideas and things I want to make and create. October (and this time of year in general) definitely makes me quite a happy girl. I’ve gone to Target several times and freaked out on all of the pumpkin things available. That place is heaven for a pumpkin-obsessed girl like me. Everything you can think of — pumpkin hand lotion, body butter, scent diffuser, lip gloss, candy, candles, you name it, they’ve got it. And of course I always drank pumpkin spiced latte’s from the in-store Starbucks while I shopped.
Anyway, enough with boring you all about that. Besides pumpkins being the highlight of my life right now, fresh figs are a close runner-up. I love figs. I’m lucky enough to get free fresh figs from my grandmother’s tree handed down to me (buying them can be quite expensive, mind you), and have permission to go and pick whatever I please. I never liked figs until about two or three years ago when my mother forced me to try one, and skeptically I tried the interesting little purple piece of deliciousness. Since then, I’ve been hooked. The most common way I put them to use is in salads, usually with glazed pecans and a crumbled cheese (goat or bleu). I’d never baked with them until last week, when I made Dorie Greenspan’s “Fig Cake For Fall” from Baking–From My Home To Yours. I made it for a special occasion — a lovely Fall harvest dinner menu that I enjoyed with my dear friend who planned an incredible feast of rosemary-lemon cornish game hens, pumpkin sage ravioli with pumpkin cream sauce, and this amazing butternut squash green bean spinach salad which all of you should make! The cake was almost like a cornbread. One fourth of the entire thing consisted of corn meal, and the rest of it was pretty darn simple. Only a few important ingredients were necessary–ruby port (which made an accompanying sauce), honey, figs, butter, lemons. Overall, it was a nice cake. Not my personal favorite as it tended to be drier than a “normal” cake due to the cornmeal aspect, but elegant and nice with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to accompany it. Figs definitely are in the spotlight for this season and should be taken advantage of while still available. Make this cake, google some recipes to incorporate figs, toss them in a salad, put slices in your panini, make some homemade jam, whatever you do, enjoy these delicious jewels of gold while you still can!
A Fig Cake For Fall from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking–From My Home To Yours”
3/4 cup ruby port
1 cup honey (I used lavender infused for an extra touch)
2 thin slices lemon
16-20 fresh figs, stemmed and halved
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the figs & the sauce: Stir the port and 1/2 cup of the honey together in a small saucepan. Toss in the lemon slices and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat, add the figs, cover the pan and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until figs are soft but not falling apart. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a bowl.
Raise the heat just a little and cook the poaching liquid for another 10 to 15 minutes (it took longer for me and it didn’t thicken so I added about a tablespoon of arrowroot powder), or until slightly thickened; the syrup should coat a metal spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and set the sauce aside.
Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper and dust the inside of the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
To make the cake: Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
Put the sugar and grated zest in the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl, and rub them together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist, grainy and aromatic. Toss in the butter. With the paddle or whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup honey, add the vanilla extract and beat for another 2 minutes. The mixture may look curdled and not so pretty–keep mixing, it will get better soon. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated; you’ll have a fairly thick batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a few times to even the batter, then scatter the poached figs over the top.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before running a blunt knife around the edges and releasing the sides of the pan. Cook the cake to slightly warm or room temperature before serving it with the sauce.