Molasses Oat Cake with Glazed Pineapple

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If you have checked me out recently on Instagram, you may have noticed that LongJohn and I just spent the last three weeks hanging out with my parents in Florida, where we both got a nice tan and the kid grew about four inches.

I didn’t do too much cooking while I was there, but I did make one or two things, and here’s one of them. My dad was trying to clear out the pantry in preparation for their trip back to the True North, so in my efforts to help him get rid of a few things, I came up with this puppy. It’s a good cake for the winter or the summer (I think).

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish. Might as well polish off some of the brownies-from-a-box you made the day before. Gotta keep cleaning out that cupboard, right?

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Grab some butter (oh, the land where butter is always at a spreadable temperature!) and melt 3 tablespoons of it.

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Grab a small bowl and tip in 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Then assemble the rest of your stuff: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch ground cloves, 1/3 cup molasses, 1 egg, and of course your 3 tablespoons melted butter. You’ll see here as well about 1-ish cup fresh (not frozen) blueberries. If you use frozen blueberries the juice from the broken blueberries will get all through the batter and alter the molasses taste. It might also take longer to cook.

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Take all the stuff that isn’t in a bowl with oats or is blueberries and beat that together.

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Take the blueberries and tip them in the bowl with the oats and flour and stir that a bit. Coating the blueberries in flour prevents them all from sinking to the bottom of the baking dish.

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Plop the oats, flour, and blueberries into the molasses mix and stir until smooth(ish).

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Spoon that into your prepared dish and bake for 25-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. This timing will really depend on how thick the glass on your dish is. I cooked this in a convection toaster oven which I think is slightly hotter than it says it is, and so it was done in 25 minutes. Put the cake, still in the dish, on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Now if you want to make it fancy, grab yourself a nice ripe whole pineapple. The pineapple trivet is optional.

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Cut the top and bottom of the pineapple up and then slice off the skin.

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Cut the pineapple into quarters along its core, and slice off the core from the quarters.

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Cut each quarter lengthwise into three pieces. Too complicated? Just cut it up any way you would like. I’m not your mother.

Molasses Cake Pineapple 11Coat each one of the pineapple pieces in granulated sugar.

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Set those aside for a minute.

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In a large skillet or frying pan (or saucepan, whichever is your biggest), melt another 3 tablespoons butter.

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Cook all the slices of pineapple in the skillet on medium heat until they’re cooked through and kind of shrunken, about 8-10 minutes. If you don’t have room to cook them all in the pan at once, wait until some of them shrink before adding a few more slices.

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Remove from pan and set on serving plate. They will start to ooze thick sugary juice.

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Add 3 tablespoons water to the butter and sugar in pan and let it thicken, stirring, JUST until it starts to brown then remove immediately from the heat. It will continue to brown as you stir, off the heat.

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Drizzle that over the pineapple.

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You can serve them hot but if you leave the caramel on the pineapple as it cools it will slowly dissolve back into the juice, leaving a nice sauce you can spoon over the pineapple and the square when you serve it.

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Enjoy!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Fruit Cookies for Fall

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I whipped these up for dessert at Thanksgiving and like all my made-up cookie recipes, they’re dead easy and use the same base. Experiment with what you chuck into them and enjoy!

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Start by whisking together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and a dash of cinnamon. I put the cinnamon in not just for flavour, but also to help me determine if I’ve mixed in the baking powder well enough – if I can’t see streaks of cinnamon then that means there aren’t any streaks of baking powder either. Set that aside.

Fruit Cookies 1

In the bowl of a mixer, or by hand if you’re Hercules, beat together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until it’s stupid fluffy.

Fruit Cookies 2

Crack in 1 large egg and a dribble of vanilla and beat again until fully incorporated.

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Slowly tip in your flour mixture and beat on low until smooth and completely combined. The dough will be pretty stiff.

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Then grab yourself some of your favourite dried fruit!

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I tossed in rough handfuls (and remember we measured my handfuls and they’re precisely 1/3 of a cup) each of dried papaya, cranberries, golden raisins, and pineapple (though I tore up the larger pineapple pieces first).

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Chill the dough for about 30 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Roll the dough into smallish balls and space evenly on the baking sheet (they will not expand very much).

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, and then set the cookies on cooling rack to chill out.

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Enjoy!

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Our New Food Dehydrator

Papa John and Mrs. Nice got us a beautiful giant Excalibur food dehydrator for Christmas this year, and we were so excited to use it that we could barely wait before we were fully unpacked to crack it open and start it up. It was super easy to put together and came with not one but TWO instruction booklets, which are also really easy to use. And having one gave me an excuse to pick up a new mandoline slicer and apple corer so I can make apple chips whenever I want. Which is right now.

Food Dehydrator 1

The corer, which I picked up from Amazon, was deceptively easy to use, and cleans really easily.

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The mandoline is also easy, and super sharp. And also from Amazon.

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For the first go-round in the dehydrator we stuck with plain apples, sliced about 1/8″ thick.

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I kind of wanted to play ring toss with these things.

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Instead I spread them evenly over one of the many dehydrator trays.

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I’m actually now keeping a small spray bottle filled with lemon juice in the fridge for spraying on fruit to prevent oxidation. You can also get some kind of bisulfide something-or-other but I haven’t quite gotten around to getting that yet.

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Then you shove it in the dehydrator …

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… put the door on …

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… and set it for however many hours you need. For apples it’s about 7 hours at 135°F.

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The machine turns off on its own which is awesome. So I came down the next day to these piles of tart and delicious gorgeousness.

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All you need to do is pack them loosely in an airtight container for a couple days so that the remaining moisture evenly distributes itself throughout the batch. Then you can do whatever you want with them.

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So the next day I tried bananas.

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These also were sliced about 1/8″ thick.

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And they take about 6 hours. They’re still in there now or I would give you an update.

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Next experiment? PINEAPPLE!

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Sizzling Summer Skewers

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Skewers are fun to eat and simple to construct; however, if you make a large number of them, then you will probably get annoyed with both the assembly and cooking, because it will take forever.  If you’re making skewers in large numbers I suggest making it a team activity.

Start with a marinade.  I had chicken and pork, so I decided on two different marinades.

For the pork: I peeled the membrane off this pork tenderloin and cut it into bite-sized cubes.

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Then I assembled the marinade: buttermilk as a base (and tenderizer), sriracha, teriyaki, pineapple juice, fish sauce, and garlic.

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Mix that sucker up and shove it in the fridge overnight.

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For the chicken: I trimmed the fat off several boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cheaper than breasts) and cut them into chunks.

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This one I cheated and used a store-bought teriyaki marinade that I got from Farm Boy.  It was worth it.

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Pour that over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

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I also set a package of bamboo skewers in water and left those to soak overnight as well. This is so they don’t catch fire on the grill.

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Assembly time!  For the pork I used onion chunks, fresh pineapple and some red pepper.

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I always use two skewers to prevent the food from rolling around when I’m trying to rotate the suckers. It’s a bit trickier to put together (I did stab myself with one of the skewers) but worth it in the long run.

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For the chicken I had onion chunks, button mushrooms, and cocktail tomatoes.

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The button mushrooms turned out to be too small and kept breaking off, so I would use a bigger mushroom next time.

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Grill!  I made so many skewers I had to do about four batches.  It took FOREVER.  Make sure to check that the meat is fully cooked before serving.

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Tada!  All lovely and crispy!

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Pineapple Orange Buckle

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Y’know, I have no idea what a “buckle” is, other than the metal object one uses to attach things with straps.  But it appears to be some kind of American dessert-like object resembling a tall clafoutis, so I’m going to roll with it.  I got this recipe from Martha Stewart.  She used mangoes, but lacking those (and unwilling to pay the $3 each price tag on them, thanks Newfoundland), I used some oranges that had seen better days and I didn’t want to waste them.

Pineapple Buckle 1

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a 2-quart baking dish.  I’m not sure, having never made this before, if the dish should be wide and shallow or narrow and deep (like this one), but I worked with what I had.  Use some butter to grease the sides and bottom of the dish.  There are definite benefits to butter that comes in sticks for this.

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Peel and core a small pineapple and cut it into smallish chunks.  I did this a few days ago and discovered that despite the aroma coming from the whole fruit, the flavour was rather disappointing — hence this dessert.  I did the same thing with 4 small navel oranges that were nearing the end of their days.  I cut off the peel with a knife and also cut out the pith from the centre, then cut the orange into eighths.

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Toss those into a container and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.  Toss them to coat in the sugar and leave them aside for now.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt.  Set that aside for the nonce.

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In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 1/2 cup unsalted butter (equivalent to 1 stick) and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Keep going until it’s super fluffy.

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Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, beating in between additions until fully incorporated. Then drop in 1 teaspoon vanilla.  As you can see, I did not measure this.  And I don’t care.

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Slowly add in your flour and mix all together.

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Dump all but about 1 cup of your fruit into the batter and fold it all around until it’s fully mixed. Pour the fruit and batter into your dish and add the remaining fruit on top.

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Bake for 45-50 minutes, until fluffy and golden brown on top.  I was so annoyed with the fact that my Bookmark Brownies weren’t cutting properly that I may have forgotten to set the timer for this and ended up winging it.

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Scoop some out and serve warm with a bit of whipped cream.  TASTY!

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The best part about this was heating up a scoop of this the next day for breakfast and topping it with my favourite yogurt. I highly recommend that.

Carrot Cake for Interviews

Carrot Cake

While the Pie and I were back in Ottawa, I took advantage of our time there to finish off a few more interviews for my work with the local hockey team.  For my very final interview, the person I was interviewing wasn’t a huge sweet fan, so I decided to go with a nice, fresh carrot cake that I pulled off the Canadian Living website.  Plus it was easy peasy and I didn’t have a lot of free time.

Carrot Cake

Preheat your oven to 350°F and then butter and flour a 13 x 9″ metal cake pan (or, as I did in this case, two 9″ square disposable aluminum pans).

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In a large bowl, whisk together the following:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

I didn’t take a picture of it because it was boring, so you can have a picture of my dog instead.
Gren Learns to Swim

In another bowl, beat together the following until smooth:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla
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Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and mix until just moistened.

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Stir in 2 cups grated carrots, 1 cup drained crushed canned pineapple (basically one 340mL can), and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.

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Spread into your prepared pan(s) and bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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Set the cakes on a rack to cool completely.

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For the glorious cream cheese icing, beat together the following:
1 8oz (250g) package plain cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup icing sugar

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I needed a little extra icing and I wanted it to be a bit creamier, so I added in a further 1 cup icing sugar and 1/2 cup whipping cream.

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So very smooth.

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Spread the icing over your cooled cake.  Spread it with love.  You can tell that I love it.

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Either inside the pan or without.

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And then eat it all.  Because the one I made is totally gone now.

Carrot Cake

Sweet and Sour Pineapple Relish

My grandmother came over for coffee yesterday (which for you is about ten days ago) and brought with her about two dozen canning jars she didn’t use anymore.  As well, she brought me an early Christmas present: Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew’s Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles.  Today the book is already covered in stains, just like every good cookbook should be.  I am in love.

Each recipe is simple with regard to ingredients and the instructions are straightforward.  I’ll prove it to you by showing you a fantastically easy relish I made in less than an hour.  I am relishing my first attempt at this particular preserve.

I tripled the recipe in the book and came out with 7 250mL jars of relish.

Open and drain 6 14oz cans of crushed pineapple.  You can use rings, which drain faster, but then you have to cut them up.  Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the juice.

Set the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and leave that for a while to get all the drippings.

Chop up 12-16 green onions (scallions), and mince 6 jalapeno peppers.  The recipe calls for red chillies but I didn’t have any.

Pare the rind from 3 lemons and juice them while you’re at it.

Put the lemon rind and juice in a large saucepan (I prefer a maslin pan for the evaporation) together with 9 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar.

Heat on low, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil.  Cook like this on medium, stirring, for about ten minutes or until the syrup has thickened slightly.

Add in the chopped onions and peppers, together with your reserved pineapple juice as well as any that has dripped out while you were waiting.  Cook this for about five minutes, until things get quite syrupy.

Increase the heat and add the pineapple.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Can according to your canner’s instructions.  We’ve got some tips on canning here, as well.

This relish keeps for about three months, and, once opened, should be kept in the refrigerator.  Great with chicken, pork, and white fish.

 

Christmas Fruit Cakes

My mother calls them fruit cakes.  My father calls them Christmas cakes.  Or it’s the other way around.  I can’t keep track of those two.

Nevertheless, before every holiday season, my dad makes between two and three dozen of them to give away to all their family and friends.  Being the stalwart Scots that we are, we fight over who deserves a whole cake and who gets only a slice.

You can’t be ambivalent about fruit cake.  You either love it or you hate it.  And I can promise you that this is not the leaden, dry, horribly frosted version that you hate.  This is the ooey-gooey sticky sweet and moist brick of goodness that you will LOVE.  Guaranteed.

Keep in mind that this recipe is easy to make.  Especially if you make several dozen.  However, you have to start your preparations the day before and baking time can take up to four hours for large cakes.  Not to mention that you can’t eat them right away — these cakes need a spell before they’re good to eat.  These ones here are from back in 2007.  They should be super excellent now.

Day the First:

In a large bowl, measure in 1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds (blanched is key because the skin is bitter), 2 cups dark raisins, 2 cups light raisins, 1 cup currants, 2 1/2 cups chopped dates, and 2 1/2 cups candied citron peel.  My dad says that when making several batches it helps to bring a measuring cup to the health food or bulk store and measure what you need right into the bag so you don’t have to worry about having any leftover.

Drain a 12oz (340g) bottle of maraschino cherries, saving the juice.  The cherries should measure about 1 1/4 cups.  Add them to the mixture in the bowl.

Pour in 1/2 cup brandy (or fruit juice, if you prefer) and give it a stir.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature overnight.

In a heavy saucepan, simmer one 19oz (540mL) can crushed pineapple with 2 cups granulated sugar.  Cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 45 minutes.  Make sure to stir frequently. 

By the end, the sugary pineapple should measure 2 1/2 cups.

Let the pineapple cool, and then stir in 1/2 cup reserved cherry juice.  Stir in as well 1 cup strawberry jam (the more all-natural, the better).  This doesn’t necessarily need to be done the day before, but it has to be cool before you add it to the cake batter.

Day the Second:

Preheat your oven to 275°F.  Butter your pans (we use four regular-sized loaf pans) and line them with parchment paper.The knob on our oven is positioned badly so we take the knob off in order not to hit it accidentally.  And yes, we probably should clean our oven more often.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda.

Add about a cup of the flour mixture to the fruit and nuts and toss until the bits are all covered.  This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom when you mix them in the batter.  Set the rest of the flour aside for now. 

In another large mixing bowl, cream together  2 1/4 cups granulated sugar with 1 pound (2 cups) butter.

Beat in 12 eggs (yes, 12!), two at a time.  This is less of a pain in the butt if you have someone crack the eggs while someone else runs the mixer.

Take your flour mixture and your pineapple mixture and, alternating them, stir them into the butter and egg mix.  Make 3 dry and 2 liquid additions and stir it all in well. 

Your batter will be a lovely pink colour once you’re all ready.

Pour over your flour-coated fruit and nuts and mix well. 

Pour into your pans and chuck them in the oven.

Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven to keep the cakes moist.

Bake in your oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, for the larger cakes.  Smaller cakes might be done in about 3 hours. If you have a fast oven you might want to lay a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top to prevent them from drying out in the last hour or so.

The cakes should be fairly firm to the touch in the centre and should test clean with a toothpick.  Once you’ve removed the cakes from the oven let them cool in the pans for about five minutes. 

Then remove the cakes from the pans and peel off the paper.  Let the cakes cool completely.

Now you do your wrapping.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on your work surface.  Overlay that with some plastic wrap.

And some cheesecloth.

Plop your cake in the centre.

Baste it generously, all over, with rum or brandy (if you don’t baste you will need to keep the cakes in the refrigerator).

Wrap the cheesecloth tightly around the cake.  Then the plastic wrap.  Then the aluminum foil.

As the cloth dries out, give your cakes a periodic dousing with rum or brandy.  Don’t freeze the cakes or the flavours won’t mellow properly.

The cakes will make good eating in about three weeks, just in time for the holidays.

Fruit Porn Salad

Happy Birthday Ando!

Bow-chika WOW wow, chika-chika WOW, chika-chika WOW-wow.

Okay enough of that.  People call food writing food porn, and just last week on Freshly Pressed there was a blog about how sensual fruit salad is, so I just put two and two together.  I’m sorry.  Won’t happen again.

I am a total fruit hound.  It’s ridiculous how often I make myself sick over-eating when it comes to fruit.  The Pie just shakes his head at me and tells me I am a grown-up and should know better.  Then he goes and gets the Rolaids for me.

Fruit salad is the perfect summer dessert, especially after a dinner party where you have all stuffed yourselves silly.  This one I made for just such a party.  I find it’s good to make fruit salads the day before and leave them overnight in the fridge to let all the flavours mingle and get to know each other.

I left my regular camera in my in-laws’ truck, and so had to make do with my old one for this, which, despite weirdly exposing everything and turning every second photo a vivid purple, worked out rather well.

I happened to have a pineapple, which I expertly cored:

A watermelon, which I expertly cubed:

Some kiwi, which I expertly peeled:

Some local strawberries, which I inexpertly hulled:

Some leftover plums from the macaroon incident, which I pitted and quartered:

And a can each of mandarin orange segments and freestone peaches:

I set everything up in a mis en place so I could figure out how I was going to layer this sucker.  A fruit salad should be as pretty to look at as it is tasty to eat.

Into a pretty crystal bowl went all the watermelon, pineapple, peaches, oranges, and plums.  I added the juice from the pineapple as well.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up with your hands.  It goes with the whole sensual thing.  Plus your hands don’t tend to damage the more delicate fruits like metal spoons do.

Then around the outside I layered the kiwi, about two slices wide.  The strawberries I piled in the centre of the ring.

This final step is up to you, but I like to add about 2 ounces of a clear spirit, like vodka, to the mix, just to enhance the fruit flavours.  Today I had tequila, so I made do with that.  Cover it with plastic wrap and chuck it in the fridge overnight.Sensual?  Maybe.  Tasty?  For sure.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This cake is my childhood.  Or at least the part of my childhood where I didn’t think I was allergic to pineapple.  Turns out it’s just the No Name brand of pineapple that makes me throw up.  Who knew?

This flat, dense, cakey, sugary, sticky, buttery, crispy, pineapple-y, and cherry-y masterpiece is one of my absolute favourite things.  I have seen variations on the classic design on the internet but this is one of those setups I wouldn’t mess with.

You gotta do it in a cast-iron skillet.  Otherwise it just ain’t the same.  If you do it in an oven-safe skillet then you can do your butter melting and stuff all in the same dish.

Maraschino cherries are optional.  I know that they are probably the most disgusting bit of processed food there is, but they really make this cake extra-special, so I buy them for this reason, and this reason only.

I also like to use fresh pineapple instead of the canned stuff.  Less chance I might be allergic to it if I know that it hasn’t been processed.My mother has recently discovered the ease of email (crazy, I know, but we also bought our first touch-tone phone in 1991), so this recipe came to me over the interweb.  The original recipe, for an 8″ cake pan, comes from a Fanny Merritt Farmer cookbook dating back a few decades, but my mother has modified it for the skillet, adding a bit more flour, sugar, and butter as appropriate.  I get my lack of standardized measurements from her.  Here we go.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Melt, in your skillet, between 1/4 and 1/2 cup butter.  The butter should be liquid, but not boiling hot.  Burns do not make for enjoyment in baking.  I suggest you remove it from the heat at this time and put it on a trivet on your counter.  More elbow room, for me at least.Spread 1 cup brown sugar evenly over the butter mixture, covering the bottom of the pan.  Add more if you like.  It’s going to melt with the butter and turn to caramel, and it will mix with the pineapple juice and the cherry juice and it will all be so incredibly incredible.  Drain a can of pineapple rings (or use a cored fresh one, as I did in this case) and lay them in the bottom of the pan, taking up as much space as you can, but don’t overlap the rings.  You can see that my rings are sliced open because of the way I’ve cored the pineapple.  I squeezed them together a bit so they’d fit in the pan, but they will shrink while you cook them and there will be plenty of room.If you wish, you can put maraschino cherries in all the little empty spaces, especially in the centre of the rings.  I of course do so wish.Sift together 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour (depending on the size of your skillet) with 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.  In another bowl, mix together 1 egg and 1/2 cup milk and add to the flour mixture.  The batter will be very dense, so you can add more milk to make it more spreadable.  I ended up adding about an extra 1/2 cup of milk to my 2 cups of flour.  Feel free to experiment with the batter.  My mother says she sometimes adds grated orange peel to it.

Carefully spread the batter in a thin layer on top of the pineapple in the skillet.  You’ll notice that the batter doesn’t spread all the way across.  There will be gaps and even holes through which you can see the pineapple stuff.  That is okay, as it will expand while it cooks.  And it will pull away from the sides, anyway, as the butter starts to bubble up.Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is brown and crusty.  If you are using a skillet this will likely take less time because the skillet is already warm and the batter is stretched across a bigger surface.  For me this took about 30 minutes.

You can see how the butter/sugar mixture is still molten at this point.  You want to let it cool to more of a molasses consistency, so that you don’t burn yourself and it doesn’t get everywhere.  About ten minutes should do it.

Carefully flip upside down onto a serving plate.  Sometimes it’s easier to put the plate on first, then flip it.  My mother has this old-fashioned brown one that I covet because it is the exact size of the skillet, but I made do with this cheese plate instead, which is why the melted sugar oozed everywhere.  Some stuff may still be stuck in the pan, but because your now caramelized brown sugar is still liquid you can glue it all back into place before it cools.  Make sure to get all the good stuff out of the pan before it cools completely or you will never get it out.

Serve with fruit sauce or ice cream or whipped cream.  I like it best just by itself.  We’ve also made this recipe before using peaches and pears and plums instead of pineapple and it’s just as good.