baking california sweets

A Few Things

13 August 2010

Oh, the beauty of words, infinite:

1.

This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.
~Hafiz

and

2.

The Changing Light

The changing light
at San Francisco
is none of your East Coast light
none of your
pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
is a sea light
an island light
And the light of fog
blanketing the hills
drifting in at night
through the Golden Gate
to lie on the city at dawn
And then the halcyon late mornings
after the fog burns off
and the sun paints white houses
with the sea light of Greece
with sharp clean shadows
making the town look like
it had just been painted

But the wind comes up at four o’clock
sweeping the hills

And then the veil of light of early evening

And then another scrim
when the new night fog
floats in
And in that vale of light
the city drifts
anchorless upon the ocean

~ L. Ferlinghetti (via spicedish — thank you!)

3. I ate beet+carrot+red cabbage+pumpkin seed salad today (dressed with tahini sauce, splash soy sauce, lemon juice) for lunch, with a bit of leftover pasta + homemade heirloom tomato sauce.

4. It is grey here still, also infinite, though the sun burst out for a bit yesterday. But that poem up there makes me feel the tiniest bit better about it all.

5. A delicious fruit cobbler (the secret is the brown sugar).

As I may have mentioned (wait — did I mention?), every July (and this year into August, too) is so socked in with fog here that I curse and lament and bewail and moan most terribly. But it’s true I would not want to be on the East Coast right now, hot and humid and sticky. On my run the other morning, I could see my breath (I am not kidding), and mist hung low and heavy on the cyprus trees in the Panhandle and it was more like rain than actual mist — yes, I swear — so I gave myself a good shake and said, Self, this is refreshing. If you were in Washington right now the cicadas would be putting forth their dull whirring and you would be running these miles along the zoo path past the creek and it would be hard to breath. You would be pining with every step for California. This is much, much better.

And it is.

Though today I might wish to push past the omnipresent fog and find the clear summer days that are sometimes possible here in San Francisco — one of those hot days when, if I was still seven years old and on summer vacation, we might pack up a lunch (or stop for pizza bagels in town on the way out) and the sand stuff and go out to the beach where the river runs into the ocean. We might build castles and swim in the cool, sandy freshwater and go fetch kelp from the waves and spend the whole day under the sun, salt-licked and suntanned. We might very well stop for icecream on the drive home, or french fries, or saltwater taffy, and listen to Paul Simon with the windows rolled down, watching the sun sink lower over the water as the fog begins to settle in.

Oh summer. Oh the elusive dream.

But look! Just right now the sun is peeking out a bit anyhow, and the wind is flowing through the window, carrying with it the smell of the ocean, and energy. I have a tiny dish of fruit cobbler in the fridge. It’s Friday. There will probably be a gin and tonic in my future tonight. I really can’t complain. My place on the map is circled, and I’m exactly where I need to be.

(Note on this fruit cobbler: there is brown sugar in the topping and I promise, I know, it is what makes it so delicious and not-too-sweet. It’s light and a little fluffy and nestles so perfectly atop a raft of berries and sliced stone fruit you might wish you hadn’t served up such a generous portion to your dinner guest the night before, just so you could have more today. But rather it’s like summer itself: fleeting, ephemeral, absolutely of the moment to be savored and appreciated whilst scraping the bottom of the bowl. Try a combination of blackberries and peaches; blueberries and nectarines; plums and blackberries — or all sliced and thrown together to make a delicious, drippy mess of a dessert.)



Stone Fruit and Berry Cobbler
, adapted from williams-sonoma.com
Serves 8.

1 cup blackberries or blueberries
5 pieces of stone fruit — i.e. peaches or nectarines — sliced
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
2 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger

For the cobbler topping:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 egg
3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions
Preheat an oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the berries, peaches or nectarines, lemon juice, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the cornstarch and cinnamon and toss to coat the fruit evenly. Pour the berry mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading it evenly.

Stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and, using a fork, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring and tossing with a fork until the topping mixture holds together.

Using a soup spoon, place dollops of the topping evenly over the berries, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered around the edge of the dish. Sprinkle the 3 Tbs. granulated sugar over the top. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the cobbler until the top is golden and the berry filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

  • Lisa 16 August 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I have been making cobblers like there’s no tomorrow. Seriosuly! I think four in the last two weeks.

    Your words about fog and seeing your breath are like a balm to my sweaty self. It’s true, the cicadas are crazy loud right now! But my place on the map is circled too, and I know these days are sweet ones.

  • Miri of Laura|Carmen 15 August 2010 at 2:58 pm

    I love that poem. And after a week in the mountains in triple-digit weather, I was quite content to come back to the cool, foggy city today.

  • Molly 14 August 2010 at 9:42 am

    That cobbler looks wonderful. I’ve always done a mixture of white and brown sugar for my crust, but I’ll definitely give your version a whirl. For the first time in a long time, it’s actually cool enough to bake here in Boston… for much of the summer I would have given anything for a bit of fog. The grass is indeed always greener!

  • Stefanie 13 August 2010 at 6:25 pm

    From one who just spent last week in D.C. ugh! …..we ought to count our CA weather blessings everyday, no matter what the temp or brightness!
    Thanks for the cobbler recipe. Brown sugar is also steadfast my favorite. I have even switched to using it in my vanilla ice cream recipes this summer.

  • Maddie 13 August 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Re: numbers 1 and 2—you made my Friday. Gorgeous.

    And while I’m so sorry you haven’t had an archetypal summer, I do live in Washington D.C., and I’d give anything to have some cool fog in the air right now. The grass is always greener, right?

  • Michael 13 August 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks so much. It is depressing day-after-day of this gray mist. I work from home on the hill above Pacifica, but not in Pacifica. Your words and recipes warm things up. I think I have the ingredients for the cobbler here now!

    Looking forward to September. Michael