[Sunset, Casablanca, May 2014.]
This morning all the coffee in the world can’t clear out the cobwebs. Ramadan began yesterday which meant my early run was blessedly quiet. The Corniche was almost completely bare of other runners and walkers – a true anomaly, especially on Sundays – and Casblanca almost felt like a ghost town. I saw a few dog walkers on the beach, a lone surfer shook sand off of his board around access point 15, a couple of guys looked longingly at the cigarette advertisements on the closed water kiosk, but that was it. It was glorious.
Still, we are a bit wrecked by the time change. DW’s coworkers made me laugh because they were exclaiming about how we ‘gain’ an hour (in Morocco during Ramadan the country reverts to daylight savings time) and how nice that is. In theory, yes. When you have a 9-month-old, no. However, the bonus of today’s 5:45 a.m. wake-up was that we had plenty of time before work to sit on the balcony with cafe et bebe and listen to the birds and the rest of the city slowly waking up for the day.
And after all I am not fasting so what do I have to complain about?! Not too much. We have some pretty gorgeous summer fruit in the fridge and on the kitchen counter and if I’m sorely missing my summer greens, well, at least there are cherries and grapes and the most ripe, the most perfect nectarines I’ve had in a long while.
I’m still (still!) off of eggs for the most part, but slowly inching toward being excited to eat them again while we’re in the States. I did find some ‘beldi’ (or, organic-y) eggs in Carrefour last weekend on a shelf in a somewhat chilly aisle but still unrefrigerated as per the usual. So: good, as I have an unrepentant penchant for organic eggs. I used them in a batch of peanut butter cookies but I can’t bring myself to turn them into a scramble just yet. And did you know that buttermilk in a recipe can omit the need for eggs? Perhaps not in every recipe but regarding the one I’m sharing today, for a nectarine crumb cake, I’d warrant you’d never miss the egg if you didn’t know it was lacking.
It’s a simple cake: a bit of butter, whole wheat pastry flour, raw sugar, nectarines, tidily bound together with a sugary, slightly crunchy crumble topping. This is the kind of cake you’d like for a Saturday morning, early wake up or no, with a cup of coffee. I’d also enjoy it of an afternoon with a strong cup of tea. (Unrelated: this morning I mentioned to DW how I am sort of … obsessed? with beverages lately, specifically the coffee/tea sort. I still swill my water in copious amounts, never fear, but I do, I realy do, look forward to those morning cups. I suppose this is not new news, but let’s say I appreciate them ever more than I used to given the recent months of less sleep.) Yet while this cake is simple, it’s just the thing you’d want for summer: unfussy, straightforward, a snap to put together.
I’m trying to look at our earlier wakeups in a positive light — perhaps I can sneak in another early run along the empty beach before work if the fates allow. (Even if they don’t.) It’s a short week this week anyway, and then soon, so soon, we go to California for a respite. Like I mentioned: I got no complaints.
I think peaches would make a fine stand in for nectarines if you’d like to experiment, and I wouldn’t turn turn down a cake that incorporated blackberries in addtion to or in lieu of. It’s summer. Take it easy.
Makes 8 servings.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
4 small nectarines, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup whole rolled oats
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1/8 cup whole pastry flour
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Make the topping: in a small bowl, whisk together the oats, sugar, and flour. Rub in the butter with your hands until it forms a coarse meal.
Make the cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla.
At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Fold in the chopped nectarines.
Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter the crumble evenly across the top.
Bake until cake is golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.