In the yard, February 2015.
As I sit here eating (vegan) chocolate chunk cookies and swilling coffee, the thought occurs: wasn’t this blog once more about vegetarian food than sweets? I blame flourless. – which is finally back in stock on amazon and elsewhere; yippee! – and all the recipe testing that occurred during its creation. I always baked a lot, but things really ramped up two years ago when I was in the depths of writing the book and not much has changed since. Though in my defense I do still make and eat a lot of vegetables: Last night I had a bowl of delicious sweet potato/parsnip soup and piled lemony sauteed brussels sprouts atop quinoa and it satisfied my typical wintry cravings for vegetables and whole grains. Yet we’re on the cusp of yet another life change and thus I bake ever more, or at least I tell myself that’s the reason why. Strangely it does seem to help ease the transition.
While Morocco and I haven’t always been friends I made a sort of peace with my life here last fall — just in time to learn we’ll be packing up and leaving. Ain’t that always the way … And while there’s a lot I won’t miss the nostalgia factor is strong. This is after all the place where my baby took her first steps, said her first words, played in the grass for the first time, made friends with construction workers, nannies, and neighbors alike, chased the cats lingering outside our garden walls. I’ve finally! slipped into a routine, made friends, know the drill and while it’s not perfect I find that on the cusp of moving on that my somewhat rut has become a mostly comfortable one. Since I’m still rather sleep deprived the reality of packing up and starting again is not exactly an exciting one. But, such is life. And as the cliche goes as long as we have each other home can be anywhere – that’s no joke. Especially if there are sweets.
Last week I baked from my book for a chat about it in a beautiful house across the street from the ocean. We drank coffee and tea, talked baking and life, and I made a batch of macaroons. I brought a chocolate cake made with (g-f) oat flour, that cinnamon-sugar cake, and a variation of the pumpkin bread in flourless. because it seems even when a recipe is my own I can’t resist fiddling with it. (Also I didn’t have any maple syrup or pumpkin puree on hand but that’s perhaps beside the point.)
What I especially love about these little cakes is that the recipe is based on almond meal – making it hearty – and doesn’t need any oil or butter because of the fruit puree – making it heart-healthy – and is just lightly kissed with warm spices that complement both almonds and fruit perfectly. I will note that the recipe calls for a certain amount of applesauce and depending on the apples used to make the sauce it will be thin or thick. For this recipe I’d recommend making or buying an (unsweetened) applesauce that’s a bit on the thicker side, although your cake won’t be ruined if you use a more watery sauce. Just something to keep in mind.
I won’t much miss my crumbling house over run with ants (though the natural light in this kitchen is incredible and I hope so much our next place has at least decent windows) but I will miss: Sierra’s cozy room, the guy and horse who pick up the yard waste (once he learned we are American he switched from “bonjour madam” to “how are you madam?” and it never fails to warm my heart), the ocean, my friends here, all the crazy, untamed foliage that just thrives in this lush climate, the varied and accessible landscapes. Despite it all there is a bittersweet nostalgia that comes with leaving the place to where I brought my tiny 2 1/2 month old baby and where we have spent so many, many hours together exploring yard and neighborhood and beach (and if I’m honest, occasionally the mall). I felt this way when I left San Francisco too, of course, although that was tied up with the heavier stuff of leaving my much loved home of 7+ years. But those first days with her, spent in that Indian Summer sun and wind, were precious and sweet and I will always keep them close. I have a feeling this is what parenthood (and life?) is: the constant struggle to hold on to the moment while letting go at the same time.
And so we move ever onward.
I prefer maple syrup in this recipe if you can get it, but if not that’s fine. I used raw sugar here because that’s what I had but brown sugar would also very nice.
Makes about 6 small cakes, one 7-inch cake round, or one 9×5 loaf
2/3 cup/170 g unsweetened applesauce
1 cup/120 g ground almonds
1/2 cup/120 ml maple syrup OR 1/2 cup/50 g raw sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
optional: 1/4 cup sliced almonds, for scattering on top
Heat oven to 350 F/180 C. Grease 6 small ramekins, a 7-inch cake pan, or a 9×5-in/23x13cm loaf pan with vegetable oil.
In a large bowl, combine the applesauce, ground almonds, maple syrup or sugar, eggs, ground spices, vanilla, salt, and baking soda and stir well until a smooth batter forms. Pour batter into prepared pan/s and scatter sliced almonds – if using – evenly over the top.
Place in oven and bake until cakes are puffed and slightly browned and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.