I've got so many stories I'm dying to tell you. Like about this hysterically good dinner I had at the Fatty Crab on the UWS on Friday night. A dinner so good that I could not stop smiling the entire time. There was also a mini road trip down to a little Victorian-era village on the Jersey Shore where we met up with my parents and Eugene's parents and had a great time at a concert put on by a Bee Gees tribute band. I also tasted the most incredible cocktail that somehow managed to combine coconut water and rum with cilantro and chiles and (I suspect) a dash of magic. There were several walks up and down the boardwalk, a delicious hour spent rifling through a little vintage store where I discovered the most wonderful 1940s hat and a gorgeous little etched bowl in a perfect shade of strawberry milk glass.
Awesome weekend, for sure, but I am SO tired. This was more action than I've had in quite a while, and it's all I can do to dash out a few words before I dive into my bed. But I'd feel guilty if I left you with nothing, so I'm going to quickly tell you about the cake I made this week. It's a good one. So good, I'm actually now referring to as "THE cake."
You start with peaches and sugar plums. The kind of ripe that buckles to the touch, and all but explodes when pierced with the very tip of your knife making. Juicy, messy, stone fruit that's been sitting out on the counter maybe just a day or two longer than you meant.
These you'll grab and slice thickly (no baby slices allowed), and arrange all haphazardly into an absolutely heavenly batter.
Picture a moist cake with ground almonds, a big shower of lemon zest, and (this is where it gets good)...saffron. (See why I'm calling it "THE cake"?)
Don't forget to wake up the saffron by simmering it in a little saucer of milk first. You want the color to spill out and your kitchen to start to smell a little something like what I imagine all the rooms in that book A Thousand and One Nights smelled like.
It will come out of the oven all sunshine yellow with fruit studding the cake like circle of stained glass. You might be tempted to hang this up on the wall, were it not for the husky waves of saffron that will quickly fill up your home.
I was so in love with this cake by the time it came out of my oven that I practically kept it in my lap while it cooled, leaning down every few minutes just to inhale.
I can't wait until you try this. You won't believe what just a little pinch of those threads can do... And since there are no stories today, it gives that much time to get right down to baking this. I'm pretty sure you'll be OK with this deal once you taste it.
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Peach-and-Plum Saffron Almond Cake
Makes one 9" cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal (finely ground almonds)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar ("Sugar in the Raw")
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon saffron threads (or 1/8th teaspoon ground saffron)
1/4 cup whole milk
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon pure almond extract
2 VERY ripe plums, pitted and cut into thick slices (about 1")
3 VERY ripe peaches, pitted and cut into thick slices (about 1")
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. Sift together flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
In the base of an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and one cup of sugar for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding the next.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk and saffron threads and heat until it boils then immediately turn off. Let steep for a minute or two, until the milk takes on a rich yellow hue. Let cool slightly and then pour into your batter along with the lemon zest and almond extract. Incorporate well. (Note: if the batter curdles a bit, don't worry. It will fix itself once you add the flour and won't affect the final taste or texture.)
With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and mix until well blended. Spread the prepared batter into the springform pan and smooth out the top.
Arrange the fruit in concentric circles, alternating the peaches and plums. Use all the fruit, even if you have to layer some on top of each other to fit (the fruit will sink during baking).
Sprinkle the fruit and top of cake with the 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar. Bake in oven for 1 hour, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool completely before serving.