I set myself an ambitious goal for 2010: To find desserts that I like. This was more difficult than it might appear at first glance, as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I’m not much of a baker, either. However, I am nothing if not tenacious in pursuit of my goals—when I can remember them, that is. I confess that there were many, many times that I filled up on dinner and forgot to leave room for dessert. But I did make an effort to taste more desserts, including trying gelato for the first time, and even baked a few myself.
Armed with some great cookbooks, especially Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, I started strong with a Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding. I didn’t grow a sweet tooth, and I’m still not much of a baker, I’m afraid. I doubt I will ever understand the attraction of unsalted butter or precise measurements. But it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Here are some of the highlights from The Dessert Initiative.
Tarte Tatin, a French classic with caramelized apples and puffed pastry, is still my go-to dessert.
Arance all’Aperol, with its brilliant colors, provided a sweet taste of spring.
Rosewater Pistachio Biscotti looked complicated, but turned out to be easy and delicious.
This Strawberry Shortcake was rich and substantial, made with lavish amounts of cream and heaps of sun-ripened strawberries.
Making the shortcrust pie shell was nearly my undoing, but this Raisin Tart was an elegant dessert with an exotic pedigree.
On the more homely end of the spectrum, Gingered Pear Pandowdy was lumpy, bumpy, rustic, and an unqualified success.
And last, but most certainly not least, I want to leave you with this recipe for Portuguese Orange-Olive Oil Cake, with thanks to my friend Stella at The Witchy Kitchen. This cake is a revelation, a poem, a masterpiece. It is rich, moist, and dense. The brightness of the orange juice and the earthy flavor of the olive oil balance each other and combine to make this cake something much greater than the sum of its parts. I can tell you with assurance that it is good as soon as it has cooled, but keeps amazingly well and is even better a day or two later. If it lasts that long. If left alone with one of these cakes, I will stand at the counter and eat slice after slice, until I force myself to wrap it up and put it away out of sight. Then I will come back for just one more slice. And I don’t even like cake.
I guess this means I have learned something about desserts, and maybe I understand the people who love them, just a little bit more than I did a year ago.
May your New Year be sweet, and full of warmth and light!
Portuguese Orange-Olive Oil Cake
(adapted from The Witchy Kitchen)
- 1 3/4 cups Multigrain Flour Mix
- 1 cup Sugar
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1-2 tsp. orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a bread pan with cooking spray.
In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Then add the oil, orange juice, and zest to the eggs and whisk well. Slowly pour the wet mix into the dry mix and gently stir until combined–do not over stir. Pour into bread pan and bake for about 45-50 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.