Friday, October 31, 2008

Chocolate Friday


Friday! Friday! Wee-hoo. I had a little weekend preview this morning when B made oatmeal with spices and apples and honey and brought it in for me to eat in bed. So yum and cozy, I am the luckiest girl around.

As you know, we have been eating a lot of fruity things over here, what with apples and persimmons and pears knocking around. And normally I prefer fruit desserts anyway. But the other day I came home from work and suddenly felt as though I might fall over dead without some chocolate. So. In a total departure from habit, I found myself with a brownie recipe in my hand. I don’t know people, life does things to you and suddenly doors open. Brownies? I have always thought they were pretty blah. So frequently gummy and full of weird aftertastes, so completely all one thing, unlike rugelach pinwheels filled with nuts and apricots and spices, or spice cookies with fresh ginger and chocolate chips (oh my lord, I think that recipe was lost in the move, I must post those soon), or cherry pie with its crust and almond extract and lemon juice. But whatever, we were having a chocolate craving, so suddenly the one dimensional aspect of a brownie seemed like a good idea, as did using the Cook’s Illustrated version of things because let me tell you people: it’s a jungle out there if you are looking for a simple brownie recipe. Jeez.


So anyway. Hang onto your chairs out there, because these brownies are a-mazing. Not gummy, not shattery, not anything other than perfection of texture and deep, serious chocolate. And you can make these in your sleep, they are that easy. They do have some sugar in them. Like, “Oh god, will my teeth fall out if I eat one of these?” amounts of sugar. What can I say, brush up I guess, because they taste perfect and you need one.



Brownies
From Cook’s Illustrated, with a few changes

3/4 cup mix of pecans or walnuts, chopped medium
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose and all was well)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (or better yet, just dumped into the double boiler, chopped shmopped, and honestly, I did not use the spendy stuff here and they were still amazing)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces (uh, ditto)
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature (Hey, did you know that a “large egg” weighs about 57 grams? When you get your own chickens the weighing of eggs comes with the territory, I ended up using 5.)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract



Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Note: this next part is fussy, but trust me, I have already un-fussied it a great deal. Cut a piece of foil that will generously cover a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Tuck foil into pan, pushing it well into the corners and up along the sides. If you own baking spray, do your thing. If you don’t, grease the foil lightly. I do this by saving the wrappers on the butter sticks and using those and what butter still clings to them – keeps you from getting greasy hands, you just kind of smear the wrappers around. I really did a hack job getting every inch of the foil greased, and it was all ok.

Chop and place nuts on baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder (note: sifting is not part of their directions, but I always sift when using baking powder because it's so lumpy). Add nuts and chocolate chips to flour mixture, stirring until they are even distributed.

Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl over saucepan of lightly simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth (I used my pyrex double boiler, because hey, it’s one of my favorite kitchen things and who doesn’t love see-through pots, and when finished poured mixture into a larger bowl for the addition of other ingredients). When mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually stir in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding until batter is completely smooth.

Pour batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with very, very few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes (ok, I had to bake it more like 45 minutes, but you do not want any gummy to spoil your party, so be vigilant and don’t take them out too early). Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil edges. Cut brownies into the size you like, and share with your friends so you don’t eat all that sugar yourself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cold Harvest

Good grief people, we are windswept over here. Cold and windswept. The frost blankets and the hoops are up over the winter garden, the cracks in the chicken coop stuffed against the drafts, the floor of our house not to be stepped on in sock feet. You know it’s cold when you yelp as your bottom hits the toilet seat. Ahem.

Anyway. We had a dinner date yesterday and for once I wasn’t cooking! Dinners seem to mostly take place at our house, which is all fine and dandy but getting served up huge bowls of pumpkin coconut soup from someone else’s stovetop was a real treat (note: eating it made me want to try substituting coconut milk for the usual dairy in pumpkin pie). I offered up a salad, so in the middle of the windstorm I hopped around outside moving sheets of plastic and trying to keep my fingers from freezing, but damn, it’s all worth it when you tuck everything back up and in the warmth of the kitchen you take a look at the enormous bowl of greens you just picked. I will never get over how such tender lettuces can grow when the nights hover below 30 for weeks on end. Scrappy little lettuces.

I leave you with a photo of yesterday’s harvest. May you all keep warm and well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Carrot Soup & Garlic Planting


Another fine fall weekend over here, lots of music, lots of apples, lots of bundling up against the cold. This morning I planted our seed garlic. Something so very magical about tucking cloves into the ground while the wind is howling around your head and your fingers are freezing inside two pair of gloves. I bought our garlic from here, and so far they have been the nicest dang people I have ever bought seeds or starts from. I planted four kinds: Chesnok Red, Siberian, Susanville, and Zemo. Three hardnecks and one softneck. Some folks out there soak their cloves before they plant them, but none of my friends do that and the Hood River folks made no mention of it, so we’ll see how just sticking them in the ground goes. I just prepped the bed with compost, poked them into the ground, covered the whole bed with a good thick layer of straw and a lighter layer of leaf mulch, and watered everything. Like putting something to bed for the winter. Fun.

Ok, so we continue to eat these beans. Lately I just cook them up and in a separate pan I sauté leeks from the garden and sausage from our favorite farm down the road, lots of salt and pepper and some thyme, throw the beans in and ooph, it is so yum. Truly, it looks like a big mess of glop, but damn, those beans are so incredible, the leeks so sweetly leeky, and the sausage we get is out of sight. Cheap and easy baby.


Also cheap if ever so slightly less easy: carrot soup. I can be kind of a pain in the ass about carrots. I have very strong feelings about what size exactly carrots should be when they show up in food, and I am pretty much never in favor of a huge mouthful of cooked carrots. But I like carrot soup, go figure. I love the subtle peanut flavor from the peanut oil in this soup. Warm and cheery on a cold night, better yet the next day.

Carrot Soup

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 large onion, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
1 large potato, preferably yukon gold
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime peel (one lime should do)
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, more to taste
5 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Toast coriander and mustard seeds, then grind to a fine powder.

Heat oil in soup pot, add ground seeds and curry powder, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add ginger, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add onion, leeks, carrots, potato, lime peel. Add salt and pepper and sauté until onions begin to soften. Add broth, bring to a boil, and simmer until carrots are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly. In batches, puree until smooth (this works best if you blend the ingredients without a lot of accompanying stock, add it in once you have a smooth texture). Return batches to soup pot, add more broth if consistency is too thick. Stir in lime juice, season. Yum.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sweets


My stars kids, I think it’s about wintertime. We have been having heavy frosts every night this week and we have reached the time of year where I scheme to make something in the oven every night to warm the kitchen up. Frequent go-to for this purpose: sweet potatoes. Holy shit, we love us some sweet potatoes at our house. These were a relatively late discovery for me, as I don’t really remember eating these as a child (save for the practically universal disappointment of marshmallow laden sweet potato pie, I mean, gak). But man, do I eat them now. I think they are kind of a magic food, like miso and fresh figs, where you just can’t believe that something that tastes this good can also be so good for you. A lot of time I just chop a few up and throw them in the oven with a chicken. Wa-la. But it is true that they don’t always cook perfectly, sometimes there will be a kind of woody, starchy chunks here and there.

Well, leave it to Cook’s Illustrated** to get to the bottom of such a thing. Turns out that above 175 degrees the starch in a sweet potato will cease converting to sugar. Well who knew? So here is how they roast sweet potatoes to get around this, and let me tell you: you will end up with perfectly roasted super sweet little chunks of goodness. When we bake these, you would swear there were cookies in the oven, and on a cold winter’s night, I’d take these over cookies any day.

** The magazine I used to think was the dorkiest thing in the entire would – I could not believe my mother gave me a subscription – and now six years later I adore, if in a slightly patronizing Oh those Cook’s Illustrated people are so crazy kind of way. What this change of heart signifies I cannot tell you.

Perfectly Roasted Sweet Potatoes
From Cook’s Illustrated

Sweet potatoes, scrubbed (do not peel these guys, the skin is so tasty!)
Vegetable oil
Salt
Pepper

Note: do NOT preheat oven.

Cut sweet potatoes into 3/4 inch thick rounds. Toss in oil until lightly coated, season with salt and pepper (sometimes we throw on red chili flakes or thyme or anything else that might sound good). Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet (note: CI has you put them on a baking sheet covered in foil sprayed with cooking spray but sheesh already), and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place in oven on middle rack and adjust temperature to 425 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes.

Remove foil, and cook until bottom edges brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Take sheet out of oven, flip potatoes, and continue to roast until other side is brown or golden, another 18 to 22 minutes.

I know this seems like a long time, but it’s totally worth it to have the creamy sweetness contrasted with the slightly crisp, browned edges. Plus, the longer the oven is on the warmer it is in our kitchen. Eat ‘em up!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Breaking Up


Ok, I am breaking up with tapioca. We have been together for a long time, this is no small thing. As a squeak I would sometimes spend time at my Granny’s for the summer. Probably mostly driving her crazy, probably mostly about when exactly we were going to do the Making of Tapioca. Because my Gran makes the best damn tapioca around, rich and creamy and seemingly always served with bright orange slices of home canned peaches. I can remember the long-handled spoon we used to stir it as clear as day. And here’s where my memory must have failed me: I in no way remembered that you have to stir this shit for an eternity. Jesus.

Ok, wait, I am getting ahead of myself. I tried to make tapioca about a year ago, and failed miserably by curdling the eggs. Any sane person would have walked it out to the compost right then. But no, I had to let it sit on the stove for a few days, tentatively taking a few bites the first two days (something very Homer Simpson about trying curdled tapioca daily to see if it might have magically uncurdled) and then sort of stoically ignoring the whole pot until one morning my nose informed me in no uncertain terms that the tapioca must be dealt with. I was just so damn heartbroken about wasting the ingredients! All that milk! Eggs! Sugar! Denial! Gah. So I wrote to my Granny and she sent me handwritten instructions and I put them someplace safe and thoughtful and, er… You see.

Anyway, this weekend I decided to give it another shot. Not with my Granny’s careful instructions, what with losing her card and everything, but with some recipe I’d cut out from somewhere because it had a lot of orange zest and orange juice and cream. I honestly really only thought to do this because we’ve been getting this lovely raw milk but sometimes we have a bit too much on hand and it being raw and everything means that it doesn’t last forever so LONG STORY SHORT: in an effort to use up the milk I once again made the worst tapioca ever (no curdling this time, just general The Fucking Tapioca Balls Will Not Cook Through Syndrome). But before it was evident that I was making the worst tapioca ever, there was the stirring. And the stirring. Christ there was stirring. I am 100% sure that it was only because I was generally not permitted to eat sugar as a child that I did not even notice that this magical pudding practically required one to stir one’s own arm off. Goodnight, there is just no need for such stirring – and this from a woman who will whip up chocolate pudding or pot de crème without complaint.

So tapioca, it’s over.

As a total aside, something ate all the tapioca out of the compost. Which, I must confess, at first I found irritating. I mean, at least all those ingredients could add to my compost riches, right?! But then I kept thinking about a bunch of squirrels eating tapioca and I think this is funny enough and probably a very good end to a harrowing adventure. You may now all climb back off the edges of your seats.

You Need This


If anyone ever tells you that they bought a bushel of apples and then mentions that they do not own a food mill or an apple peeler thingy, tell them they are insane and that for $20 this wicked snazzy apple peeler corer will keep them from completely losing it. With thanks to Nici for reminding me.

Bonus fun for those with chickens: watching them run around with three foot long apple peels!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Persimmon Pudding


Well I don’t know about you, but I am glad that the debates are over. Early Voting just opened here, and I walked across campus and put in my ballot for our guy. Woo hoo. Sure is a sparkly fall day out there.

Speaking of fall, B’s dad and stepmum were up for a visit last weekend and guess what they brought me? A big bag of persimmons! Kinda like a big bag of gold in my opinion. Turns out that there’s a persimmon tree right by their house. These appear to be of the Hachiya variety. Where I grew up in West Virginia there were a lot of persimmon dishes around Thanksgiving, but I believe those were wild persimmons, very small and not sweet until after the first frost. I wonder if we have those here?

Anyway. The big bag of persimmons. They weren’t ripe, but I just put them in a paper bag and checked them every few days, and when one was soft and squishy to the touch I’d peel it and throw it in a jar. By yesterday it looked just about full enough, and sure enough, when I measured it up it was 2 cups exactly. With the persimmons that have yet to ripen I want to make some persimmon bread from a recipe given to me by this gal, and some persimmon cookies, but what with not having my hands on this many persimmons in years and years, first I had to make my childhood favorite: persimmon pudding. I used a recipe that I hand wrote a million years ago, who knows from where. Two things: this is not a pudding in the chocolate pudding kind of way, but rather in an English pudding sort of way. And it falls. It has fallen every time I’ve ever made it or seen it made; it just does that and I think it’s supposed to because otherwise the texture would be all wrong. We snacked on it during the debate, after a big pot of these beans and a big steamer full of kale. I hope Obama eats this well.


Persimmon Pudding

Blend together:
2 cups persimmon pulp
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cups butter, melted and cooled to room temp (4 tablespoons)
2 large eggs, room temperature

Whisk together:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (and/or other spices like nutmeg and ginger)

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, but do not over stir.

Then add:
1/2 cup cream (you can use whole milk if you need to)
1/2 cup buttermilk (you can make buttermilk with regular milk and some vinegar)

Bake at 325 for about an hour in a 9 x 12 pan (9 x 13 is fine).

Thanks for the persimmons Tim and Gale!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Green Eggs & Meatballs


Oh my goodness, I had the best weekend. Just sweet and relaxing. Someone did pull out in front of me and was smashed each other a little bit, but fortunately their SUV was so big and our car is so small that they actually smashed me with their tire. Uh, a fleeting appreciation for the size dynamics on the road… Anyway, even that was pretty much as nice as it gets, what with them being totally pleasant and retroactively hilarious (see husband hopping around the bumper exclaiming “Goddamn! It’s a good thing I just got done meditatin’!”) and everyone and everything seemingly fine despite it all.

Plus, and I keep meaning to mention this, we have been watching Paul Newman films. We were kind of already headed down that road before he died, with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (my favorite of his earlier films) and Cool Hand Luke, but his death renewed our focus and since then we’ve watched Hud (ooh, he is so bad), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (wtf with that scene on the bicycle, gah), and the Color of Money. Do not be afraid of the Tom Cruise action in the Color of Money. He’s terrific, and so is Paul. I know we were supposed to watch The Hustler first but we couldn’t get our hands on it so we’ll just watch them out of order. Anyway, all to say that we love Paul and so should you.

Ok, in other excitement, those eggs up there are green and one of our chickens laid them! Rhodie, our one Ameraucana, has been one hilarious chicken from the get-go. For the first few months she was officially Totally Insane, but she has chilled out a great deal and now I can even pet her. I just reread the description of her breed and I guess she’s supposed to lay blue eggs, but frankly I am thrilled to bits with the green eggs. They just seem so special, and she’s such a beautiful and unusual looking chicken, she is one of my favorites. Honestly though, whichever one I am petting is my favorite.


Last up: meatballs. So, since we really didn’t eat meat when I was a kid, I sometimes get to floor people when I say things like “I have never had a meatball.” Which, until about five years ago, was true. After which I floored people for the next half a decade by saying “I have only eaten meatballs once.” But now it’s twice because I just made them yesterday. The truth is that I have a mild fascination with comfort food: meatballs, turkey pot pie, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, etc. I think it’s because that kind of food was not at all a part of my family’s food culture (well, you can read about my great-aunt’s macaroni and cheese here). My mom’s version of comfort food was miso soup and greens, if you know what I mean. Which I am eternally grateful for, and I intend to torture my children with miso soup when they are sick too. But anyway. That first plate of meatballs was at a hipster restaurant in the Mission, one that pretty much forged its success on spaghetti, but I was just not sold. The meatballs were packed with capers. And I am very fussy about capers. Suffice to say that in my meatballs is not where I like them. But I remained intrigued by the whole meatball thing because you can put all kinds of things in them that you don’t normally throw into pasta sauce (eggs! bread crumbs! cheeses!). So for the last five years I have been saving meatball recipes. Like, I have eleven of them, and that’s without counting cookbooks. And when my favorite food blogger recently decided to do meatballs, I felt it was a sign. Plus, I keep being told to eat more beef, and honestly the only thing I know how to do with cow is put it in chili. I have all of my recipes organized by main ingredient (I am a librarian, don’t laugh), and I don’t even have a beef folder; the only beef we eat is generally cooked by B.


ANYWAY, this is getting way too long, so here’s the wrap up: I made meatballs! Which not only involved beef, but also frying, another thing I generally outsource to my husband. I used the Smitten recipe as a base, but I made several adjustments, via the eleven other recipes I had handy, via my “no fucking way I’m using veal” feelings, via the sauce amount looking skimpy, and via what needed to be eaten from our garden. And…they are totally, totally amazing. So good. Like roll over and die good. Due to afternoon plans, I made them after breakfast, which turned out to be a good idea because they kind of took a long time and because then they had all day to just make friends with the sauce they had been simmered in. Warning: this makes a huge pot of meatballs. For the two of us, I might think about halving it, we’ll see if we get sick of them by the time we finish them up.

Spaghetti & Meatballs
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground pork
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, the good stuff if you please
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fennel seeds
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 leeks, finely chopped
1 green pepper, very finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup good red wine
3 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, pureed in food processor for just a jiffy
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

For serving:
Spaghetti, cooked
Freshly grated parmesan

Make the meatballs: Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, all seasonings, Parmesan, salt, pepper, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into one-and-a half-inch meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) pan that will be big enough to hold the whole dish by the end, to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil (really do let it get hot, but not smoking, otherwise you will have sticking issues). Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium heat, turning carefully with tongs. There will still be some sticking; this is ok. It should take about 8 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs, and let the oil sit for just a second between batches to regain temperature. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and leeks and pepper and sauté over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve over pasta, garnish with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fry 'Em Up


Oh me oh my. Every once in a while on Tuesday mornings B and I get a mini weekend kind of thing where we can sleep in a little and have a late breakfast. Today was one such morning, and after collecting four more eggs over the weekend we plotted to make our first farm fresh fried egg breakfast.


What a simple pleasure, to crack open eggs gathered in our back yard from hens who have only eaten organic grains and legumes and garden fresh greens and bugs. The yolks were the deepest orange yellow and far less runny than store-bought eggs. We fried them up and plopped them down on a piece of toast topped with a little grated cheese and chopped arugula from the garden, salt and pepper to please. As I broke the first yolk my mind was filled with the memory of the girls as little chicks just peeping their hearts out from inside their tiny mailing carton, of B and me eating dinner in the basement every night giggling ourselves hiccupy with their goofiness, of catching pillbugs and watching them go nuts until Gonzo finally ate them. What a hoot.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Egg Egger Eggest


Well folks, this post was coming around sooner or later: the first egg!!!! A beautiful light brown egg, just sitting there in the sunshine. I hooted and hollered and even the neighbors got in on the act. The egg, as you might have already guessed, was not laid in the nesting box. Which seems perfectly understandable to me…there you are, going about being the chicken you’ve always been, hunting and pecking for bugs and greens and scratch and then all of a sudden here comes an egg. Talk about a surprise. Anyway, I put a decoy egg in one of the nesting boxes to hopefully raise the gentle suggestion of egg laying in the coop. We’ll see.

I wish I could know which one of our girls laid it…I asked, but they weren’t talking.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Apple Ginger Upside Down Skillet Cake


Oooh, we are feeling the chill around here – last night was under 40 degrees. Sorry little garden sprouts, no Indian Summer in the forecast yet. Oh well. The lettuces and arugula and bok choy are growing just fine. It’s the greens that worry me. That and my bike ride to work. Must dig out all my warm things, I was nearly frozen to the bike by the time I arrived.

Yesterday I left work early for no good reason (well, I also have to work this Saturday, so that seemed like a good enough reason) and came home and finished my book, made a huge pot of chili (full of gorgeous peppers from the garden, both green and red), and baked an apple cake. I made this cake last fall, and although it was wonderful, I realized after it was baked that I had neglected to put the baking powder in. So it was a little on the dense side. But it was still tasty so I figured it would only get better if I put all the ingredients in. Indeed. The cake part of this is a very dark, spicy, not-too-sweet gingerbread, topped by a layer of sweet, caramelized apples. And I am a sucker for interesting fruity upside down cakes baked in a cast iron skillet. The moment when you turn ‘er over and get a peek at your handiwork, my favorite.

Apple Ginger Upside Down Skillet Cake

For the topping:
1/2 stick unsalted butter
4 peeled and sliced apples (pick a tart baking apple)
2/3 cup brown sugar

For the cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup molasses
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger

This cake bakes up perfectly in a 12 inch cast iron skillet. Anything smaller and you might be better off making two small cakes - adjust baking time accordingly if you go this route.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large cast iron skillet. Swirl butter around to coat sides of pan, then sprinkle 2/3 cup of brown sugar over bottom of pan. Cook over low heat until sugar no longer looks grainy. Remove from heat and arrange apple slices in a pattern that pleases (note: pack those apples in on top of each other; they will shrink upon baking and they are so yummy!). Set aside.

Mix boiling water and baking *soda* then set aside.

Sift together flour, spices, salt and baking *powder*.

Cream together 1 stick of butter and 2/3 cup brown sugar. Beat in molasses, eggs, fresh ginger and baking soda mixture. Add dry ingredients and candied ginger, stirring until batter is smooth. Pour batter over apple slices (should fill the pan just a little more than halfway up the sides – if you have extra bake it in another pan). Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick stabbed in the center comes out clean (mine had to go for just over 40 minutes). Let cool, then run a spatula around edge, invert cake plate or stand (hello wedding gift) on top of skillet, grab the skillet and cake plate together firmly, and turn the whole thing over like you really mean it. Eat it up!