Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baking on command: Plum Cake

dimply plum cake

A hazard of being known as an avid baker? Sometimes you go home and you're met with a bowl of sub-par plums and the gentle command suggestion that you do something with them. Aye, aye, Captain!

No, no, I kid. But I did head home for a little family time this weekend and since there were some plums which weren't quite juicy enough to be satisfying eaten alone, I decided that they would be perfectly fine for baking a plum cake. And, as usual, Dorie Greenspan to the rescue! I've made plum cakes before using mostly German recipes, which usually have you cutting the butter in to the flour, but this one just has you cream the butter and sugar together and it comes together in literally 5 minutes. Slicing the plums is probably the most time consuming part of this cake.


For something that takes so little time to put together, this is definitely a gorgeous looking cake, in that rustic kind of way. Although, as it turns out, plums that aren't juicy enough for eating...aren't really juicy enough for baking in this cake, either. That's my only complaint--these plums didn't really get "jammy" enough. Still, the cake base is delicious (flavored with cinnamon rather than cardamom) and I will definitely be making this again.


Oh hey, and this recipe only used 5 tablespoons of butter. In my world, that qualifies as health food. Now why did I leave the rest of the cake behind?!

(The recipe used is the Dimply Plum Cake from Dorie Greenspan's brilliant book Baking: From My Home To Yours. Go buy it! You can also find the recipe reproduced online in many, many different places.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Classic: Almond Tofu


Here's another Tofugirl family classic--almond tofu or xingren dofu (also known in Japan as annin dofu). This is one of the easiest desserts to whip up, but it is so perfect for summer--so refreshing and light, yet indulgent all at the same time. My mom would always make up a giant pot of this and just keep it in the fridge so that we could all help ourselves whenever we wanted some (which, in my case at least, was all the time). Tofu is a bit of a misnomer, actually, since this is really more like almond gelatin--no tofu involved. We always had it with canned fruit cocktail, which I still kind of love (although I still pick out all the horribly colored cherries) but I decided to jazz this one up a bit by using a fresh fruit salad steeped in ginger syrup. I know the weather is starting to cool off in NYC at least, but we've still got a couple of weeks of warm(ish) weather left--so go on, have a bowl of this and relive your summer memories.

Almond Tofu

Since this is comprised of milk, some sugar, and fruit, I consider this darn near a health food--so enjoy, guilt free!

Almond Tofu
Makes about 8 servings

For the tofu:
2 packets unflavored gelatin
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract

For the fruit salad:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
a slice of fresh ginger, crushed
assorted fruits (I used grapes, a nectarine, and a plum)

Combine the gelatin with the sugar; use the larger amount if you have a serious sweet tooth, but keep in mind that you are going to be serving this with a sweet syrup and sweet fruit. Pour the boiling water over the sugar and gelatin and stir until everything is completely dissolved. It's much harder to dissolve sugar once you add the cold milk, so try to get it all now. Add the milk and almond extract and stir. Give it a taste, and if you think it needs more sugar or almond flavor, correct it (if you think you need more sugar, I recommend using sugar syrup rather than straight up granulated sugar). Pour into a shallow pan (I used a 9" round pan which gave me a layer about 2" high, but you can use any shallowish pan), cover, and refrigerate until set, usually about 4 hours or so.

While that's setting, you can make your ginger syrup, which is so simple that all you do is dump your sugar, water and ginger slice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and let simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store in the fridge (with ginger slice) until you are ready to serve. When that time comes, cut your fruit into small bits--in my case, I thinly sliced a nectarine, cubed a plum, and thinly sliced some red grapes--and toss in the syrup.

To serve, cut your tofu into diamonds; the size isn't super important, you just want to break it up a bit. Spoon a few pieces of tofu into a small bowl and pour a couple of spoonfuls of syrup and fruit over the top.