The end of the year is coming fast, and November has been crazy! I had a quick visit to Philadelphia to meet up with my sisters for a happy family event. We packed in the activities, as we always do. Our mother was not one to sit still, and she trained us to be the same way.
I really like cake, plain simple unfrosted cakes. I could take or leave birthday cakes or other layered cakes, but I always enjoy a pound cake, a Bundt cake, or any kind of one layer cake. A simple glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar makes them complete, no fussing required. For Howard, I think it’s all about the frosting as he never gets excited when I make a cake, so they are usually relegated to occasions where I’m having just my friends over or bake something to bring somewhere else.
My favorite bakery cake is the Vanilla Bean Pound Cake made by Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge. They are regulars at the Lexington Farmers’ Market and, in season, I treat myself to a slice about once a month. The genius of their cake is that it’s soaked in vanilla-infused simple syrup, making the outside crust magical. Eating an end piece with its extra crust is just heaven. I’ve never made it myself, but here’s the recipe.
Right before I left, I made David Lebovitz’s Bay Leaf Pound Cake, the first November challenge recipe for Cook the Book Fridays. I did NOT need a whole cake. I had nowhere to bring it that week. So, I minified it. I made one-third of the recipe (dividing by the eggs, of course) to fill one small loaf pan – a personal pound cake.
This cake is a little different than a traditional pound cake recipe because rather than creaming the butter, the butter is melted. In this case, the butter is then infused with bay leaves to add some depth of flavor. A couple of bay leaves are also set on the bottom of the pan to add more bay flavoring.
We are also instructed to squeeze a line of soft butter on top of the cake to enhance a decorative crack. It could be because of my smaller pan, but that didn’t happen on my cake.
The final touch was an orange glaze. The cake’s predominant flavor was orange. Even with the infused butter and extra leaves, I didn’t notice the bay flavoring at all. Overall, this was a lovely cake, small enough for me to eat a daily slice for a few days. It wasn’t interesting enough to make again, though I did enjoy it while it lasted.
The second recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Panade de Butternut (Butternut Squash Bread Soup). To read the C&C (comments and concerns) post for this recipe, it wasn’t getting a lot of love, so I was a bit wary.
The recipe took a bit of advanced planning. David recommends homemade stock for this one. We were finishing up a whole chicken, so that was easy enough with a carcass on hand. I’ve been making stock in the slow cooker for the past few years which is so simple. Sourdough bread was also required. My sourdough starter needed a workout this week, so I managed to bake my own loaf to use. Stock? Check! Bread? Check! I was ready to go.
This panade is a layering of caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, sliced butternut squash, chopped thyme and sage, and grated cheese doused with the homemade chicken stock. I halved the recipe for our household. I must have sliced the bread too thickly because there wasn’t nearly enough to fully cover the pan for even two layers, and the recipe called for three. That means I had three layers of squash and just two of bread, which was fine.
As the panade baked, the bread absorbed all the stock, so the result was more like bread pudding than soup. It also reminded me of a lighter version of the filling for a stuffed pumpkin I’ve made. Whatever it was, it was delicious! All the flavors of fall combined into one hearty dish. It would be a wonderful alternative to stuffing for the Thanksgiving table. On the downside, if I’m being honest, even though I really liked it, in my opinion, it was a lot more work than it was worth.
Judge for yourself! Recipes for both the pound cake (page 296) and the panade (page 163) can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. My friends from Cook the Book Fridays made these too. You can find their reviews for the cake here and the panade here.
Crisps, also known as Crumbles in places where crisps are potato chips, are among my household’s favorite desserts. I give them a mix-and-match approach, choosing the fruit based on season and the topping based on mood. There’s an infinite number of combinations.
I never considered the possibility of a SAVORY crumble. However, this week’s recipe choice for Cook the Book Fridays is exactly that. David Lebovitz presents a recipe for Butternut Squash Crumble in his book My Paris Kitchen. I was very intrigued.
This is the perfect recipe for the season. Local butternut squash has just started to be harvested around here. All the fresh ingredients were part of this week’s CSA share, farmers’ market purchases, or growing in my backdoor herb garden. Delightful!
[Side note: One of the most popular varieties of butternut squash is the “Waltham” which was developed in Waltham (the town next to mine) in the 1960s, by the Massachusetts Agricultural Extension Service.]
To create this savory side, first you cook the squash. Diced squash is sautéed with shallots and seasoned with a generous amount of fresh thyme leaves until the squash starts to soften. Then the squash is further roasted in the oven.
While the squash bakes, the flavorful topping is prepared. Bread crumbs, stone-ground cornmeal, and grated Parmesan cheese stand in for the flour you’d find in a sweet version. The butter is cut in until it’s crumbly. At this point, the topping had a familiar texture, but the addition of an egg ensures that it stays bound together. The crumble is sprinkled on top of the tender squash and baked some more to crisp up and brown the topping.
Well, the verdict is that butternut squash crumble is delicious! The tender squash and the crunchy topping works well together. My only quibble is that the two-step cooking of the squash seems fussy. When I make this again, I’ll either saute the squash until it’s completely tender OR roast the vegetable mixture until tender. I’ll skip the other step.
As is, the crumble screams “Serve me for Thanksgiving, please!” Variations on the crumble will also be in the cards. I’m imagining that roasted root vegetables, singularly or as a medley, are worth a try. Different herbs in the topping could be extended for a mix-and-match for savory crumbles to complement my dessert combos.
And a very Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!