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Blood Orange & Barley Cake

Busy doing nothing. That’s what I’ve been up to. Taking time to just be, not setting an alarm, lolling around in bed until (gasp!) 8:00 am. Going for walks, stretching, cooking all my meals to end up as warm, comforting bowls of goodness, lingering in DeMartini’s (our local produce supplier) and tasting each different variety of apple like a selection of fine wines.  I went over to Berkeley on Friday with two of my best girls, for the whole day, to do some yoga and sit in cafes.  This week, I haven’t noticed anything but what’s going on in that exact moment.

I’ve had lots of time to read, too. Last week it was Good to the Grain; this week it’s Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food. With recipes separated by the seasons, Shafia hopes that each one will bring us closer to the farmer, the earth, and our own health. It’s my habit, as a full-time student, to read anything like a textbook: absorbing important tidbits, marking inspiring passages with a pencil, constantly thinking about how and where to apply this new knowledge. I have pages upon pages of notes from cooking and nutrition books alone. Naturally, both of these texts have been quite influential in my recent kitchen concoctions.

Combining tips and tricks from Kim Boyce’s ode to whole grains with seasonal and eco-conscious inspiration from Lucid Food, I came up with a cake that showcases the best of both worlds. Blood oranges, a wintertime treat, sit glazed in honey atop a Turbinado-sweetened crumb of whole-grain barley and wheat flours. The first try was lucky– I pretty much got what I wanted, and everyone at the party I brought it to seemed to like it. Next time, though, I might use more fruit on top for a prettier presentation. And perhaps try peeling away some of the bitter skin, although I’m not sure if the slices would still hold together or not. I’d also use less cloves– the amount listed here has been reduced.

With cookbooks as my text and the kitchen as my office, creating food like this is my favorite way to learn.

Blood Orange & Barley Cake with Cloves

Ingredients for topping: 3 blood oranges, sliced into thin rounds 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter (I used clarified butter/ghee throughout the recipe, and I really liked the result. It gave a nice earthy-sweet and toasty flavor– perfect with the cloves.) 4 tablespoons honey

Ingredients for batter: 1 1/2 cups flour (1 cup white whole-wheat, 1/2 cup barley flour)  3/4 teaspoon ground cloves 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature 3/4 cup Turbinado sugar 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon dark rum 1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350′.

To make topping: Melt butter in a cast-iron skillet and add honey. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add orange slices on top of butter in a concentric circle design, overlapping slightly.

To make batter: Sift together the flours, cloves, baking powder and salt. Beat butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated. Beat in orange juice, then remaining flour mixture, just until incorporated. The batter may appear slightly curdled.

Spoon batter over orange slices in pan and spread evenly. Bake in middle of oven until golden, springy, and a tester comes out clean, 45 minutes or so. Remove from oven and let stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over the skillet and invert cake onto the plate, keeping them firmly pressed together. Replace any oranges stuck to the bottom. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons more rum, if desired, and cool. Can be served warm, room temperature, or refrigerated overnight. 

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