I've had a bit of time off this week, which has been such a relief after a long non-stop work-a-thon. In honor of my birthday yesterday, I decided earlier in the week to head to the bookshop, with a coupon in hand, and pick up some lovely cookbooks to inspire me throughout the upcoming year.
One of the cookbooks that I've been yearning to have, hold, view, and be inspired by is Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. Heidi's blog, 101 Cookbooks, was one of the first food blogs that I started to read about a year ago. I love the way she talks about cooking -- she loves the whole process, from start to finish, and takes lovely photographs that document her whole journey. She also uses such healthy and fresh ingredients, and a lot of her recipes are naturally gluten-free. Although I don't know her personally, reading through her cookbook made her feel like a kindred spirit.
While at the store, one of the first recipes that I looked at in Super Natural Every Day was for Membrillo Cake. This is when the swooning started. I had never heard of membrillo paste until I studied abroad in Spain in 2004. I went with my friend Tara, and we stayed with a host family -- our host-mother's name was Antonia, and our host-father's name was Antonio -- it was quite comical. Antonia made everything from scratch, and morning, noon, and night, would fill up their apartment with the warm aroma of olive oil and fresh produce. One thing that graced our breakfast table every morning was homemade membrillo paste. The consistency of jelly with a earthy sweetness, Antonia prided herself on making hers with apple juice instead of a lot of sugar. I remember looking up "membrillo" in my huge Spanish-English dictionary, and saw the definition was "quince."
|image from plantguide.org|
As a New Englander, that definition didn't help me much -- I hadn't heard of that fruit either. It took a bit of exploration in the internet cafe to discover that the quince was like a cross between a pear and an apple. However, it didn't take a dictionary or the internet to tell me that it was delicious, and that I was going to slather it on to my toast every morning.
When I came back home, I thought I wouldn't taste memrbillo jelly again. Imagine my surprise when I started to discover membrillo paste at some specialty shops, and now even Whole Foods carries it. It was on sale this week, which I thought to be quite fortuitous.
And thus, this year's birthday cake was born. I modified Heidi's recipe a bit, using gluten free flours instead of whole wheat pastry flour, and anise seeds in lieu of poppy seeds. I also cut down on the sugar a bit, and added honey and apple sauce instead. The way the membrillo melts just a bit into the cake is enough to make your heart melt right along side it, and the anise gives every bite the perfect kick. Heidi notes that this is a cake you don't want to over-bake, which I think I may have a bit. The texture in mine came out a bit more bread-like than cake-like, but I still ate it all day yesterday and plan to do the same today.
modified from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
- 1 2/3 cup rice flour
- 1/2 cup millet flour
- 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain salt
- 1/3 cup anise seeds
- grated zest of 1 lemon plus its juice
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
- 1/8 cup ghee, melted and cooled
- 9 ounces membrillo paste, cut into tiny cubes
- 2 tablespoons large-grain raw sugar
Combine the flour, baking powder, apple sauce, honey, salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Mix the lemon juice and milk to make a butter milk, and combine that with the eggs. Add in the melted butter. Stir this liquid mixture into the flour mixture slowly, until everything is incorporated. Fold in 2/3 of the membrillo cubes.
Pour the batter into your prepared pie dish. Scatter the left over membrillo cubes on top of the cake. Finish off with a dusting of the large-grain sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through the center. I found that mine was still quite moist and not cooked at 25 minutes, but I reckon that something is a bit off with my oven.
*If you would like to make this using a glutenous flour, use 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour. If you would like to omit the apple sauce and make it the more delectable way, replace it with 1/2 cup fine grain natural sugar and use 1/4 cups of butter. An additional topping that Heidi uses is 1/4 cup sliced almonds.
Two more birthday posts to come: one highlighting a in-depth mead tasting that we enjoyed at Honeymaker Maine Mead Works, and another detailing the delicious meal we savored at Figa Restaurant. Needless to say, by the end of the night, I felt so happy and lucky, especially since I got to share the whole day with Andrew and we haven't had a day off together in about 2 months. It was definitely one of my best birthdays yet.
And don't forget about my Cookbook Club project!