I was looking for a yoga-studio with english speaking instructors and found a blog entry from somebody obviously American who had some other hints and tipps for foreigners in Paris as well. As I made my way through the blog I found out it's a cook's blog, actually, a dessert cook's blog who moved to Paris some years ago and started writing about cooking. Therefore, his blog was full of tipps about bakeries and restaurants and cafés in Paris - just what I urgently needed!
(If you are a bit into Dorie's world, than you will have guessed from the start that I am writing about David Lebovitz). Funnily his book (The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City) came out just that summer and I catched a book reading and signing. I loved him! He is such a great entertainer, but I guess thats something typical American.
The same year I came back to Paris for some more work in autumn for a few weeks. And there was a panel discussion in the American Library with David L. and two other authors - of whom Dorie Greenspan was one of. I had read about her in David's blog and somewhere, don't ask me how and why, saw that there is a group baking it's way through one of her books. Strange idea, I thought, never heard of somehting like that. (Now I know that there are other groups, similar to this, too, but believe me - no one of all my friends has ever heard of something like that before!)
When I saw Dorie at this discussion she was that nice, interesting and fascinating that I had to ask her for a signature in one of her books and then I took all my guts and said: "Well, you know that there is a group baking all recipes from your book" - "Yes!" she said, and smiled, "I know, they are so great. I love this group!" I asked her if she thinks that everybody in this group is an experienced baker and if it would be difficult for a newbie like me (I had never ever baked anything in my whole life before). "No, for sure not! There are very very experienced bakers, almost professionals, and there are also hobby-bakers and starters like you. If you want to hear my opinion: Everybody should bake, because it can make you happy - it makes me happy. And the group is very, very supportive to everybody. The founder - she is such a great person. Ask her for joining! She is the nicest person you can think of."
And so I did - and here I am. When I joined the group I didn't think I will have the opportunity to pick a recipe due to the many bakers - the more I was excited that it actually did work out!
I wanted to choose a recipe that fits with the season. The Fig Cake for Fall has autumn already in the name, and: I love cornmeal and I love figs! I am sorry, because I read in the P&Qs that figs are not avaliable everywhere right now. I was only thinking about Vienna/Austria, where I live - and was not so foresighted to think about that fact, that most of the group is living in the US. And I have no overview when which fruits have season over there. So - I am really sorry and hope you all found a way to substitute for the figs!
And here we go (because I am European and a non-english-native I will also give European measures. If anybody should read this, having the same problems but capable of German - I can only recommend this page)
A Fig Cake for Fall
(taken from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking - From my Home to Yours, pp 198-199)
MAKES 8-10 SERVINGS
SERVING: Offer wedges of the cake topped with the port sauce (which can be warmed, if you'd like). Whipped cream or icecream alongside would be even lovlier.
STORING: Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for 2 days.
1 cup honey [300g]
2 thin slices lemon
16-20 fresh figs, stemmed and halved
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal [225g]
2 teaspoons baking powder [the best is to just use a usual teaspoon herefore]
1/4 teaspoon salt [here, again: just take about the quarter of a usual teaspoon]
1/4 cup sugar [55g]
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature [180g]
3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract [5ml]
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a bowl. Raise the heat just a little and cook the poaching liquid for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened; the syrup should coat a metal spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and set the sauce aside.
GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F [175°C]. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper and dust the inside of the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
TO MAKE THE CAKE: Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
Put the sugar and grated zest in the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl, and rub them together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist, grainy and aromatic. Toss in the butter.
With the paddle or whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup honey, add the vanilla extract and beat for another 2 minutes. The mixture may look curdled and not so pretty - keep mixing, it will get better soon. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated; you'll have a fairly thick batter.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a few times to even the batter, then scatter the poached figs over the top.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake to slightly warm or to room temperature before serving it with the sauce.
I still have only a hand-mixer and for the first month I baked without cup- and spoon-measures (they are not usual in Europe - I had to import them when I visited some friends in the States). I learn at least one new english word every week when I try to figure out what the recipe is all about. And I learned: Dorie is always right! If she tells you to butter foil - do it. If she asks for lining the bottom of a spring pan with parchment - don't doubt. Dorie knows best. Period.
Thanks everybody who tried out the recipe despite the fig-problem and I hope you enjoyed it! And thanks to anybody who made the effort to respond my questions, leave a comment or even read my 2 cents in the last two years! I really appreciate and value that!
[And I HAVE to say (despite nobody who reads this will understand): 'Ich hab das Schönste auf der Welt gesehen: Paris im Herbst' ]