25 August 2009

sleep-deprived dreams of apricot cake

I've been tired. Horribly tired. Anemically tired. Nobody in my house sleeps enough. Especially me. I feel like I can hardly write a coherent sentence, let alone wax poetically about food and my budding little chefs.

I've come to a few realizations lately, enough to probably fill a few posts, but I'll start with this one. Here's realization number one:

Jules (at 3.675 years) will COOK just about anything with me, given the right circumstances. Eating the food is another story. If I limited myself to writing about only the food that Jules liked to eat, then, well, I wouldn't be writing much. Or the Tillamook company would have to be paying me big dividends for all the plugs I give their peach yoghurt. I'm not sure who to hit up for the bulk granola sponsorship. Yoghurt and grano
la (with the occasional side of fruit) has become our de facto Plan B when it comes to Jules not eating his dinner.

Kasper (at 10 months), on the other hand, will eat just about anything I put in front of him, and in copious amounts. Jules was never like this, but I'm told that this is quite typical of an almost one year old. I figure if cigarette butts at the park, and rotten fruit dropped from our trees in the back yard go in, why not a few gummable morsels of eggs and spinach? Tiny slivers of cherry tomato? Little bitty bits of pasta? I have to admit that watching Kasper eat these days are moments of sheer glee for me. I need to enjoy them while they last, because I'm also told that they just get pickier from here on out. Having been dealt one who was picky from day one, and is now undergoing a new phase of experimentation (yes, I KNOW I said I liked that YESTERDAY, but that was YESTERDAY MOOOOOM), this is new territory for me.

My second big realization (bear with me, these may not seem related, but I assure you they will be before I'm done) is that, since becoming a mom with children who eat things that don't emit directly from my body, I've been saving the good stuff (namely, all the fruit) in the house for the kids and depriving MYSELF of vital nutrients, and a whole lot of pleasure. I'd find myself staring at the last, ripe mango in the fruit bowl (OK, often I'd only buy ONE mango, but you know what I'm saying here) and thinking "oh, Jules loves mangoes. He needs that mango, not me." Apparently, the idea of sharing the mango, and I'm not talking a sliver for me and a hunk for Jules, but 50/50 split, had become foreign to me. Sure, I can teach my kid to share his toys, give his best buddy a lick of his lollypop (oh wait, that's sharing germs, a big no no), include his friends in games, but sharing fruit with his mama? That's waaay too much to ask, apparently.
But fortunately, after just 3 1/2 years of depriving myself, I had an ah-ha moment while reading Mark Bittman's Food Matters. Bittman's advice is simple. Instead of going for the chips, crackers, assorted processed snack food crap when you are monumentally hungry, have a peach (or THREE). I stopped. Re-read. Took a deep breath. THREE PEACHES, all for ME? In just ONE SITTING? Now that's a decadent idea. While I did not run out and get three peaches and scarf them down, I did start buying more fruit. Lots of fruit. Ridiculous amounts of fruit, and then some. Enough to share. With everyone. And then I started eating it. To my heart's content.

Most of the time, I'm very happy to take my fruit raw, but occasionally I like it cooked, and this is especially true of the apricot, a fruit as picky in preparation as my preschooler is with his plate. Unless it is extremely fresh and handled with kid gloves, I think the apricot is practically inedible in its raw state. Most apricots I've encountered (organic, non-organic, from the supermarket, farmer's market, or pick your own) are mushy, mealy, bruised, or way too sour. But that shouldn't stop me from enjoying them. So this year I went on an exploration of the apricot's finer side, the cooked one, making jam, crisp, and, my favorite--apricot upside down cake, served warm with fresh cream. A friend of mine s
erved it to me last month with apricots she'd picked herself. And since then, I haven't been able to get the thing out of my head. So I made my own. And it was good.

Of course, Jules isn't into it. He still doesn't like cooked fruit, of any kind, and I can't blame him because it took me until I was in my teens to appreciate most cooked fruit myself. But Kasper loves it. He makes a crumbly sticky mess of it, but he loves it.

So while I may not be getting the sleep that my body needs, at least I'm not starving myself of fruit anymore. And in the spirit of sharing this new bounty of wisdom, here's some fruit I'd like to share with you.

Fresh Apricot Upside-Down Cake (based on this recipe in Gourmet Magazine)
For topping
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
10 or 11 small (2- to 2 1/4-inch) fresh apricots (1 1/4 lb), halved lengthwise and pitted

For cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Fresh cream, to serve.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Make topping:
Heat butter in saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, then cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all of sugar will be melted). Pour brown sugar mixture into a 8x8 baking pan and arrange apricot halves, cut sides down, close together on top of brown sugar.

Make cake batter:
Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt into a small bowl.

Beat together butter, sugar, and extracts in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 3 to 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then beat until mixture is creamy and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beat just until combined.

Gently spoon batter over apricots and spread evenly.

Bake cake:
Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

Wearing oven mitts, immediately invert a large plate over baking pan and, keeping plate and pan firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully lift pan off cake and, if necessary, replace any fruit that is stuck to bottom of skillet. Serve warm with a drizzle of fresh cream.


  1. When my daughter was born my mother gave us this advice: "You can't make them eat and you can't make them sleep. You CAN put healthy food in front of them and you CAN make them go to their room."

    My wife and I struggled with the food thing quite a bit too. Our European friends would laugh at us. Apparently, their theory was kind of like my mom's. They put whatever they were eating in front of their kids. When I asked, "What do you do if they won't eat it," they answered, "They'll eat when they're hungry enough." I never tried the technique myself, but it certainly has its appeal on a purely intellectual level.

    The other thing I noticed about European restaurants is that they very rarely have "kid's menus." You just order half portions.

    I like reading your posts. Thanks.

  2. You just made me go eat some fruit - I ALWAYS save it for Logan unless we buy a flat of berries and then I dive right in before it all goes bad - so I just need to buy copious amounts - thanks Kristi!


Blogger Templates by Blog Forum