Sunday, July 1, 2007
Cherry Lavender Harvest Cake
Luke and Paul at the River Garden greenmarket stand have the most decadently fragrant bunches of lavender right now. And, as they told me last week, it’s a good time to stock up, because the harvest is almost over. There’s a second cutting in August, at which point I’ll buy more to dry and store away for the long months ahead, but on Friday, I brought home a couple of bunches to use this summer.
I adore lavender in food, both sweet and savory, and it’s a thrill to have such high quality blooms in my pantry. As Luke explained to me, all that’s involved in drying your own lavender is laying the blooms out in a thin layer, away from direct sunlight for a couple of days. I used the tissue that Luke had wrapped the flowers in, but a clean tea towel or two would work just as well. Once dried, the tiny buds can be gently pulled off the stems, and they keep for a year or more if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Not to mention the free aromatherapy session you get into the bargain.
It’s something I urge you to consider doing yourself if you happen to have access to culinary-grade lavender. Even if you don’t enjoy the flavor in your food, you could follow Susan of Porcini Chronicles’ lead and make some lovely sea salt scrub infused with the soothing aroma. And I imagine it could be a real treat, if you have a fireplace, to stash the dried stems and throw them on the fire the next time you get a chilly night...Don't you love how I romanticize the life of anyone not living in a Manhattan apartment?
There’s a harvest cake I bake, fruity and moist with good olive oil, that varies with the seasons. The cherries have just arrived in full force, and I love the way the earthiness of the lavender underlines their bright sweetness. This cake celebrates summer – perfect for early July before the heat’s completely wilted our spirits and turned our thoughts longingly to crisper weather.
1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, halved and pitted
extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of table salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
1 scant tsp lavender
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup milk
extra granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F
Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan, and then brush that with olive oil too.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In an electric kitchen mixer, beat the egg and sugar for 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, lavender, ¼ cup olive oil, and milk. Beat until combined.
Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula until just combined. Be careful not to over-stir.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Top with the cherries. Sprinkle with a little more sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Remove the springform and continue to cool. Once the cake’s completely cool, store in an airtight container.