Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

I adore fall and the smoky scent of leaves, the crisp brightness, the enjoyment of cool cheeks and a cozy sweater. I anticipate the energy change from the hot laziness of summer, but I also sort of dread it – the beginning of the all too rapid transition into full-on winter. Slushy side walks, cold fingers, wearing my duck boots nearly 24/7 – no thanks.

But let’s focus on the here and now – the blazing blue skies the last lingering summer produce. Who doesn’t need a great late-summer early-fall recipe to take advantage of the glorious wealth of plums that hit the markets in September and generously hang on until October? Definitely not a delicate berry, but a bit more tender-hearted than the sturdy apples and pears to come in oh like t-minus 1 week (not that I’m really complaining.)

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

Plums have the depth to stand proudly alongside other robust flavors and add their tart sweetness to the dry rosé. This cobbler topped with buttery dough – is waiting to grace your dinner table.

Honey-Rosé Plum Cobbler (serves 6)

1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup dry rosé wine
1/3 cup clover honey
2 1/2 pounds assorted plums, pitted and cut into 8 wedges each
2 tablespoons coarse sugar, aka sugar in the raw

Optional for serving: ice cream or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush 6 oven-safe ramekins with softened butter.

For the biscuits, combine the 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup milk and olive oil to the flour mixture. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

For filling, combine the wine, honey in an extra-large skillet whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Stir in the plums. Cook and stir over medium-high heat about 8 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; keep warm.

Unwrap dough and roll out to 1/2-inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut into rounds using a 1-inch round cutter. Divide plums among the ramekins filling nearly to the tops. Arrange the biscuits over the filling, slightly overlapping as needed. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk and sprinkle the biscuits with the coarse sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden. Place a baking sheet below the dish to catch an drips during baking.

Remove from oven and let stand 30 minutes before serving with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Adapted and lightly re-written from Better Homes and Gardens’ Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler by David Bonom.

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
I used 6 (7 ounce) oven-safe ramekins, pastry brush, medium mixing bowl, measuring cups & spoons, liquid measuring cup, spatula, large skillet, whisk, chef’s knife, medium cutting board, small fluted biscuit cutter, and rimmed baking sheet.

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cranberry pie. Is there a more perfect distillation of the Thanksgiving spirit than an entire pie packed with bright, tangy fruits who wait all year for this one Thursday in late November? It’s their time to shine - like the cranberry’s 21st birthday, New Year’s Eve, and Christmas all wrapped up in one extravaganza of eating. That’s what we have here, my friends. A pie that is aaaaalll about the cranberry, no shame in that game.

But first, let’s talk about perfection in an imperfect world. Wait a minute!? You thought this was a post about pie! Well it is in a way, because I almost didn’t post this pie. I had #piecrustissues, even after nearly 11 months of practicing, and I was dissapointed and more than a little frustrated not to be presenting a glorious specimen of pie craft worthy of a Martha Stewart dessert table. Unfortunately, somewhere during the blind-baking stage the edges puffed out and inflated all the carefully crimped and pressed edges beyond recognition. I blame an under-weighted pie and perhaps a slightly too cool oven. Either way, it’s pretty annoying to discover that several hours of preparation have yielded an underwhelming result.

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble | Image: Laura Messersmith

I filled it with the ruby red cranberries anyway, dutifully pulsed the brown sugar-butter mixture into streusel and figured I’d just try again another time and skip a post for the week. Then as I thought about it, I realized that homemade pie, regardless of how wonky, is still something to be thankful for and appreciated! Even if it didn’t turn out as planned; my cranberry pie is still fruit and sugar and buttery crust – it’s what’s on the inside that counts and the effort it took to try in the first place.

So, here we are friends – thankful that there is pie in the world, but most importantly that there are family and friends to share it with. I hope that’s the case whereever you are too. Happy Thanksgiving!

For the similarly pie-challenged, may I offer this piece: "I Made Pie with Saveur's Food Editor and Here's What I Learned" by Marian Bull? If nothing else it’s very Zen and may help you and your dough relax.

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble | Image: Laura Messersmith

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble (yield: one 9-inch, standard pie)

Crust Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups (155 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup (60 ml) very cold water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed
1 egg (for egg wash)

Filling Ingredients:
5 cups (24 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 to 2 more tablespoons, if desired, to taste
3 teaspoons orange zest
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Crumble Ingredients:
2/3 cup rolled oats or 1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coarse or sea salt
3/4 cup pecans, preferably toasted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Serving Ingredients:
Powdered sugar, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream

Crust Instructions:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt to combine.

Add the diced butter, tossing the cubes in the flour to coat. Cut the butter into the flour until it is the size of walnut halves (for a flaky crust) or peas (for a mealy crust).

Make a well in the center, and add the water a few tablespoons at a time and mix with a rubber spatula just until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and chill well before rolling, forming, and baking.

When the dough is chilled and rested, roll out to about 10” round. Carefully ease the pie crust into a 9-inch standard (not deep dish) pie plate, making sure not to stretch the dough at all, or it will shrink as the pie bakes. Trim edge to fit and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, then place a piece of parchment paper over the pie crust. Cover the parchment with pie weight, dried beans, or uncooked rice making sure the weights extend up the sides.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until just lightly golden brown. Check the bottom through the glass.

Remove the pie weights and parchment and allow to cool while you prepare the filling.

Reduce the oven to 400 degrees F.

Filling Instructions:
Place all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes until some of the cranberries have begun to break down and release some of their juices. Continue to cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occassionally until the filling is loose and just pourable. Set aside off the heat and allow the filling to cool for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the crumble topping.

Crumble Instructions:
Place the whole oats in the bowl of a large food processor and grind them to a powder.

Next, add the toasted pecans and pulse until the mixture is a coarse meal. Add the remaining ingredients except the butter, pulsing a few times to loosely combine.

Pour the melted butter through the feed tube, pulsing until crumbles form.

Assemble, Bake, Serve:
Brush the par-baked pie crust with egg wash, then fill with the cranberry mixture. Sprinkle the streusel topping over cranberry filling in large crumbles.

Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes at 400 degrees F, until the berry juices are bubbling enough that they seep into the crumb topping.

If pie begins to brown too quickly, cover top with a piece of foil for remaining baking time. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.

Rewritten and slightly adapted from Deb Perelman’s Cranberry Pie with Thick Pecan Crumble via Smitten Kitchen.

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, assuming you have a food processor or the patience to mince pecans. For the crust I used a large mixing bowl, pastry cutter, rubber spatula, a kitchen scale, liquid measuring cup, rolling pin, and chef’s knife. For the filling I used a medium sauce pan, microplane zester, rubber spatula, and measuring cups. To make the streusel I needed a large food processor and measuring cups.

The Verdict:
TBD pending Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll report back!

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Pecan Crumble | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “A Barefoot Thanksgiving”

The Set-up: Ina and Bobby Flay are testing recipes for the Thanksgiving dinner they’re co-hosting.

Ina’s Contributions to the Menu: Herb and Apple Bread Pudding, Sautéed Shredded Brussels Sprouts, Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce, Orange Honey Glazed Carrots, Lemon Ginger Molasses Cake

Bobby’s Contributions to the Menu: Smoked Whole Turkey, Eleven Layer Potato Gratin, Heartland Chopped Salad, Fall Sangria

0:53 – On a very special episode of Barefoot Contessa, Ina welcomes her neighbor, Bobby Flay, to the barn for a trial run of their Thanksgiving menu

1:10 – The theme of their dinner is centered on two rules – 1. traditional Thanksgiving dishes with the “volume turned up” and 2. The dishes are recipes that can be made ahead.

2:23 – We’re starting with Smoked Whole Turkey, which Bobby is preparing in a Big Green Egg smoker over hardwood charcoal and wet pecan wood chips. I assume he hauled that over to Ina’s place?

3:34 – We’re going back inside, and back in time to see Ina assemble the Herb and Apple Bread Pudding, which is based on a stuffing recipe transformed into a casserole. The seasonings start with sautéed pancetta, the traditional onions and celery, and large cubes of granny smith apple.

4:15 – Ina occasionally deglazes with sherry, which I’ve never tasted but Agatha Christie characters are constantly having a glass to steel their nerves. I wonder what the flavor is like?

5:41 – The toasted bread, savory custard and sautéed vegetables all go in a baking dish to sit together in the refrigerator overnight, then Ina bakes the stuffing before dinner. If you’re a fan of moister stuffing, but don’t like stuffing the bird this would be a way to have your cake and eat it too.

6:02 – Outside to Bobby who is brushing the turkey with oil, then sprinkling with kosher salt and pepper before putting the entire roasting pan and turkey into the smoker.

7:30 – He doesn’t say how many pounds the turkey is, but I’d guess somewhere in the 13-15 range.

8:46 – Bobby comes inside for the taste test of Ina’s Herb and Apple Bread Pudding shockingly, it passes muster and will make the cut. Whew!

12:20 – Ina and Bobby are simpatico when it comes to entertaining – no first course at Thanksgiving, and dinner is served buffet style. Apparently Ina hates have a table with a bunch of bowls scattered all over it. Who knew?

13:38 – Next up, Heartland Chopped Salad, which has kale, baby spinach, pears, re-hydrated cranberries, and wild rice. Bobby’s Pro Tip #1: Slightly over-cook the rice so that it puffs up and absorbs more of the dressing.

14:09 – So there is one thing Ina and Bobby disagree on: measuring. She measures everything, he eyeballs the ingredients in the dressing. But, lo and behold it turns out perfectly balanced!

15:31 – Now time to assemble all the components, and we get Bobby’s Pro Tip #2: to avoid over dressing the salad, drizzle a small amount of vinaigrette along the sides of the bowl. Then use tongs to toss the salad and push it into the dressing picking up a little at a time.

16:12 – Busted! Bobby almost forgot to add the wild rice, but Ina reminds him in the most adorable way “Is there rice in the salad?”

17:25 – Taste-test time! Ina says she doesn’t usually think to put a salad on the Thanksgiving buffet, but after one bite she’s moved on from testing into just plain eating. Nailed it!

22:40 – On to dessert and Ina has decided that pie is passé, so she’s serving Lemon Ginger Molasses Cake.

23:54 – This seems like a fairly simple cake, cream the butter and sugar, then add the flavorings, followed by the dry ingredients alternated with some milk.

24:13 – Ina’s reasoning for skipping pie seems to be more related to their soggy-bottom factor, as a result she’s pro-crisps/crumbles, or this cake which improves with time.

25:38 – Out to Bobby who is preparing to baste the turkey with chicken stock, apple cider vinegar, and honey. I have conflicting feelings on basting – doesn’t that make it difficult to get crispy skin?

26:49 – Time to frost the cake and Bobby is getting a little lesson in whipped cream making. This one is stabilized with some crème fraîche which he doesn’t bother to measure. Natch.

27:41 – These two are totally in synch – same whipped cream (soft, but holds it’s shape if you’re curious) and garnishing preferences.

28:52 – Taste testing time where Bobby reveals that he pretty much only runs so that he can eat (Amen.) and then fends Ina off from having any more of his piece of cake (so hard to share!)

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

32:07 – Buckle-up kids, this is a double episode and now we’re on to part two. Next up: Eleven Layer Potato Gratin. Bobby admits, that much like his measuring the “eleven layers” are more a guideline/clever name

33:16 – Ina is on to Bobby’s game – thinly sliced potatoes (russet) alternated with a drizzle of heavy cream and a sprinkling of salt and pepper until it reaches the top of the baking dish – “this isn’t even cooking!”

34:24 – Essential: season every layer. The gratin is finished with caramelized shallots and crispy sage, but I would have liked to see some of those shallots in the layers.

35:33 – This would be a great addition to the menu, something that can be made ahead, is super simple, and requires almost zero fussing over. Don’t we all need a dish or two like that?

36:41 – Now Ina’s showing us how she makes Orange Honey Glazed Carrots in advance with no one the wiser. Tricky! The secret seems to be cooking them until they’re just al dente and then reheating them in a little olive oil on the stove top.

37:51 – Bobby’s basting the turkey again and he seems to be just as star struck as I would be. He can hardly believe he’s smoking a turkey in Ina’s back yard!

38:12 – Taste testing again (how many is this...?) and we get Ina’s Pro Tip #1: when re-heating, make sure to rehydrate (the olive oil) and check for seasoning, even though you seasoned during the cooking process.

42:18 – Onward and upward to the Sautéed Shredded Brussels Sprouts. Ina says she’ll shred the sprouts in advance using a food processor and then refrigerate them in a plastic bag until Thanksgiving day.

43:06 – Ina is intentionally making the Brussels sprouts on the stove top because “there’s so much going on in the oven…even if you’re smoking a turkey.” Yes! Such a great point and all the more reason to consider diversifying the cooking methods. This definitely counts as Pro Tip #2)

44:47 – The “supermodel of turkeys” appears to be done, but Bobby is going to check it in two places with a thermometer to be sure: Breast (155 degrees F) and Thigh (160 degrees.)

45:24 – Okay, I’ll say it. Bobby and Ina are really sweet together – so complimentary and respectful of each other’s styles! Such a love-fest there, no wonder they’re doing Thanksgiving together.

46:13 – Taste test complete and the Sautéed Shredded Brussels Sprouts are allowed to be on the buffet. Now for the finishing touches on the Eleven Layer Potato Gratin with fried sage and the sautéed shallots.

47:59 – Pro Tip #3: Sage (and fresh oregano) are really strong herbs, so use them sparingly to prevent overpowering the dish.

48:21 – Carving time!!! Step 1: Separate the legs and thighs from the body. Step 2: Divide the thigh from the drumstick. Step 3: Take the entire breast off and then slice across so that each piece has a bit of skin.

49:04 – Fun Fact: Ina’s dad was a surgeon and was a champion turkey carver.

54:36 – Ina and Bobby are continuing their test-run Thanksgiving and it turns out that Ina has even tested the table setting. #prepared #formerGirlScout (?)

55:15 – She’s using a round table with a white table cloth, burlap overlay, white plates, and a floral centerpiece in a hollowed out pumpkin. Bobby seems relieved that she took that job on.

56:29 – And, because Ina is awesome she has also made Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce with fresh cranberries. She and Bobby do a little ribbing over those who prefer the jellied kind, but there’s a reason it’s a classic!

57:48 – Cocktail hour is next with Bobby’s Fall Sangria involving a cinnamon simple syrup, fresh pomegranate, apples, oranges, pears. The best part: it improves with time, so making it ahead benefits the final product. Winning!

58:32 – Now to boozy part as they “layer the liquor” with a red table wine, pear brandy, apple brandy (aka Calvados), and then regular apple cider.

59:50 – Taste test time with a batch Bobby made a few days ago and since they’re done testing now it’s full glasses and cheers to the “best thanksgiving ever!”

Final Thoughts:
Ina and Bobby are so right about cooking in advance – isn’t it nice to have a lot of the heavy lifting out of the way so you can enjoy your guests?

Yes and amen to spreading the work across the stove top and the oven – how else could everything be hot at the same time?

Oh, to be a fly on the wall after that second glass of Fall Sangria… Hope Bobby has a DD for the ride home!

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I don’t make many cakes or large desserts in general, mainly because with only two people to eat them we either have waaaay too much of a good thing, or they go stale on the counter. At least with cake I can usually re-portion into cupcakes, suitable for sharing. I decided to make the Lemon Ginger Molasses Cake in cupcake version, here’s what I learned along the way.

Recipe Notes – I’ve come to appreciate a well-written recipe that anticipates the pitfalls and concerns of the home cook. Ina, of course, knows to warn you that the cake mixture might appear curdled, and in so saying reassures you that all will be well.

Cupcake Portioning – I used a cookie scoop to help me roughly measure the amount of batter per space in the muffin tin. If you’d like to avoid a literal muffin top, then fill with batter about 2/3 full – for me that was 2.5 scoops. If you don’t mind a little spill over the edge of the muffin liner, then 3/4 full or 3 scoops will work.

Cupcake Baking – Since this recipe was originally written for a whole cake, I had to guesstimate the cooking time for cupcakes. The 3/4 filled cupcakes needed 25-27 minutes to spring back in the center; the 2/3 full cupcakes only needed 22-24 minutes. When fully baked, the texture is quite fluffy and almost spongy in texture.

Frosting – Again, a little adaptation was needed here because I needed to frost them the day before but whipped cream isn’t something that can be made more than 24 hrs in advance. I went with a make-shift butter cream instead following the spirit, if not the letter of Ina’s recipe. My version is below if you want to try it for yourself. One of these days I’ll get a piping bag and learn how to frost, for now you’re stuck with my “old fashioned” look.

Make-Shift Whipped (Butter) Cream Frosting (yield: scant 2 cups, enough for 12 cupcakes)

8 tablespoons room temperature butter
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the softened butter in a large mixing bowl and sift the confectioner’s sugar over the top to remove any lumps and add in the kosher salt. Beat together on low speed with an electric hand mixer until mostly combined.

Pour in the vanilla extract and then add the heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is smooth and very thick, but still spreadable. The frosting should be fluff and hold it’s shape when spread with an offset spatula.

Frost fully cooled cupcakes. Frosting will stiffen and set up slightly, but remain soft underneath.

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes. For the cake I used a large mixing bowl, electric hand mixer, two muffin tins, dry and liquid measuring cups, small cutting board, mesh sieve, chef’s knife and a rubber spatula. A small cookie scoop helped with portioning, but isn’t essential. For the frosting I washed and re-used the mixing bowl, hand mixer, measuring cups and sieve, chef’s knife and small cutting board adding in a small off-set spatula. Muffin liners will help make sure the cupcakes come out of the tins.

The Verdict:
I’m a chocolate lover, so while cake of any kind is tempting I’d usually put something spiced or god forbid, carrot cake, at the bottom of the list. That is until I tasted Lemon Ginger Molasses Cake. Ina has really out done herself with this one – it’s deep and dark with gingery spice, the sweetness tamed with just a hint of lemon and the bitterness of molasses. It was seriously hard not to help myself to seconds. This would be perfect for a holiday party or wintery celebration. Outstanding.

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Lemon Ginger Molasses Cupcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin

Plum Cake Tatin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Photo Finish”

The Set-up: Miguel is photographing the garden at the Garten manse and Ina is making some magazine-worthy recipes.

The Menu: Plum Cake Tatin, Lemon Fusilli with Arugula, Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing, Roasted Tomatoes

0:39 – We’re starting off with Plum Cake Tatin, a twist on the French classic Apple Tatin.

1:17 – First order of business – get the stones out of the plums! NBD for we experienced stone fruit preppers

2:40 – There’s probably a little TV magic here, but I still can’t get over how perfectly Ina gets those plums to fit in her pie plate. One try!

3:11 – Over to Miguel snapping away out in the garden looking very autumnal-chic in his brown corduroy blazer.

4:23 – Time to mix the cake – a simple recipe Ina points out – with just a little lemon zest to flavor it.

5:42 – The batter calls for “1 cup + 2 tablespoons” of flour which to me is a sign of a well-tested recipe. Very specific!

6:15 – Note for the nervous – it’s okay (and maybe preferable?) if the caramel hardens after it’s poured over the plums. It will soften once the cake is baked.

9:08 – Ina makes a trip into the garden for basil to use in the Roasted Tomatoes and is immediately caught by paparazzi, aka Miguel. Not cool, Miguel! She said she wasn’t camera-ready!

10:34 – According to Ina plum tomatoes are available year-round, but unfortunately don’t have a ton of flavor which makes them ideal for roasting since cooking concentrates and develops their depth.

11:46 – The flavors that she’s using to season the tomatoes are essentially a deconstructed balsamic dressing.

12:13 – Pro Tip #1: allow the Plum Cake Tatin to cool for 15 minutes so that the caramel can set up and will stay on the cake. (PS: Ina turns that cake out like it’s her job, natch.)

13:29 – Final touches on the tomatoes with a scattering of chiffonade basil and a sprinkle of sea salt. They do look photo ready now!

14:02 – Onward to the Lemon Fusilli with Arugula a Barefoot Contessa classic that I hope inspired thoughts of "Fusilli Jerry" among many a customer.

15:38 – Am I the only one that recoils whenever a recipe requires two pots of boiling water? Ugh.

19:41 – This kind of an unusual pasta salad since it seems to combine a cream sauce with a brighter lemon flavor.

20:25 – I’ve never thought of reducing a cream based sauce, but I suppose even heavy cream has liquid that can evaporate when heated.

21:39 – While Ina preps some cherry tomatoes and grates a little parmesan we are treated to the “Getting Things Done” music.

22:50 – Between the tomatoes, broccoli and arugula this really is a pasta salad.

23:16 – Lunch is served and Ina has to wave off the paparazzi from photographingall the food. Maybe Miguel has a secret desire to be a food blogger?

27:33 – Miguel has gone home and Ina decides to make Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing with the leftover basil leaves. I love when she gets all Home Ec.

28:44 Fun fact: Green Goddess dressing is named after a 1920s play of the same name.

29:52 – Salad is assembled and after the decadent lunch Ina is balancing it out with greens for dinner. Aww, Miguel sent his pictures and there’s a great one of Ina!

Final Thoughts:
I’m intrigued by the pasta salad, but that plum cake is calling my name!

I know I’ve said this before, but I never fail to be amazed by Ina’s coterie of talented friends!

It really is difficult to find a pasta that captures the person. #Seinfeld

Plum Cake Tatin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
This isn’t my first cake tatin, but it is my first one with Italian Prune Plums and since it had been about a 6 month gap I still learned quite a lot from making Plum Cake Tatin.

Plums – The recipe specifically calls for Italian Prune Plums (oval shaped, deep eggplant purple with golden flesh) and they were a revelation. First the color changes from sincerely yellow to a bright fuchsia color when they’re cooked, second the flavor is surprisingly sweet-tart and perfectly balanced by the subtle lemon of the cake. Same recommendations apply for prepping these plums, although they are free stone which makes it a bit easier.

Plum Arranging – It’s worth taking some care with the pattern since it will show once the cake it turned out, so before buttering the pie plate, I’d recommend fiddling around with the plum halves to see what fits best. In my 9” pie plate about 6 plums cut in half or quartered fit nicely.

Caramel – I was far less worried this time since I knew what to look for and after about 5-7 minutes I had a deeply golden caramel. Again, DON’T stir, just carefully swirl the water and sugar together and then leave it alone to cook into the sauce. I wasn’t sure the first time around, but in this episode Ina makes it clear that it’s okay if the caramel sets up a little after it’s poured over the plums while you mix the batter - it will melt again in the oven.

Butter – My new favorite way to “generously” butter a dish is brushing it on with a pastry brush. In this case, it took about 1 1/2 tablespoons to solidly cover the bottom and sides of my pie plate. No trouble getting the cake to release once it had cooled for the requisite 15 minutes.

Cooking Time – This is a very moist cake, the kind that sticks to the plate it’s sitting on and clings to the tines of your fork. Because the plums are somewhat juicier than apples I’d probably add another 5 minutes just to allow the cake to dry out a touch more before its called upon to absorb all the caramel.

Plum Cake Tatin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a small sauce pan, medium mixing bowl, small bowl, hand-held electric mixer, and 9 inch pie plate. I also used a rubber spatula, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, pastry brush, microplane grater, measuring cups and spoons.

The Verdict:
Not to toot my own horn, but beep beep, man... I still can’t get over how beautiful and flavorful the plums were. In fact I’m kind of obsessed now, so don’t be surprised if there are about 12,000 plum-related desserts while they’re in season over the next few weeks. And it doesn't hurt that Plum Cake Tatin is an excellent dessert for a dinner party. The presentation gives it wow factor and only you need to know how simple it was to make. It’s also so moist that you can definitely make it earlier in the day or even the day before and it will still be perfect come dinnertime.  Pears should probably be put on notice too, because I know I’ll be putting this technique into play with other fruits soon!

Plum Cake Tatin  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | Image: Laura Messersmith