Rainy Day Baking

Such a grey and rainy mournful Brooklyn day, what’s a girl to do? Why, obviously, make a bunch of coffee, put on some Gershwin, and do a little light nesting and bake some deep, dark, subtley spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookies (and then eat them for breakfast). Here’s the simple recipe (cut out from Cooking Light in 2009 and found this morning stuck in the back of my recipe book, never made). I only had the tail-end of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (and gawd knows I’m not going out in the rain until it’s utterly necessary/time to go play music over at John and Janelle’s), but due to sweetheart’s sweet tooth there was half a fancy pantsy bar of Theo Dark Chocolate with Spicy Chile on hand, which, quite frankly, was utterly perfect. I dusted with powdered sugar and cocoa, but- if you didn’t have any bougie chile chocolate on hand, adding a little bit the ground red pepper to the sugar/cocoa would be awesome. Anyway, rainy day vanquished, nest nested!

Rainy Day Nest: Recipe

Alpine Accordion Band Recipe Card

Ahh, it’s been one of those weekends. This week justified doing absolutely nothing* all day Saturday and then deciding, oh hell, let’s do absolutely nothing again today. Well… no matter how busy my week was, if I’m not going to go see (what looks like the most amazing) Norman Rockwell photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum or Snape/Shine at BAM or all the myriad things one should do on a rainy day off in Brooklyn. I always feel at least the need to fluff around my apartment and feather it a little bit. Enter: my favorite recipe- which I have never named and is simply: Almond Cake. It is SO ridiculously easy, but ends up quite special and sophisticated.

I like this recipe so much (and make it so frequently) that instead of living with the rest of the recipes, I transcribed it onto the back of the awesome Alpine Accordion Band postcard I got in the Hague and it lives on the fridge, edges curling with repeated Kirschings, in easy in-case-of-reference reach:

Almond Cake (for company or solitude celebrations)**

1 cup  almonds, raw
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 eggs
1 stick butter (softened, cut up)
1 tsp. Kirsch (if you have)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
powdered sugar (in truth, optional… but just you wait!)

– Oven to 350 degrees please.

– Place almonds, sugar, salt and almond extract in food processor, pulverize.

– Add eggs, butter, kirsch and blend thoroughly.

– Add flour and baking powder, mix until just blended.

– butter/oil/pam/crisco/lard/whatever and flour pan (standard cake pan, torte pan, whatever)

– Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth.

(at this point Sweetheart comes in dripping wet in the middle of it– heading from teaching a children’s music class in Chelsea on his way to Bed-Stuy to lead a rock band of eight year olds– bearing champagne and bacon. le swoon.)

– enlist sweetheart’s help to lick spatula and everything with even a smidge of almond mixture on it clean (optional, encouraged…if you are afraid of raw eggs, then… I am very sorry for you. Egg nog, Southsides, Hollandaise, all other -aises, and sweet batters are some of the best treats around).

– Put un-cake in oven for 30-45 minutes until it turns golden brown and becomes cake.

– Let cool completely, then run a fine knife around the edge and invert on a plate. There is a surprisingly good little drawing of how to do this on my recipe card:

NOW- you are effectively done. BUT- if you’d like to take it a step further, then the easiest and most lovely thing to do next is to decorate it with a powdered sugar relief. Again, if you like making cheap things look expensive (like I do) and easy things look impressive (me too) then this is the kind of next level thing you’ll love.

Cut whatever you’d like out of plain paper– if you are artistically inclined you can get totally crazy, but simple shapes work just as well***– I chose a rainstorm-brings-spring-blooms thing because it’s so wet and nasty out today, but it must be paving the way for crocuses and daffodils like.any.second. Place your cutouts on your lovely almond cake:

Then dust a light sprinkling of powdered sugar over the cutouts using a fine sieve or flour sifter if you’re super fancy:

Then carefully take off the paper cutouts (I used tweezers for this one because the flower stems were as bendy as real flower stems and I didn’t want to color inside the lines by accident).

Et voilà:

This is the perfect way  to make “a rainy day where you could have gone to see Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts but decided to nap” into “a triumph of home and sweetness, and now let’s have people over to eat it for dessert”.

* Saturday I actually spent in the thrall of a Colum McCann book… I loved his newest and “supported my local bookstore” by buying this one and recommend devoting a Saturday to it wholeheartedly. Lovely and bittersweet and occasionally staggeringly beautiful. Slivovitz and words that taste like wheat and sky.

**The recipe calls for a large food processor, but until Sweetheart’s mama gave us a “Robot Culinaire” for Christmas/Hannukah/New Years, I made it just fine on multiple occasions without (chop the almonds fine fine fine and melt and stir the butter, instead of cubing it- no prob).

*** Other cakes we’ve made in the past month include:

Heart Cake for Valentine's Day
"Bubb's Cake" in honor of "The Wire" season IV Finale

If you make one Please send in a picture (we’ll keep adding on!).