The door of my fridge is home to at least two dozen condiments: Heinz ketchup, Hellman’s mayo, grainy mustard, soy sauce, sesame oil, sauerkraut, pickled sugar snap peas, sriracha, ghee, olives, Branston pickle, tamarind paste, and more. (Truth be told, the ketchup and mayo are the least used and are more on-hand for guests.) Six weeks ago I counted no less than three separate jars of capers.
This past weekend I added to the collection working on a review of a healthy Passover cookbook for Jewish Boston.com. One recipe I tested called for two tablespoons of light sour cream, and a second recipe called for ¼ cup of apricot jam. Having neither of these products in my kitchen meant I had to pick them up, and so onto the fridge door they went. This is usually not a problem, and in the big picture it really isn’t, but Passover is two weeks away and I have same major purging to do.
We’ve also been working our way through the flours and grains in the pantry as best we can. The whole wheat and saffron waffles from Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals cookbookwere glorious but barely put a dent in the flour. It was pretty clear by Sunday morning my fate would involve a day of baking, and so, with a very pleasurable Prairie Home Companion that kind of made me miss New York City in the background, I got to work.
I found an apricot bar recipe from my ancient Common Ground Dessert Cookbookthat called for whole wheat flour, oats and maple syrup. Instead of making the apricot jam by soaking dried apricots the way these granola bars had me do, I took the liberty of using most of the new apricot jam for the filling. But I’d feel so lame if I gave you a granola bar recipe so soon after that one, like in November when I shared Jacque’s Pepin’s apple galette, Joanne Chang’s pear and cranberry crostata and then my own take on the pastry. (And don’t even mention the dueling banana breads.)
Coffee cake was a natural first use for the sour cream, but then I found this recipe for sour cream spice cake. The cookbook included a “sweet tip”: “This cake is tasty with a little warm apricot or cherry jam. Some have been known to eat it toasted and spread with butter.” Sold.
The recipe is from a cookbook written by two local women – sisters, actually. Marilyn and Sheila Brass live in Cambridge and wrote this cookbook a few years ago. They both worked at WGBH when Rich was there, and he was lucky enough to enjoy their goodies as they tweaked the recipes they’d written and other ones they’d discovered in family journals and were testing. The station also produced a really lovely cooking show with the sisters where the viewer journeyed with them to their local butcher, cheese monger, and into their kitchen and dining room.
Whenever I think about this cookbook, I always smile at the memory of one very stressful time during the layoff. As I left for work one morning, I asked Rich if he could find a zucchini bread recipe in one of my cookbooks, in hopes of saving the three squash in the fridge. I came home to find a very proud Rich putting the final glaze on a Mexican Devil’s Food Cake with Butter-Fried Pine Nuts. (Yes, there was a half pound of zucchini in there, too.) Not at all what I was expecting, but was surprised and delighted with the offering. Never a slacker, my husband, even when he was without a job.
According to the sisters, this recipe is from the 1950s and was “a favorite of The Harmony Club, the select group of women from the Sisterhood at Temple Tiferith Abraham who made up their mother’s bridge group. The twelve women met frequently to play bridge, lend each other support, and go on educational field trips. Unfortunately, The Harmony Club later broke up because the members couldn’t get along!”
Sour Cream Spice Cake from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters
2 cups flour, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom and ends of a 9-inch by 5-inch by 3-inch loaf pan with a single strip of wax paper. Coat the pan and wax paper liner with vegetable spray. Dust pan with flour and tap out the excess.
Sift together 1 ¾ cups of the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and baking soda. Toss remaining ¼ cup flour with raisins.
Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream until soft and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with sour cream. Fold in raisins.
Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake approximately 1 hour, or until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack 20 minutes before removing from pan. Store loosely covered with wax paper in the refrigerator.