Autumn is such a Tween.
We have vacillated between nippy mornings and warm days (apparently, we were in the middle of an autumnal heat wave in Sydney, but you wouldn’t know it at 6am); grey skies and yellow-gold sunsets. The weather, like a girl-child hesitating between two stages of life, can’t make up its mind to put away summer’s strapless dresses and bring out winter’s tea cosies and mittens.
The only certainty is the shorter days that herald every winter. More and more often, I’m leaving work in the dark, and waking up to a dimmer sky.
Poets of every age have written about autumn. Its tempestuous weather, ravishing colours, just-ripened fruits and harvests of grains. The words autumn and fall evoke images of bucolic plenty, but also ideas about the fleeting passage of time. No wonder autumn is such a fickle character.
It wasn’t until this morning that I had time to sit down, reflect, and notice, I mean really notice, the colours of the season. At the end of a crazy-hectic week, sitting down at the dining table with a large weekend-sized mug of tea was … a moment of quiet gladness.
I had made a persimmon bread-cake during the week. Persimmon seems the right kind of fruit to have in the house while we are surrounded by such gorgeously red leaves falling from neighbouring trees. I love how the fruit becomes soft, squishy, a bag of orange-red goo that you can spoon and slurp. With porridge, yoghurt, or by itself by the spoonful, so I lose none of its unique, slightly buttery yet crisp flavour. Perhaps it’s because persimmons were one of the hallmark fruits of autumn and winter in my part of China, their bright orange-red a reminder of festivities past and to come. Tied with string, they looked like little lanterns.
A name that acts like a comfort blanket in the kitchen. When I use one of David’s recipes, I relax and let my hands get into the rhythm of measuring, sifting, creaming, folding. Because I know it’s going to work, so well, and so easily.
Don’t get me wrong. I love reading and discovering new food blogs. I would be that much more productive and better informed about non-food news* if WordPress, Blogger and Google didn’t point me to all those food blogs and websites.
* Though I had to smile at twitter messages this week asking “Who was Margaret Thatcher?”. Or, maybe I’m just showing my age, and the company I keep?
But. When I am baking for a friend and it’s her birthday, and it’s a gluten free cake (and I have no idea about the chemistry behind gf baking), and I’m taking this cake into work, and there is no time to make a second cake when the first one goes wrong, the recipe just. has. to. work.
That’s when I saw a recipe for a layered German chocolate cake on Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, which was adapted from David Lebovitz. Shauna Ahern + David Lebovitz = phew.
This is not the first time I’ve baked a gluten free cake, though my last proper gf cake was at Christmas, where the batter was more or less something to hold the brandy-drunken fruit together. This time, the cake will stand or fall by the taste and texture of the chocolate cake batter. What’s more, we all have our own idea of the perfect chocolate cake, our palates are honed since childhood to pick up the nuances of a chocolate cake that differ from our ideal.
So, attempting a gf chocolate cake? That was scary. But I muttered David and Shauna’s names like a mantra and boldly went where no saucy gander has gone before.
Sometimes, I just want to play with food.
Not just mashing potatoes and turning that into gnocchi. Not just making a tree house cake (long story). But turning food into hands-on fun, into toys. You know, like a child playing in a sandpit or in the fields, making mud pie.
So, for dessert (and with St Patrick’s Day just past), we dug for potatoes – in a potato field with chocolate biscuit ‘dirt’ and macadamia ‘tayto’.
This was one of the easiest recipes ever, and one of the most fun. Tim tams (chocolate cream biscuits) were whizzed up in a food processor to dirt-like clumps, then potatoes (macadamia nuts) were buried in the dirt. Plant a couple of sprigs of thyme over the mound of dirt, and then use teaspoons to ‘harvest’ the potatoes from the field.
This is a keeper. After tasting four cakes this afternoon, the ‘panforte’ remains Mr Gander’s favourite. It tastes better on the second and third day, which also makes it an ideal part of a Christmas gift box.
At first glance, this Aussie take on the panforte looked like a rustic version of a showpiece white chocolate and macadamia tart (Gourmet Traveller).
If the GT tart was a person, it would be a immaculately coiffed woman looking like our governor general. Its filling contains freshly ground macadamia meal (like almond meal), macadamia chunks and white chocolate, topped with a thin glistening layer of dark quince paste. How glam is that?
By comparison, this ‘panforte’ draws you in only after the first bite. It’s that woman in the corner of the cafe, her honeyed voice washing over you and catching your attention. Then, you realise she has such a pair of fascinating laughing eyes.