Friday, August 14, 2009



- from The Moffats by Eleanor Estes

I grew up passionate about, obsessed with, two things: food and books, eating and reading. One always went with the other, done together, hand in hand. I started young, saving up my lunchroom money, the few dollars allotted to us by dad each Sunday night to pay for the school cafeteria Monday through Friday. Deal was if we brought a sandwich in a brown paper bag we could save the lunch money. And mine went towards books.

First it was The Moffats by Eleanor Estes and Beverly Cleary’s the Henry and Beezus series (with sister Ramona) as well as Ellen Tebbits (who was so socially clumsy, just like I was) sitting in the tree in the front yard, book in one hand, sandwich in the other. Or curled up on the couch with Encyclopedia Brown and a handful of cookies. I escaped into From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as I forked pieces of dad’s chocolate cake into my mouth at the kitchen table. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth and a shrimp salad or a bowl of Jiffy Pop Corn could take me to another world where I could join girls like I was, odd girl out, and be happy. I was as fascinated as Janey watching her mother peel apples, mesmerized as the long, elegant “peelings fell off in lovely long curls,” or stunned and in awe as Elizabeth actually ate a raw onion sandwich at Elizabeth’s bidding, all in her desire to become accepted by her new, mysterious friend. I never could quite decide if I wanted more to be authoritative, in-charge Beezus or dare-anything Ramona. Either way, book after book was consumed as I ate, and food nourished my body as those books nourished my soul. And if Sunday morning found me sitting at the table in front of a steaming bowl of mom’s oatmeal or a toasted Poptart without something special to read, I simply pulled over the newspaper and started reading.

- from Henry Huggins collection by Beverly Cleary

Book after book and I grew up, from Cleary and Konigsburg to Vonnegut and Austen and Dickens with layovers into David Sedaris or Primo Levi or Ian Rankin or Ruth Reichl. Jessica Mitford, Nancy Mitford, Tim Parks, Alexander Stille, Michael Chabon and Waverly Root. My food horizons opened up at the same time, from boxed to “from scratch”, from Florida seafood to exotic foreign cuisines. On and on I ate and on and on I read.

Now it’s Pavlovian. Reading makes me hungry and, in turn, as soon as I pull a plate of something in front of me I crave something to read. So I think that it is highly appropriate that in just a week or two I received the JOY OF READING award from both Heavenly Housewife of Donuts to Delirium and Jenn of Bread + Butter. Thank you both, my lovely foodie friends, and I do advise all of my readers to jump over to each of their blogs for a supreme read (along with the great recipes!).

The rules that go along with the Joy of Reading Award are:

1. Collect the book that you have most handy
2. Turn to page 161
3. Find the 5th complete sentence
4. Site the sentence on your blog
5. Pass it on to 5 other bloggers

Here’s the thing. I have quite a few books nearby, some I pulled off of the livingroom shelf to reference above: The Moffats by Eleanor Estes is one and here is the line following the rules:

Page 161, 5th sentence: “The more the children laughed and screamed, the more he smelled his rose.”

And my all-time favorite book that is always next to my computer is Roget’s International Thesaurus:

Page 161, left hand-column, line 5: “VERBS 7 stand, stand erect, stand up, stand upright, stand up straight, be erect, be on one’s feet; hold oneself straight or stiff, stand ram-rod straight, have an upright carriage; stand at attention and brace and stand at parade rest

And now I’d love to pass it on to 5 other bloggers. This is difficult as there are so many that I love to read, almost all of them food blogs, but this time I’m going to pass on this award to 5 non-food blogs that I simply love to read:

1. Minna’s The World According to MEH
2. Erin’s Mammadance
3. Connie’s W. Va. Fur and Root
4. Amy’s Writing from Alaska
5. Vera’s Vera’s Weblog

I highly recommend each of these blogs for their thoughtful, insightful, thought-provoking and wonderful writing. And sometimes you should turn to them just for a smile or a laugh.

And now for something just absolutely wonderful to eat while you are reading: one of JP’s all-time favorite cakes CARAMELIZED PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE. I decided to bake this cake for Blogger Secret Ingredient. This week’s host The Sophisticated Gourmet has chosen Brown Sugar as BSI for week 43.

I have been making this luscious, elegant cake for over 20 years and it is a perfect dessert for a fancy dinner party yet equally at home as a family snack. Use a soft, seasonal fruit that holds its shape when cooked but gets meltingly smooth and sweet: Peaches in the summer, white or yellow, and pears in the Autumn/Winter. And for the caramel? Butter messaged into lots of soft, moist, dark Brown Sugar. Oooh, baby!


4 ripe peaches (or pears)
8 Tbs, about ½ cup (120 g) unsalted butter, divided, and softened to room temperature
¾ cup (100 g) packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ¼ cups (180 g) flour
1 cup + 2 Tbs (150 g) granulated sugar
2 tsps baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup (125 ml) milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Have ready a 9- or 10-inch (23 or 26 cm) cake pan with at least 2 inch (5 cm) sides.

Prepare the brown sugar caramel:
In a small bowl, using your fingertips, work 4 Tbs (60 g) of the softened butter, the brown sugar and the nutmeg together until it is well combined and smooth. Scrape into the cake pan and press and spread the brown sugar/butter mixture to cover the bottom of the cake pan entirely and evenly. Set aside.

Peel the peaches, remove and discard the seeds and slice into even slices. Lay the side by side in a circular fashion over the brown sugar. If you prefer, you can just spread them around willy nilly.

Make the cake batter:
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium to large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream the remaining 4 Tbs (60 g) of the softened butter. Add the dry ingredients, beating alternately with the milk, until all of the dry ingredients and milk are blended in and smooth. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs and beat until smooth.

Pour the cake batter on top of the peaches and carefully spread to even it out, being careful not to move the peach slices.

Pop into the preheated hot oven and bake 30 – 35 minutes until the cake is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake should be browned and puffed. You should see the caramel bubbling up a bit around the edges.

If the cake seems to be browning too fast, simply cover it with a piece of aluminum foil.

Take the cake out of the oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool for just about 2 or 3 minutes. Invert your serving platter onto the top of the cake pan and, very carefully, using either a kitchen towel or oven mitts, making sure you have a very good grip on both the hot cake pan and the serving platter, flip the two over together to invert. You should now have the cake platter on the bottom holding the cake and the pan covering the cake bottom side up. Leave to cool for 2 or 3 minutes.

Carefully lift off the cake pan (careful, it is still hot!) straight up so as not to move the cake on the platter. I had excellent non-stick results using a non-stick cake pan. Allow the cake to cool.

The cake is incredibly light yet moist and tender.

Gorgeous caramel.

Just a note; when I use a Teflon or non-stick pan, I never have a problem turning a perfect cake out of the pan, but the caramel stays soft. For a stickier, more candy-like caramel, do not use a non-stick pan, but the caramel may stick to the pan.


lisaiscooking said...

I grew up with my nose stuck in a book most of the time too! I loved Encyclopedia Brown. Your Peach upside down cake looks incredible!

Pink Little Cake said...

Hi, thank you so much for the comment on my blog about my little girl.Regarding your post...awesome!!

Swedishclare said...

Yum... I have big pile of drool on my keyboard now. Books and food, books and food...

Elra said...

What a beautiful cake. Sounds really scrumptious!

Junglefrog said...

At some point growing up I think my parents got really worried as I had the habit of getting so engrossed (is that the right word?) in a book that I would literally forget everything around me.. I would actually walk to the bathroom while reading and well, reading addiction was a mild term in those days! I still love to read but sometimes life tends to get in the way and time is on the short side.
Your peach cake looks gorgeous too!

Heavenly Housewife said...

I am totally not surprised that you are a big reader. I can tell by the way you write. I agree with swedishclare, that is a drool worthy cake indeed :). Have a wonderful weekend!

girlichef said...

This looks so amazing...YUM! And I totally loved Beverly Cleary books (along w/ my Judy Blume's)!! Fun post :D

Chef E said...

I lived in my school, and town library too! Man does this cake look so good, and I am not fond of peaches, but I would love this I think...

Hey J, I had asked you a question on FB, but guess you did not see it...blanquette de veau sauce came out to yellow...not enough cream I suppose, my first time making it, and it was more like a sauce than stew juice...oh well back to the drawing board...

Mary said...

What a stunner of a cake. Congratulations on your awards.

La Table De Nana said...

The cake looks great and I will make it:)But the passage rings so true to me today..
2 of my grandchildren spent the day w/ us yesterday..a beautiful sunny day.. they jumped in the little blow up pool ..and ran through the sprinkler..(we did too)..I've never seen my husband run through a sprinkler:) They were so happy and squeaked with joy and cold water splashing about.
My garden was never more alive:)

I have a couple of your books..saving a Homemade Life:)

But wasn't Tender At The Bone wonderful?:)

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Jamie,

I swear we are the same person sometimes. It's almost scary. I too would save my lunch money and buy books, the same books. I would hide and read and eat cookies.

I used to love when the characters in the stories talked about food. I would slow down and read, often reading that part again. Much like I do with your blog.

Oh yes, and your peaches upside down cake looks amazing!


Jenn said...

LOL. I love that you chose the thesaurus. Here a funny thing...I was standing when I read that. Coincidence. Maybe.

Delish lookin' cake!!!! Pass me a slice please.

Sippity Sup said...

I was always a reader. I spend so much time online now. I find my eyes are sometimes too tired at night for a book. Something is wrong with that. I am doing peaches today too. If I ever get around to writing the post that is. GREG

Sophie said...

I love reading books, ever since I was a kid!!

Your peach upside down cake looks STUNNING!!


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That cake looks so scrumptious! I love upside-down cakes!



Barbara Bakes said...

This is my kind of cake. I can see why you'd still be making after all these years!

Natashya said...

What a gorgeous cake! I loved Encyclopedia Brown..

burpandslurp said...

Oh looks awesome! Perfect way to use brown sugar!

p.s. I used to read obsessively, so much that I had to hide in the bathroom and pretend I had a bad tummyache so that I could read in peace. Parents didn't like that I read all day and didn't do anything else!

Connie said...

Oh Jaime, you and I are kindred spirits. Reading and food, indeed. I accept your award with great pleasure, but I may have to fudge my page and paragraph - currently I'm reading a 17th century classic of Chinese erotica. A paragraph from such may be NSFW.

I'm struggling to re-enter real life, but I'll passing the award on very soon.

Connie, bad case of Vacation Head

Joanne said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love anything with the word caramelized in the title and if it's dessert...well...all the better!

comfycook said...

Caramel and peaches are two of my favorites and this looks like a fantastic combination in your cake.

Cucinista said...

Ooh, can I have some? I love an upside down cake.

I started remembering all of my childhood books. Ramona, Encyclopedia Brown, classic Nancy Drews, Judy Blume... There was a ledge underneath our kitchen table and I used to hide my books there during dinner so that every once in a while I could sneak a peek at the page I was reading before food was served. If it was a really good book I would excuse myself to the bathroom to read.

mlaiuppa said...

That looks lovely. Sort of like peach upside down cake.

All of my books are in the bedroom since I read in bed. But I do have three of this year's California Young Reader Medal nominees for young adult that just arrived from amazon. The one on top is St. Iggy by K.L. Going. Pg. 161, 5th sentence reads: "I think things over, but finally I shake my head." Better that than the picture books for older readers as they only have 32 pages. I haven't read the young adult nominees yet as I don't know if I'm going to be in a high school, middle school or elementary school this year. Or in the district office. Summer gone, two weeks until school starts and I still don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing. parents have a peach tree. So I think I may be making this cake.

nyonya pendek melaka said...

Your posts are such joy to read too!

Audax said...

Congrats on your award! And just love the 'upside down' peach cake it looks so delish. BTW thanks for the kind words you left on my blog.

The Spirit House Thai Cooking
P161 5th Sentence from the recipe gVietnamese, chargrilled eggplant with pork, peanuts and tofu .... "Add the fish sauce, palm sugar, soy sauce and tofu, stir until combined."

asiangrrl (Minna) said...

Jamie, I am again touched an honored that you have given me this wonderful award. I gobbled up books (Ramona, Encyclopedia Brown, Little House on the Prairie, Harriet the Spy, Pippi) just as fast as I gobbled up my food.

I love your storytelling (as usual), and the cake looks so good! I'll take a slice as I read my latest book.

Jamie said...

@Minna: Great choice of kids books, but Little House on the Prairie? I would never have guessed!

@Audax: Great book excerpt!

Ross4Teflon said...

Hi Jamie - I loved your post and your cake looks delicious - I also wanted to thank you for recommending using a Teflon pan in your process. I represent DuPont and it's always a pleasure to see people recommending our products in their recipes.

If you are interested in some other recipes or great cookbooks to look at for your blog, drop me an email and I would be glad to help you out! Thanks. Cheers, Ross

asiangrrl said...

Little House on the Prairie was set mostly in MN, so that was part of it. In addition, I read everything I could get my hands on. That was an easy series to find. Books and food. What could be better?

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

It looks so good! congrats on the award Jamie!


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