Spelt Flour Chamomile Apricot Cake Inspired by Kim Boyce, and a Few Other Places
(The potholder upon which the cake rests was a gift from my friend Liz who is an amazing textile artist. The other side of the potholder is really the intended focal point, but I love this side the most, partly because of her architectural handwriting, )
The change of seasons always provides a huge inspiration to me in the kitchen. For this reason, it is shear delight that we have four very distinct seasons in Oregon. Summer, though, is late in coming this year, which means it's still going to be a wait for the sunny plums, apricots, cherries and berries which I've been dreaming about since mid-winter. Sour cherry sorbet is on hold, as is strawberry shortcake (our strawberries are still only coming ripe a few at a time.) The plums hanging on our trees are only about the size of my thumb, so it will still be a while before I'll be baking a much anticipated plum upside-down cake. All of our orchard fruits are late this year. With low heat units to date, I can't even imagine what the 2011 vintage of Oregon wines will be like.
This phenomenon has made me think a lot about sources of food inspiration. Without the muse of a plump velvety apricot or glossy crimson cherry (the cook's equivalent of a beautiful landscape or gorgeous model to a painter) where else do we look for stimulus?
This nice and slightly off-beat cake started with reading through Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain and landing upon her Olive Oil Cake. Her cake is different in that it includes flavor notes of rosemary along with a handful of chopped dark chocolate, and more distinctly that it uses a dab of spelt four. I've never baked with spelt before, so that sounded interesting. Inspiration #1.
Mountain Rose Herb Chamomile Tea
If you can put rosemary in a cake, why not chamomile flowers? We've been drinking potful after potful of the most wonderful chamomile tea in our still nippy evenings. Mountain Rose Herbs makes some great teas, and this chamomile is glorious. One hundred percent chamomile flowers, it brews up into a softly floral golden brew. Inspiration #2.
Notes in the Margins: Other Flavor Combos to Try With This Recipe
I'm craving fresh fruit, but all that is available in my house at the moment are some dried apricots. A quick glance through The Flavor Bible confirms my inkling that, yes, apricot and chamomile are compatible. And if Kim Boyce gets a kick out of adding dark chocolate to rosemary and olive oil, why not add some of that, too? Inspiration #3.
This cake is really wonderful. It has a very delicate crumb for an olive oil based cake, with no heaviness or chewiness that I've experienced with others of the genre. The olive oil flavor does come through, so choose your oil wisely. I suggest choosing either a neutral flavored olive oil, or one with a definite fruitiness. The basic formula is a great framework for seasonal or any other type of inspiration.
Kim's Olive Oil Cake falls at only about a 6 on a 1-10 sweet scale, so it functions nicely as an afternoon tea cake, or as a lovely way to breakfast. A scoop of ice ream (why not chamomile?) or plop of whipped cream dresses it up for an official dessert. I did learn that I'm an all or nothing person when it comes to chocolate. Next time I'll either add quite a bit more, or none at all.
Where do you look for inspiration in the kitchen? I'd love to hear your thoughts.