June 23, 2011

Places of Inspiration

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.
  

18 comments:

  1. Hey this apricot cake looks so yummy, i will surely make it this weekend...

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  2. Pam, that cake sounds like a stunner. I have some spelt flour in the cupboard and it normally ends up in bread but I shall be diverting it to try this lovely treat.

    p.s. your way of life really does sound idyllic.

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  3. Wonderful cake, I saw it on my Foodbuzz list and came here to check it out :) great flavour combination and you actually inspired me to make something delicious! Thank you :)

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  4. Beautiful cake, lovely post and wonderful photos:)

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  5. Lovely job following your inspiration. The cake looks fabulous :) Buzzed!

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  6. It looks amazing - I love it! I can't wait for your plums to come in and see the cake for them! Buzzed!

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  7. Congrats on Top 9 on foodbuzz! The cake looks so delicate!

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  8. What a great flavor combination in this cake! I've yet to try an olive oil cake, but after seeing this, I just may have to add it to my list!

    I find inspiration all around me - the seasons, my mood, what I have in stock, food blogs like this! =)

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  9. This cake sounds wonderful. Congrats on Top 9!

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  10. I find inspiration in wherever I wander day to day. People are always eating and drinking something, I just take a bit more interest in it than the average person!

    Jason

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  11. What a sweet post. I really enjoyed this. I love the unusual flavor combos. It stretches me to think more outside the box.

    I was just thinking about your "Come to My Garden" post yesterday as I wrote about my teeny little garden. I was wondering how yours was going. sounds like your going to have tons of inspiration!

    I really enjoy the challenge of being inspired by whats on sale at Whole Foods. It feeds both my need to stay in a budget and creates a challenge for my weekly menu. For instance, pork shoulder steaks were on sale last week. I had never made one. So I smeared it with garam masala, seared it, braised it and made some spicy lentils to go with. Then I realized that it would make delish Indian nachos. So I put the shredded pork, lentils, bits of sour cream and cheese (havarti, sounds weird, I know, but it melts every so beautifully) put it under the broiler and then topped it with fresh green onion and jalapeno. It was amazing. So there's my two cents.

    Hugs to you. P.s. I use my measuring spoons all the time. Tiny tries to steal them and use them for drumsticks:)

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  12. This is a beautiful cake. I really like the ways inspiration came to you.

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  13. Looks lovely, I have yet to try olive oil cake but love chocolate and apricots together. I am a big fan of spelt flour and regularly bake spelt bread. The seasons here inspire me and curiosity, as long as it looks good :-)

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  14. Fresh apricots are in season here now and are at all the outdoor markets! I'd love to try this recipe with them and see how it goes. Thanks!

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  15. This sounds like a really interesting pairing. I'll definitely have to try it soon.
    My favorite way to keep inspired is to rearrange my spice cupboard. That way I never know what'll end up next to the spice I'm looking for and inspire me.

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  16. This looks amazing, as does your blog! I live in Oregon, also and love it here!

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  17. Very interesting. I like that it's not too sweet and I love the way you are opening this recipe out to so many other possibilities.

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  18. Looks quite different. I bake with spelt but not that often. This sounds interesting.

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