At a time when life seems more chaotic than ever and more inconceivable by the second, that’s when we need to pause, take a deep breath, close our eyes — and have a piece of cake.
Yes, times like this call for equal measures of comfort, sweetness, and escape.
Cake does all of that.
Not one dressed to the nines in layers, swirls, swooshes, and a flourish of doodads.
But a simple one that’s honest and straightforward — characteristics we sadly seem to be in short supply of these days.
“Walnut-Crusted Oat Flour Genoise” embodies all of that. It’s just one layer. It’s baked in one pan. It doesn’t even require frosting. It’s also gluten-free — but doesn’t taste like it, if you get my drift.
If you’re blessed with your own backyard fig tree, you never have this problem.
But for those of us who are left with buying fresh figs at the market or through grocery delivery services these days, figs can be a bit confounding. You want them squishy-ripe so they’re at their sweetest — yet that’s also when they’re prone to go moldy in a flash. If you happen to find yourself with ones that are not soft at all, you wait with bated breath, checking them each day, in hopes that they will finally yield to the push of a fingertip.
But you realize soon enough that’s all in vain because figs actually don’t ripen much once they are picked. And if they are picked too early, forget about it.
However, less than ideal figs can be salvaged by baking or roasting them. Their natural sugars, no matter how modest, will exude and caramelize in the heat of an oven, rendering them enjoyable after all.
That’s what prompted me to bake a batch of “Ricotta and Olive Oil Muffins with Figs.”
These old-fashioned biscuits, Gibson writes in the book, used to be called “Bride’s Biscuits” — OK, yes, in a rather sexist way — because it was thought that not even just-married women new to cooking could screw them up.
That’s because these biscuits have not only baking powder and baking soda in them, but active dry yeast, as well. With three leaveners, it’s nearly guaranteed these puppies will indeed rise.
2020 may very well be most remembered for the pandemic, but perhaps also for the Year of the Goat.
Maybe it was the early run on traditional baking and dairy supplies in March and April. Or maybe it’s the fact that with nowhere to go, people branched out in their tastes, longing for a taste of something new to combat the doldrums.
Whatever the case, the country’s two leading goat dairies are reporting a rise in sales. In fact, Meyenberg, the top producer of goat milk that sources from more than two dozen West Coast Dairies, saw its goat butter sales spike by 50 percent from last year. Its sales powdered goat milk also grew by 67 percent this year. Sonoma County’s Redwood Hill Farm also saw increases in sales of its goat yogurt and kefir.
I readily jumped on the goat milk bandwagon when Meyenberg and Redwood Hill Farms sent me some product samples to try.