Tuesday, August 31

Summer Breaks and Almond Cakes

August is a busy month around here, with people coming and going in a steady stream. Some stay just one night, others for up to a week. One thing is pretty consistent though: whether they've crossed an ocean to get here or driven a couple hours up the highway, they make the most of the time they have amid the lakes and woods of this natural environment.

Perhaps it's because of this that Jim and I make time to enjoy it, too. Even though we've been here five and half years now, we don't take for granted all the simple pleasures the region offers. Our guests won't let us. By sharing their day's adventures and delights with us, they remind us how lucky we are to have beaches, rivers, hiking trails and vistas within easy reach.

So no matter how busy we are, no matter how long our own To Do lists get, we still make time for summer breaks. Sometimes that means just a 15 minute swim in a cool, clear lake (that's a 15 minute holiday!). Sometimes it means simply sitting on the upper deck, sipping a glass of wine, feeling the sun on our faces while we watch the clouds drift across a blue sky. We don't often have the slow pace that we thought would be part of country living, but every now and then we can stop the clock entirely and just be in the moment.

Of course the clock does start up again, but by then I'm refreshed and ready to get back at it. Plus, I have an arsenal of easy-yet-delicious recipes perfect for these hot and lazy August days. One of my favourites is this recipe for almond cakes. They're made with ingredients I always have on hand and they come together quickly and spontaneously (no need to wait for butter to come to room temperature). Because it makes a small batch, it's perfect for the times mid-week when I only have one room of guests. And I can bake them in the counter-top toaster oven instead of heating up the whole kitchen with my big oven.

These are a nice baked good with breakfast or make a lovely afternoon snack. You can also serve them as a simple dessert, perhaps with a bit of whipped cream and fresh berries on the side.

Jam-filled Almond Cakes
These are best—moist and flavourful—made a day in advance.
makes 4, recipe can be doubled or tripled

1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons ground almonds
scant 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of table salt
3 tablespoons plain natural yogurt*
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract and/or grated orange zest (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
4 heaping teaspoons jam, any flavour
sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 4 muffin cups OR line them with paper liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together the four, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, egg and almond extract and/or zest (if using). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. Stir in the melted butter.

Divide most of the batter between the muffin cups. Top each with a heaping teaspoon of jam. Top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top (if using).

Bake until the tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean or with moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge for up to three days. If you like, drizzle with a simple icing made from icing sugar and a bit of milk or orange juice.

* Use plain, natural yogurt containing NO gelatin or pectin. Thick, balkan-style yogurt gives the richest results but lower-fat yogurts can be used as well.

Variation: use fresh or frozen raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or cherries in place of the jam.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

You may not always have the slow pace you thought you'd have, but it sure is a great environment to have a fast pace! :)