When someone learns I love to cook (and spend many of my free hours in the kitchen) the inevitable next question is: “cook or baker?”
And my answer, surely and squarely, is — cook. Savoury cooking is my first and best love. I grew up in a professional kitchen, cooked dinner with my mom from the time I could hold a spoon, and got my first chef’s knife from my dad when I was still in high school (probably not the Christmas gift requested by most teenagers) — a beautiful Shun that’s still part of my collection.
Baking has always been tangential to my kitchen pursuits. I love exactitude in most realms, but in the kitchen, I prefer conceiving and adapting and the ad hoc nature of it all — something less possible with the rigidity of baked goods. There was a time, when I was younger, when I believed recipes were only for people who didn’t instinctively know how to cook. I’ve since realized that’s nonsense — and use recipes all the time to guide my cooking — but still cook about 1000% more than I bake.
Occasionally though, and especially when summer fruit is calling, I brush off my dusty springforms and pie plates. This year, it’s been exacerbated by the move to our new house, with its dream kitchen of dream kitchens. No longer are my supplies sequestered in dark corners and appliances teetering three-high in the far reaches of a closet. I have counter space and cupboard space and an oven that reaches the temperature it says on its dial!
This, coupled with a truly spectacular plum season, has me reaching my point of satiation with baking. Should you find some spectacular summer plums in your possession and an itch to turn on the oven, here’s how I’ve been using the bushels that I keep carrying home from the market.
Original Plum Torte from Marian Burros
The headnote for this recipe tells a hilarious story of its rabid fan base. And 164 (at time of publish) five-star reviews weren’t wrong. This easy little cake was lapped up by company: four of us, one cake, one evening. The base recipe would be brilliant with all manner of fruit through the seasons: blackberries, apples, peaches, sugared rhubarb or cranberries…
I riffed pretty closely on this recipe, just omitting the honey and baking in a 9″ square pan for easy slicing and snacking. I also used halved early yellow plums instead of sliced red plums, because that’s what I had on hand. This cake lasted barely a day in our house of two and sliced like a dream.
Oatmeal Streusel Muffins with Plums
Elegant but unfussy — perfect for baking and gifting to our darling neighbour, Susan, and her two Pomeranians. These were a mash-up of my favourite oatmeal muffin recipe (here’s a close version), this streusel topping (freeze the extra!) and half a plum tucked into each before baking.
Savoury wildcard! We received some beautiful baby back ribs in our CSA share this week and I serendipitously happened upon this recipe in a Better Homes & Gardens back-issue. The sauce — conceived by food blogger What’s Gabby Cooking — is sweet, tangy, smoky and totally addictive on the ribs and everything else.
We served it up as part of a weeknight southern cookout with friends: slow-smoked ribs, pork and beans, kale slaw, Austin’s soft white bread, homemade pickles and banana pudding. Another keeper barbecue sauce for our vast repertoire.
(photos: all my own)