Monday, November 17, 2008

Quince Cake & Sunshine

Well, how 'bout that weather? It was warm, sunny and gorgeous all weekend, with everyone basking in a last chance to throw on tank tops and sundresses and take the bulldogs, babies, and tattoos out for an airing. It was a blast of Indian-summer redux, ending with a giant golden wheel-of-cheese moon dangling over the Bay.

Went to 2 Prop 8 rallies on Sat--first in S.F., which was predictably jammed (and white), and then over to Oakland, which was awash in families and, you know, family values--like honoring diversity and appreciating (and trying to understand) people different than you, proffering love in the face of hate, respecting faith but also standing up for everyone's civil rights. There was impassioned, crowd-moving poetry, great signs ("My Other Husband is a Mormon"; "Just Give Us the Same Rights as the Chickens"; "Keep Your 5 Wives; I Just Want One"), and inspiring words from Oakland city councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who insisted on respect for "people of faith" but also used the bacon defense for keeping church away from state: her religion, she noted, forbade the eating of pork, but she wasn't trying to put that into the state constitution. And then she blew a shofar! This is how I imagine K. (minus the shofar) a few years down the road in NYC, fighting the good fight in public office. (And speaking of smart brunette butches, can we all just take a moment to admire smarty-pants Rachel Maddow in her pajamas?

Even if Jon Stewart's more your honey, it's worth a click.

But back to the Biggity O: Molly was there, of course, working the Marriage Equality table, her thousand-watt smile undaunted by all the amazing activist work she's been doing, not just these past few heartbreaking weeks but for years now. The Red Meat Ranger and Papa Sueno were there too, as were Shar, Jackie, Papa Steve and the kids, two beautiful, locally-adopted boys who wouldn't be in the warm two-mama home where they are loved, played with, and cared for 24/7 if they lived in Arkansas or Florida, where adoptions by gay couples (or, in the case of Arkansas, any unmarried couples) are specifically banned, even though both states have many, many more kids in the state-custody and foster systems than they have adoptive homes for. Kids who are, for the most part, in the system because of the failure of their heterosexual bio-families to create safe, loving homes for them, as writer and gay dad Dan Savage pointed out in a recent NYT op-ed.

So, we clapped, we cheered, we vowed to keep working, and then we went to Alameda and went bowling. A fabulous discovery: gutter bumpers! These railings keep kiddie meltdowns away, since every roll is nearly guaranteed to knock something down--helpful when you're four and the ball is bigger than your head. They're also pretty helpful when you're 41 and Not a Bowler.

Sunday was a day for breakfasting on ripe figs from the friendly tree overhanging my stretch of Cortland St., hiking over the hill and down the many secret staircases on the south side, slurping strawberry agua frescas from La Taqueria, browsing along 24th St to the back garden of Le Zinc in Noe Valley, admiring many, many babies and poodles along the way, and finally lolling on the green grass of Dolores Park with the rest of the hipster city licking pomegranate popsicles from Bi-Rite Ice Creamery.

Followed, as promised, by Soup Night at Leslie's, which was a Chronicle Books reunion and an all-around fab time. Having spent the day out in the sunshine, I had no time to bake dessert before riding over to Rockridge. So I took the performance-art route, and packed my flour and quinces to go. Because pastry requires space and makes a bit of a floury mess, I opted for this super-easy cake instead. Once the crush had cleared out in the kitchen, I creamed the butter, threw in eggs and vanilla, peeled quinces and threw the cake in the oven. And, of course, like any baked thing, it smelled fantastic and got even those guests sated with minestrone and Beard Papa cream puffs to take a slice. Here is Sara, Leslie's pal and backyard-cottage tenant, holding the semi-devoured remains:

As promised to everyone in the kitchen, here's the recipe. It's the simple-as-a-cookie fruit torte recipe adapted from Bakerina and Marion Burros, mixed and matched and topped with quince instead of prune plums. Since the quince is already cooked, it gets a dense, almost candied texture during baking.

Easy Quince Cake

1 stick butter (1/2 cup, 4 oz., 8 tbsp)
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 quince, cored and poached (instructions below), then peeled and sliced thinly; you could also use an apple or a pear, cored and sliced
1 tbsp sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp mixed (pumpkin or apple pie) spice or cinnamon

Grease a 9 inch round baking pan. Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir flour lightly into butter mixture until just combined. Spread batter (it will be thick and sticky) over prepared pan. Arrange fruit slices in concentric circles over batter. Sprinkle with spiced sugar. Bake 35-45 minutes, until tester comes out clean and top is slightly puffed and golden brown. Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes; serve warm for best appeal.

Master recipe for poaching quince

Preheat oven to 300F. Using a heavy knife or cleaver, hack quince into quarters and core. Tuck quince chunks into a small, heavy oven-safe pot. Add water to barely cover. Add 1/3 cup sugar, half a cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves and/or a couple of allspice berries. Bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling pot to dissolve sugar. Cover and let poach in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until liquid is reduced and quince chunks are rosy and tender. Let cool in liquid, then refrigerate. Peel quince before using.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Pie Queen!
I'm so honored to be featured in your wonderful blog, delicious quince cake in hand! It was great to meet you at Leslie's party. Let's hang out sometime and continue our conversation about the history of standardized measurements in the kitchen.
ciao, Sara