Hopping home to bake a cake
On one of the last Farmers’ Market weekends of the summer, I step out my front door, hatted, sunscreened, eyes shaded behind a pair of Hollywood-huge sunglasses.
It is not a long walk, but the sun is hotter, much hotter, than I expected after a week’s worth of cool afternoons, watching as leaves, reddened by near-frosts, begin to uncouple from their branches and sail to the ground.
I count 10 grasshoppers as I walk.
Not worth fearing, though my hopper-phobic heart quickens at the sight of each one, harkening back to the Prairie plagues that were the genesis of this panic.
“It’s more afraid of you than you are of it,” says a voice in my head.
A voice I silence by telling it a metaphor.
“The smaller the pepper, the hotter it is,” I say out loud, stopping to wait for grasshopper No. 5 to do its worst.
In parallel terms: “The smaller the grasshopper, the more concentrated the evil.”
Nevertheless, from where I stand, frozen in front of this sidewalk-grey insect, I am grateful it isn’t one of its fat-as-a-thumb cousins.
I stomp the concrete, it hops into the grass and I give it a wide berth.
When I reach the market, the grounds thrum with a better kind of swarm.
People carry reusable shopping bags, which they fill with bright carrots, purple beans, fingerling potatoes and pint baskets of plums.
Families are crowded around the Little Doughnut trailer.
Home-canning types pull crates of peaches on little red wagons or balance them on shoulders while sipping icy cupfuls of freshly squeezed lemonade.
Without a car parked nearby, I’m mostly here to wander and, when I don’t find a particular jeweler I came to speak with, I turn my attention to what’s ripe.
With a lemonade of my own, I nudge my way through the shoppers and the families, through the canning crowd and their wagons and select just enough nectarines to eat out of hand, with enough left over for an end of summer cake.
And plums, for a galette recipe I’ve been saving since last year.
Then, as vendors begin to collapse their tents, I rinse a nectarine with water from a bottle, and begin the walk home.
With juice dripping from fingers to elbows to sidewalk, I slurp the nectarine from its pit and toss the pit at a hopper, which turns towards me instead of away.
I’m still for a moment as we consider one another.
A moment later, the grasshopper makes a crunching sound under my flip-flop — and I continue on my way.
Nectarine upside-down cake
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup golden brown sugar
5-6 ripe nectarines, peeled and cut into
8 wedges each
For the batter:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large free-range eggs
1 tbsps. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup 35% (whipping) cream
In a small pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes, until sugar is melted and caramelized.
Pour sugar mixture into a 10-inch-square cake pan with straight sides; spread carefully and evenly over bottom of pan using an offset spatula. Arrange the nectarines in rows, covering the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
For the batter, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, using an electric hand beater, cream together the butter and sugar for two to three minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and cream; beat until combined. Gently stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
Spoon batter evenly over the peaches, spreading with an offset spatula. Place pan on a baking sheet and into a 350 F oven for 65 to 70 minutes, until the top is set and springs back to the touch, and a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out of pan, upside down, onto a plate. Allow to cool before serving.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance. For past
recipes, go online to nicefatgurdie.wordpress.com. She can be contacted at email@example.com.