Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Little Apricot Cakes (loosely adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2013)

Guys, I can't tell you what a relief it has finally been to see spring, er, springing into action. After a long (not so much frigid as....sodden? drippy?) winter and an early spring full of 'just kidding' meteorological moments, the last few weeks have finally seen the trees put out first waves of blossoms then full-on explosions of green. Breezes are warm. Coats are being put away, at last. Everyone's spirits seem lighter, mine included. There's just one thing I can't quite figure out.

What is it about spring that makes me want to go shopping?

A brightly colored new set of dishes, maybe? A flirty little spring dress, a freshly published & still crackling new read in hardcover, a cute new pair of earrings or some other little indulgence....yes, it's corny and yes, it's admittedly girly and a bit embarrassing, but there's something seemingly almost genetically encoded in wanting to emerge from one's winter cave and buy something pretty. Something soft. Something luxurious. Something so brightly colored and soul-cheering that it seems to scream SPRING!!! even as it whispers silkenly in your ear induuuuuuuuulge. Oh dear. This really is a hell of a time, and a hell of a city, in which to be financially limited by a freelancer's income. So rather than go out and indulge in a new pair of shoes or a twirly skirt, I've been fighting the battle to keep my wits about me and stay frugal. And I must admit, I've been doing a great job.

But I couldn't fight the spring urge forever. 

The other day, I bought myself a brightly colored little bit of luxury. Just look at them, aren't they beautiful? Don't they whisper something to you about warm weather, looking like little twin suns glowing at the heart of that white bowl? Okay, maybe I'm being more than a little bit precious about the whole thing, but they looked delicious, and they cheered my spring-starved soul immensely........and there was a recipe in the new issue of Bon Appétit that I really, really wanted to try. So, Mini Apricot Cakes it was!

Sweet, tart slices of apricot awaiting baking.

I promise I will not lick the bowl. I promise. No, totally.

A cramped workspace is the hallmark of a true New York kitchen. Counter space? I remember counter space. But now, I can balance a bowl on each arm and keep a wooden spoon tucked between my chin & shoulder, peering down at a recipe only mostly obscured by the cutting board, muffin pan and various sugars that dominate the counter. Please, if necessary, I could do this in my sleep*.

(in fact, I'm pretty sure that I once did. Gentle readers, remind me to tell you some day the thrilling saga of Muffin Pan & the Midnight Bread.)

As you may notice from reading the original BA recipe, I have made a few deviations in my own version, most notably that I made it gluten-free (swapping in a mix of tapioca, soy and brown rice flour for regular). Also, I substituted a sprinkling of brown sugar for the called-for raw sugar, for the usual reason, which is that I had one and not the other. Whaddayagonnadoboutit?

The little cakes turned out to be wonderful little two or three bite treats. Densely crumbed, golden and just lightly sweet, with those wonderfully crunchy buttery edges and hints of lemon zest and vanilla hidden in the interior. Sticky slices of tart-fleshed apricot melting into the sweet cake below. I'm not sure what else to call them besides 'little cakes', really. They're not exactly in muffin territory, and they're more serious and less fluffy than a cupcake, and they're smaller than either of those things, anyway. They're economical 'mini' cakes even in the original recipe and designed, I think, to be held in the hand and eaten in a few happy bites. 

And then maybe another one, why not? With a little swipe of freshly whipped cream on the side. Because it's sunny and it's that sweet spot right between late spring and early summer and, new flirty sundress or no, you're just so happy to be going outside once again after a long, long winter.

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