Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Insomnia and Pumpkin Cake

For the last several weeks, my nights have been an indiscriminate haze of asleep and awake. 

If you haven't followed along on twitter, roughly three weeks ago I developed, completely out of the blue, a large blind spot in the central vision of my right eye. This, while a disturbing and frightening experience (especially considering I kind of need my eyes to do my job) actually turned out to be completely cured by the medication I was put on.

The problem now, is, of course, the medication.

This particular medication is well known, a wonder drug. It's prescribed, and seems to alleviate, any number of maladies, including my particular one. It is also notorious for it's side effects. Things like: panic attacks; constantly feeling on edge and anxious; violent mood swings; heart palpitations; cold sweats; being constantly hungry; retaining water, and, my favorite, an inability to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time.

Which brings me to this very early morning. 
I've actually been up for several hours already, after coming awake following a horrible nightmare involving croissants. 

It wasn't even a particularly scary dream - no fanged croissants chasing me down long, dark flights of stairs. No clawed, hairy croissants leaping out of bushes. As a nightmare, it was pretty lame. 
In fact it centered on my inability to bake, and anxiety around integral things to the process of making something like a croissant, things like timing and butter.

As I said...lame.

So here I am, hours before I need to be awake, but wide awake all the same.

The Tartine Bakery Book was the cause of said nightmare. I got it in the mail last night, and, rather stupidly in hindsight, decided to read through it before hitting the sack. Although, who could blame me? The recipes are absolutely delicious sounding, the pictures beautiful. For someone who is by nature not a baker, I am absolutely fascinated with books on baking in hopes that all those fantastic techniques and recipes will somehow change me fundamentally and one day i'll be able to just crank out a laminated dough like it's no thing.

I decided to come to terms with my baking nightmare. No, not by making croissants - I'm not COMPLETELY insane, not yet. But, to bake from this book. I have several hours to kill anyway.

I decided to make Tartine's pumpkin tea cake, and if the batter has any indication, its going to be pretty damn good.

Pumpkin Tea Cake
adapted from Tartine Bakery Book

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 9 oz pumpkin puree (about 1 cup plus 2 tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp sugar for topping
  • large handful raw pepitas for topping (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Lightly butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  4. Whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar and salt until well mixed.
  5. Add one egg at a time, mixing well to incorporate it completely before adding the next.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with your whisk.
  7. Add the flour mixture and whisk together, GENTLY, just until combined, then continue to mix just until the batter becomes smooth. It should have the consistency of a thick puree. 
  8. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and sprinkle on the sugar and pepitas. 
  9. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about an hour. 
  10. Let the pan cool about 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack, turn right side up, and let it cool the rest of the way. Serve at room temperature. 

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