For us, fall starts bang on Labor Day. That’s it for Andrew being at the beach. His real estate business in the city totally takes over his every weekend. We will be lucky if he gets to Bridgehampton once between then and Thanksgiving. This leaves me alone out there because, between Monte’s Ham and the blogs I work on, I need to be there at least every two weeks. What it also does, is pretty well rule out having a fabulous dessert to take to fall parties. Because I don’t really bake any more at all. It reminds me of the old joke about the Limousine pulling up to the Plaza Hotel. The chauffeur opens the trunk and removes a wheel chair. He then opens the car door and assists a young man into the chair. The boy’s mother follows and as they reach the hotel door, the doorman says to the mother; “I am so sorry your son can’t walk”. The mother answers: “Can’t walk? Thank God he doesn’t have to.” Can’t bake? Thank God I don’t have to. Except recently I did and the results were really well received.
Of course, I didn’t make this first. Andrew did. He made it last year and it was so moist, so incredibly orange scented that it was perfect, bringing us a shot of sunshine in the dead of winter. It also struck me at the time that it didn’t look all that hard to make. Andrew is very well organized and keeps a “baking diary” listing what he baked and whom he baked it for and where he got the recipe. In this case, it was from Mario Batali’s “Simple Italian Food: Recipes from my two Italian villages” (Clarkson Potter 1998).
|Bill Buford (L) and Mario Batali (R)|
This cake is particularly all right because it’s pretty darn easy to make. And it’s fascinating how people react just by hearing its name. Olive oil in a cake? But the olive oil here is what gives the cake its moist texture and, dare I say it, makes the cake a lot healthier than most butter-laden cakes. Finally, it tastes delicious, it perfumes the whole house with the scent of oranges while its baking. And it’s a crowd pleaser. I took this cake to a small dinner party. We all decorously at a single sliver. I left the cake for my friends to enjoy. I got a really nice email from my friend Jeff saying he’d taken what was left over to another dinner party the next night, tarted up with some orange slices and it was a hit there too. My only caveat is to really watch your cooking times. You want a really moist cake here and 50 minutes in the oven should be plenty of time for it to bake. Here’s the recipe.
Recipe for Orange and Olive Oil cake from Mario Batali:
6 medium Navel oranges
2 1/4 cups bread flour*
1 Tbsp baking soda
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Confectioners'/icing sugar for dusting
*In a pinch, you can use all-purpose flour but the gluten in bread flour is highly recommended.
Remove the zest from the oranges and juice one of them. Set fruit aside for another use. Sift the flour and baking soda together onto a piece of waxed paper.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and salt together with an electric mixer until frothy and light, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar, continuing to mix 2 minutes longer. Add the flour and baking sida gradually to the egg mixture, and then mix 1 more minute.
In another bowl, combine the olive oil, orange zest and juice. Using a spoon, stir it into the egg mixture, folding until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Invert onto wire rack.