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Jul 9, 2007

All I Want for Christmas ...

I have been a baking fool lately. Last week, a good friend of mine arrived in the States from his post in Jerusalem to spend some time at home on the Cape (sigh ...), so of course I had to make him some treats (chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, banana bread) to send across the country. Then I made a peach cobbler and a blackberry cobbler for the 4th of July. And today is a co worker's birthday, so last night I baked one batch of vegan chocolate cupcakes, and one batch of plain cupcakes, both frosted with a chocolate buttercream.

Whew.

Well, it's all fun, and I love it. But I realized this morning, lugging my stacks of cupcakes in to work on the bus yet again, that the odd shoebox, or Tupperware (or, in this case, a mini cooler), is just not going to cut it anymore. I need a cupcake carrier -- I saw one last week at Crate & Barrel (though I'm sure there are others out there) and became quite covetous. And while we're at it, a cake carrier, too. For too many years to count I've carted around assorted baked goods in bags or boxes, and it's time to step it up a notch. If I had a wish list, those would be at the top.

[An aside: the bbq turned out just fine. If the salmon was left on just a bit too long (and thus was perhaps a bit too dry) and the vegetables were not perfectly cooked through, all tasted reasonably good, and the batch of basil vodka lemonades I made up earlier in the afternoon dulled the slight disappointment the grill was not as perfect as I would have liked. Still, it was the first try, and I've always needed a slight learning curve. So the next time I will know to keep a closer eye on the fish than on my glass of wine, and that pre-marinated tofu is a sure bet.]

Now, about that cobbler ...

Dad wins again, with a blackberry-nectarine concoction that's totally low-fat and sans cholesterol. I picked up 3 pints for $5 (organic, too) at the farmers' market last week, and quickly whisked up some biscuits for the top and threw it all into the oven. My peach cobbler was pretty darn good, but this one is about its equal -- even without the butter. The topping is light and flaky, the fruit sweet and juicy, and together it is summertime in a pan.

I cannot, cannot wait another month for when the blackberry bushes in the field at home will be heavy with fruit ripe for the picking, and I can turn them into jams, cakes, pies, and, oh yes, more cobblers.



Blackberry-nectarine cobbler, adapted from gourmet.com

1 1/4 cups plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
3 pints blackberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2-cup (or so) vegetable oil
3/4 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk together 1 1/4 cups sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl, then add nectarines and blackberries and toss to combine well. Transfer to buttered baking dish and bake in middle of oven until hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

While fruit bakes, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in another large bowl, then blend in oil with your fingertips or a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and stir just until a dough forms.
Drop dough onto hot fruit mixture in 6 mounds, then sprinkle dough with remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Bake cobbler in middle of oven until top is golden, 25 to 35 minutes.

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