Monday, July 16, 2018

Cherry Thyme Upside Down Cake

For some reason, a bit out of season, I've encountered so many good looking cherries at the store! It made me nostalgia for the northwest, where we were on vacation just a month ago. I grew up with two trees of cherries at my childhood home - the golden cherries with pink blush (known as "Rainier" cherries in many places) and the darker red cherries that most people think of. The birds loved them; what we picked we just ate and didn't really bake with, so I didn't have a lot in my repertoire for cherries.

I have a few recipes marked to try, but this one stood out. I recalled an episode of some baking reality show where all the bakers had to make an upside down cake of any variety, as long as it contained fruit. I liked the sound of cherries and thyme, and thought it would be gorgeous with the variety of colors of cherries.


Cherry Thyme Upside Down Cake(recipe found on MyRecipes.com)


Ingredients

TOPPING

  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup fresh Bing cherries, pitted and halved (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 cup fresh Rainier cherries, pitted and halved (about 6 oz.)
  • Thyme sprigs
CAKE
  • 1 1/3 cups (about 5 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • Whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the Topping: Place butter in a 9-inch round baking pan, and place in preheated oven until butter is melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Tilt pan to coat sides with butter. Stir brown sugar into melted butter in bottom of pan until smooth, spreading it evenly on bottom of pan. Decoratively arrange cherries, cut-side down, and thyme sprigs on brown sugar mixture.

Step 2
Prepare the Cake: Whisk together flour, thyme leaves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Step 3
Beat together brown sugar and butter in bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add egg and vanilla, beating until fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and sour cream; beat on low until just moistened. Stir ingredients by hand until fully incorporated.

Step 4
Dollop cake mixture over fruit, and spread evenly to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a large cake plate. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with more thyme leaves, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


I paid attention to the instructions and barely mixed the batter, so the crumb was very tender. The cherries end up the texture of grapes, maybe, or peaches, not so much the cherries in the end, but the flavor is intense.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Review of Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound, WA (Orcas Island)

During our recent vacation, we spent a few days on Orcas Island. It is the largest island in the San Juan Islands, and has been on my travel wishlist for years. We had beautiful weather, went whale watching, and explored the tiny strip of shops that seems to sustain the majority of the residents and tourists. One of the places we went to several days in a row is Brown Bear Baking.



First I should warn you that at least the week we were there, it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Sad! But worth the wait for Wednesday. Pay attention to those days though. And honestly half the businesses on the island seem to randomly close on Tuesday; future tourists beware.

The bakery was packed full of people with more people in line. From what the people working there said, this was the first week where they felt summer tourist traffic, and normally the pace is a bit slower and you might more easily find a place to sit. Our first day there, we ate in our rental car.  The bakery itself is in a busy central place, and the second day we went there the bunny running for mayor was also in the courtyard, with free face painting, and it was a weekday!




The bakery provides coffee, espresso, pastries, including some savory pastries, tea cakes, scones, granola, breads, and offers sandwiches for lunch (we did not try these but one person was busily doing prep for what looked like a busy lunch period!) The case was stocked and constantly depleting and being refilled.


What I loved about the bakery, besides the deliciousness, is the way everyone seemed to work together. One of the owners, who I think is Lee Hilands Horswill, seemed to be efficiently running a very busy team, but also did just as much to fill in where needed. He was a leader working just as hard as everyone else, and I think this contributes enormously to their success. In our short time there I saw him restocking the case and helping a younger worker take the dirty dishes to the back.

I do think they may need to either rethink the flow of people through the place or rethink offering espresso! There is a clog in the machine near the espresso machine, on the opposite end of the counter from where you order. There are at least two other places within a block radius that offer espresso. I say order pastries at Brown Bear and go to Kathryn Taylor Chocolates or Darvill's Bookstore for a coffee drink, and get out of there faster. But espresso is new at Brown Bear Baking, so maybe it will sort out.

I found this article about the partners who own and run the bakery, and their journey to Orcas Island, and a flap over the flag. Since we were there during pride month, it seems appropriate to share!

Brown Bear Baking
29 N Beach Rd #1966, Eastsound, WA 98245

Not a paid advertisement. I just like trying new bakeries and thought their pastries were delicious.