Everyone knows that book clubs are really food clubs, right? Yeah, it’s great to have some extra encouragement to read something that was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, and even better to get together with some smart ladies to discuss it. But mostly, I’m in it for the opportunity to try some new recipes.
Unfortunately, due to some geographic and commuting challenges, I often have to make something ahead of time, so a lot of the appetizer recipes I’d like to make are not very feasible. Baked goods seemed like a good option: they’re do-ahead, portable, and don’t need to be refrigerated all day. Besides, I’d be wanting to make the Little Apricot Cakes from the June issue of Bon Appetit. They looked like a fairly simple recipe for a nice light, summery dessert.
Then I had to complicate things. Why make little cakes (with a standard muffin pan) when you can make tiny cakes (with a mini muffin pan)? Besides the obvious appeal of miniature foods – and if you are skeptical about this being something that people are into, please refer to Exhibit A* – there was the even more obvious appeal of my mini muffin pans being nonstick and allowing me to skip the step of greasing the pan.**
And then, why use apricots when you can use pluots? If you are unsure what a pluot is, check out the Wikipedia page, which will tell you all you ever wanted to know about this lovechild of a plum and an apricot (and much, much more).
Beyond that, I followed the recipe exactly. Oh wait. No, I did not. I added a splash of almond extract in there, just for fun. And while I took the time to zest a lemon, it wasn’t until I had already spooned about 90% of the batter into the muffin pans that I realized the little bowl of lemon zest was still sitting patiently next to the stand mixer. Oops.
So, besides making them smaller, subbing pluots for apricots, adding almond extract, and forgetting lemon zest, I made them just as the recipe calls for. And since I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple days because I haven’t felt like writing out the recipe, I’m just going to provide the link, again. Here. You could also check out all of the other bloggers who have also made this recipe, including my friend Sarah, over at Sarah’s Place. She’s just as neurotic as I am in the kitchen, but unlike me, she follows directions (i.e., she did not forget the lemon zest).
While I did like the cakes being a bite-sized portion (as did my fellow book-clubbers, based on the fact that I only took a few home with me), I think if I was going to do it again, I wouldn’t use a nonstick pan. The edges didn’t get quite as crispy and brown as I would have preferred.***
Oh, for those of you who are interested, our book for this meeting was After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. It’s a nice collection of short stories all set in Japan following the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Like most of Murakami’s books that I’ve read, the stories feature well-developed characters in very real relationships with some bizarrely fanciful twists. Giant talking frogs, anyone?
*If you are too lazy, technologically-challenged, or stubborn to click on the link, I’ll just tell you what it is: it’s a cookbook called Tiny Food Party!
**If you are wondering, “why not just use muffin liners?” I’ll tell you why. I hate them. I don’t really like having to peel paper or foil off my food before I eat it, and I don’t like that there are always cake crumbs stuck to the paper that could have found their way to my stomach. Besides, look at the Bon Appetit photo of the apricot cakes. That beautiful brown, rustic edge on the cakes wouldn’t be seen if they were encased in some polka dot wrapper. So, that’s my anti-muffin liner stance.
***But you can bet they were browner than they would have been if I used muffin liners.