When M told me we were going to his business associate’s house in Hudson, New York for lunch last weekend, I didn’t realize I was going to meet the ultimate home owner couple. Not only did they have a beautiful house and charming property, they also executed most of the home improvement themselves.
Cake and wine in tow, we drove up a curving, picturesque driveway to a graceful colonial on a slight rise and surrounded by big trees. (I didn’t want to be the nosy guest who documents everything, so there are only a few photos of the place.)
Except for one room, where the existing plaster ceiling needed professional help, he had done most of the renovations himself–with consultations from his wife. As if the house weren’t enough of an endeavor, he then pointed out the improvements on the property, such as clearing acres of overgrown fields, digging a pond, building a dock for it, and adding a school of bass.
The lunch was an easy, simple fare. With no surprise, all the produce came from their garden–tomatoes, basil, lettuces, etc. During his house tour, he casually mentioned that he will add bees next year. Really? How far away is the cheese and wine making?
He recently discovered that he was gluten intolerant, which we failed to realize until I handed him the Ginger Cherry Cake I had baked for lunch. Six months after adjusting his diet, he’s baking his own gluten-free bread.
The three lessons I learned are:
• I’m the laziest home owner there is
• Check with the host on their dietary restrictions.
• Bring wine, it’s gluten-free.
Ginger Cherry Cake
yield: one 8-inch cake
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
1/2 cup brandy
1 pound sweet cherries, such as Bing, washed and pitted
3/4 cup granulated sugar (5-1/4 ounces)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (1-1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup (3-3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg , room temperature
1 large egg yolk , room temperature
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Confectioners’ sugar for serving
1. Cook jelly and rum in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until melted into a syrup, 1 minute. Add cherries to the syrup and cook until they are soften, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool cherries in pan for 15 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Grease and flour 8-inch springform pan. Process sugar and almonds in food processor until nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Add flour, baking powder, ground ginger and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. Add eggs, fresh ginger, extracts; process until smooth, about 15 seconds, scraping bowl if necessary.
3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using a small off-set spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Stir cherries to coat with syrup and arrange over surface of batter. Bake until cake is golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack until just warm or to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into wedges and serve.