‘Bread & Beauty’ Tells Stories of Local Food

Photo | Submitted Parsnip Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Photo | Submitted
Parsnip Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

The cookbook “Bread & Beauty, A Year in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve,” created by independent writer Claudia Kousoulas and project coordinator Ellen Letourneau, is about more than food. Besides terrific recipes, it is full of profiles, essays and beautiful photographs. It traces the Reserve’s history, and what it takes in this day and age to preserve this special place. You might be surprised by how much food is grown in the Reserve.

The book’s more than 120 recipes are inspired by this local bounty as well as by historic foodways and recipes. They are arranged seasonally to guarantee you can eat the best food all year long. Some are from local chefs who use Reserve produce to inspire their businesses and feed their customers and families.

For more information, visit www.breadandbeauty.org.

Plum Upside-Down Cake

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp mace
1⁄4 tsp ground dried ginger
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
3⁄4 cup sugar
6 plums, halved and pitted
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp brandy
1/3 cup milk

Serves 6 to 8

Pineapple upside-down cakes are brilliant, but why not vary them with seasonal fruit? Caramelized fruit and a lightly spiced batter, cooked casually in your skillet works all year-round. But don’t dawdle over unfolding the cake—the sugar will harden and make it hold the cake in the skillet.

In a small bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, mace and ginger. Set aside.

In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, melt together 2 tablespoons of butter and 1⁄4 cup of the sugar. Swirl to evenly cover the bottom of the pan and place the plum halves, cut-side down, evenly in the pan.

Mix together the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and 1⁄2 cup of sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Stir the brandy and milk together.

Add half the flour mixture to the batter, mix until incorporated. Add the milk and brandy, mix again, and then add the remaining flour to make a smooth batter.

Spoon the batter over the plums and smooth gently. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake, let it cool for five minutes, then unmold it by placing a plate over the skillet and quickly flipping it. Re-set any dislodged fruit. Serve with Buttermilk Whipped Cream.

To make Buttermilk Whipped Cream, whip together 1⁄2 cup heavy cream, 1⁄4 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract until it forms soft peaks.

Sweet and Spicy Spaghetti Squash Pie

1 medium spaghetti squash, split lengthwise and seeded
1⁄2 cup white sugar
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
4 tbs melted butter
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1⁄4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1⁄4 tsp ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pre-baked pie crust
whipped cream to serve

The shredded pieces of squash give this pie a coconut-like texture, but the warm spices will be familiar flavors.

Place the squash halves, cut side down, on a cookie sheet and bake at 400°F for 30 to 40 minutes, until they feel soft. Scoop the flesh into a sieve placed over a bowl and set aside to drain.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugars and eggs until foamy. Add in the butter, vinegar, salt, vanilla, and spices and stir in the drained squash. As you stir, break the squash strands into shorter pieces.

Pour the mixture into the pre-baked pie crust and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 40 to 50 minutes, until the filling is puffed and set.

Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Parsnip Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup flour
1 tsp ground ginger
3⁄4 tsp cinnamon
3⁄4 tsp ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp mace (or nutmeg)
2 grinds black pepper
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
3⁄4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated parsnips
1⁄4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Makes one 8-inch cake

Pepper and parsnips in a dessert? This warm spicy cake is nothing more than a variation on carrot cake and the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting is more than just sweet—it has deep and nutty flavor.

Grease an 8-inch round baking pan, line with a sheet of wax or parchment paper cut to fit, and set aside.

Mix the flour, spices, salt, and baking powder to blend. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil until smooth and blended.

Mix in the flour, parsnips, and walnuts until just blended and no spots of flour are visible. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350°F.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting. Melt the butter over medium heat, until it foams, the solids begin to separate, and it takes on a light brown color and a nutty aroma. Keep an eye out, it can burn quickly. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft. Keep beating and blend in the salt, sugar, and the brown butter, including the solids. Beat until smooth and blended.

To assemble the cake, let it cool in the pan for five minutes, then unmold it to cool completely. Once the cake has cooled, split it into two layers and spread the frosting between the layers.

Editor’s Note: Want more of Kaufman’s Kitchen? Find more of Sheilah’s culinary treats at www.cookingwithsheilah.com.