I try my hardest not to waste food. Whenever I have stale bread, I pulverize it in my food processor, store the crumbs in the freezer, and voila, fresh bread crumbs when I need them. I save the rinds from hard cheeses and add them to the pot of soup or polenta that I’m stirring up. When I accumulate enough chicken wing tips, necks and backbones, I make chicken stock. When we lived in our previous house, we used to "compost" all our fruit and vegetable scraps by burying them in various unused spots in our backyard. Unfortunately, the yard in our current house is too small and we can’t afford to leave parts unplanted like we did in our previous place. Luckily, San Francisco has a great compost program and will pick up all food waste (as well as used dinner napkins, waxed coated paper containers like milk cartons, pizza boxes) from the residents.
Every baker has a "kitchen sink" cookie where they add all the half used bags of chocolate, fruit and nuts accumulated over time. And who hasn’t turned overripe bananas into banana bread or muffins? So when I had some cranberries, pumpkin puree, and sugared almonds left over from Thanksgiving, I had the perfect recipe to use them up – a pumpkin upside-down cake with a cranberry topping from Emily Luchetti, executive pastry chef at Farallon restaurant in downtown San Francisco and James Beard nominated cookbook author.
I love all things pumpkin but the cranberry and nut topping really transforms this simple cake into a superstar. I love the tartness of the cranberries with the sweet brown sugar topping and the fragrant cinnamon spiced pumpkin cake. The recipe calls for pecans but I used both pecans and some sugared almond slices I had leftover from another dessert. I don’t think the sliced almonds worked in this case. Coarsely chopped or slivered almonds would have been much better. In any case, it felt good to use up what I had in the refrigerator and the results were quite good.
Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake with Cranberry Pecan Topping
(from "A Passion for Dessert" by Emily Luchetti)
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 cups cranberries
4 ounces (1 cups) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and sides of the pan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth. Pour into the bottom of your prepared pan.
In a bowl, combine cranberries and pecans. Sprinkle the cranberries and pecans evenly over the brown sugar mixture in your pan. Set aside while you make the batter.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Carefully pour batter over the cranberry pecan topping and gently spread the batter evenly.
Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then invert cake onto a serving platter and carefully remove the parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before serving.
Husband and I are off to Seattle for a little vacation. No work, no internet, just some R&R. I'll be back soon!