I looked at my old list and grumbled to myself. Two resolutions for 2010 were still unchecked and with only a few hours left there just wasn't any way to finish them up. "How could I have let this happen?" I moaned to myself in dissatisfaction.
I always prided myself on being so diligent in actually accomplishing my resolutions. I never picked anything outlandish; say lose 30 pounds in a week or learn to fluently speak Korean by Spring. My lists are practical. In college, 2001, I made the resolution to learn to do do the splits and preform a back flip. Twelve months later after joining the gymnastics club I had those both pinned down as well as a sharp layout with a half-turn that I could fight crime with given a portable trampoline and a domino mask. When I stated I would learn how to make puff pastry and Italian and Swiss buttercream this past year, damn it, I went to an Advanced Pastry class got it down. Plus, I came away with basic sugar sculpture, too! Bonus!
I feel that creating a to-do list for the year is important. It gives you goals to strive towards. Ideals to obtain and perfect. Tasks to keep you in motion because it is far too easy to slip into an idle state. They encourage self-growth and exploration.
Still, this year, I didn't knock out my entire resolution list. Mind you, it wasn't like I was kicking the dirt. I was active. Probably too active. Plus, I had mitigating circumstances. The fire killed a few months of the year. The internship at Grange surely took away a month of time to really check anything off. Let's not even mention the bevy of extra writing jobs I took on. I was busy! I have valid excuses.
Or so I tell myself. My list really was doable:
- Learn to make macarons.
- Learn to make puff pastry.
- Learn to make beef bourguignon.
- Vacation outside the country.
- Do a baking internship.
- Learn to read tea leaves, really, this time.
- Get some really sick furniture to replace the stuff lost after fire.
- Make Dorie's cranberry upside-down cake
The baking internship? Man, I busted my hump at Grange and came away with an entirely new skill set and a new found respect for the restaurant and baking industries. This one took planning, sacrifice, and determination. I'm a better man for it. Check.
Yes, I did learn to read tea leaves. Tasseography is something I have dabbled with simply out of curiosity over the years. I'm not the superstitious lot in the slightest but I saw the concept of reading tea leaves as something akin to tai-chi or yoga but without the spandex and sweating at five in the morning. As it is, I prefer to sleep in and wake up late to a cup of tea. If I can caffinate and center myself at the same time then I'm good to go.
As for the furniture, well, after I got my insurance check from the fire West Elm and Scandinavian Designs were my personal candy stores. Seriously, the cream micro-suede chair in my living room is boss. I don't even care if white furniture is a pain to clean. I love it.
But macarons and the darn bourguignon... I admit. I could have done these had I taken the time to find time. These were potential posts or writing assignments. The bourguignon could have been a simple dinner party dish. The macarons a treat for a birthday or Christmas! Alas, things just get away sometimes.
The last one on the list though, that cranberry upside-down cake, is the one I want to talk about.
You've probably heard the spiel from other bakers. I love Dorie. When I got to meet her at BlogHer and was able to get advice, gossip, and drink with her I fell in love with her even more. Dorie is the type of person all people should strive to be: warm, giving, energetic, sage, and absolutely hilarious.
Her recipes are also spot-on. Everything I've ever tried of hers just seems to come out perfectly. When I looked through her Baking cookbook, a 2009 Christmas gift from Elise, the cranberry upside-down cake caught my eye. As a total cranberry crazy I decided that I wanted to make that for Christmas dinner at the end of the year.
Upside-down cranberry cake? Check.
The cake is absolutely stunning. Its mosaic tile appearance in moody burgundy and bright ruby hues makes for a cake that impresses everyone you serve it to. I used pecans instead of walnuts as the recipe indicated simply because it was what I had on hand, but the textural result was the same. The pecans added a toothsome crunch between the soft cake and juicy cranberries. I added a bit of orange bitters to the batter for a little more depth and dimension; a bittersweet suite in the cake. All and all, it was a resounding success of a New Year's resolution and a tasteful way to wrap up 2010.
The thing is, many people see resolutions as silly things that don't have any meaning or purpose. Usually these are the people who pay $400 for a gym membership and stop using it come March. You have to take the time to develop goals and resolutions that have real purpose in your life. Not only that but you have to make a plan on how you will address your resolutions. Create a timetable and mini-goals for achieving them and keep them practical. Whether it's a cake or climbing a mountain, you can do it.
So then, what does 2011 hold for me? Well, here are my resolutions:
- Learn to play mahjong.
- Learn to make beef bourguignon.
- Learn to make macarons.
- Finish the thesis.
- Burn a copy of the finished thesis out of spite.
- Start that project with Stephanie.
- Perfect making crepes.
If you're writing them now or already made your resolutions I encourage you to add this cake. It's easy to prepare, is a perky dish to brighten up the darker months, and is destined to become part of your regular baking repertoire. A perfect resolution for 2011.
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's, Baking
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 cups cranberries - fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon orange bitters
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup apricot jelly
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
2. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and sprinkle in 6 tablespoons of the sugar and cook, stirring until it comes to a boil. Pour into a 8x2-inch circular pan. Scatter nuts and cranberries into the pan and press into place.
3. Beat butter on medium speed in a stand mixer for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 30 seconds each and being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom. Add the bitters and mix in for 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and add 1/2 the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, Add the milk and mix in. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Pour batter over cranberries and level the top.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and run a kinfe around the sides. Carefully turn the cake out onto a plate. If some of the cranberries or pecans stick to the pan scrape them out and place them on the cake.
5. Warm the jelly on the stovetop and brush onto the cake. Serve.