So much of my life is built around dealing with uncertainty.
I try not to overthink things, but generally I do. And then I often overcompensate by leaping blindly into something that could be either stupid or pleasant depending on chance and circumstance.
The trick is always turning around and having a pie or a salad or a lamb stew that is solid and there and unquestionably worth my time and focus. I can chew and relax and here I equate myself to a goat or perhaps even a voracious child in our mutual attention towards filling our stomachs.
Perhaps it's unhealthy, imagining food, and its preparation, as a kind of meditation. Perhaps it's merely a mechanism to find some kind of control when other parts of our (my) lives (life) seem to be looping into the netherlands of insanity.
Regardless, I often ground myself with food. Last week, I needed something to bring thoughts of stress of uncertainty and perhaps you could even call it general malaise to the back of my brain, and so I disconnected by way of molasses, ginger and apples.
There are few things that I can imagine to be as comforting as a spiced apple cake in fall. Warm, dripping with molasses infused caramel syrup, and full of the bold flavors of ginger and cinnamon, this cake was cockle-warming (as they say), and was hefty enough to spill over the edges of even our largest plate.
It took time to chop the apples, although they still were haphazardly shaped and by no means of equal thickness. It took a moment of concentration to level the flour in the measuring cup, to scrape the molasses out of it's cozy jar, to level the spices against one another.
When out of the oven, the cake was a dark as my mood had been earlier in the day. But the aroma quickly won me over: thick with that sharp ginger and baked apple, tempered by the heady molasses, I could almost see tendrils of scent creeping towards my nostrils in a cartoon seduction dance.
It oozed with cakey-confidence, knowing it could take up as much space as it wanted in this world. Because after all, cakes are lovable from all angles, and very much certain about where they stand relative to goats, children, and me: perpetually irresistible.
Apple Upside-Down Cake with Ginger and Molasses
from The New York Times
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar
3-4 apples (weighing about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs) peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch wedges
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark molasses
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
whipped cream (optional)
1) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease the rim only of a 10 inch cake pan with 1 tbsp butter, then drop the rest of the butter in the pan and set it over a very low flame. Add the brown sugar and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with the apple slices in any pattern you like, overlapping the edges of the apples (I didn't use all of mine). Chop extra apple pieces to fill in any holes.
2) Beat the remaining butter and the sugar until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, molasses, and buttermilk. In a third bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
3) Alternate beating the dry and wet mixture into the butter until all is incorporated. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45-55 minutes. Let cool about 15 minutes, then turn it over onto a large platter, being careful not to burn yourself with hot syrup.
4) Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream if you like.