Tuesday, July 3, 2012

plum crazy over bundts

When you have temperatures in the 100s for several days in a row, and no end in sight, you can't help but feel a little lethargic after a while.  Todd and I find ourselves wilting by early afternoon and have succumbed to daily naps for fortification.

We aren't the only ones drooping.  Upstairs it's hot...

...and downstairs it's hot.

And, of course, it's hot outside.  Todd thought this spread-eagled squirrel was dead at first.  No, just passed out from the heat on our front steps.  Poor little guy!

The extreme temperatures are forcing some things to go to seed prematurely, like my larkspur.

Larkspur seeds are tucked tidily into long, narrow pods...

They don't release easily, but it only took me 30 minutes to empty my collected pods into a plastic bag for next year's sowing.

My Bells of Ireland finally got over their weak-stemmed start and have grown tall and strong.  I like Bells of Ireland because of their unusual look and their color.

Another great them about them is how easily water collects in the flower reservoirs.  This is perfect for insects suffering from the drought. 

We seem to have a yellow jacket nest in the yard somewhere, because they're always around, taking advantage of the water I spray on leaves and flowers...

...and in the bird bath.

As a matter of fact, I've noticed something strange this summer.  Almost no grasshoppers, spiders, katydids, or butterflies in the yard like a normal year, but lots of bees and wasps.  Strange.  Still, I enjoy the daily acrobatics of the carpenters bees...

...and the honey bees.

Another strange thing with our hot weather:  the fruit trees are ripening prematurely.  My friend's plum tree is dropping plums faster than she can pick them.  I picked for just a few minutes and came away with ten pounds of ripe plums.

Plums have such a pretty color.

I liked having the plums sitting around, looking pretty...

...but when it came to actually cooking with them, I balked.  I had planned to make a big batch of plum jam, but it took so long to peel and pit each plum.  I ended up making a plum crisp and giving most of the rest away.

I recently tried a project I'd read about on-line.  I always need more plant stakes because mine get faded, lost, or broken.  I found a way to make my own easily.

First, I gathered up some rubber stamps.

I bought some polymer clay - the kind you bake. 

With my coupons, I was about to get a 2 pound box for just over $5.  Score!!  It only took two small sections of Sculpey to make my tags.

Sculpey has a stiff, plastic feel to it.  You have to break it off in small pieces and manipulate it with your hands.  Soon it will loosen up into a Play-Doh-like consistency.  I rolled mine out and used a pizza cutter to make rows.

Then, I stamped the plant names firmly into the clay.

I used the pizza cutter to make pointed bottoms - easier for sticking into the dirt.

Then I baked them at a low temperature for a few minutes.  They weren't rock-hard like I expected, but I think it's good that they've got a little bend to them...they won't break as easily.

I had so much fun playing with Sculpey that I quickly stamped out a little tag for a friend's son that has just discovered Bon Jovi.  He's home by 4 p.m., hence the clock:

I'm knitting again, too, but don't have anything to show quite yet!

Despite the heat, I've been baking a lot, and it's because I discovered the Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.  Lovely old-fashioned sugar- and fat-laden recipes from a Savannah bakery.  I've made three desserts from the cookbook, each better than the last. Trust me - these desserts are amazing.  The one I'm showcasing today is a brown sugar bundt cake with a kind of caramelized brown sugar glaze.  I made it for Todd, but my sister and I ended up cutting into it hours before he came home and proclaimed it the best bundt cake ever.  Sweet, rich, and with a slight kick from the cardamom...sigh!

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake
very slightly adapted from Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
Makes one bundt cake

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 sticks of butter (1 pound), slightly softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

7 tablespoons butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour a ten inch bundt pan and set it aside.  Cream sugar and butter together until whipped, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture, alternating with the Greek yogurt, and mix for an additional minute.

Fill bundt pan with mixture and tap firmly to ensure that you don't have any air bubbles.  Bake until golden brown, about an hour.  After it's done, let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

While it's cooling, make your glaze.  Mix glaze ingredients together in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Whisk steadily until mixture thickens a bit.  For me, that took around 15 minutes, and it was still quite thin.  Don't worry, it will thicken more after you remove it from the heat.

Ladle over cake...

Cut a slice...

...and prepare yourself for a little piece of Heaven.

Hope you'll try it this week - it's worth turning on the oven for!


  1. for plums: slice in half and pit. place on a cookie sheet, sprinkle a tad of brown sugar on top. (or not) and bake at 400 until they mush. scrape into a bowl and stir. the peels pretty much dissolve leaving you with a glorious plum jam/sauce. sweeten more to taste. strain through a sieve if you want to go the extra mile. freeze or can. both work great. amazing stuff!