I recently read “Stir” by Jessica Fechtor where she recounts her recovery at a very young twenties age from a brain aneurism. Her reflections on emerging from a life-threatening illness through food were captivating. The writing is spritely and inspiring. Plus there were 27 recipes and she grew up on the East Side of Cleveland, which is where I am from. I’d love to know where but she doesn’t say exactly. An added bonus was that she quoted MJK Fisher, one of my favorite authors.
About MFK Fisher, she says that the writer published in one of her books in 1942, “How to Cook a Wolf” that her readers should approach the stove with all the powers of one’s heart and mind. It’s essentially a story about courage and faith, which inspired Ms Fechtor.
Further on Jessica writes that recovery from a serious illness is an incremental process. She says that you take small steps and that “one bright day there is moment when you can decide. Suddenly it’s up to you, your body is willing and you know with stunning clarity what you want to get back”.
While I enjoyed all the recipes in the book and thought for a while about cooking a cake she writes about from Cleveland, the three pages of explanation of how to make this concoction proved to be just too complicated. Instead I chose a simpler recipe which she describes as where cooking started for her, creating an awareness that food is more than food. Nestled in a fluted tart pan laden with toasted almonds, tons of butter and topped with sliced almonds and sugar, nothing could be easier or prettier. It’s a rich cake with a tender crumb. Friends and family will love it.
Butter Almond Cake
Courtesy of Jessica Fechtor by way of the Columbus, Ohio Dispatch
3 heaping tbs sliced almonds
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
1 ½ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tbs for topping
2 large eggs
1 ½ tsp each vanilla and almond extracts
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
Optional: I don't like almond extract so simply doubled the amount of almonds and stirred most of them into the batter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 in. fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Toast almonds in a single layer in the heating oven for 5-7 minute. Watch carefully as they will burn if left unattended.
Whisk the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs one at time, while continuing to whisk. Add the extracts and salt. Fold in the flour till just combined.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and scatter the toasted almonds on top. Add a pinch of sea salt and the tbs of sugar. Bake 35 minutes until the cake takes on a fairly rosy color and a tester comes out clean. Cool 10-15 minutes then ease the cake out of the pan to cool completely. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.