Pumpkin Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

Pumpkin Chocolate Olive Oil Cake collage_pumpkinchococakePumpkin Chocolate Olive Oil Cake Pumpkin Chocolate Olive Oil CakePumpkin Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

I’m writing about this lovely pumpkin olive oil chocolate cake from my new kitchen in London. Now, if I lift my head from the computer screen and glimpse at the little back garden just outside the kitchen door I see a quintessentially English photogram. The weather is cloudy, a bit gloomy, chilly but not cold. There’s a mild wind that makes the vine growing along the wooden fence bounce and dance – a slow waltz, maybe. Earlier I saw a squirrel jumping over onto our portion of pebbles. I suspect it’s hiding its acorns in our yard, but I might need to investigate further.

It feels good to be here. This autumn feeling has a soothing effect on me – it slows my pace, makes me more focused. I have skipped this season twice this year. Now I realise that I missed wishing for the comfort of a woollen blanket, of a pot of stew bubbling on the stove for the good part of an afternoon. I now have many such days to look forward to here. Which is why, so as not to arrive unprepared, with me I brought a few recipes to match the spirit of the upcoming season. Long braises and spiced cakes I am eager to try.

But first, this cake.

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Ottolenghi’s Chocolate Babka (Krantz)

We have been lucky this year, they say. Two full months and more of really good weather. It has been indeed a marvellous season. Perhaps exactly for this reason, or maybe because I
spent most of it working or having a good time, it literally slipped from my hands.

These empty hands I have, I am trying to fill with something which feels like a project. I try to line up thoughts, ideas, and bits of inspiration that only idle time outdoor could give me, and finally sit down to build something new. More than January and the actual start of the year, it is autumn the perfect time to give me purpose; September the month which marks a new beginning.

As the days become considerably shorter, and the mist and the wind and the rain awake me from my midsummer dream, I retire back in the cosy warmth of a home heated by an oven. Weekends are no longer occasions for spending time outside – being it playing tourists at home, or lounging in the park, going to a festival or crossing town to enjoy some street food at one of the many amazing markets. Rather, free days are consumed inside, giving time to long-neglected activities which required more attention than the summer version of myself could possibly give. One of these is baking – the other, writing.

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Strawberries and Cream French Toast

This is one for the lazy, indulgent weekend breakfast – a French toast featuring some plump late-spring strawberries and dollop of crème fraiche.

The strawberries have been simply roasted with a little sugar to enhance their natural sweetness. I also used day-old sourdough bread instead of brioche, but feel free to go with your favourite vessel.

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Venetian Raisin Buns

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Raisin buns appear in some of my sweetest childhood memories. Every now and then, Mum would buy me one at the local bakery. I was then allowed to have it for breakfast the morning after, slathered with jam. Small or big, round or long, I loved them to bits. That sort of breakfast was (and still is) truly unbeatable.

These raisin buns are far from fancy. They are just bundles of buttery, milky dough studded with raisins and glazed with some egg wash to make them golden on top. And yet, they hit all my soft spots, not least because they are never too sweet and can act as a vessel for some moreish toppings – butter and jam, surely, but also ricotta and honey, or even cheese and ham.

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Coconut Loaf Cake

 There is a deep need for rest in these days. Rest from work, duties, manners, social constraints, voices, noises, people, crowds, rush hours, public transports, high streets. There is a deep need for empty, hilly streets at dusk, bird noises, a little apartment that smells of cinnamon and baking bread, a couch, some lit candles in every room and nothing else. A deep need for neutrality: no sound, no color. A deep need for inner peace and inner brightness when everything gets too dark too early.

I find myself longing for solitude, and pure emptiness. For much that I got to know and yes, to love this city, sometimes I ache, I feel overwhelmed, I find myself panting, reaching for fresh air and hidden corners. I try to close my eyes and blank my mind and I can see the task getting harder and harder. Am I alone in this? Am I the strange one, the outsider?

I find relief in my empty kitchen, in an empty afternoon when nobody is home and I can free myself completely. The simple gestures of gathering bowls and measuring cups, ingredients and notes, aligning them on the table, turning on the oven solace my bewildered mind. I think, not free from guilt, that I could do something else instead, perhaps something more suitable to my age or my current location. But I chase these thoughts as I focus on measuring the ingredients, on following cooking instructions. My mind blanks as I pursue my goal of simply baking something, anything, as long as it fills my mind with silence and keeps my hands busy.

A coconut loaf has been in my plans for months and I simply felt its moment had come. Its purity, its triune coconut-y essence, its perfect synthesis of flavors, its light colored nature donated comfort and warmth to a lonely, happily lonely, or w happily-in-two-maximum afternoon, a time when everybody writes, or naps, or reads and no small talk breaks this peace.

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