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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's Pecan Day!

Don't get all "nutty" on me now. I know that sliver of Nectarine Pecan Cake above looks refreshingly Pecanolicious! However, it's gleaned from a back issue of Chocolatier Magazine. It was photographed by New Jersey photographer John Paul Endress. (see all resources below) I'm not sure if you've heard or not but since publication of this issue of Chocolatier in 1989, the magazine has been blended into another publication called Dessert Professional Magazine which also just so happens to have a website; dessertprofessional.com. As for the Nectarine Pecan Cake oh my, oh my, its recipe was contributed by none other than Pastry Chef; Jim Dodge. Do you have a copy of The American Baker on your culinary bookshelf? If you do, then I'm confident you have been "properly" introduced to the New Hampshire born recipient of the 1988 James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Award; Jim Dodge.

Since opening the Pendexter Mansion, a hotel in New Hampshire, in 1794, the Dodge family has been in the hospitality business for seven generations. Jim Dodge, who cut his teeth at his parents’ resort, the Inn at Steele Hill and Squam Lakes Club, was no exception. But he took a different tack, moving from hotelier to chef after he met Swiss chef Fritz Albicker while working at Wentworth-by-the-Sea. Dodge worked in the kitchen at Albicker’s Strawberry Court in Portsmouth before moving to the West Coast, where he spent ten years as executive pastry chef at San Francisco’s Stanford Court. He set up shop in Hong Kong in the early 1990s with the American Pie, a restaurant and pastry shop, eventually developing a second location and a wholesale bakery. Back in the States, Dodge was as busy as ever: appearing on In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, acting as Senior Vice President at the New England Culinary Institute, and working as the Director of Food Services at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Among his many cookbooks are Baking with Jim Dodge, and the 1988 James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Award-winning The American Baker. Today, Dodge works for Bon Appétit, a restaurant management company committed to socially responsible practices, in Los Angeles. source

Just this morning, I was visiting Mary Ann's blog Meet Me in the Kitchen when I became "breathless" over her latest recipe post for S'mores Lava Cakes. I know I should be getting on with Pecan Day recipe post, I mean really, how much longer should I ask you to "hang on" for Nectarine Pecan Cake? Would you mind if I just asked you to wait a few more minutes while I tell you a quick story? Thanks...

You may be surprised to learn I actually baked the recipe for Nectarine Pecan Cake way back in 1989. I know, I'm always reminding and whining about how I dream about baking so many of the tempting recipes I encounter when visiting blogs such as Mary Ann's. Fact is, I have an allergic reaction when I touch flour. Not only am I allergic to flour, I have a very unusual reaction to most silky soft powdery things such as, cornstarch, baby powder, confectioners' sugar and chalk. Admittedly, it's a rather strange phenomenon. The cornstarch and baby flour backlash is barely acceptable however, the flour reception often leaves my hands burning and itching. Quite frankly, I often cringe at the thought of these ingredients in their raw form, although, I probably should reconsider more often than I do but, this hypersensitivity to fine powdery substances does not make me overenthusiastic about baking. In any case, in steps Jim Dodge.

Like most culinary magazines, Chocolatier offered commentary with many of their articles. The fine Nectarine Pecan Cake cooking class article by chocolate expert, Janice Wald Henderson, was no exception...You may want to check the local library for her book The New Cuisine of Hawaii: Recipes from the Twelve Celebrated Chefs of Hawaii Regional Cuisine which I believe is out of print. (I'm pretty sure Jim Dodge's The American Baker is also out of print) Not only did the article give step by step directions for preparing the cake, (which by the way I won't be scanning the steps today; just the recipe) it also provided a glimpse of the personal triumphs and obstacles Mr. Dodge has had to adjust to in his professional career. From the 1989 article:

...Ask Jim Dodge, one of this country's most acclaimed bakers. He can tell you all about unusual problems standing in the way of success. This famed dessert maker is, indeed, allergic to flour.

"It took me a long time to figure out my problem," he confesses over breakfast. Jim pushes aside his coffee cup and grins, "I couldn't stay in the pastry shop. I'd get chills from sneezing so much. Finally, I made the connection and went to an allergist. Now I take medication, so I can deal with it."

The entire Chocolatier article is compelling enough to repeat but alas, the magazine is worth a search. As a matter of fact, you may remember the Chocolate Snowball recipe I posted about from this same edition. (the link goes straight to the recipe) So inspiring was the Jim Dodge article, it gave me the courage to attempt my hand at creating the recipe for "fellow" colleagues who were "dropping" in for a Spring Fling. Although the presentation was not as picture perfect as above, the recipe only called for 1/3 cup of cake flour for the Genoise and 2-1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar for the rum buttercream. I muddled through. I'm sure my hesitation these days, is impart "mind over matter" and my lack of complete and utter need to bake such sinful creations, though it was a nice reminder to myself that I have indeed, overcome the fear when so inclined to do more then "window shop."

Ms. Henderson describes the Nectarine Pecan Cake "Delicious, not difficult, is the operative word." (click to enlarge)

This dessert--comprised of buttery crisp wafers, moist genoise, fresh nectarines and rum buttercream--is a striking example of Jim's deep understanding of harmony among ingredients. The cake is presented with nectarine rum sauce; despite its subtlety, it clerverly accentuates the cake's star ingredients. Jim exhuberantly launches into the logic behind the dessert. He chose nectarines because few people know how to incorporate them into baked desserts. "I devised the wafers to add buttery crispness. They balance the drier crunch of the pecans. The rum contributes warmth. It awakens all the flavors of the dessert...

Sadly, I no longer have my copy of The American Baker. It was quite a few years before I picked off that book on my bookshelf and I thought it a shame for such simple straight forward recipes to not be appreciated by someone who does not have such an aversion to baking. It is now in the non-allergic hands of my daughter, Michele.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit for Pecan Day. I will be sharing more recipes for Pecan Month in April. A funny thing happened last year when I celebrated Pecan Day with Nanaimo Bars, I actually did the post in April because I had forgotten to document the reason why Pecan Day was in March. Thankfully, this year I did find quite informative documentation for why we celebrate Pecan Day in March. It comes from Vegetarians in Paradise which, quite frankly is, an awesomely informative website. Absolutely worth the trip if only to discover the medicinal properties of pecans. (trying to control cholesterol?)

In one of his horticultural endeavors, Thomas Jefferson transplanted some pecan trees from the Mississippi Valley to his home in Monticello. At that time he presented some of the trees to George Washington who planted them on March 25, 1775 at his Mount Vernon home. Washington referred to pecans as "Mississippi nuts." Three of those original trees still thrive on the property at Mount Vernon. The pecan was a favorite nut of both presidents, who frequently snacked on handfuls of them. In fact, George Washington was said to carry pecans in his pocket frequently.

One more reason to celebrate today; It's International Waffle Day! I didn't "Waffle" Around last year for International Waffle Day. I just dropped off a few quick recipes from Aunt Jemima and included a recipe for Praline Sauce. Here's the image link for the recipes if you don't have time to visit now. And, here's the link for the post which is actually really short. There's also a recipe for Nanaimo Bars and pecan links over at the Pecan Month post I did last year.

Resources
1. John Paul Endress
2. Chocolate Almond Cake (Jim Dodge)

12 comments:

  1. Now, I'm confused what to celebrate. Perhaps Waffles with Pecans would be the best choice?

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  2. Praline Waffles sound good to me, T.W.

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  3. I'm in for the waffles. But I had them yesterday. Oops! :)

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  4. Hi Maryann,
    I know this is a silly question but, heated leftover waffles make a wonderful blanket for ice cream. Don't you think?

    Yes, duckie, we're talking waffles and pecans. YUM!

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  5. Candied spiced pecans.
    Hot and sweet.
    Can't be beat.
    And so elite!

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  6. Pecans are delicious, I love them in icecream...Hmmmm Butter Pecan!
    ~Jenna

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  7. Allergic to flours?
    What a bad thing to be.
    What about nut dust?

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  8. I actaully have a few issues of Chocaltier Magzine. Its great.After almonds and hazelnuts, I have to say Pecans are a fav.

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  9. :) cute Karen, cute:)

    Hmmm...Butter Pecan Yum! Jen:)

    Hi Karin, I've only used nut flours for breading and I haven't had any problems with it. But then, I don't usually touch it in raw form.

    Yum! Hazelnuts! Glamah:)

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  10. Too bad you have problems with flour and cornstartch etc. Using crushed nuts as a base for a pie is great. Pecans and peaches go good teogether, Your pictures make me hungry.

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  11. That's exactly what I do, Florida Life I use all kinds of goodies as a substitute for pie crust. So many, I could probably write a book!!!

    Thanks for visiting...

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