This year, with my second cookbook Simply Ancient Grains, I have come to accept that I will never be a real blogger. And by that I mean someone who is comfortable sharing about what happens in their lives as it happens. Not just the pretty things but every-things. Their health and sickness, their love life and job challenges, their rebellious kids, and more. In short, all the good and bad apples life throws your way.
I simply can’t. Not because I don’t want to. I’d love to. But I can’t. I censor my inner life all the time. And I have finally come to accept that I can’t change that. Why? Because this year I’ve learned a most surprising thing about myself. Something that many people who have met me would dispute. Including probably some of you, readers.
I have learned that, to a large extent, I am an introvert. I draw my inspiration from long periods of reading, writing, and being in my test kitchen. On any given day, I am happy to interact with merely the Greek basil plant in the yard and the occasional bunny that drops by to chew our all-organic lawn. I do work through life’s many challenges by talking to my husband, my family, and close friends. But that’s about it.
This realization was life-changing. I feel comfortable writing this now because it explains so much about me that I have wondered about in these digital times. When everyone seems to be sharing everything all the time, I am comfortable to share something only when looking back—after I’ve had some time to reflect on it, chew it over, and think it through.
How did I find out? During a cookbook event this year with local chef Ana Sortun at her splendid Sofra Bakery. When I told her that I am much more at ease sharing pictures on Instagram than chatting on Twitter or Facebook, she looked at me for a split second before blurting out, you are an introvert! To which I replied, huh? This is when it hit me. She was right on. While I am a super-lively and outgoing person at book events or when partying with friends, I find these interactions exhausting. Not because I don’t enjoy them but because by nature I seek quiet. And while I can talk on and on about grains, endlessly and enthusiastically, I need to go home and let my mind come to rest after each event. For a while.
This explains why I’ve taken to Instagram like a teenager. I have always loved photography, and as a young journalist I took my camera everywhere but never really thought about why I loved it so much. Now I know better.
That’s why I invite you to follow me on Instagram @mariaspeck where I post more often than here, and expect only an occasional blog post here.
And to celebrate this newly found piece of personal insight, I’m sharing an easy skillet cake for fall. I have always loved the simplicity of skillet cakes since I started working in my own kitchen years ago in Germany. A Martha Stewart recipe on Leite’s Culinaria this summer was my starting point.
Instead of all-purpose flour, I prepare my cake using golden whole-grain Kamut flour—I mill it fresh. I use more fruit and less sugar than the original recipe which is easy because good grain flours such as ancient Kamut wheat are naturally sweet. This is a moist cake with a beautiful crumb, and it was devoured each time I tested a variation. Not just by the adults around the table but also by all the kids. And by my father-in-law. I mention him here because he has the sweetest tooth I have ever met. Still, he loved this not-so-sweet cake. I consider this a compliment to the power of good grains and freshly milled whole grain flours.
I plan to post on milling grains soon, or so I hope. In the meantime, you can find me standing proudly in front of my German tabletop mill on my Instagram feed. Stay tuned.
Love, yours truly, the introvert.
On my blog, I will be using the following recipe style from now on: I group the ingredients together that are typically used together. This is how I mark up my own printouts when testing recipes in my kitchen—it enables me to see at a glance what belongs into one step or into one bowl. Let me know what you think.
125 g whole grain whole grain Kamut flour, freshly millet
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
55 gram butter (1/2 stick/regular), plus extra for the skillet
125 g cane sugar (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
1 large egg, at room temperature
125 g (slightly heaped 1/2 cup) low-fat yogurt, well beaten
275 g (about 2 medium plums) plus 100 g (1/2 cup small dark seedless grapes)
15 g (2 tablespoons) lightly toasted pine nuts, for sprinkling
1 tablespoon Turbinado, for sprinkling
Heavy whipping or vanilla ice cream, to serve
1 Preheat the oven to 350 F and place a rack into the center. Butter a 8-, 9-, or 10-inch cast-iron skillet, and dust it with flour.
2 In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole-grain Kamut flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a different medium bowl, and using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the sides as needed. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half the yogurt. Repeat, and end with the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat for 30 seconds on medium speed to blend.
3 Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared skillet and smooth the top. Arrange the plums slices on top, fanning them out and gently pressing them into the batter. Scatter the grapes across and into the empty spaces, again gently pressing them in. Don’t worry about the looks of it, as I often do—it always comes out splendid as the fruit sink in and settle into a rustic pattern. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and the Turbinado sugar.
4 Bake until the surface is golden and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes for a 10-inch skillet (up to 10 minutes longer for smaller skillets). The fruit will beautifully sink into the cake.
5 Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, before cutting into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.