Noted Naramata artist Dennis Evans unveiled his latest work at an exhibition entitled Messengers last evening. Hauntingly beautiful, Evans has captured the unique resonance of Naramata in these 14 major works.
“When the iconic jazz saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane, visited Nagasaki, his guide found him on the train playing a flute,” Evans says. “The man asked Coltrane, ‘why are you playing the flute?’ He answered, ‘I’m trying to find the sound of Nagasaki.”
Evans has found the sound of Naramata and its sacred resonance in this body of work. Anchored by his Celtic ancestry, the artist has imbedded Celtic images into his landscape paintings.
“It’s my way of communicating a special resonance with the land and communicating this connection to the viewer,” he says. “It’s an invitation to the viewer to meditate on the universal bond between nature and humanity and what we define as our sense of place.”
The Celtic symbol appears in sharp focus in some works or it subtly emerges or recedes into the landscape in others. The symbols connect with the sky, the earth and everything in between. Evans says the image is intended to highlight the non-physical aspect of the landscape or the landscape whispering to the painter.
Messengers is Evans’ second instalment in his quest to capture, visually, the unique resonance of a particular place. It follows on from Songs in the Landscape which also exhibited at Leir House in the fall of 2016.
A life-long artist, Dennis has the good fortune or as he would interpret it, fate, to end up in a place that speaks to him. Having moved from Calgary to Naramata a decade ago, he says,” I am much more connected to the landscape here. Pretty much all my landscapes are within walking distance of the studio. I have enough inspiration in Naramata to last a lifetime.”
What’s special about Naramata? “We didn’t really know how amazing it really is until we landed here,” says Dennis. “It has an aura about it. I don’t know if it is because it’s isolated being at the end of the road as it is. It was also special to the First Nations people. They didn’t live here but came to the area for their ceremonies. It’s also home to a proportionally large number of artists, which must be for a reason, and home to an incredible concentration of unique individuals.”
Messengers will be exhibited at Leir House in Penticton until February 16th and most of the works are for sale.
Evans’ wife Patricia Evans read some of her poetry at the opening including this piece which perfectly suited the ambiance created by the art, music, hospitality and the warmth of the historic Leir House:
For a fleeting time every June, around the time of the summer solstice, the setting sun lines up to shine its dying rays through the Kettle Valley Railway’s Little Tunnel, above the Village of Naramata. Photogenic on any day of the year, this tunnel engineered by Andrew McCulloch more than 100 years was blasted out of a rock cliff that hangs dramatically over the Okanagan Lake.
The summer solstice, June 21st, is the longest days of the year for anyone living north of the equator and marks the beginning of summer. If pagan rituals are your thing, how cool would hiking up (or driving) to the tunnel to mark the occasion be?
No one really knows why Stonehengewas built some 5,000 years ago. But one possibility is that it was used to mark solstices and equinoxes. That’s because during the summer solstice, the sun rises just over the structure’s Heel Stone and hits the Altar Stone dead centre. I wonder if McCulloch knew about the solstice magic he created? Bring your camera. Preserved Light‘s Caillum Smith often offers photography workshops at Little Tunnel during the solstice. If you go, don’t touch the tunnel walls when the sun’s rays pierce through it as you will likely be transported through the stone and back in time and find yourself in the middle of the Battle of Culloden. Right?
2. We Love our Public Art
Although I don’t want to reveal the exact location of this amazing art to help preserve it, Naramata has some very special rocks. Some of the most intriguing images of Canadian rock art or pictographs are painted on cliffs in interior British Columbia. The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia was the traditional territory of the Interior Salish peoples, hunters and gatherers who followed a seasonal migration. Their material culture was simple and easily transportable, and they had very little impact on their environment. They did leave behind one sign of their presence however – their paintings on stone, or pictographs.
Painted in red ochres, iron oxides mixed with clay, the designs were applied with fingers or sticks and were thought to be painted by teenagers as part of their puberty rituals or by adults painting images from dreams.
3. We Aren’t Afraid of the Dark
A big part of the appeal of Naramata is what we don’t have such as no fast-food outlets, no traffic lights, no industrial development and very few streetlights. It’s dark at night, inky black in some spots and this is rare today and valuable.
Star gazing, Northern Lights watching and awareness of the phases of the moon are a special part of life here and should not be undervalued according to Elizabeth Griffin, Visiting Astronomer at the NRC, and also Member of the Light Pollution Committee, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Victoria Centre. “Light pollution affects astronomy in a big way. Stars are faint and distant and the scattered light from our cities makes them hard to see. Observation now requires costly equipment in remote locations,” she says. “All this light is bad for us as well. We don’t sleep as well when its not dark meaning we have less melatonin that we need to repair our bodies. Light pollution damages sensitive eco-systems like those of insects and birds, and eventually damages the whole bio-system upon which we depend for food.”
(This helps explain why our guests from urban areas talk about how well they sleep here…)
Dr. Griffin tells me a story passed on by the director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. “There was a significant earthquake in 1980 in the LA area and it disrupted electrical cables plunging LA into darkness. The switchboard at the observatory became jammed with calls by people reporting that they had seen something unusual. It turns out that they were able to see the Milky Way for the first time. There is something so sad about that.”
We can see the Milky Way here and many other constellations and planets by lying on our backs on our lawn and gazing up. “You are lucky,” says Dr. Griffin. “Municipalities are doing quite a lot like ensuring street lights are angled down and shutting off sport’s field lights at night but there are no laws regulating the use of domestic lights. All we can do is try to educate people that all this light is damaging and unnecessary and that they are missing out on something special.
“The Okanagan is good for star watching,” adds Dr. Griffin. “You are relatively sparsely populated there and there are a lot of pockets behind the mountains where you are quite well shielded from lights.”
Along with embracing the darkness, Naramatians are also treated to quiet that allows us to hear birds and wildlife. My current favourite thing is opening my deck door early in the morning to listen to a pair of owls talking to each other. Also part and parcel of life in our Village are the wonderful scents of sage and pine that are released in summer evenings on hot days.
4. We Let it All Slip Slide Away
There is a little-known spot on Naramata Creek where a waterfall has some chutes and pools suitable for a little sliding. Tucked away up Arawana, an old forest service road, and along a trail, these rock slides provide a bit of cool fun.
5. We are Internationally Recognized for our Slow Pace of Life
Naramata is one of only three Canadian communities with a special status as a “slow city” bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999. We join Cowichan Bay and Wolfville as places where the pace of life is a bit more human.
To quote from the charmingly translated Italian on the Cittaslow website, “A Cittaslow place is motivated by curious people of a recovered time, where man is still protagonist of the slow and healthy succession of seasons, respectful of citizens’ health, the authenticity of products and good food, rich of fascinating craft traditions, of valuable works of art, squares, theatres, shops, cafes and restaurants. These are places of the spirit and unspoiled landscapes characterized by spontaneity of religious rites and respect the traditions of the joy of slow and quiet living.”
As a way of celebrating our Cittaslow status, Naramata holds a harvest dinner in the fall. One of the organizers of the dinner, Miranda Halladay, said, “ Naramatians have an encyclopedia of reasons why they feel lucky enough to call this place home, covering the spectrum from peacocks (a secret for another day…we have resident peacocks that wander around in our Village) to people. The Cittaslow designation prompts us to think and to talk about these aspects of our community, to protect and foster these elements that are integral to living NaramataSlow.
“Creating and sharing a meal focused on the immense and delicious bounty our community produces with friends, neighbours and visitors alike feels like a natural tradition in the making, and the right way to foster conversation.”
Thanks to Preserved Light for collaborating with me on this post!
This recipe for the humble chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie that has a cult-like following in New York and Quebec is made in three steps: a shortbread cookie base, homemade marshmallow and a chocolate coating. The advantage of making them yourself are their freshness and the quality of the chocolate you can dip them in making them even more addictive than the store-bought versions. If you make them with kids, be warned the marshmallow step can turn into a sticky situation. The recipe makes about two dozen cookies.
A bit of delicious history
Mallomars’ origins are in New Jersey in 1913. Kraft, whose Nabisco division markets Mallomars, says the first buyer was a grocer in West Hoboken, which was consolidated to form Union City in 1925. Their New York-area roots are the reason Mallomars sales are so heavily concentrated in the Northeast.
But they are made in Toronto, the home territory of Whippets, which arouse the kind of passion among Canadians that Mallomars arouse among New Yorkers. Whippets are made by Dare in Montreal.
Part of the cult following of Mallomars are their availability only from October to April as the cookie melts in the summer months. (Maybe just a marketing ploy at this point but it’s their story they are sticking to.) Mallomars get a mention in When Harry Met Sally they are so iconic.
An international treat, a marshmallow topped biscuit dipped in chocolate is sold as chocolate fish in New Zealand, chocolate teacakes in the UK, Konfesksiya in Turkey, Flodebolle in Denmark, Krembo in Israel, Schokokuss in Germany, Brunberg’s Kisses in Finland, Melo-cakes in Belgium. Looks the world knows a good thing when it tastes it.
3/4 cup (180 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture has the texture of sand. Add the egg and vanilla. Pulse again until the dough just begins to form. Shape into a disc with your hands and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to about 3-mm (1/8-inch) thick. Cut 30 cookies using a 4 ½-cm (1 ¾-inch) round cookie cutter. )I used a small drinking glass of the right size in place of the cookie cutter.) Place the cookies on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool.
1 tablespoon (15 ml) powdered gelatin
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) light corn syrup (You can substitute golden corn syrup in a pinch as I did…the marshmallow still comes out a nice white colour.)
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let bloom for 5 minutes. Add the sugar. Melt over low heat, stirring until the sugar and gelatin have dissolved. Pour into a bowl. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 10 minutes.
With a pastry bag fitted with a 2-cm (3/4-inch) diameter plain round tip and filled with meringue, top each cookie with a dome of meringue. Work quickly filling the pastry bag and piping as the marshmallow will get hard to work with as it sets.
Let cool for 30 minutes at room temperature.
8 oz (225 g) good quality dark chocolate (70 per cent) , chopped
In a bowl, over a double boiler or in the microwave oven, melt 140 g (5 oz) of chocolate. Remove from the double boiler and add the remaining chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is smooth. If necessary, put back over the double boiler for a few seconds if the chocolate does not melt completely. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate, it might bloom when cooled.
Dip the cooled cookies, marshmallow side down, in the chocolate, flip and remove from the chocolate with a fork. Shake to remove any excess chocolate.
Place the cookies on a lightly oiled wire rack or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
There is no better combination in French baking than a tender butter cookie made with ground almonds, sandwiched with hazelnut spread and dipped in dark chocolate. These Flours de Lin are relatively easy to make and have become a staple in my Christmas baking. Even if your piping skills aren’t up to scratch they are so tasty it won’t matter.
CookieIngredients (makes apex. 20 cookies)
Cake flour – 125 grams (1 cup plus 4 teaspoons)
Room temperature butter – 150 grams (5 1/4 ounces)
Sea salt – 1/8 teaspoon
Granulated sugar – 80 grams (1/3 cup)
Ground almonds – 60 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tbs)
Egg whites – 30 grams (1 extra-large white less 1 to 2 teaspoons)
Sift the flour into a bowl and set aside. Place the soft butter with the sea salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 1 minute on medium speed. (Note…if your butter isn’t soft these cookies will require Popeye muscles to pipe) Add the almond flour, egg whites and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the sifted flour and mix for 30 seconds only on low speed. Do not over-mix as it will spoil the delicacy of the cookies.
Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8 inch star tip. Pipe 1 1/2-inch-long flat teardrop cookies onto the parchment-paper-lined sheet plans, leaving 1/2 space in between them and staggering the rows.
Hold the pastry bag with the tip at a 45-degree angle, close to the sheet pan. Continue to press on the bag and swing the tip toward you while you progressively stop pressing, so that the teardrop ends in a tail.
Let the cookies rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Thirty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 375 F.
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.
Filling and dipping ingredients
Hazelnut paste (such as Nutella) – 200 grams (2/3 cup)
Good quality dark chocolate – 200 grams (7 ounces)
Once cool, flip half of the cookies over and pipe a small amount of the hazelnut paste. Top with another cookie and press down lightly to sandwich.
Slowly melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler. Dip the tail of each cookie into the chocolate and place the cooke on parchment paper. Let the chocolate harden and then store the cookies in an airtight container. Do not refrigerate.
(You can substitute the hazelnut paste with a chocolate ganache or raspberry jam if you like.)
Pulla is a traditional Finnish sweet bread that is flavored with the unique scent of cardamon. Your kitchen, whole house actually, will be filled with the scents of yeasty bread-baking with an amazing cardamon finish. It makes a stunning braided loaf, or can be baked into individual rolls for easy eating. Finnish Pulla is very similar to challah, with its eggs, milk and butter additions but interestingly fragrant with a warmth of spices. It’s fascinating how Scandinavians have the tradition of pulling cardamon, a spice native to India, into their bread baking. It was the Vikings who brought back this spice from their plundering expeditions. How cool is that?
This is my dad’s recipe, scrawled rather cryptically on a hard-to-read recipe card. After some code-breaking and further research, here it is. The recipe originated from a Finnish friend of the family who not only made us Pulla but made it at our house, hence my strong scent-filled memories of this wonderful bread.
Side note about Cardamon
Scandinavians not only use cardamon in their breads, but also in mulled wine, cookies, cakes, pastries and meatballs too. Cardamon, the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla beans. My small bottle cost $10.95. It is a part of the ginger family. Indigenous to South India, and according to some accounts to Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal as well, it was brought to Scandinavia by the Vikings, a thousand years ago, from their travels to Turkey. Cardamon appears in written Nordic cookbooks as early as 1300AD.
Side note about Finnish swearing
This recipe makes two braids. One I’m bringing to Master’s Swimming this morning to present to a Finnish swimming mate, Jarkko. Every swim practice I google a Finnish word and try it out on my pal. Today’s is “jumalauta” which translates to holy shit, or God help me, a good word to use after a tough kick set. (Jarkko hates kick.)
1 1⁄3 cups milk, heated to 115°
2⁄3 cup sugar
4 tsp ground cardamon
3 eggs, lightly beaten
6 1⁄2 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes, at room temperature
1 tbsp heavy cream
2 (1⁄4-oz) packages active dry yeast
1 egg yolk
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine milk, sugar, 3 tsp cardamon, and yeast; stir together and let sit until foamy, 10 minutes.
Add eggs; mix to combine. Add flour and salt; mix until a dough forms. Replace paddle with hook attachment; knead dough on medium speed for 2 minutes. While kneading, slowly add butter in batches, mixing until incorporated before adding next batch, 3-4 minutes; continue kneading for 4 minutes more after last of butter is added.
Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough; cover again with plastic wrap and let sit until fully risen, 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375°. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside and divide other piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion between your palms and work surface to create a 16-inch rope. Pinch the three strands together and braid ropes together to form a loaf.
Transfer loaf to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Repeat with second dough piece. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit until slightly puffed up, about 20 minutes.
Whisk together remaining 1 tsp cardamon, cream, and egg yolk in a small bowl; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with almonds.
Bake, one loaf at a time, until golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool 10
minutes before serving. (Pulla makes wonderful toast too.)
When you combine vast quantities of Swiss chocolate with Dutch cocoa powder, French fleur de sel, fresh Canadian whipping cream and buttermilk there is no possibility on earth that this little gateau is not going to solve your problems.
The combination of rich chocolate cake, velvety frosting and a hidden layer of salted caramel is a perfect antidote to winter’s grey skies.
A single layer of luscious chocolate cake is carefully cut in half, spread with homemade salted caramel, topped with a chocolate ganache frosting and finished with a gorgeous glacage. An added bonus, the cake can be baked, frosted and frozen ahead of time with only the glacage step required before serving.
This recipe was adapted from the amazing Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook by Giselle Courteau. The shop is located in Edmonton if you get a chance to stop in, and this cake is their number one seller.
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter cubed
1/4 cup finely ground almonds
3/4 tsp fleur de sel
Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stove until scalding. Set aside and keep hot as you melt the sugar.
Place about a quarter of the sugar in a wide-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Gently melt the sugar, swirling the saucepan around occasionally. Do not stir. Once the sugar is almost melted, add another quarter and repeat twice more until all the sugar is completely melted and has turned amber coloured.
Remove from heat and slowly pour in the hot whipping cream mixing with a spoon or spatula until the smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer, immediately strain the caramel into a bowl.
Mix in the butter, ground almonds and fleur de sel into the hot caramel until the butter is melted. For extra smooth caramel, use an immersion blender. Transfer the caramel into jars, let cool and refrigerate until set. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks and is an amazing ice cream topper.
1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
3 Tbsp dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quality cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
Preheat your oven to 325F and line an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and spray it with vegetable oil.
In a large bowl, pour the hot coffee over the chocolate, whisking until all the coffee is poured in and the chocolate has completely melted. Set aside.
Sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside.
Whisk the egg, oil, buttermilk and vanilla together in a bowl. Slowly whisk the mixture into the melted chocolate and coffee.
Add the sifted dry ingredients and whisk until the batter comes together. The batter will appear a bit lumpy. Don’t be tempted to overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and flip the cake out.
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
Slowly melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, add in the fleur de sel. Set aside.
Heat the whipping cream on the stovetop until scalding. Set aside while keeping hot.
Place the water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar turns amber coloured. Do not stir. Remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream and stir until combined. Pour this mixture over the chocolate and fleur de sel in three parts, mixing until smooth between additions.
Transfer this ganache into a stand mixer bowl and cool to room temperature Ensure both the ganache and butter cubes are at room temperature.
With the mixer on low speed, add the butter cubes to the ganache a few at time until all incorporated then turn the mixer up to medium and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Assemble the cake and frost
Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally into two layers. Flip the top layer so its cut side is facing up.
If the salted caramel has been in the fridge, warm it in a microwave for a few seconds to soften it slightly. Spread about 1/2 cup of salted caramel over the bottom layer of the cake leaving about 1/2 inch around the edge.
Spread about 1 cup of the frosting over the caramel, leaving a bit of space around the edges. Place the other cake layer on top, cut side up that your cake will have a flat top and gently press down. Transfer the cake to a turntable and spoon about 2 cups of frosting on top, reserving extra frosting to finish the cake. Spread it evenly over the top and sides of the cake and smooth it out with an offset spatula. The smoother the better as the glacage will show all the imperfections.
Transfer the cake to a flat plate and freeze for at least two hours (or up to a week, if making ahead).
1 cup good dark chocolate
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp whipping cream
2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp light corn syrup
Slowly melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler. In a saucepan heat the whipping cream, water, and corn syrup until just scalding. Pour the hot cream over the dark chocolate in three parts, mixing in between additions until smooth.
Remove the cake from freezer and place it on a flat cooling rick with a pan or foil underneath to catch the drippings. Using a measuring cup or ladle pour the glacage over the top of the cake. Using an offset spatula spread the glacage over the sides, making sure to cover the whole cake. Immediately move the cake to a serving plate using a long offset spatula.
Decorate the cake with the reserved frosting. Pipe five dots on top and a decorative border around the bottom. The cake will keep at room temperature up to four days.
How pretentious is it to name your house? Oh, very, so let’s up the ante and choose a latin name.
The Handyman hails from England where house naming is a thing. Think Primrose Cottage, Two Hoots, Crumbledown, Nudgens, Wits End, Tweedledum, or Creeping Snail.
We have neighbours with house names like Ironpost Guest House, Forgotten Hill and the Grape Escape but they are guest houses with a good reason for a name. Also nearby is Rancho Costa Plenty which has been sale for awhile.
We could have chosen another dead language name like Cave Canem (beware of the dog) but that would have dated us our two pals lived to ripe old ages and are now planted in the garden, or Nessum Dorma (none shall sleep) with the idea of discouraging visitors from overstaying.
A week after our gate and name went up a neighbour pulled his car over to chat and said, “You know, I drive by your gate every day on my way to work and think, seize the day, yup, good idea.”
As hokey as it sounds, it’s become a mantra for our house that is often welcoming visitors with wine, a nap in a tree house and evenings on the deck.
The name of our Village is pretty crazy too when you know its history and it has a lot of letters “a”s … although it doesn’t hold a candle to these English villages of say…
or my personal favourite, so much so that if we decide to leave Canada and return to the Handyman’s homeland this would be the spot…
In 1905 Naramata was originally called East Summerland which was too confusing, I guess and a bit dull making us a candidate for sister villagehood with Little Snoring. The postmaster’s wife, Mrs. Gillespie was a bit of a hippie dippie in her day apparently. She was a medium of the American Spiritualistic church and invited some of her gal pals over for a get-together at which she went into a “spiritualist trance.” The spirit of a great Sioux Indian Chief, Big Moose, came to her and spoke of his dearly loved wife calling her Nar-ra-mah-tah, as she was the Smile of Manitou. All and sundry were struck by Mrs. Gillespie’s revelation, a few extra letters were dropped (which was a darn good thing) and here we are. (I wonder if Big Moose every worried about Narramahtah’s faithfulness…)
I also wonder if we should add Please Drive Carefully to our Village sign?
This Naramata take on a classic Victoria sponge is two fluffy sponges lightly flavoured with vanilla and almond with a very special sandwiching layer…Legend Raspberry Jam and a healthy dollop of whipping cream.
Here is a Cole’s Notes version of what went into making that legendary jam:
Grow the raspberries on our farm.
Harvest the raspberries at their peak.
Deliver to Legend Distilling.
Legend makes Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka with them. (Check out my post about how it’s made minus some secrets.)
Make raspberry jam with some more of our farm fresh raspberries and some of Legend’s Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka made from our raspberries. It’s like raspberries times three.
A limited supply of this special jam is for sale at Legend Distilling during the Christmas season… You can of course substitute a high-quality raspberry jam but your cake will be slightly less legendary.
Our recent snow fall has put paid to my fresh raspberry supply so it’s time to bring out the jam.
3/4 cup unsalted butter (soft)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 extra-large or large eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached self-rising flour
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8″ round cake pans. Cut a round of parchment and fit in the bottom of your pan and grease and flour.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined and smooth.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
Add the extracts.
Add the flour, beating gently just until well combined.
Divide the stiff batter evenly between the cake pans; there’ll be 11 to 12 ounces of batter in each, depending on the size eggs you used.
Bake the cakes for about 20 minutes, or until they start to pull away from the edges of the pans. Remove them from the oven, cool for a couple of minutes, and turn out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.
When the cakes are cool, place one layer on a plate. Spread with the Legend jam or a jam of your choice.
Whip the cream — 2/3 cup cream makes a medium-thickness layer of filling; 3/4 cup cream, a thick layer. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste, as you whip the cream until it’s quite stiff. Stir in the vanilla at the end.
Pipe the whipped cream over the jam. You could also spread the whipped cream if you prefer.
Top with the second layer of cake.
Sift icing sugar over the top of your cake.
Refrigerate the cake until you’re ready to serve it. It’ll be at its best within 12 hours; but is still quite good up to 2 or even 3 days later. The difference will be the whipped cream, which will gradually settle/compact. Yield: about 12 servings.
“Congratulations on your English Channel relay last year! ,” says Lynne Cox. That is a tough swim and it must have been fun and challenging to swim the Channel as a team. Your next goal sounds equally challenging.”
Even people outside the rather niche open water swimming world recognize the name Lynne Cox. It’s because she is an elite athlete who broke many world records, among them swimming the English Channel at 15, being the first woman to swim across the Cook Strait and working 10 years to get the permission and then swimming across the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russia during the Cold War.
“The San Pedro Channel – swim from Catalina Island to the California mainland is the place I began my open water swimming career,” she says when I asked her advice on the Crazy Canucks’ next adventure in 2019. “It was as significant as my first kiss. It was where I fell in love with swimming long distances in the open water and the people who make these swims possible.”
That first kiss for Lynne came when she was all of 14 when she made the crossing with three other teenagers. “We felt a small school of fish swimming around us, bumping into our legs and feet. Flying fish the size of mockingbirds were leaping out of the water,” she writes about that historic Catalina swim in her amazing book, Swimming to Antarctica. “They’d emerge from the depths and fly across the air, flapping their fins and sailing across the sky…In the phosphorescent light, they were magically turning iridescent pink, blue, purple, rose and green.”
Lynne says, “You can expect that your Catalina Channel swim will be exciting. If it isn’t, why do it? You will have an incredible journey, learn lots about yourself and your team, and the Pacific ocean.”
“The Catalina Channel will be a bit warmer than the English Channel depending on the weather, time of the year and time of day that you swim it,” says Lynne. (See Charlie, it will be OK!) “Weather conditions are usually more stable than the English Channel, so you will have a good chance at getting good conditions.”
Any advice for us non spring chickens I asked her? “I think you don’t need to be limited in your thinking by your chronological age. People in their 30s can have the bodies and health of 60-year-olds and people in their 60s can have the bodies and health of 30-year-olds. I think it’s great to tackle these swims at any age if you’ve done the preparation and you are in shape.”
It was a thrill to be in touch with Lynne and prompted a re-read of her Swimming to Antarctica book and an intense, couldn’t-put-it-down read of her latest book Swimming in the Sink which had some lyrical descriptions of open water swimming.
In the darkness of early morning, my arm strokes jostle millions of plankton. A chemical reaction occurs in their bodies. They turn the black water sparkling phosphorescent blue. I wonder about life, the universe, and my place it it. I feel the warmth in my body, the cold ocean surrounding me, and I watched fish swimming fathoms below me lighting the depths of the universe. I wonder how the stars can burn so bright without losing their heat the frigid heavens.
I watch the rosy sun rise from the dark blue ocean and see it change color and create waving rivers of crimson, orange, yellow, and white light. The onshore breeze wakes the world like a gentle morning kiss. When I train I think about my life, my passions, and what is in my heart. I list the things I do need to do each day and the things I want to do. But I also dream about what I can do, and that makes life rich and exciting. Lynne Cox
It was a thrill to read about her English Channel swims as well now knowing what it is like to be in that chilly water myself. How fun was it to read that her boat pilot was our pilot’s dad, Reg Brickell?