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Stretch those precious ingredients when baking

Recipe: Lemon-almond cornmeal cake is comfort food

A Meyer lemon gives this cake a subtle flavor. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

All of a sudden I'm hyper-aware of how much flour I have. Eggs and butter, too. I'm a regular baker, and during this shelter-in-place era I don't want to run out of ingredients. And I seriously don't want to try looking for them when supermarket shopping has become a health concern.

How to keep baking, then, without using everything up too quickly? I dove into my cookbooks and emerged with a treasure I'd almost forgotten I owned: "
A New Way to Bake, " a 2017 publication from Martha Stewart. The subtitle is "Classic Recipes Updated With Better-For-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry."

These well-tested recipes use alternative flours and grains, different fats and some vegan ingredients in cakes, pies, cookies, breads and other goodies. They're not all gluten-free, and only some are vegan, but for a baker who's looking to use alternate -- and maybe more-available -- ingredients, the recipes are a gold mine.

This homey cake is based on the classic Italian olive oil-cornmeal torte. The fresh lemon provides a little spark, while the almonds and cornmeal give it a rustic texture. I used a Meyer lemon from my tiny tree, but that single sweet lemon proved a little too subtle in this recipe. So I recommend using the zest from one tart lemon or two Meyers if you really want the lemon to come through.

Served with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar, this makes a lovely breakfast cake. For dessert, fresh berries or a quick berry sauce would go beautifully with this -- blackberries or blueberries, especially. But don't ignore what you have in your larder: Lemon curd or a pool of gently warmed preserves or fruit butter would make a delicious accompaniment.

Lemon-almond cornmeal cake

Adapted from "A New Way to Bake" by Martha Stewart
Serves 6-8


Olive oil for pan
1/2 cup milk (almond or dairy)
Finely grated zest from 1 or 2 lemons (see note above)
Juice from 1 lemon
1-1/2 cups blanched almonds, finely chopped, or 1-1/2 cups almond flour, or a combination
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract

Nicely golden brown, the cake's ready.

Powdered sugar, for dusting
Berries or other garnish, optional


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. (An earlier version of this post said 350 degrees, which is still fine; the cake will brown up a little faster, however.) Oil a 9-inch springform pan. In a bowl or glass measuring cup, combine milk and lemon juice; let it stand until thickened, about 5 minutes.

In food processor, pulse the lemon zest, almonds and/or almond flour and the sugar until they have an evenly fine texture. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the cornmeal, baking powder, soda and salt.

Add the oil, eggs and almond extract to the milk mixture, blending well with a whisk or fork to combine. Stir the liquid mixture into the cornmeal mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.

Powdered sugar is the final touch.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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