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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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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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