Not all cookbooks are created equal. I have some in my collection that, it turns out, don’t really have many recipes I’m interested in making. Others are full of interesting ideas, but require too much time or too many specialty ingredients. This is not at all the case with The Whole Grain Promise by Robin Asbell.
I am really excited about this cookbook. Almost all of the recipes sounded right up my alley and the ones I’ve tried so far (Cranberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake, Egg Curry Breakfast Bowl and Big Cinnamon-Oat Pancakes with Berries) have been clear, straightforward, hearty and delicious. This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but very few of the recipes include meat. Similarly, The Whole Grain Promise features only a couple recipes that utilize a meat substitute (tofu). This is a whole grain, whole food, flexitarian-friendly cookbook. In short, these are recipes that I’m actually going to make. Be prepared to see this cookbook popping up in a lot of my menu plans.
Because I’m a big nerd, I’m almost as excited about the book’s layout as I am about the content. The Whole Grain Promise is broken into sections by type of dish (breakfast, salads, sides, quick snacks, desserts, etc.). The table of contents lists all of the recipes in each section, making it really simple to find what you’re looking for without hunting through the thorough index. There beginning of the book features useful guides including “Getting Started” and “Strategies for Making It Easy (and Saving Money)”. The book also has a super helpful grain cooking guide, which I’ve bookmarked and already referred to multiple times because I can never remember ratios. There are lovely photographs every few pages, along with occasional extra tips and bits of information. But my favorite thing about the layout of this book is that every recipe fits on a single page. It’s a small thing, but it makes using the book so much more convenient.
Robin gave the bloggers participating in her cookbook potluck the opportunity to choose from a number of recipes to share. I immediately knew that I wanted to make the Cranberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake. I don’t make desserts too often, but this one sounded awesome and easy. My hopes were fulfilled: the cake didn’t take long to assemble and resulted in few dishes (always a plus!). The instructions say to wrap the springform pan in foil so it doesn’t leak. Don’t skip this step – even with a foil jacket, my pan still leaked and I ended up putting a cookie sheet on the rack below. But that minor glitch didn’t affect the outcome of the recipe. The cake easily flipped out of the pan after baking (well, easily for Brian — I was scared I was going to drop it and made him turn it out). I was thrilled with how close to the cookbook photo my result looked and even happier with the taste of this cake. The brown sugar top has a nice crunch and the tart cranberries are perfectly complemented by the cornmeal cake. This beautiful cake would impress almost any audience. I’m already brainstorming opportunities to make it again; I think this cake would be a beautiful addition to a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
Cranberry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 2 cups cranberries fresh or frozen
- 1 cup cornmeal medium grind
- 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Wrap an 11-inch round springform pan with foil so that if any butter leaks out, it won't burn in the oven. In the pan, melt the butter by putting it in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes as the oven heats up. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly in the pan, and distribute the cranberries evenly over that. Reserve.
- In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk canola oil, egg, yogurt, and vanilla.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until well combined. Scrape evenly over the berries.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs, but no raw batter on it.
- Cool for 5 minutes in the pan on a rack, the place a plate over the cake, and holding firmly, flip to invert the cake on the plate. If any topping stays in the pan, quickly pick it out with a butter knife and put it in any gaps on the cake. Let cool completely.
- Keeps, tightly covered, for 1 week.
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of The Whole Grain Promise by Robin Asbell in exchange for a review and sharing of a recipe. As always, my opinions are my own. Thanks for Robin for supporting Relishments!