Cheesey Biscuits


Who doesn't love easy to make yummy cheesy biscuits?! I know I do, and so does my entire family! We can eat these little buggers by the truck load!


If any of you have ever had the cheesy biscuits at Red Lobster, you are going to want to make these! I got this recipe from good ole' Paula Dean, and they are just perfect! They take about 12 minutes to make, so they can easily be had with just about any dinner, or whipped up as an appetizer for unexpected guests.




Cheesy Biscuits
1 1/4 cup bisquick
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons butter, melted
a few dashes of garlic powder, salt, and pepper
2 tablespoons of dried parsley flakes

Mix the bisquick, water, and cheddar cheese.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 Degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
While bicsuits are baking, in a small separate bowl, mix together the butter, garlic powder, parsley flakes, and pepper.
The second the biscuits come out of the oven, spoon over the melted butter mixture.
Let sit for a few seconds (about 45...or as long as you can possibly wait before scarfing them down) and enjoy!

The Daring Bakers Make Macarons....Maybe....



When this month’s Daring Bakers was announced, the very first thing I did was a Google search. I had no idea what macarons where. I thought at first they were talking about macaroons – you know, the coconut covered shortbread cookie? I thought – “what’s so daring about that?”. Well, little did I know how much different a macaroon (mack-a-rooooon)  is from a macaron (mack-a-rohn). My first impression was that they looked like lovely little sandwich cookies, with all their pretty colors, their smooth shells, and all the flavor combinations! However, after doing some research on them, I became quite intimidated. Quite. Apparently, these suckers are rather difficult to make.

There are three main recipe types for making macarons – the French method, the Italian meringue method, and the Spanish meringue method. What’s the difference?

Apparently, the news on the street is that macarons might be pushing cupcakes out of the limelight. I highly suggest you try and find yourself one, if you have never had one. Having never had one myself, I tried to find one in my area, but apparently the Midwest isn’t “in the know” yet. My bestie, who adores these things, actually gets hers shipped from Paris (on special occasions only, of course).

After doing a ton of research, watching tutorials on how to make these puppies, and reading all the comments and tips that people were leaving on the Daring Baker’s forums, I thought I was ready to make these things. I practically had the recipe memorized I had read it so many times. Since I knew these things are hard to make, and was most likely to fail at least the first time, and also because almond meal is a whoping $10 for ___ ounces, I decided to make 40% batches (thanks so much for the scaled down version, Audax!) and keep the flavors simple – vanilla bean macarons with nutella filling.

Armed with all my knowledge, I rolled up  my sleeves, kicked all people and dogs from the kitchen, put on some lovely French love songs, and dug in. I sifted my almond meal and powdered sugar three times. That sucks, let me tell you – it takes forever, and I only did a 40% batch! Whew! I carefully whipped my egg whites which had been sitting on the counter for 2 days into nice soft peaks. Then I added the sugar, and continued to whip until I reached hard peaks. Ok, so far, so good! Then I folded in my almond meal, powdered sugar, and vanilla beans, and successfully piped my little circles. Into the oven it went, and I anxiously awaited my results.

Crap. Little flat crispies filled with air bubbles. Apparently, I forgot what I was doing and made Milanos!! J


Back to the forum I went, and did some more research. Seems my mixing needs a little work. Second time around, I made sure my meringue was whipped to a little more hard peaks. I piped the batter onto the BACK of a cookie pan this time, and nested it on top of another pan. That’s right, two cookie sheets, nested together, turned upside down. It’s supposed to help distribute the heat evenly. I also adjusted the temperature of the oven. Into the oven the pans went, and I crossed my fingers for the next 20 minutes. Double crap. Same little crispie milanos as before.

Back to the forum I went. The tip I utilized this time said that the first six strokes, when you are whipping the first batch of almond meal and powdered sugar into the egg whites, use 6 hard and fast strokes to get air out of the batter, and then after that use a more gentle folding approach. Sounded logical, since my batches were full of air bubbles, I can assume that I was folding air INTO my batter. I also followed another tip and banged the pans on my counter top before they went into the oven. This is supposed to help release any air bubbles that might still be trapped inside the batter. Didn’t do any good though, because I still had flat little air pocked crispies.  By this point, it was 12:30 at night, I was getting frustrated, was coming down from a massive sugar high (I kept eating the cookies as I was making them. What? They tasted good…) and my husband took my firmly by the shoulders, led me into the living room and told me to take a break.

The next day I went back to the forums, and asked for help. I was told to read the forum again, read all the tips and tutorials and what not. Yeah, I did that already. Before I ever started. I needed something else. I decided to go for a different method. So, after much scouring, I found a method that uses the Italian merangue method. This method worked out considerably better than the first one! It seems my problem was in my macaronage, and once I got rid of that, I had no problems!

Well, I had one small problem, but I know what I did wrong. I tried to bake two pans at the same time, and rotate them in the oven  halfway through. The pan that started on the top developed a beautiful sleek shell and feet (FEET!!!), but when I rotated it to the bottom shelf, all the insides fell and I was left with a giant air bubble in the middle!

The pan that started on the bottom shelf and finished on the top was all cracked and crackling looking, but its texture inside was a (I gather) perfect combination between chewy and crispy.

I used my cracked shells as bottoms and pretty shells as tops, and VIOLA! Challenge completed! LOL.


P.S. For those of you that nailed this challenge the first time, and perfectly, I tip my hat to you.

Macarons - The Almost Foolproof Method

For the Macarons:
120g egg whites, divided
35g sugar
150g finely ground almonds
150g powdered sugar

For the sugar syrup:
150g sugar and 50g water



Process the ground almonds and powdered sugar in the work bowl of a food processor.
In a stand mixer, whip 60g egg whites to soft peaks, add 35g sugar.
In the meantime, in a saucepan on high heat bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 230 F. on a candy thermometer.

Slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium – high speed until they are completely cooled and you have a shiny meringue (10-15 minutes).
Mix the remaining 60g of egg whites and the sifted almond/sugar.


 Carefully fold the almond/sugar into the meringue.


Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the mixture and pipe macarons about 3 inches in diameter on silpat lined baking sheet.



Bake at 320 for 15-25 minutes.
Check to see if macarons are done by grabbing the top of one macaron and trying to shake it. They are done when the top barely slides against the skirt. If they are not done, extend baking time by two minutes intervals, checking after each extension.

Recipe Via : http://www.myfoodgeek.com/2007/06/08/almost-foolproof-macarons/

Ham and Potato Soup





I know what you are going to say. "Another Soup?" "AND another Bechamel sauce?!" I know, I know! I've been on a roll lately. But its not as if I go looking for them, they just happen to find me, and I happen to cook them, find them good, and want to share them with you! Can you really fault me for that?

I was given this recipe by a coworker. I found her practically skipping to lunch one day, so was so excited to have some of her leftovers! Having never heard of ham and potato soup (had ham and bean, and had potato, but never ham with potato), as soon as she got back to her desk from lunch, I had a lovely new email in my inbox.

This soup is delightfully easy to make, hearty and comforting, and tastes wonderful.

Ham and Potato Soup
3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes ( I used baby reds, but you can use any kind you like. And I left my skins on. I know, I'm such a rebel.)
3-4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped

1 3/4 cup diced cooked ham
3 cans low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tea salt or to taste
1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper or to taste
5 tbls butter
5 tbls all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and chicken stock in a stockpot. 

Bring to a boil, then cook over med heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. 
Stir in the  salt and pepper.
In a separate saucepan, melt butter over med-low heat. 

Whisk in flour with a fork and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 min. 
Slowly stir in milk. Continue stirring over med-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 min.
Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot and cook soup until heated through. 

Serve immediately.


See, I told you it was easy! 


Chicken Corn Chowder



One of my favorite cold-weather, ultimate comfort foods is Chicken Corn Chowder. When I was young, I would eat with by the canful, Chambell's Chunky with some saltines. When I was in college, one of my dear friends taught me how to make her family's recipe for Corn Chowder. We used to make this whenever the common's food was just too unbearable to force down. We loved feeling like grown-ups - cooking our own homemade meals, enjoying the warm cozy feeling we got when curled up with a bowlful of it.


I eventually added some chicken into the pot, making it a tad more substantial. This soup is simple and relatively quick - making it great for weeknights, weekends, company, or just yourself!


Chicken Corn Chowder

1 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 cans low sodium chicken broth
2-3 potatoes, chopped
2 cans creamed style corn
1-2 bay leaves
shredded chicken - either three cooked breasts, or 1 rotisserie chicken
milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, saute the onions and celery until tender and the onions are slightly translucent.


Add the chicken broth and the carrots. Cook until carrots are soft.


Add the potatoes and bay leaves and cook until the potatoes are soft (but not mushy!)


Add corn and shredded chicken and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add milk to desired thickness.
Salt and pepper to taste.

*If you would like the base of the soup to be a little thicker, more gravy like, remove some of the broth from the pot, place it in a cup, and whisk in some flour or cornstarch. Add this back to the pot and let simmer for a few minutes, until it is incorporated and the broth becomes thicker.

The Daring Cooks Make Pho Ga



It's October 14th, and that means its time for me to reveal this month's Daring Cook's Challenge! This month’s challenge was hosted by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen. Jaden chose a recipe out of her newly published cookbook The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook! She decided that we should make Pho Ga, which is a traditional Vietnamese soup.

Having never had Pho Ga before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this challenge. To me, it sounded like a Vietnamese, slightly tropical version of chicken noodle soup. But instead of carrots, celery and bay leaves it had red onion, cilantro, and ginger!

There were three main parts to this challenge – toasting the spices, cutting the whole chicken, and then making the stock. Most of the rich flavor of the stock came from charring an onion and ginger in the oven until it was soft and fragrant and also from toasting anise, coriander and cloves on the stovetop. These make your house smell absolutely wonderful, by the way!

The biggest part of this challenge, for me, was cutting up the whole chicken. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of videos where star chefs like Jacques Pepin fly through cutting up a chicken like its room temperature butter – slice, slice, slice. But for me, I was nervous about chopping my finger off. I don’t own a butcher’s knife (yet another thing to add to my “To Buy” list), but my chef’s knife worked really well. But after watching a bunch of “how to” videos, I jumped right in. It really wasn’t that hard! Just a few slices through some muscle to find the joint, move it around a bit, and pop the knife in there and separate it! I might have made an absolute mess out of my butchering, but I completed the challenge without even nicking myself once! The challenge stated that part of making a really flavorful stock is to have as much bone marrow exposed as possible, and because of this we were supposed to cut the chicken (excluding the breasts) into three inch pieces. I didn’t want to pound the crap out of my chef’s knife, so my brother was kind enough to bring his tomahawk out, and after some cleaning, it took care of the job effortlessly.

Making the stock used the method parboiling. Parboiling is done to soften the chicken quickly, as well as to get all the scum and fat off the chicken before the true stock making comes in, and to remove “off” flavors from wild game – basically, it helps to get a clearer stock. There is a lot of controversy about parboiling – a lot of people think it tends to lead to rubbery, flavorless chicken. I didn’t notice any discrepancy in the consistency of my chicken after parboiling it, but I did notice a lot of gross scummy stuff coming off, and my stock was really nice and clear without a whole lot of skimming.

I thought the flavor of this dish was good. Definitely not something I had ever tasted before. The coriander, anise, cloves, ginger and onion gave a unique flavor to the broth. It was nice and flavorful, but it wasn’t as robust a flavor as I thought it was going to be (and how some of the other Daring Cook’s described it). I really liked being able to add lots of different things to the soup – the bean sprouts gave a nice crunch, the cilantro, red onion and lime also gave good flavor to the broth. This soup actually kind of reminded me of the Mexican soup Posole, which I really love.  I probably won’t end up making it again, (especially since I got a “eh” when I asked my husband and brother if they liked it) but I am glad I made it. All in all, we were content with how this challenge turned out, but not WOWed.

If you would like to make this, please visit Jaden’s blog, the Steamy Kitchen. (that link will take you directly to the Pho Ga recipe, by the way)
If you would like to make a beef version of this, please go here.

If you would like to make a simpler version of this recipe, you can simmer one whole chicken breast in 2 quarts of store bought chicken broth with the toasted spices, 1/2 an onion, and some ginger for approximately 20 minutes, skimming occasionally. Then proceed to follow the rest of the directions.


A separate part of the challenge was to make dessert wontons! I had a lot of fun with this challenge. The hardest part about it was figuring out what I wanted to fill my wontons with! Then you just fill ‘em, fold ‘em, and fry ‘em! I chose a simple filling of chocolate, orange zest and cardamom. The first few ended up being a test batch – not enough chocolate. Also, make sure that you seal the edges really well before frying, because oil can leak into your wonton, and some of my chocolate ended up oozing out. When you bite into a wonton expecting wonderfully melted chocolate but only get hot oil instead, its not a very happy time. Don’t worry, though, no tongues were actually harmed in the making of these wontons.

Dessert Wontons(it is actually going to take me longer to tell you how to make them than it actually does to make them)

Wonton wrappers
Filling of choice
Enough vegetable oil to fill a frying pan 2 inches deep
1 egg
Splash of water

Heat the oil in the skillet to about 350 degrees.
Combine the egg and a splash of water together in a small bowl to create an egg wash.
Lay each wonton wrapper on a clean, dry surface, with one corner pointed towards you (so it looks like a diamond).
Place your fillings in the top corner, leaving room at the edges.
Brush a little of the egg whites on the top half of the diamond.
Fold the wonton wrapper over to create a triangle, and press the edges to seal.
Place in the hot oil and let cook for about a minute and a half, or until it turns golden brown and crispy.
Carefully flip the wonton over and cook the other side for another minute.
When golden brown on both sides, remove from oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
Enjoy!


Smothered Pork Chops Braised in Cider With Apples

Nothing says fall like apple cider, and the comfort of gravy. This meal is perfect for the fall - all warm and comforting. The pork chops are perfectly tender. The apples, onions, and thyme blend beautifully together to create a thick flavorful gravy. And bacon is the perfect topper! I really enjoyed this meal, and was actually kind of sad when I found my plate was empty.




Smothered Pork Chops Braised in Cider With Apples
from Cover and Bake by America's Test Kitchen


4 slices bacon
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 pork chops
salt and black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/3 inch slices
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Fry the bacon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it is lightly browned and the fat is rendered, about 6-8 minutes.
Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on a small plate.
Reduce the heat to medium low and gradually stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, making sure to work out any lumps that may form.

Continue stirring constantly, reaching into the edges of the pan, until the mixture is light brown, 4-6 minutes.
Add the apple cider in a slow, steady stream while vigorously stirring.
Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over high heat.
Meanwhile, pat the chops dry with a paper towel (so they will brown) and season generously with salt and  pepper.

Place the chops in the pan in a single layer and cook until a deep brown crust forms, about two minutes.
Turn the chops over and cook for another two minutes.
Remove the chops from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, apples and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Cook, stirring frequently and scraping and browned bits from t he bottom and edges of the pan, until the onions soften and begin to brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Return the chops to the pan in a single layer and cover each chop with the onions and apples.
Pour in the warm sauce, add the bay leaves, and cover with a tight fitting lid.
Reduce the heat to low and cook until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the chops to a warmed plate and cover with foil.
Increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens to a gravy-like consistency, 4-6 minutes.
Stir in the parsley.

Plate the chops, and cover each chop with a portion of the sauce.
Chop the bacon and sprinkle over each chop.
Eat immediately.

Pomegranate Martini


A few days ago I got a great surprise in my email inbox. Kristin from POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice sent me an email asking me if I would like to sample some free product. Of course, I said yes (I never turn away free yummies!) A few days later I got a box with 8 lovely curvaceous bottles.

In case you've been hiding in a cave and haven't yet jumped on the pomegranate juice bandwagon, this stuff is super good for you. It's chock full of antioxidants. And this isn't anything new. Well, the medical studies are new, but the knowledge that pomegranates are good stuff has been around for ages. From China to Turkey, Egypt to England - pomegranates have made their presence known.

So, because pomegranates are so healthy, I thought it would be fitting to try and find a great healthy recipe to use the juice in. Well, I tried. I actually tried a few different recipes, and really didn't like any of them. Which is why they haven't made an appearance here. So I'm doing a 180 here. Instead of going healthy, I'm going alcoholic! What better way to use all those antioxidants than to mix it with a little vodka, right?

And now, without anything further, I present to you Oprah's Pomegranate Martini:

Pomegranate Martini

1.5 cups pomegranate juice
2 ounces Absolute Citron
1 ounce Cointreau liquor
cup of ice
splash of sparkling water
squeeze of lemon

Shake the ingredients in a shaker and put in a chilled martini glass.
Or, if you are like me and have neither a shaker or a martini glass, use a drinking glass and a spoon! (I really need to get some more bar equipment....)
Drink!

Stay tuned for more pomegranate recipes!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese


Fall is definitely upon us. And with the incoming cold wind, swirling leaves and the beginning of cuddling on the couch with blankets, its time to once again bring out the warm comfort food. For most people, if you ask them to make a list of their top ten favorite comfort foods, macaroni and cheese will definitely make an appearance.

I went into recipe research mode, trying to find the perfect baked macaroni and cheese recipe. I found a ton of really gourmet ones - adding bacon, blue cheese, and all kinds of other things. And while I agree that bacon is delicious with just about everything, I wanted a basic, normal, childhood reminiscing recipe. Of this sort, there are two types of recipes available - the first is super simple - cheese and noodles. While this leads to a super creamy and cheesy dish, it does nothing for any leftovers. Microwaving copious amounts of cheese just ends up with goopey cheese boogers. Not appetizing. In order to have edible leftovers, a bechamel sauce is needed. This is a basic white sauce that is the standard used in french cooking. It is basically whisking scalded milk into a flour-butter mixture (called a roux). Ok, enough french for today. I combined recipes from my two favorite sources - Martha Stewart and America's Test Kitchen to come up with this creamy, cheesy heaven. And yes, it does reheat perfectly.


Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Topping:
5 slices white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Macaroni:
1 pound multi grain elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
3.5 cups milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
16 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

8 ounces gruyere or 5 ounces pecorino romano, shredded
2 tsp salt

Break each slice of bread into 4 pieces.
Process the butter and the chunks of butter in a food processor until the bread is finely chopped and hte butter is spread evenly.
Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot.
Cook the macaroni, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
Drain, leave in colander, and set aside.

Wipe the pot dry.
Add the butter and return to medium heat until melted.

Add the garlic, mustard and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute.

Slowly whisk in the chicken broth (about 1/4 cup at a time).
Slowly whisk in the milk.
Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until large bubbles form on the surface and htemixture is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat.
Whisk in half the cheese gradually, until completely melted.
Season with the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir, breaking up any clumps, untol well combined.
Pour into a greased 9x13 pan.

Top with remaining half of cheese and then sprinkle with the bread crumb topping.



Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges - about 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Margarita Cake



One of my favorite flavors is the simple yet beautiful combination of lime, lemon and orange. Or, more specifically, tequila, grand marnier, a wedge of lime and a delicate rim of salt. However, as sad as it is, there are days where I just can't fix myself one of these divine cocktails. When I find myself in this situation, I turn to this cake. I don't know what to say about this cake other than it is awesome.


This cake has the best flavors of a top shelf margarita, without the loopy side effects. Overindulgence in this sweet trip might get your jeans to feel a little tighter (it's the dryer, I swear!) but won't get you a DUI! It has a tender crumb, is perfectly moist, and the glaze....oh the glaze....

Margarita Cake
1 lemon cake mix
1 package vanilla instant pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
2/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup margarita mix with tequila included

Glaze:
3 cups powdered sugar
zest from 1 lime
juice from 1 lime
6 tablespoons margarita mix with tequila included

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, applesauce, orange juice, lime juice and margarita mix. Beat for two minutes.


Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.
While cake is baking, combine the ingredients for the glaze.


Cool in pan for 10 minutes.
Remove cake from pan and place on a rack to cool.
Pour half of the glaze over cake while its still warm.
When the cake is completely cooled, pour the rest of the glaze on the cake.

Alternate Preparations:
*If you would like to make this drink without the alcohol, simply use a margarita mix that does not have any tequila added.

*You may change any combination of the orange, lemon and lime flavors. For example, you can use a lemon flavored pudding with an orange flavored cake. Or lemon juice instead of lime juice. Whatever tickles your taste buds.

Dimply Plum Cake




When I saw this cake a few months ago on Let Her Bake Cake I knew I had to have it. I don't know why this urge hit me - I had never eaten a plum before, and had no idea what cardamon tasted like (I still can't describe it other than it is very aromatic, very flavorful and goes along the same lines as cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Kinda a little citricy). This is definitely a perfectly fall cake.


I didn't really know what to expect flavor-wise of this cake, but I was not dissapointed! Its very much a coffee cake, kind of dry and crumbly. The cardamon, orange zest and plums pair perfectly together, giving it a rather unique taste. And much to my surprise, the cake gets moister the longer you let it sit. I definitely think it was better the second day. Next time I might just go ahead and make it a day in advance. Because of this cake, I have now decided that I adore plums.



Dimply Plum Cake
Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup veggie oil
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6-8 purple or red plums, halved and pitted



Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. 
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan (or round works fine, too), dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamon together.
Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. 
Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. 
Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. 
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. 
Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter–Dorie says she usually makes four rows of four plum halves each–jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes during which time the plums juices will seep back into the cake then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.



*Note: I think this cake looks cuter if you have more purpley plums than mine were.
Also, if you like, you can dust the cake with powdered sugar after it cools.
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