Welcome to fritter, the Pantry’s brand-spanking-new blog, with recipes by us and photos by Aran Goyoaga!
For those of you unfamiliar with the Pantry, we are a community gathering space built around food. Cooking classes are the biggest part of what we do, and we work hard to offer classes that we would want to (and do!) take ourselves. We focus heavily on traditional food crafts, with topics like cheese making, jam making, pickling, bread, butchery, and charcuterie showing up often in the lineup. Our classes focus strongly on technique, rather than recipes — the idea being that if we teach you the science, skills, and theory behind dishes, you’ll leave with the confidence to develop recipes of your own, from what’s available in your home pantry.
When we’re not leading classes, we fill our days with all manner of food-related good times: monthly cookbook-club potluck suppers, seasonal food swaps, farmer and food producer talks, and “power lunches,” where aspiring culinary professionals sit down with established pros and pepper them with questions. When school goes on break, our table fills up with kids for week-long culinary day camps. And on occasion, we leave the kitchen altogether to lead field trips visiting chicken farms, digging for geoducks, and foraging for wild foods. Basically, we have fun.
Once a month, we add a leaf to the table to make it even longer, and host dinners — family dinners that have become one of the most magical parts of the Pantry. It’s in these five-course, family-style meals that we all get a chance to shine. Every month we pick a new theme, create a menu, and cook up a feast for the 24 people who reserved a seat at the table that night. These dinners embody everything the Pantry is about: providing a place for people to gather, commune, and enjoy delicious food. We love watching first-time guests timidly arrive to the family dinners, not totally sure what they’ve signed up for. And we relish the moment when it all clicks, when the crowd connects and conversations start to drown out the music. It’s these dinners that fritter will be focusing on, with stories from each month, and a recipe from that menu. Since we just wrapped up July, I suspect we should start there.
July is our birthday month, and from the beginning, I decided that for our birthday we should get to make all of our favorite things. And then add sprinkles. Because birthdays, well, I’m a big believer. And while that may seem easy, this menu is always a doozy to put together, because there’s no guarantee your favorite things will necessarily go together.
After four(!) years of perfecting our birthday celebration, I’d say that we generally end up with a meal that leans heavily towards ’50s Americana, with a pinch of the South thrown in (I am from Alabama, after all). Corn and peppers always show up, even though they’re just barely in season in Seattle — I am nothing if not impatient — but hey, it’s our birthday.
When sketching out our dinner themes and menus, we tend to gather at the table with a stack of cookbooks and basically get nowhere for several hours. For this particular menu, we decided to try something different. At the time, this now-endless summer was just beginning, and the sunshine was calling, so we decided to solve our problems the West Wing way: in rapid-fire dialogue, delivered while walking as quickly as possible. Without access to the White House, we made do with the streets of Whittier Heights (secretly hoping to run into the gang of unicyclists from Whittier Elementary), and it worked just like it does on TV. Everyone was in a great mood, ideas were flying, and within about twenty minutes we had the Pantry’s fourth birthday party dinner menu sketched out:
Popcorn chicken with honey and homemade hot sauce
Herby twice-baked fingerlings with whipped lemon cream
Tarragon tuna salad on homemade saltine crackers with celery leaves
Burrata, shaved zucchini and radishes, and English peas
Preserved lemon dressing
Roasted peppers with oregano, fried capers, and feta
Charred corn spoonbread
Grilled ribeye with jalapeno crema
Caramelized apricots, torn bread, and cilantro
Strawberry-almond cake and whipped cream cheese
So let’s talk about trifle.
As some of you may know, I am very fond of cake. Cookies are great, and pie has a saucy reputation that makes it attractive, but when I’m eating my feelings, I’m eating cake. Growing up in Alabama, with its family reunions, potlucks, and church cake walks, meant that I spent my formative years immersed in cake culture. Dotting that sea of boxed cake mix (there’s still a special place in my palate for boxed yellow cake mix), were the old schoolers, the pros, the bona fide Cake Ladies. These ladies are masters of, among other things, my personal unicorn cake: the classic southern strawberry cake, a concoction that typically involves strawberry Jell-O, which dyes the cake an almost fuchsia-like shade of hot pink, topped with cream cheese frosting in a slightly lighter pink. As far as I can tell, traditionally, there’s no actual strawberry in a southern strawberry cake.
Still, this cake is my happy place. I spent years studying recipes, in search of a way to do it without Jell-O. Martha Foose got the closest of anyone I found in her book Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, and that was the starting point for this recipe. Once I adjusted it to my taste, I set about deconstructing it into my favorite vehicle for cake: the trifle. This trifle represents the best of summer to me, with its big heaping mounds of strawberries, cream cheese, and cake. It was the cake from my wedding, and we serve it every July for the Pantry’s birthday, in family-style trifle bowls that force our guests to stand up and put their backs into it while serving themselves and each other.
- Southern Strawberry Cake:
- 10 ounces cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/4 cup neutral oil (such as rice bran, safflower or canola)
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup fresh strawberry puree, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Whipped Cream Cheese:
- 1 cup sour cream
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 pints strawberries, sliced and tossed with a few teaspoons of sugar until saucy
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line with rounds of parchment. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, and almond extract. Set aside.
Split and scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean. Rub the seeds into the sugar. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and vanilla sugar with the paddle attachment until it forms a paste. Add the eggs in a slow stream, beating well after each addition. Beat for 1 minute at medium speed. Gradually add in the buttermilk mixture and beat for 1 minute at medium speed. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in the pureed strawberries and the lemon zest.
Spoon into the prepared cake pans and bake until the cakes pull away from the edges and spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool before removing from the pan.
Whipped Cream Cheese:
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine the sour cream and cream cheese and beat until thoroughly blended and smooth. Add all of the powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest, and salt. Mix slowly until thoroughly blended. Refrigerate until needed.
Just before assembling the trifle, pull the cream cheese base from the refrigerator. Whip the heavy cream until it holds a peak when you lift out a beater. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese base.
Assemble the Trifle:
Slice one of the strawberry cakes into 1 to 2-inch chunks. You only need one, so save the other for yourself.
In a trifle bowl, cover the bottom with cubes of cake. Layer on the 3/4 of the macerated strawberries. Spoon the whipped cream cheese onto the berries and cake, smoothing the top. Just before serving, spoon the rest of the macerated strawberries on top.