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Early winter pleasures


Photographs by Elspeth Young
At "The Violent Study Club," one of Betsy's planned poetry readings on a snowy night was James Russell Lowell's The First Snowfall (Betsy refers to it by it's first line in Betsy's Wedding).  It's a lovely, touching poem, and we include the first four stanzas here not only in salute to Betsy and Lowell, but to the first major snowfall of the season that's been "heaping field and highway" since about noon today.  (It arrived a little early for the gloaming part, however.)

Also now part of our frost-chilled, late-autumn mornings is nice, warming cereal for breakfast, from which any leftovers are always welcome as enrichments for dark, rich wholegrain breads and comforting cakes.  One of our favorite treats-from-leftovers follows, and can use up anywhere from 1/4-cup to 1/2-cup of leftover farina (aka Cream of Wheat).  I think the 1/4-cup makes a better cake, but either version is terrific.

The First Snowfall by James Russell Lowell

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer's muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan's-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

Double Chocolate Farina Cake by Nancy Young

This recipe adapts to use up to ½ cup of leftover farina.  The lesser amounts of whole wheat flour and cocoa are for the ¼-cup measurement, the greater amounts are for the ½ cup rendition.  Of course, more cocoa can be used if a darker-chocolate cake is preferred—and white flour can be used instead of whole wheat, but you'll need a bit more, perhaps 7/8 cup to 1¼ cups of all-purpose or unbleached.  If you like (and we often do as you can see by the photograph), the cake can be topped with some nuts and sugar before baking.
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
About ¼ to ½ cup cooked farina
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond, vanilla or hazelnut flavoring or grated peel of 1 orange and 1 teaspoon vanilla
½ to ¾ cups cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt (optional)
¾ to 1 1/8 cups whole wheat flour
Up to ½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter or pan spray any attractive cake form—round is probably best.  Cream together the butter, sugar, and farina in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer until light.  Add eggs and choice of flavoring; mix well, add cocoa, and continue beating to a mousse-like consistency.  Keep family members from trying to eat it up at this stage—you, of course, as the cook may do as you like (if using ½ cup farina it will never achieve mousse-dom, but will still make a great cake).  Mix together baking powder, salt, if using, and flour, and beat lightly into mixture.  Fold-in chocolate chips and spoon into prepared pan.  Bake until cake tests clean—or almost clean, if you want a fudgier result— about 20 to 25 minutes for the smaller cake, 25 to 35 minutes for the larger mixture.  Allow to cool on wire rack.

Tags: Vol. 12 No. 6, 2012, Recipes by Nancy Young, Recommended reading

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