settling in

Long absences are funny things.

Whether it's reunions with old friends, returning to a beloved-but-seldom-visited location, the long-anticipated commencement of your favorite season, or simply rereading a much-loved book you've practically forgotten about, it's easy to hype it up and expect the experience to be intensely exciting. With the rush of memories you know it will conjure, and the fervor and anticipation with which you will approach it, it seems like the entire thing should be a jumble of emotional fast-talking and laughing and catching your breath while you're swirled around in a nostalgic soup.

I've found, however, that these things usually happen a lot more gently, organically almost. There's that initial burst of excitement, but pretty quickly everything calms down and you just sort of  . . . ease into it, as if the absence, all that space and time, had never happened. It feels natural, and easy, and right.

I think this might apply to blogs, too.

I've been absent from this space for several weeks now, which in the instantaneous world of the Internet is a pretty long time. And a lot has been happening, between parties and first days of school and backyard poultry classes and hiring and training a new pastry cook at the restaurant and weekend travel . . . you get the idea. We're busy.

And as much as I'm not writing regularly here, I'm thinking about this space more than ever, wishing I was here, trying to scheme up ways to get just a little more time each day so that maybe I can eventually have a recipe for you with pictures to go with it and some text, just a little, so that it feels like more than merely a page out of a cookbook.

I've fantasized about all the stories I will tell you, about how remarkably my first-day-of-school worries for Kalen were proven to be completely unnecessary, about how fortunate I feel to finally have an extra set of hands in the 40 Paper pastry kitchen, and about our family's increasing excitement about and commitment to getting some hens next year. And then, of course, I wouldn't be able to leave without waxing ecstatic about last weekend's Fair, which is one of our most-looked-forward-to events of the year.

But you know what? Just like The Fair and the best reunions, now that I'm finally back in this space it doesn't feel all jumpy and excitable like I'd expected. I don't want to give you lots of extended, breathless recounts of everything that's happened between then and now, running anxiously from topic to topic to make sure I haven't left anything unsaid. Because being here again feels comfortable and normal. And easing back into our routine, with photos from last weekend and a recipe for a delicious and unusual apple cake, feels right, and a lot more authentic.

Catching up and settling in, with a slide show and good food. Classic reunion fare, wouldn't you agree?

It's good to be here again with you, friends.

Tuscan Apple Cake (Torta di Mele)
Yields 1 9-inch round cake, or 8 individual cakes

This cake is one of the newest additions to the 40 Paper dessert menu. It's light, only faintly sweet and a little bit homey, with the unmistakable fall flavor profile of spiced apple. Of course, we fancy it up with a scoop of cinnamon cream cheese gelato and lots of spiced caramel, but the cake is delicious all on its own, or served simply, with a side of vanilla ice cream. We use it to feature one of my favorite local apples, the Honey Crisp, but feel free to use your own favorite variety. You can pretty much assume that if you love a particular apple in pie, you'll love it in this cake.

unsalted butter, room temperature, for greasing pan(s)
100 grams granulated sugar, plus additional for coating pan(s)
1 large Honey Crisp apple (or other tart, firm apple), peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced into 24 thin wedges
220 grams whole eggs (about 4 large), room temperature
55 grams granulated sugar
60 grams sour cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
zest of one lemon
70 grams Tara's gf pastry flour
33 grams almond flour
¾ tsp cinnamon, plus additional for apple slices
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp xanthan gum (optional; your cake will be a bit firmer with it)
¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
375 grams peeled, cored and thinly-chopped Honey Crisp apples (or other tart, firm apple)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, or 8 large ramekins. Coat with a layer of granulated sugar, then scatter the 100 grams of granulated sugar over the bottom of the pan, shaking it gently to evenly distribute the sugar. (If you're using ramekins, divide the 100 grams of sugar among them; it's just under 1 Tbsp per ramekin.) Arrange the apple slices in one layer in the prepared pan/ramekins, and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until very light and foamy. It should more than triple in volume. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla, then stir in the lemon zest.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pastry flour, almond flour, ¾ tsp cinnamon, baking powder, xanthan gum (if using), nutmeg, and salt. Fold into the egg batter. Gently stir in chopped apples to thoroughly distribute.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 15-18 minutes for ramekins, or up to 22 minutes for the springform pan, or until the top is golden brown and shiny, and the cake has started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, then remove sides of springform pan to finish cooling. (If using ramekins, let cakes cool completely in them.) Cake can be served at room temperature, but I find it's even better warmed up. At the restaurant, we upend the ramekins onto a plate (the cakes easily slip out), warm the cake briefly in the microwave, then use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar syrup and apple slices on the bottom (now top) of the cake. It's wonderful.

Cake keeps, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, for up to one week.


  1. Beautiful post, Tara. And while we miss you, it's so clear that you are right where you are supposed to be. Enjoy!

  2. Thanks, Heather. Yes, it feels like things are right on-track around here, and even opening up a bit to allow me more time to focus on this space! I really do miss being here...

  3. Absolutely terrific photos! Welcome back!

  4. thismummaslife - Thank you, Krista!

  5. Yes I second that, amazing photos Tara! I especially love the one of your little one asleep in the pram with the hat on... to cute :-)

  6. Emma - Thank you! I especially like that picture, too. My mom has a photo of my younger sister asleep in her stroller, at the same Fair, about 26 years ago. Tradition, you know? :)

  7. I just found your blog and i absolutly love this post. Is so full of life and joy. Torta di mele looks truly delicious.

  8. Mónica - Thank you, and welcome! And now it's my turn to be pleased, because I have found YOUR lovely blog. :)


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