While I may seem to be living right now on South Second Street in St. Charles, Illinois (at least that’s what the neighbors think), I’m actually far away in Greece exploring its food via the cookbook “Food from Many Greek Kitchens,” by Tessa Kiros.
The moment I saw her recipe for Fanouropita, a Cake for Lost Things, I had to try. It is baked in honor of St. Fanourios, a saint of the Greek Orthodox Church who lived in Roman times. According to a church website, “The pita is prepared so that the Saint may reveal to someone a lost item, find a job for someone unemployed, restore the health of someone sick, etc.”
Even if you are a skeptic, baking this cake could concentrate the mind, and perhaps help you locate what you have lost. It’s worth a prayer and a try!
The following recipe is actually a combination of a number of recipes: the result is a moist cinnamon-y coffeecake, perfumed with brandy, vanilla and orange. So good, and would be good with a little glass of Greek brandy.
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup olive or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
zest from half an orange
powdered sugar for topping
Grease a 9- or 9-1/2 inch springform cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (You could use a regular pan, but I would line the bottom with wax paper to ensure easy removal of the cake.)
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. Mix. Add the remaining wet ingredients: oil, vanilla, orange juice, brandy, and orange zest. Mix well. The result will be more of a dough than a batter. Scrape into prepared pan, smooth, and bake for about 40 minutes. Cool, remove from its pan, and dust with powdered sugar.
Baking notes: One recipe recommended using Metaxa, which is a Greek brandy. So this morning I went to the local Save-Way Liquor store. The funny think about these stores is that even if it’s 9:30 on a Monday morning, it always feels like midnight on Saturday. But I was able to find the Metaxa, which has a wonderful, complex fragrance. Truth to tell, though, any brandy will do. I used sunflower oil, but extra virgin olive oil would be fine.
I made this recipe twice–the first time I squeezed oranges for the orange juice. The flavor of the fresh juice was faint, and I suggest saving time by buying a small bottle of juice.
Below: ingredients, dough in pan, and the stencil I used for the top of the cake. You might be able to cut something similar with paper and scissors.
Speaking of lost things, we are about to lose our beautiful horse chestnut tree. In a big storm the other night, a massive branch came down. It is the second such branch to fall, and we are facing that the tree must come down, as it’s cracked and hollow. Trees have spirits and are homes for life. I will have to say a prayer to St. Fanourios to remind me that some lost things are meant to be.
From this morning, some adorable goldfinches. God bless you. Fran