Monday, September 29, 2008

Perfection Pound Cake

Simplicity is often a great virtue in itself, but it takes a certain amount of confidence to opt for something basic and unadorned. This cake made me reflect on the pleasure of not decorating, not icing and not flavouring. The pleasure of just letting a cake be.... It has a really wonderful flavour, and would lend itself to being paired with all sorts of toppings. But perhaps it is better to just appreciate it as is? Unfortunately it disappeared too quickly for much experimenting, so I can't really tell you.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's baking bible "Baking: From My Home To Yours". I followed her recipe very closely as experience thus far has shown that her cookbook and her advice is worth following. At Dorie's suggestion, I bought the best butter I could find. I then followed her recipe to the letter, especially the room temperature ingredients and the mixing times. I also used the foil tent for the last 20 mins to stop the top getting too dry. I don't have an insulated baking sheet, so my one eccentricity in this recipe was placing the loaf tin on a folded section from the Sydney Morning Herald. Don't worry - I kept a close watch for any fire risk! This was a bit of a tribute to my non-baking grandmother (I also had a baking grandmother) who once gave me a fruit cake recipe that began: "Line tin with 3 sheets of the Sydney Morning Herald...". I am not sure whether the choice of the Herald impacted on the flavour of this cake, but I would definitely make it again.

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan or an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, a full 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater and reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each egg goes in. As you’re working, scrape down the bowl and beater often. Mix in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated - don’t overmix. In fact, you might want to fold in the last of the flour, or even all of it, by hand with a rubber spatula. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top.

Put the cake into the oven to bake, and check on it after about 45 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. If you’re using a 9×5 pan, you’ll need to bake the cake for 70 to 75 minutes; the smaller pan needs about 90 minutes. The cake is properly baked when a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, transfer the pan to a rack and let rest for 30 minutes.
Run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan and turn the cake out, then turn it right side up on the rack and cool to room temperature.

Storing:Wrapped well, the cake will keep for 5 to 7 days at room temperature (stale cake is great toasted) or up to 2 months in the freezer.

1 comment:

Patty said...

Yum....I remember Pound Cake from when I was a kid. The perfect Sunday baking project for us. By the way loved the lentil salad recipe...added some pumpkin which was sitting in my cupboard. xxx