Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Lemon!

One of my primary motivations in what I bake is seeing a picture of something and saying, 'I want to eat that with my face right now.' Such was the motivation for this recipe and/or utter replication of one woman's picture. The original, far superior, Flickr picture is here. I stumbled on it while looking through shots of pound cake because I was still determined to remedy my foul up from a few weeks ago. She identified it as Lemon Pound cake with Blueberry Sauce and Coconut Gelato. Mmmmm. Yes please.

I stuck with Rose Levy Beranbaum for the lemon pound cake. You know how you have an idea of what something SHOULD taste like, even if you've maybe never had it that way? I always thought pound cake was supposed to be moist and melt-in-your-mouth a little. I was informed that it's not like that and that it's ultimately dry. I still have a sneaking suspicion my pound cake recipe is out there somewhere...

That's not to say this was bad - not at all. The light lemon was perfect: not too tart and not overwhelming. It only calls for zest in the actual batter and then you brush a lemon syrup over the rest of it later that is also very gentle and lovely. I especially enjoy it warmed up a little but I love warm cake so. That's me.

NOW. The lemon pound cake/blueberry sauce/coconut ice cream; it gets a C+ in my book and here's why: the coconut ice cream (which I'll post about next) is so mild, it's taken over even by the light lemon of the cake. And the blueberry sauce, Ina Garten's recipe, was surprisingly disappointing. There wasn't enough blueberry flavor; it kind of just tasted like syrup with a hint of blueberry. In the end, the cake was good alone and the ice cream was good alone but together they kind of cancelled each others' flavors out.

But reconstructing that beautiful picture was fun. :)

Source: Rose Levy Beranbaum

Ingredients at room temperature

3 tablespoons milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon loosely packed grated lemon zest
13 tablespoons unsalted butter (must be softened)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and line the bottom of one 8-inch by 4-inch by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment or wax paper, and then grease again and flour.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the milk, eggs and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and lemon zest and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half the egg mixture. Mix on low speed under the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the cake's structure.

Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. The batter will be almost 1/2 inch from the top of the 4-cup loaf pan. Bake 55 to 65 minutes (35 to 45 minutes in a fluted tube pan) or under a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Shortly before the cake is done, prepare the Lemon Syrup: In a small pan over medium heat, stir the sugar and lemon juice until dissolved. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, place the pan on a rack, poke the cake all over with a wire tester (or toothpick), and brush it with 1/2 the syrup. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a spatula and invert onto a greased wire rack. Poke the bottom of the cake with the wire tester, brush it with some syrup, and reinvert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the sides with the remaining syrup and allow to cool before wrapping airtight. Store 24 hours before eating to give the syrup a chance to distribute evenly. The syrup will keep the cake fresh a few days longer than a cake without syrup.

Source: Ina Garten

1 1/2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 cup sugar
1 splash vanilla
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine the blueberries and sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Add 1 cup water and the lemon juice and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.

Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The lemon madeleines of doom

You know, the idea to make lemon madeleines started innocently enough. I just wanted something easy to get me back into baking after a winter-induced hiatus. And then the debacle with the oven breaking happened but I was determined to still make them once it came back. I mean, I still had the lemons and those things go bad if you don't use them.

And the thing about madeleines which makes them great and terrible at the same time is, they don't last more than a day. I'd argue a few hours, to be honest. Because they're best when they're warm out of the oven and after a few hours, they're dry and a little stale. The second day, they're useless. I probably won't make them again unless I have someone over to enjoy them as well.

But they're quite lovely anyway. :)

Source: Martha Stewart

Makes 2 dozen

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted (not self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons total)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter (or Pam spray) two madeleine pans; set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl; set aside.

Put eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and juice in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and thickened, about 5 minutes. Mix in butter. Using a spatula, fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Let rest 30 minutes.

Pour batter into buttered pans, filling the molds 3/4 full. Bake cookies, rotating pans halfway through, until edges are crisp and golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Let cookies cool slightly in pans on wire racks. Invert, and unmold. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to one day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I lived in London for a few years (I'm American) and while I was there, I have to admit - and my sincerest apologies to any Brits reading this - but I had pretty bad experiences whilst exposed to English baking. There was just something I didn't GET. From the Christmas puddings to the dense, dry cakes; I suspect I just didn't know where to find GOOD bakery because the local shop on the high street just wasn't it.

So when I started investigating these cupcakes and discovered the glaze-like icing more or less classified it as traditionally British and therefore a "fairycake", I got a little nervous. I did a little further investigation and found that "fairycakes" are kind of just what the British call cupcakes and there's no set recipe or characteristic to the cake itself. A weight was lifted. So I chose something light because, you know. Fairies. (C'mon; I was getting in the spirit!) I found a White Velvet Butter Cake recipe in Rose Levy-Beranbaum's Cake Bible and was intrigued by her endorsement as "the softest and most delicate of all butter cakes". Perfect!

Now, one characteristic that DOES seem a standard of fairycakes is baking the cake small and low enough so the runny icing can be caught by the cup sides and it makes this darling-looking cupcake. Well. I thought I filled them low enough but the damn cakes just rose and went all normal on me. Next time, I'll try half full or maybe even less than that!

I was pleasantly surprised with the cake, though. Rose wasn't lying; it's lovely and soft. AND despite it being soft, it worked; sometimes, when cupcakes are too soft, they're hard to handle or can't take the weight of even a basic buttercream or frosting. Because I was using such a light icing, the soft cake was perfect.

However, the icing didn't come out tasting as I expected. I'll chalk that up to inexperience. I used just powdered sugar and lemon juice, expecting the sugar to dull out the lemon. Yeah, that didn't happen. So instead of just being a sweet icing, it's lemon icing. But that's okay because the cake itself isn't too sweet and the two go well together (but lemony).

So, I have the powdered sugar sifted and the lemon juice waiting to put together for the icing when I realize I have no sprinkles. That was the whole point of these things - that you just sprinkle pretty sparklies on top and they sink into the thin icing while it's wet and it still looks adorable! And I have NONE. So. Plan B. I whipped out my white chocolate, melted it, added some coloring and started using toothpicks to put it in these tiny flower molds. I was surprised to see how cute they came out looking (especially since I had nothing else).

It's my birthday today so these are kind of perfect to post. Because they're pink and fun and wee!

Source: The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

4 1/2 large egg whites
1 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (must be softened)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake cupcakes 15 to 18 minutes (or two 9-inch by 1 1/2-inch pans greased and bottoms lined with parchment then greased again for 25 to 35 minutes) or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. (Cake will be light and will not brown even when done.) The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. For 9-inch pans, loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up and cool completely before wrapping airtight.

Sift powdered sugar to remove lumps. Mix with freshly squeezed lemon juice until icing is in a thick but runny enough consistency to slowly run over top of cupcakes.
Add small amount of coloring if desired.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I'm back, baby

After my last disappointing baking venture, I took a week or so off then decided to try something new. I settled on something easy but good, fresh for spring and pretty: lemon madeleines. I got everything set up, turned on the oven to preheat, mixed all the dry ingredients, had the eggs broke in a bowl and at room temperature. I'm just about to mix the wet and dry ingredients together when I notice the oven has never beeped that it's preheated. Curiously, I open the door and see that it's dead cold. :-O WUT.

Long story short, two weeks later a new (expensive) part is shipped in and the repair guy restores old [not-so] faithful! IT'S BACK. And I've been DYING to bake for the past two weeks like crazy. Well, tomorrow's the day!!

But before all this happened (the day before, to be exact), I got my mom's birthday cake baked. She wanted something chocolatey and I remembered this cake from last year as rather intense. What I DIDN'T remember was that it calls for deeper pans than I had because it expands a lot. Thankfully, I remembered before the pans went into the oven (I made a mini 6" cake with the extra batter). So. Beware, if you make this. It makes a lot of cake. But moist and yummy! Good the next few days too!