Sunday, March 01, 2009

Pound Cakes and Stomach Aches!

The pound cake, so misunderstood in the world of the grocer. So easily made and so easily kept, but so often purchased full of chemicals and complicated words at the chain markets. After some digging, I found my original pound cake recipe. It's the one that every time I make it and share it, the receiver never forgets it and deliberates back and forth in her mind whether or not she really wants the recipe. It's so good that any level headed person knows that it's better left unmade. It makes one crazy with desire- for the pound cake, that is, and only the pound cake. You can think of nothing else but just one more moist, soft, crumbly bit. And then your stomach turns over with glee from its richness- ouch.

The reason I searched high and low for the recipe- I really need to invent some sort of an organizational system for myself (it'll never happen)- was that I had found a pound cake recipe in gourmet this month that called for cardamom. I've been home alone the past 4 days, Josh still being in California, but I haven't touched more than the damn microwave. I wasn't into it. After being in heaven the past week myself (aka San Francisco), I just wasn't in the mood to be domestic. I was like a little bachelor, going out to dinner with girlfriends I don't see enough of, going to the bar by myself, drinking whole milk and not much more for breakfast, not touching laundry or dirty bathrooms that were supposed to be cleaned before we left... and it was fantastic. But last night I was tugged to do something, preferably something that was less than productive, but more than drinking beer or wine and reading off the computer.

I received some pretty severe news yesterday afternoon, news that overwhelmed me with sadness and further debilitated my motivation. It's nothing involving my life, but life changing news for a friend. So I decided to make this friend homemade yogurt and pound cake. She's a very competent cook and I think would not appreciate a meal just yet, but this pound cake you can freeze and the yogurt lasts for at least 2 weeks. It's something, right? And it took my attention for a good while, filling the house with sweet smells.

Last night I actually made the new recipe from Gourmet, but pulled out the original pound cake recipe discovered back in 2003 in Bon Appetit for comparison and options for you. Funny to think back to when this pound cake entered my life. Was I really an adult with a real job in 2003? It sounds like so long ago, but I was married, paying back students loans, working a couple of jobs, making this pound cake and shipping it to family when we couldn't be there for holidays. Let me tell you, it seems like a great and economical idea, but it is a pound cake people. It's a bit heavy. Maybe now that we have evolved to smarter postal ways since then (sigh, I feel so old) you could actually send in the flat rate box and send all over this country. Other than its weight, it's great for shipping because it lasts so very long. It's actually better the next day and is naturally preserved by it's sugar content.

So here they are; take your pick. Honestly, I like the cardamom flavor, but it is not bashful so use cautiously if sharing with a timid eater. All in all I think the 2003 recipe is a bit more addictive, but I think it's because it remains a little moister from cooking at such low temperatures. The Gourmet recipe has fewer eggs and less sugar, but does have more butter due to not having cream cheese in the recipe. I think in the end I would stick with Gourmet, but cook for less than an hour. I actually diviated from the recipe by using vanilla extract (saddly I felt that I couldn't spend the $11 on the vanilla beans at Whole Foods yesterday- I wish I could have had specks of compost black vanilla bean seeds in this cake) and adding some sour cream to the milk just because we had it. It was great and would have been better a little less cooked (unless you are sharing with those people that like their cookies crispy- then it would have been cooked just perfectly).

March 2009 Gourmet Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake
3 c. flour
1 tsp ground cardamom (I used more)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (I buy by the pound and calculated it to be just over a pound)
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise (or 1+ TB extract)
4 large eggs
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 c. whole milk (I used 1 1/2 TB sour cream, scooped into a measuring cup, and added milk to the cup)
For whipping cream (which I didn't make):
1 1/2 c. chilled heavy cream
2 1/2 TB confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

}Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
}Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in mixer at medium speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a paring knife into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in lemon juice until combined well. At low speed, add flour mix and milk, alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing just until combined.
}Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Gently rap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.
}For whipping cream: Beat cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla extract using whisk attachment of mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve cake with whipped vanilla cream.

And from December 2003 Bon Appetit:
Cream Cheese Pound Cake

The cake is put into a cold oven and then baked slowly at gradually increasing temperatures.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour

}Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat). Transfer batter to pan.

}Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 250°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase to 275°F; bake 10 minutes. Increase to 300°F; bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap; store at room temperature.)


Jillian said...

How funny! I had just finished saying to my roommate that I should bake a pound cake soon when I checked your blog and there it was. A delicious looking pound cake that made my mouth water :) Also, I was wondering if you have skype. It would be great to see you and talk to you at the same time :) - Jillian

Sarah said...

Oh Jillian, we are in tandem my dear.

I don't even know what skype is, but it probably requires a newer computer than we have. One with a video camera? xo
p.s. make sure to freeze any cake you don't want to eat. It's not possible to not eat it if it's available and on the counter. You could spend 5 hours cooking dinner, and then see the poundcake, forgo the dinner, and gain 4 pounds all in one sitting without ever eating dinner.

Jillian said...

I've made the mistake of making one to keep at home before. Now I usually only make it for a party or give most of it away. That way I can eat one piece and feel confident that the rest will be gone before I can go for another, and another.... It's just so good I can not leave it be!

You can purchase a camera separate from the computer to skype but you do have to have decently high speed internet... You can also skype without a camera and then it's like making a long distance phone call for free. I just learned about skype a couple of months ago. I love it because I get to see my friend's 8 month old in Portland. I could just watch her for hours :)