Thursday, March 27, 2014

Renegade Baking

As we've alluded to before, Erica and I get somewhat frustrated when our Daring Bakers challenges contain little-to-no baking. Case in point this month? Our designated recipe was for nougat. While I'm sure it would have been delicious, we decided to stray a bit from the rules and bake something out of our long lists of baked goods to try.

Both Erica and I have been long-time fans of Heidi Swanson and her 101 Cookbooks blog (she lives here in SF, and though I've seen her out and about her four times, I've yet to have the courage to interrupt what she's been doing to say hello. But I'm pretty sure we'd be best of friends :-)). Given that spring is upon us, we decided to try her citrus-bay leaf pound cake, a combination that had us intrigued from the get go.

The recipe was quite simple - a basic pound cake with bay leaf butter and a citrus glaze. Erica started us out by soaking the bay leaves in melted butter, which smelled divine. Next we artfully arranged our bay leaves at the bottom of the pan.

The cake portion came together quickly -- whisking together the dry ingrediants, and then the wet (which included a fair amount of sour cream, interestingly enough).

The we blended those together, poured it over the arranged bay leaves -- careful not to disturb! -- and popped it into Erica's (new, no longer too hot too cold) oven.

We pulled the leaves out eventually (just like with soup, no one wants a mouthful of bay leaf while eating cake), leaving a delicate imprint.

The citrus glaze settled into the imprints. I wanted this to be more artful, but it just looked a bit random -- perhaps I'd do some additional pattern play if we make it again.

As you can see, the crumb on the cake was beautiful - moist, delicately flavored. It was delicious post dinner (thanks for the homemade pasta!), and in the morning with tea.

Forgive us DB folks! We'll follow the rules next time, so long as baking is involved!

The March 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins. [Yeah, we didn't do this...]

Bay Leaf Pound Cake

You can make this pound cake with whole wheat pastry flour as well. Just be extra mindful not to over bake. Also, as David suggests, substituting rose geranium or another (edible) scented leaf is a fine idea, just make sure the leaves are unsprayed. You can bake this in a 9-inch pan, or equivalent, I like to experiment with different pan shapes.
6 tablespoons / 3 ounces / 85 g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon butter, for piping
10 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 2/3 cups / 230g all-purpose flour
1 cup / 200 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup / 125 g sour cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Orange Glaze:
1 cup / 140 g powdered sugar
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange liquor, such as Grand Mariner or Cointreau (optional)
Melt 6 tablespoons (85g) of butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 3 of the bay leaves. Let steep for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan (or equivalent). Dust with flour and tap out any excess. If possible, line the bottom with parchment paper (if the shape of your pan makes it impossible to line with parchment, skip the paper). If you have a flat-bottomed pan, dab one side of the remaining 7 bay leaves with a little bit of butter and place the leaves, evenly spaced, on the bottom of the prepared pan, buttered side down. Alternately, if your pan doesn't have a flat bottom, you can wait, and place the remaining bay leaves atop the batter just before placing in the oven (as shown above).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla until combined. If needed, barely rewarm the butter to liquify it and pluck out the bay leaves. Whisk the butter into the egg mixture.

With a spatula, gently stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture, just until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, being careful not to disturb the leaves (alternately, top the cake with any remaining leaves). Put the remaining 1 tablespoon of softened butter into a plastic bag, snip off a corner, then draw a straight line of the butter down the center of the cake (alternately, a circle if your pan is round). Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. It's better to slightly under bake, than over bake this cake.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and then tip out onto a cooling rack, remove leaves, and let cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange liquor (if using). Stir until smooth, then spread the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip down the sides and harden.

Makes one 9-inch cake.

Slightly adapted from David Lebovitz's beautiful new book, My Paris Kitchen.

Prep time: 60 min - Cook time: 50 min

1 comment:

Emily said...

I've been wanting to try that cake! Glad to hear it's a good one -- maybe now I will!