Wednesday, January 28, 2009

pound cake for the pound cake cynic

i really love cookbooks.
so much so, that i sometimes have nightmares
(and I mean real, honest to goodness, wake-up-
in-the-morning-and-think, what just happened?
nightmares) that our very large, very full bookshelf
has collapsed under the weight of all of them, that
the ridiculously tall stacks in the closet have teetered over
or that i've lost the very one i was determined to peruse,
after misplacing it in the kitchen, or bedroom or my car.

luckily, that hasn't happened yet.
well, the first two scenarios, anyway.

my love, you see, is similar to what most people have for
scared-to-fall asleep mysteries
dirty romance page turners
1,000 page sci-fi series.
i read them like novels, cover to cover.

and then i go back and reread my favorite pages,
the ones that jumped out,
that immediately made me think,
this is something special.

and that is how i felt the first time i read,
it's a lovely page turner and one that, frankly,
makes even the most simple of recipes sound
irresistible.

i first came across the book, when i was writing
cookbook reviews for my culinary school
externship at the The Nibble, a food lover's dream.

and there, the recipe for
Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake,
jumped out at me:
the simplicity and
the unexplainable appeal
of the no butter loaf seemed to
stand in the way of any realistic doubts:

1) i don't like pound cake (just the name conjures up
images of manufactured boxed confections)
2) it contained orange zest (i like oranges just fine,
but use them as a flavoring and for me, it's a no-go)
3) i'd have to use a cup of my good olive oil (i'm
sometimes a bit stingy).

when adding the zest to the batter, gently rub it between your fingers to release and separate. i learned the hard way, that otherwise, they clump together on the whisk attachment and never find their way into the cake.

but, nevertheless, i carried on, trudging out in
less than friendly weather to buy
my first bottle of sherry.
less than 20 minutes after i returned home,
two creamy loaves were
busy browning in the oven.

gorgeously golden,
we waited patiently for them to cool
to slice
and eat
just as they were - no butter, no jam necessary.
the first day, the flavors were subtle,
but the top layer was crunchy,
almost as if the sugars had risen
while baking, joining together and resulting in
a surprisingly caramelized crust.

after a day or two,
the top had softened -
an obvious caveat of wrapping -
but the olive oil and sherry
were ready to shine.
the flavors melded beautifully
and even i have to say
the orange zest added a certain
charm
and
complexity
that may have otherwise been lost amongst
the fine-crumbed cake.

i wrapped the second loaf extra securely and kept it
in the freezer for well past the three month mark.
oops.
it was still from-the-oven-fresh even then,
so feel free to wrap and freeze, to give as gifts
or to enjoy with a cup of tea when you're
craving comfort.

and, i must admit, that i sometimes doubt a recipe
unless it's been made multiple times. luckily
this no-butter cake has been given many chances
and has always passed.


when a recipe calls for adding eggs one at a time, spare yourself the headache of cracking separately. instead, put them all into a measuring cup and pour them in as needed. so. much. easier.

Alice Medrich's Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake
from Pure Dessert
i caution you to use medium sherry, as indicated in the recipe. i've used lighter and it just doesn't pop. also, if you have a couple olive oils in your cabinet to choose from, pick the boldest.

3 cups (13.5 oz.) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. grated orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
5 large cold eggs
1 cup medium (amontillado) sherry

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt thoroughly in a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (with the whisk attachment), beat the sugar, olive oil and orange zest on high speed until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue to beat until the mixture is thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and add 0ne-third flour mixture; beat just until combined. Add half of the sherry. Beat just until blended. Repeat with another third of the flour, followed by the remaining sherry, and then the remaining flour.

Scrape the batter into the pans. Bake until the cake tester comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on a rack for about 15 minutes before unmolding.

Slide a thin knife or spatula around the sides to release the cake. Invert the cake onto a rack. Turn the preferred side up before cooling the cake completely. Wrapped airtight, the cake keeps well at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

2 comments:

Home At Last! said...

I have just stumble upon your blog. Want to give this a try. We are looking for a rustic pound cake that will stand up to grilling! We make delicious sweet courses at our bed and breakfast and need to find a really good pound cake. I bake with olive oil and love the texture it creates. Wish me luck. Thanks for sharing.
www.GirondasCasaBella.com

brooke said...

oh, go for it. alice medrich's recipe is really lovely - i've never tried to grill it, but this cake is pretty sturdy, especially on the second and third days. good luck!