Sweets

Zesty Lemon Bundt Cake

Zesty Lemon Bundt Cake

 

Earlier this summer I noticed an old bundt pan in a neighbor’s garage sale. I had never made a bundt cake and to be honest the whole idea never held much appeal. But as the days passed by and the old bundt pan was still sitting there looking forlorn and neglected my inclinations got the better of me. I went next door and rescued the bundt pan for 2 bucks. It did looked like it was probably left over from the ‘60’s when bundt cakes were all the rage. The interior was scarred and battered and dented here and there. A foreboding of what I might be in fore? A bakers’ worst nightmare? Maybe, but the pan had character and I was up for the challenge.

A little research was in order to find out just what propelled the bundt cake to the heights of popularity and baked in home kitchens across America in the 1960’s.

As it turned out the bundt cake’s origins are tied to the Eastern European kugelhopf. The bundt cake was however very much an American variation. It all came about when a group of Hadassah Society members in St Louis Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota longed to make the dense cakes with a hole in the center that they remembered from Easter Europe before the war. They enlisted David Dlaquist to design a baking pan to match their recollections. His company Nordic Ware then manufactured the cast aluminum bundt pans with a center chimney that made a hole in the center of the cake like those favored cakes from Germany and Poland.

The bundt cake pans didn’t take off at first, but when a bundt cake recipe was featured in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1963 some orders came pouring in. But it wasn’t until Ella Helrich won second prize for her “Tunnel Fudge Cake” recipe in the Pillsbury Bake Off in 1966 that  put the bundt cake on the map. Sales soared with over 200,000 bundt cake pans sold across America.

Nordic Ware is still manufacturing various bundt pans as well as a huge selection of bake ware and baking supplies.

You can visit Nordic Ware’s website at  www.nordicware.com

Needless to say, the Bundt Cake is now embedded into my baking vocabulary and as beat up as my garage sale bundt pan is, it is probably an original and I’m going to stick with it just as it is!


Zesty Lemon Bundt Cake

Required: 1 bundt pan very well greased to avoid problems when unmolding the baked cake.

I have done quite a bit of research about how to best insure that all your efforts are rewarded when you unmold your beautifully bronzed bundt cake intact and ready for glazing.

Firstly, Using a nonstick bunt pan in good condition will make unmolding the bundt cake that much easier.

Secondly, the best advice I have gleaned is, rather than brushing the interior of the bundt pan with melted butter, using vegetable shortening is a better choice for this application. Take your time and be meticulous about greasing every inch of the inner surface with great care. Then dust the interior lightly with flour, tapping excess flour out of the pan. Inspect the interior of the pan and grease any places you may have missed. This method has worked well for me, though a little tapping of the pan may be required once the cake is is turned over onto a plate. Do not panic. Be persistent and the cake will release.

Should anyone have another foolproof alternative for releasing a bundt cake from the pan I would love to hear from you!

For the cake:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup full fat buttermilk, or full fat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 /f   180 / c

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt n a bowl and whisk until evenly combined.

In another bowl combine the buttermilk or Greek yogurt and the lemon juice and stir until smooth. Then stir in the vanilla and set the bowl aside.

Put the butter in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed until the butter is fluffy. Then add the sugar in three additions while continuing to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Then add the eggs in three additions while you beat on medium sped until the mixture is smooth.

Lower the mixer speed to low and begin adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk or Greek yogurt alternately. Continue until the batter is relatively smooth and evenly mixed. Then mix in the lemon zest until combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared bunt pan and then gently shake the pan to even out the surface.

Place the cake in the center of the rack and bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes.,rotating the cake after 25 minutes.

Test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean with a few crumbs the cake is done. If the cake requires more time return it to the oven for five minute intervals until it tests done.

Transfer the cake to a rack ans allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile you can make the glaze.

For the Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar , sifted
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

Put the lemon juice in a small nonreactive bowl and begin stirring in the confectioners sugar. Once the glaze starts to thicken you can add the milk while continuing to stir. Continue stirring while mixing in the remaining sugar until the glaze is smooth. If it seems a little runny put the glaze in the fridge and let it firm up a bit while you unmold the cake.

Once the cake is cool enough to handle, inspect the rim of the cake and remove any excess cake that may have spread over the edges of the cake pan. Then place a plate over the cake and, using both hands,  invert the both together simultaneously . Let the cake settle over the plate for a minute  or two.Then clamp the plate and the cake together using both hands and give it a good downward thrust…or two until you feel the cake release onto the plate.

If the cake does not release, tap the mold with the wooden handle of a knife over the surface of the mold and then repeat the downward thrust. If there is still no release place a steaming hot towel over the mold and repeat the downward thrust once again. Eventually the cake is going to relax and release so remain positive and be patient!

Serving:

Glaze the cake just before serving is ideal, although you may want to refrigerate the cake and the glaze for 15 or 20 minutes so the cake is cool enough to hold the glaze in place.

Take a moment to congratulate yourself and then serve your bundt cake with the satisfaction of being the seasoned baker that you are!

Salted Dark chocolate Chip Cookies with Black Walnuts

Salted Dark chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies with Black Walnuts

 

last June I posted a recipe for Fig Tahini and Dark Chocolate Cookies with Orange Peel (See here) that was a winning combo of flavors that’s been begging for a reinterpretation ever since. So here is yet another chocolate and tahini cookie recipe, this time paired with black walnuts. The idea may seem like a bit of a stretch, but ounce the aroma of molten dark chocolate scented with rye and black walnuts is wafting through the kitchen and glistening chunks of warm chocolate catch your eye as you pull the cookies out of the oven the threads that bind these flavors together are apparent. As with all baking there is always some chemistry involved, but once you’ve got that down you can let your intuitive impulses take flight!

A few words about tahini are in order. Tahini is a “butter” gleaned from ground hulled roasted sesame seeds that dates back 4000 years in Mesopotamia. Tahini has been used throughout the Middle East and Asia ever since. Tahini has an impressive nutrient profile and today is best known as an essential ingredient used in making hummus (See recipe here). Tahini is widely available in specialty stores and online.

The texture of tahini will vary depending on the oil content. Generally, the sesame oil will float on top of the solids, much like it does in a jar of unprocessed peanut butter. The oil should always be thoroughly stirred into the solids before use. For baking in particular, the oil content of tahini is critical. Too much oil will make the tahini quite thin, in which case some of the oil should be removed before stirring. The ideal consistency for baking purposes would be a consistency of thick molasses, neither too stiff nor too runny. Any oil removed can be reserved for other uses.

The quality of the chocolate you use for baking also matters. The better the quality the better the results. The dark chocolate I prefer for baking is Callebaut chocolate from Belgium. For this recipe I’ve used dark chocolate discs; 70% . Callebaut chocolates are an excellent choice known for their deep rich flavor, and stability whatever the application. Available online and well worth the investment if you love to bake!

 

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies with Black Walnuts     makes 18 cookies

  • 4 oz/ 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup well stirred tahini (as noted above)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup + 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup buckwheat flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup black walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • flaked sea salt for finishing (optional

 

Place the butter, tahini, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix at medium speed for a few minutes until fluffy and well combined. Add the tahini and beat until combined.

Combine the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla in a small bowl and beat until combined. Add to the butter mixture and beat until just mixed in.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, rye flour, baking soda and salt and whisk until combined.

Begin slowly mixing the butter tahini mixture while adding the flour in three additions while continuing to mix until combined, but don’t over mix.

Then using a silicone spatula fold in the chocolate chips and the walnuts until evenly distributed through out the cookie dough. Mound the dough together and cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 c                    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, using a tablespoon, scoop out a heaping mounds of dough and place them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets; About 9 to a sheet.

Transfer the sheet of cookies to the preheated oven and bake for 12 to to 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet half way through the baking. The cookies will spread slightly while baking. The edges should be lightly browned and the centers just set. As always try not to over bake the cookies. They will appear to be very soft but will firm up as they cool on the baking sheet. Top with flaked sea salt (optional)

Ideally the cookies are best served at room temperature while the chocolate glistens and the texture of the cookies is soft and pliable.

Otherwise it is best to store in the cookies in an airtight container with parchment liners between layers in the refrigerator.

Butter Pecan cookies

Butter Pecan cookies

 

Pecans are the nuts harvested from native hickory trees found throughout the north, northeastern ,southern, and southern south western United States, and Mexico. Pecans have been a part of the native American diet long before European explorers arrived in the Americas. These elegant native hickory trees can grow over a hundred feet tall and live for more than a thousand years. The name pecan comes from the Algonquin Indian word pacane, meaning a nut that needs to be cracked with a stone.

Thomas Jefferson planted native hickory trees at his home “Monticello” in Virginia and shared some of his hickory nuts with George Washington who planted them at his Mount Vernon home.

The first successful grafting of native hickory trees was done by a slave gardener named Antoine at Oak Alley Plantation in Southern Louisiana around 1846 and a pecan industry was born. Today Georgia, Louisianan, and Texas produce about 80% of the world’s pecan supply, while Mexico produces the remaining 20%.

Pecans still reign supreme with home cooks and bakers throughout the American south. Favorite recipes include southern pecan pies, pecan pralines from New Orleans, pecans topping baked sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinners, and of course butter pecan ice cream and gilato. All these southern delights go hand in hand with hickory wood smoked Texas barbecues, a Louisiana Cajun gumbo or jambalaya, or a Gulf Coast shrimp crab and crayfish boil. This is real southern food you’ve got to love!

Pecans pack a load of healthy benefits as well. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Organic pecans are available from specialty shops and online. Pecans are a must have essential to keep on hand in your larder. Pecans are delicious roasted and salted, dded to salads, ground for coating baked poultry or fish, and of course for heavenly baked goods.

These butter pecan cookies are easy to make and a perfect accompaniment when served with a butter pecan gelato or for a summery peach and strawberry pecan short cake.

 

Butter Pecan cookie shortcake

Butter Pecan cookie shortcake

 

Butter Pecan Cookies     makes 24 cookies

preheat oven to 350 f/180 c with the rack set in the middle position

Have ready 2 baking sheets lined with parchment

Ingredients:

For the pecans:

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter 
  • 1½ cups whole pecan halves
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar

For the cookies:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon flaked / or kosher salt

To prepare pecans melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Swirl the pan until the butter begins to color. Then lower the heat a bit and continue swilling the butter until it is a medium amber color. Add the brown sugar and swirl the pan until the sugar has melted. Promptly remove the pan from the heat and add the pecans. Gently turn the pecans in the browned butter until evenly coated. Set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.

Then give the pecans another turn in the butter mixture, and pick out the pecans and spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Transfer to the preheated oven and toast the pecans for about 8 minutes. 

Remove the toasted pecans from the oven and set aside to cool. Once the pecans have cooled set 24 pecans aside to use later. Then chop the remaining pecans and set them aside to use for the cookie dough later.

For the cookies:

Place the unsalted butter in a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer whip the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Then add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Place the egg in a small bowl along with the vanilla extract and whisk until combined.

Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated.

Combine the flour, baking soda, corn starch, and salt in a bowl and mix with a spoon until combined.

With the mixer set on low speed add a third of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Ad the remaining flour mixture in two additions until combined. Scrape off the excess dough on the mixer blades and add to the dough.

Then using a silicone spatula fold the chopped pecans into the dough until evenly combined.

Take two tablespoons of the dough and roll it between the palms of your hands to form an even ball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Form the remaining dough into balls and place them on the baking sheet, allowing about 3 inches between each ball of dough, generally 9 to 12 cookies to a tray.

Gently flatten the balls of dough just slightly and top with a pecan placed in the center of each cookie.

Transfer the cookies to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the tray after 5 minutes to insure even baking. The cookies will be lightly browned and will be soft, but not to worry. They will firm up as they cool. Be mindful of your timing s over backing will dry the cookies out!

Promptly remove the cookies from the oven and set them aside for a few minutes to firm up. Then transfer them to a cooling rack and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Store the cooled cookies in an air tight container for several days or refrigerate for longer storage.

Martha’s Black Walnut Cake

 

Martha was our next door neighbor when we were growing up in rural Lancaster County Pennsylvania. I didn’t know much about cooking back then, but we kids always enjoyed having lunches together in Martha’s kitchen. The radio was usually on and supper preparations were already well under way, so there were usually some enticing aromas wafting above the kitchen table. The whole idea of cooking and the pleasures of those long gone lunches have lingered and shaped my own thoughts about food and cooking.

Every fall, around late October or early November, we kids would help Martha collect the walnuts that fell from the black walnut trees in front of our houses. To us they looked like icky leathery decomposing green balls with a gross acrid odor that were begging to be kicked at one another. Of course what was encased inside those retched balls were Martha’s prized cache of black walnuts that would later be baked into her sublime black walnut cakes.

What we didn’t know then was that those Black walnuts that fell from our trees were from native north American black walnut trees. Black walnuts have a unique assertive flavor unlike the larger milder English walnuts that are commonly found in baked goods and in the baking section of your local grocery stores. Shelled black walnuts are smaller and have a distinctly unique walnut flavor all their own. I urge you to seek them out for this recipe that follows. If you don’t have a source where you live, they are available online. If that is not an option, toasted English walnuts will do in a pinch, though there really is no comparison.

Back home, once our walnuts were gathered up we put them in an oblong rectangular wooden tray with a wire mesh screen bottom. The walnuts were then put up to air cure until the green skin blackened and was soft enough to pull away revealing the hard black walnut nestled inside. This was very messy business and wearing rubber gloves was a must to avoid having sticky black stained hands.

The hulled walnuts were then set out to cure for several days before cracking the shells with a small hammer and meticulously removing the prized walnuts inside. This was very tedious work that we kids usually quickly lost interest in, leaving Martha to finish the harvesting all on

her own.

 

That said, all the laborious preparations do pay off handsomely once you are digging into a slice of Martha’s gloriously moist and delicious black walnut cake. I try to make Martha’s black walnut cake every fall so I can revisit those fond memories from my childhood spent in Martha’s kitchen all over again.

For this recipe I have referenced a penciled recipe from Martha herself along with some of my own recollections.

Martha’s Black Walnut Cake:

  • 4 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cup chopped black walnuts
  • confectioners sugar for dusting.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

 

Prepare a 9 or 10 inch round or a 13 x 9 inch rectangular baking pan, buttered and the bottom lined with parchment paper.

Using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer and large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Then add one egg at a time, mixing in each until combined into the butter sugar mixture. Then beat in the vanilla.

 

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir until combined.

With the mixer set on low speed begin adding a third of the flour mixture alternately with an equal part of the milk and mixing until combined before adding the second and third additions of flour mixture and milk. Try not to over mix the batter so it retains its airiness.

Then using a silicone spoon fold in the walnuts by hand until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

 

Spoon the cake batter evenly into the prepared baking pan. Shake the pans slightly to even out the batter.

Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the center of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean the cake is done. Keep an eye on the timing so the cake is not over baked which will dry it out.

 

Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cake has cooled you can place a plate over the baking pan. Then, holding both the plate and the pan together, flip them over and remove the baking pan. Gently peal off the parchment and let the cake cool a bit longer.

 

When you are ready to serve, dust the walnut cake with confectioners sugar and serve.

You can store the cake, tightly sealed with cling film at room temperature for several days, or refrigerated for up to a week. However, from my experiences, this cake is not going linger much past when first served! Everyone’s going to want seconds!

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