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!

 

Blueberry Pound Cake

 

Finally, I am settling into a new kitchen and eager to get back to doing some cooking and baking again. Transitions are never easy, but relocating from Thailand to the US, was both unexpected and fraught with all the twists and turns one finds along the way on any journey. Gladly my pots and pans arrived here and are in place along with my kitchen table that survived its long journey from half way around the world and is again an island of calm where my thoughts about food, recipes, and cooking can simmer away.

Of course working with an unfamiliar oven for the first time can be… well…stressful. But by chance I was just reading a recipe for a blueberry bundt cake by Melissa Clark in the New York Times that I thought would be a sure fire test run for my oven. Melissa’s recipes are always foolproof, but making a bundt cake can be tricky and frustrating when trying to release the cake from the bundt pan. So instead, I chose to make a pound cake, which is easier and eccentrically the same batter used for a bundt cake. I have made a few minor adjustments as well.

 

All went splendidly. The oven performed accurately and the blubbery pound cake and blueberry glaze was as delicious as I knew it would be. This is a perfect recipe for all sorts of fresh fruits and berries this time of year.

I will be posting a lemon bundt cake recipe in the next week or so, which will delve into the does and don’ts and how to avoiding the pitfalls of unmolding a bundt cake.

                                   

                                                            So let’s get baking!

 

Fresh Blueberry Pound Cake with Blueberry Glaze 

Makes 1 loaf pan cake and a small round cake.

Needed: a loaf pan and small round baking dish.

Brush the interiors of the  baking pan and smaller baking dish with melted butter and then dust with granulated sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350 f / 180 c   Set the oven rack in the middle position.

 

For the cake:

2 cups fresh blueberries

3 ½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup Greek yogurt

½ cup whole milk

 

For Blueberry glaze:

½ cup fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 cups confectioners sugar

Rinse all the blueberries and set side to drain in a colander.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside

Place the butter in a mixing bowl, or a stand mixer bowl, and beat on medium speed until the butter is fluffy. Then add the granulated sugar in three additions while continuing to mix until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs in three additions while continuing to mix until well incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Add the vanilla, grated nutmeg, and lemon zest and mix until incorporated.

Add the yogurt and mix on low speed until incorporated. Then add the milk and mix until the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and baking dish and place them in the oven.

Baking times are as follows. The small cake will take about 35 minutes to bake and larger loaf pan cake will take 50 to 60 minutes,

Test by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cakes and if the toothpick comes out clean with a few crumbs the cakes are done, As always keep an eye on your timing as you d not want the cakes to over bake which will make them dry.

When done remove the cakes from the oven ans set out to cool on a wire rack.

While the cakes are baking you can go ahead and make the blueberry glaze.

Place ½ cup blueberries in a small sauce pan and add the lemon juice. Place the pan over medium low heat and cook until the berries are bubbling away for about five minutes are so. Then, using a stiff silicone spatula, mash the berries into a paste. Then begin stirring in the confectioners sugar and continue stirring until most of the confectioners sugar is combined. You will be surprised how much sugar is absorbed. Ideally the glaze should be stiff but pourable. Store at room temperature for immediate use or cover and refrigerate the glaze for later use. Be sure to bring the glaze back to room temperature before using.

When the cakes are cool you can remove the cakes from their baking pans and serve with the blueberry glaze.

Serve slices of the pound cake at room temperature with the glaze poured over the slices of cake.

 

The cakes can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in cling film, for five days or they can be bagged and stored in the freezer for later use.

 

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.

Orange White Chocolate Currant Oatmeal Cookies

Orange White Chocolate Currant Oatmeal Cookies

Here is yet another cookie recipe adaptation that I have gleaned from Elizabeth Prueit’s TARTINE cookbook. This time around it is a batch of wonderfully soft oatmeal cookies with chunks of white chocolate, plump currants, orange zest, and a hint of vanilla and nutmeg. I have to say there is an insightful playfulness to Elizabeth’s recipes that have me returning to her cookbook time and time again. Leafing through TARTIN’s pages is as much about being inspired as it is about having confidence in knowing you will come away with some amazing cookies that you know everyone will love!

 

Big Orange -White Chocolate – Oatmeal– Currant -Cookies         makes 24 to 36 cookies 

  • 12 oz / 340 g white chocolate, chopped into 1/8 inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups currants, soaked in warm water until plumped, and drained
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup/ 8 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp dark molasses
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 tsp freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 ½ cups old- fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Have ready 3 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or non-stick liner.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high speed until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and continuing beating until light and fluffy.

Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, vanilla, molasses, salt, orange zest, and orange juice and beat on medium low speed until well mixed. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stop the mixer and add the currants and the rolled oats and fold them in using the silicone spatula until well combined.

Have ready a small bowl of water.

For big cookies scoop out the dough into 3 ½ oz / 100 g portions. Roll portioned dough into balls and set aside on a platter.

If you want to make smaller cookies scoop out 2 ¾ oz/ 75 g portions of dough. Baking time will be 7 to 10 minutes.

For best results you want to bake 6 large cookies on each baking sheet. This allows for even baking and ample space for the cookies to spread out as they bake.

Position six pieces of dough on the lined baking sheet. Dip your fingers into the bowl of water and then gently press the dough out into about 3 inch rounds. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The cookies should be slightly browned around the edges while the centers will still feel a little soft.

Promptly transfer baking sheet with the cookies to a wire cooling rack. After about 5 minutes you can slide the parchment or liner with the cookies from the baking sheet to the cooling rack. The cookies will firm up as they cool. Be sure the cookies are cooled to room temperature before serving or transferring them to an airtight container for storage.

Continue baking batches of cookies until all the cookies are baked and cooled to room temperature.
Store in airtight containers fora couple of weeks. I you decide to refrigerate the cookies for longer storage be sure to bring them to room temperature for serving.



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