Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lemon Bundt Pound Cake

Tonight, I decided to make a basic butter cake recipe as I hear these are great beginner cakes. At Ryan's request, I selected a lemon poppyseed bundt cake from the Joy of Cooking, specifically, Rose Levy Beranbaum's Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake on page 940 of the 1997 edition. I wanted to do something that I knew would turn out so that I can practice my technique without pressure. I think this cake was a good choice.

Last night, I was reading Flo Braker's book, "The Art of Perfect Baking," where she emphasized that the #1 reason recipes fail is inaccurate measurement. I've always known that weighing is the most accurate way of measuring ingredients, but I never really was "sold" on the idea. In her book, Flo describes the difficulty of accurately weighing brown sugar without a scale. There can be up to 1/4 cup of difference between two different people measuring the same sugar!

I decided to test out weighing to see how far off my measurement has been. I took three large eggs from the same package and put each on the scale. A large egg is supposed to weigh 2oz in its shell. Mine were each a different weight. I determined that the shell weighed .25 oz and once I measured out my three eggs, I found that I had a little more than a tablespoon of egg left over! I imagine that would really make a difference in a delicate cake!

My ingredients were all assembled and room temperature (70F). My oven was on, my bundt pan was greased and floured. I triple sifted my flour and carefully weighed all my ingredients into mixing bowls.

The next step was to put the dry ingredients in the bottom of my mixer with butter and 1/2 the liquid ingredients and beat until everything was moist. This was where I made my first mistake! Excited about my new mixer, I was like a 55 year old man in his new red Porche. I slammed that thing straight into medium and made a giant mess.

So much for all my careful weighing!

Orwell helps me "clean up"

Undeterred, I proceeded at a more reasonable speed until the flour was incorporated. Then, I moved her into high gear (per recipe instructions) and incorporated the remaining liquid in two batches, scraping down in between.

My next step was pouring the thick batter into the pan. I smoothed it out and put it in the oven. While it was baking, I made the glaze


At 35 minutes (again, per recipe directions) I started checking the cake for "bounce-back" and for crumbs on the skewer. I gave it an extra three minutes and at 38 minutes, it was done. I took it out and poked holes into the top of the cake and coated it with half of the lemon glaze while it was still in the pan. I let it sit 10 minutes and then un-molded it onto a rack covered with parchment and did the same to the bottom of the cake - poked holes and coated with glaze.



Here is where I made my second mistake! It turns out you're supposed to wrap this cake and keep it at room temperature for 24 hours before eating it! I planned on serving it tonight! Oops. Total rookie mistake: I didn't read the ENTIRE recipe before starting.

So, after snacking on it, I can say that it needs that 24 hours. There was a lot of butter in this cake and it needs to set up and solidify. Also, the glaze will probably crystallize a little overnight. OK, I like butter as much as the next guy (maybe more) but this was even a little much for me. I'll try again tomorrow (that's the spirit!)

I said I'd share the good, the bad, and the ugly! It turned out well, but I learned a few lessons along the way.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ryan's 33rd Birthday Dinner

My dear Funkyplaid beat me to posting about our most recent dinner party. He did a great job, so I'll just link to it here.

The mixer

When my husband and I were married, I was given a phenomenal kitchenaid mixer as a wedding gift. Sadly, we were beyond broke and lived in a one-room apartment. I think the mixer was bigger than our "kitchen."

I returned my precious, unopened, to the store it had been purchased from and used the money to pay rent.

Since then, we've moved to a much, much larger house (with a proper kitchen even), but I never felt like I could spare the money to get another mixer, even though I lamented its absence every time I dragged my old hand mixer out, or (God forbid) I had to bake something.

This December was the tenth anniversary of the mixer return (and our wedding). For Christmas, my dear friends all chipped in and bought me this:

This piece of counter jewlery makes my whole kitchen sexy. I've never been a great baker, I'm more of a savory cook (I hate all the measuring and science), but having this monster purring away in the corner makes me want to be a better woman, I mean, baker.

Since then I've made:

Chocolate cupckes with pink swiss buttercream frosting

Gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and a chocolate tuille

I've decided that this year will be the year I get better at baking. I will be patient. I will weigh and measure and I will care if things are at room temperature or not. One of the reasons I decided to start this blog was to chronicle my progress: my successes and inevitable failures.