I learned that each step away from the line, away from it's rigors, left me feeling empty. I have a job in another industry now, but food is very important to me. I think about food all the time. I start planning dinner when I wake up, obsessing over flavors, combinations of flavors, textures, presentation. Homey, rustic food tugs at my heart. A trip to Paris this winter cinched that — dinners at Taillevent and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon emptied my bank account — but I enjoyed the bistro meals more.
Enough of the chatter.
Tonight, I baked.
I am a cook, not a baker. Tomorrow begs for a pound cake, however. Rain dominates the forecast here in central North Carolina, and I made a pound cake to bring to Cathy's house. We planned to take a long walk with a dog (mine) and toddler (hers) and meet another one of my good friends, Kirstin, and her dog (Gabby). I think Cathy and Kirstin will hit it off — but the weather could ruin everything. I called both parties and negotiated a pound cake and coffee meeting if the walk falls through. I will provide the eats.
That lead to an adaptation of Perfection Pound Cake by Dorie Greenspan, an amazing baker and cookbook author. I left out the vanilla extract and used Fiori di Sicilia from King Arthur Flour instead. The aroma is amazing: the most fantastic citrus extract — with a hint of vanilla — ever.
Stayed tuned for taste test results. Now I'm off to watch Six Feet Under on DVD. All the best programs are on the pricey stations.
Perfection Pound Cake
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons Fiori di Sicilia extract
Note: Remember to store Fiori di Sicilia in the refrigerator after opening.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray (I used Baker's Joy). Place the loaf on a jelly roll pan or 2 baking sheets stacked on top of one another.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt to thoroughly combine.
Beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, ideally using a heavy duty stand mixer with a paddle attachment. This will take 5 full minutes — be patient. Carefully scrape down the bowl and lower the mixer speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and beater as you go, making sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add the extract and milk. Add the flour with the mixer on a low speed, being careful not to over mix, or fold it in by hand (over mixing will toughen your pound cake). Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
Bake the cake about 70 minutes, checking after 45 minutes to be certain the top isn't too dark. If it's browning too quickly, cover it with a loose foil tent. A cake tester, inserted into the center, should come out clean when it's done.
Cool the cake on a rack (still in the pan) for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cake pan to release it, then turn it onto a rack to cool.
Perfection Pound Cake keeps 5 - 7 days at room temperature if well wrapped (leftovers are great toasted). Freeze up to 2 months.