Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vanilla Pound Cake

Since we are in spring break week with no school and both of their parents work during the day, my niece and nephew have been spending the day, and most of the evening at my place. My niece wanted to do some baking, as usual, I said "Sure, what would you like to make?" She wanted a vanilla cake. I figured a normal white cake or a yellow cake would do, but she was adamant about the vanilla "You know, with the beans."

A little digging through my Nana's old recipe boxes produced this. On the index card that holds the recipe is this notation Annie Peaches adored this with nut butter spread. Nana's nut butters were the stuff of legend. Especially when you remember that her food processing equipment was the hand cranked (usually kid's hands) variety. So, from Nana's kitchen, through mine, to yours.

A note of warning. This recipe makes your house smell voluptuously sinful. You will be forced to defend your work throughout the cooling process. Cutting into these before they have cooled and settled will destroy the delightful pound cake texture and make them dry and crumbly. If you cut a slice while it is still warm from the oven you will be forced to consume the entire loaf right then and there. Forwarned is forearmed sez I.


1 large vanilla bean, split and spread
1 cup milk, room temperature
4 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder (I make my own as I need it. 1/2 portion baking soda, 1/4 portions of cream of tartar and cornstarch. I've never been able to determine if I do this because it works better or if it's just another piece of evidence of my anal retentiveness)
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (salted butters use iodized salt, a dessert baking nono)
2 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2-1/2 cups vanilla sugar (to make vanilla sugar, put the husks of scraped beans in an airtight container of sugar)
6 jumbo eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350°.

Put the milk and the vanilla bean in a small pan and scald. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Sift the flour again with the baking powder and salt onto a sheet of wax paper.

Cream the butter on medium until fluffy. Cream in the vanilla sugar. (if you don't have vanilla sugar increase the vanilla extract by 2 teaspoons but be sure to put some up for the next time)

Continue beating on medium and add in the eggs, one at a time, remembering to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even blending. Add in the vanilla extract.

Remove the bean husks from the scalded milk, along with the milk skin. Use a demitasse spoon to scrape all the little vanilla speckles you can back into the milk.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk alternately. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat on medium until completely smooth and blended (about five minutes). (if you think that the aroma is brutally beautiful right now just wait until it hits the oven)

Pour into three buttered and lightly floured loaf pans (baker's secret spray will do just fine here). Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for sixty minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and dry.

Cool in the pan, on a rack for ten minutes, then turn out of the loaf pans and cool for at least another twenty minutes on the cutting board. You might as well finish the cooling on the cutting board because these aren't getting much further than that. If you are planning to give one of these away, wrap it very closely with plastic wrap. These will freeze just fine. Just make sure you thaw them out still wrapped in the refrigerator or they get soggy.

To serve, slightly warm thin slices of pound cake and drizzle with your favorite dessert sauce, or a nice Créme Anglais. You can use this just like any sweet bread, you can use it to line a trifle. When I am feeling especially indulgent I have been known to trim off all the crusts, cut it into fingers and dip those into tempered chocolate. (there goes today's afternoon!)

My niece thoroughly approved of the results. She said "Nana is very proud of us today."

Indeed she is, my darling.

Big Brass Blog (a no vanilla zone if ever there was)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know...I came here from a link at Shakespeare's Sister attached to a photo of Alberto Gonzales looking scared.

The linkages the Intertubes make are truly amazing sometimes.

11:36 AM  
Blogger BadTux said...

Being forced to consume the entire loaf right then and there is a problem?


2:10 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

them there intertubes be a totally amazin' thing, like the '69 mets amazin'.

nope, no problem here. but i had help. lots of help.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Pogo said...

You're killing me. Pound cake (ONLY the vanilla version) was my mother's best recipe. I absolutely loved it.

2:00 PM  
Blogger jane said...

happened upon your blog, zoomed in on death by chocolate. tried out recipe. delicious. a few questions. meringue seemed to disappear when I assembled cake. chocolate mousse was too soft. what did I do wrong?

11:56 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

if a mousse is too soft it is probably because the whip on the egg batter wasn't stiff enough, or too much of the stiffness was lost in the folding. or, it could have been the weather. really. most meringues and mousses don't work if the humidity is above 50% (shoulda mentioned that). although with the death by chocolate the meringue is pre-baked. hmmmmmm...sounds like a great reason to try again. if you have any further questions, my email is posted up in the upper right corner under the harp picture, feel free to write and i'll see what we can figure out.

12:03 PM  

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