Monday, March 28, 2011

When 1+1+1+1 doesn't equal 4

Photo: Scott Phillips,
Fine Cooking, March 3, 2011
Do you know the history of the pound cake? No, it's not how much you'll gain if you eat a slice (or is it?). Actually the origins of the cake date back to the 1700's in Great Britain. Many people of that time were illiterate--the pound cake could be made without reading a recipe. The four basic ingredients were 1 pound each of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.

The website www.Finecooking.com has improved on the original recipe:



Pound Cake
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, slightly firm, plus 1 Tbs. softened
8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. table salt
5 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8-3/4 oz. (1-1/4 cups) superfine sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, slightly firm, plus 1 Tbs. softened
8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. table salt
5 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8-3/4 oz. (1-1/4 cups) superfine sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting



Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-3/4-inch loaf pan with the 1 Tbs. softened butter. Line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk thoroughly.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until thickened and lightened in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. Clean the bowl of the stand mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix 1 minute longer. Add the sugar 1 to 2 Tbs. at a time, taking about 4 minutes to add it all and scraping the bowl as needed.

Still on medium-low speed, slowly add half of the beaten eggs, taking about 2 minutes to add them. Scrape the bowl as needed and beat for 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the remaining eggs (divide the flour into 3 parts and the eggs into 2 parts), mixing just until each addition is incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium low for 10 seconds more.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the back of a large soup spoon, making sure to reach well into the corners. Bang the pan on the counter two times to remove any air pockets.

Bake the cake until the top is golden-brown, the sides begin to pull away from the pan, and a thin wooden skewer inserted slightly off center into the cake (not into the crack) comes out clean, 1 hour and 20 to 25 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of baking, lightly spray a 12-inch strip of aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray and rest it loosely on top of the cake. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

To serve, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 1/2-inch slices.

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