French Pound Cake: Quatre-Quarts

I love all things French! I have always wanted to speak the language. I took four years of French between High School and College but to no avail. I do recognize some words and phrases and enjoy knowing what Christie’s sleuth, Hercule Poirot, says from time to time on the Masterpiece Mystery movies. But, alas, I never was able to immerse myself into a French-speaking environment in order to learn to speak it myself. I can ask where the bathroom is, though, in a pinch!

On a beautiful weekend afternoon I wanted to bake a cake. Well, I wanted to bake a cake and use this new technique of making fluffy frosting with whipping cream in the food processor. But I did not really want to make chocolate cake. I get out various cookbooks and start browsing. I was all set to make a cake with apples and walnuts or walnuts and maple syrup or a pound cake. Hubby likes pound cake. He had suggested a carrot cake but I did not buy carrots when we grocery shopped the previous day. However, I did not have any walnuts in the house either. I searched. So, pound cake it is.

From my French Feasts coffee table-sized cookbook, there is a pound cake recipe.

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

The recipe description says this is a basic recipe that can be personalized by adding apples, pears, banana, fruit conserves, etc. As you can see there is no “flavoring” in the recipe. Also there is probably an assumption that the butter is salted. So I add:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest from one very small lemon
  • I forgot to add a pinch of salt

We like lemon glazed pound cake so that was my plan. Then I wondered about adding some raspberry preserves…lemon and raspberry is a nice flavor combo!

  1. Whisk the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is pale and thick. Add the softened butter, sifted flour, and baking powder. So I rarely sift flour anymore. Instead I whisk the two dry ingredients together for about 30 seconds to thoroughly mix.
  2. I lined a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment and cooking spray. I poured about 3/4 of the batter into the pan. I then added about 1/4 cup raspberry preserves to the remaining batter. Then, forgetting how to marble a cake, I plopped the purple batter on top and attempted to make a swirl.
  3. Bake in preheated oven 315 F for 45 minutes. In future I will set the oven for 350. I had to leave it in the oven baking for another 15 minutes. But this may be because I added the jam.

I let the cake sit in the pan for about 15 minutes and then took it out and let it cool on a wire rack. I paced paper towels (parchment paper would have been better) under the rack and while it was still warm I glazed it. To make the glaze I added the juice from the small zested lemon to 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar. That made too much glaze so I poured about 1/2 of that on the warm cake. Then I let it sit to cool a bit more. And then we ate it.

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I served this with some thawed frozen mixed berries and freshly whipped cream. It was yummy. The swirl is evident but the flavor of the raspberry preserves did not come through. The lemon overpowered it. In future, I would add vanilla to the cake itself and more fruit preserves, maybe just dropping the preserve into the batter in the pan for swirling. The outside had a nice crust but the interior texture was not as dense as expected in pound cake. Not a failure! Actually a success!

 

 

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I made a Green Grape Pie!

Why, might you ask, and what? I had bought one of those supermarket packages of green grapes and found the the quality was not very good for eating fresh. But what should I do with all those grapes? I could throw them all in the compost bucket but that seems like a waste. I found this recipe on the internet and adapted her adaptation for my own pie: Green Grape Pie

I had two refrigerated ready pie crusts in my refrigerator. Sometimes I buy these instead of making my own. I did not have elderberry flower syrup but the rest of the ingredients were all ready. I gathered them all together and baked a pie.

I think there were about 3 pounds of green grapes. I pulled them off the stems. I did not weigh them. It looked like enough for a pie.
1 cup white sugar, plus extra for top crust
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg; I had Hubby grate the nutmeg while he was waiting for his Kindle to charge.
1 lemon, juiced; I had just sliced a bit off of a lemon for my tea, so I juiced the rest of it.
1/4 cup elderberry flower syrup; substituted light corn syrup with real Vanilla!
1/4 cup dark honey; my honey was not particularly dark. Actually I combined the corn syrup with the honey to equal 1/4 cup as 1/2 cup sounded like it would be too sweet.
1/4 teaspoon salt; who measures this? It’s a generous pinch.
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 425 F. put one pie crust in the pan and put in freezer while making the filling. This is because you will put boiling hot grapes in the crust and you want the crust not to melt.

Put grapes, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, and honey/syrup in a large saucepan and heat. This will eventually need to be brought to boil. Before that boils stir in the cornstarch and salt. Stir frequently until it is boiling and thickens.

With slotted spoon remove grapes and place them in the frozen pie crust. Then add a bit of the syrup to fill the pie. I did not. In fact, there seemed to be enough syrup attached to the grapes already. The recipe has said it was a very juicy pie anyway. Dot the grapes with the butter. Place the top crust and pinch the edges together. I used my pie bird so did not need to cut additional slits. Sprinkle the top generously with sugar. Bake for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

 

Looking good! It is supposed to cool completely before serving. This should let the juices set up a bit.

And then we ate a slice. I’m sorry to say that it is “nothing to write home about”. Hubby declared the crust wonderful but the pie “bland”. It was an interesting texture, mushy-like. The flavor probably did need that elderberry flower syrup.

I took the remaining pie to work to see what my coworkers thought. It was declared “interesting” but was not a hit. It was just not appealing. I will not be making this again. Next time I have a bunch of green grapes that are not the best, I will cook them down into a sauce for chicken or pork. I have to admit the sauce idea was Hubby’s first suggestion.

Breton Butter Cake my way!

The weather has cooled down a bit and baking seems like a good idea. I have been going through my magazines and marking the recipes I want to try, one of which is a French butter cake. This I found in January/February 2017 edition of Cook’s Illustratedhttps://www.cooksillustrated.com/articles/368-french-butter-cake?incode=MCSCD00L0&ref=new_search_experience_1.

I forgot to find Californian dried apricots while shopping so had to decide what type of filling to make. I looked into my  French Feasts cookbook and found some tasty sounding fillings for gateau roule. And then I just took out an open jar of lemon curd and decided to use that one. Now also in this book is a recipe for Breton Butter Cake. This one is not filled. I compared the recipes and decided I would try the French Feasts‘ recipe but use the magazine’s techniques. And this would allow me to use my  8-inch cake pan with the removable bottom. Yay!

  • 2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 ounce yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup salted butter (I used unsalted butter with every intention of adding one teaspoon salt, but forgot to add the salt!)
  • 4 egg yolks (3 for the batter and 1 for brushing on top)
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Yeast in a cake! And no rising time! How will this turn out?

  1. Mix together the flour, sugars, and yeast. Grate the cold butter and add to the mixture along with three egg yolks and knead together. This will be crumbly. Well, I cut the butter into tablespoons and chopped it up a bit and put it in the mixer bowl. I then added all the other dry ingredients and mixed it up in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. This got crumbly and I added the egg yolks and rum. It then came together into a stiff batter.
  2. Place a sheet of parchment paper in a tart pan than is about 8 inches in diameter and spread the dough over its base. Beat the remaining egg yolk and brush it on the dough. Ridge the dough surface with a fork. So I followed the magazine and spread half the dough onto the base of the pan. I then spread the 1/2 jar (about 6 ounces) of lemon curd on the base to about 1/2 inch from the edges. I placed this in the freezer for about ten minutes. Per Cook’s this will freeze up firm enough to put the second half of the batter on top. I forgot completely that lemon curd does not freeze firmly. Oops! I then attempted to spread the second part of this dough on top. I should have rolled it out into an  8-inch circle and put the whole thing on top all at once. Live and learn. I had to put pieces around the edge to stop the lemon curd from spreading to the edge. I did my best and then brushed the top with egg yolk and ridged it with a fork. IMG_0218
  3. Bake in preheated oven 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes; then lower the temperature to 350 F and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Allow the cake to cool in the oven with the door open. I baked it as directed but decided to let it cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes per Cook’s. The cake was ready to have the pan removed right out of the oven, no need to run a knife around the edge to loosen. IMG_0219
  4. When the cake is lukewarm, wrap it in foil. This cake is better when it is not so fresh–the day after, or the day after that. We cut this baby up after the 30 minutes! IMG_0226Actually we waited a bit longer and cut and ate a slice while we were watching a Poirot mystery set in the French Riviera. That seemed appropriate.

I first was concerned that it was not fully baked around the filling but this was hard to tell given the lemon curd was not distinct from the rest of the cake. It was firm on the outside, top, bottom, and sides. it was dense. It tasted delicious!

And how did it taste the next day? Still delicious. A little gummy but that gives it a fudge-brownie type texture. The lemon filling is marvelous in this cake. The outside of the cake gave it a shortbread type of feel. It is definitely not the American butter cakes I grew up baking and eating. But this I will make again.