Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake

The urge to bake something sweet struck suddenly a few mornings ago. Cookies felt like too much work, not in the mood for pie, a tart required pâte brisée and a cake would have been impractical. But wait - how about a pound cake?

And pound cake it was.

In my recipe binder I have a Barefoot Contessa recipe from her book Back to Basics - a honey vanilla pound cake. Easy enough to put together, a minimum of dirty dishes and once baked, easily nibbled by the slice.

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake
Makes one 8 inch loaf

Barefoot Contessa

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (leave refrigerated butter out for about 1 hour to achieve this)

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 extra large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 cups sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the bottom of an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line with parchment then grease and flour entire pan.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes until light and fluffy. In the meantime, put eggs, honey, vanilla and lemon zest into a measuring cup but do not mix.

With the mixer on medium low speed, add the egg mixture, one egg at a time, scraping down the bowl and allowing each egg to become completely incorporated before adding the next egg.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture slowly until just combined. Complete mixing with a spatula and pour into prepared pan. Smooth the top.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

I must say - pound cake is like a fine wine. Let it age even just a day and the flavor and texture both improve. This particular recipe wasn't as stunning as I'd hoped - I was looking for a more flavorful cake. I think adding a bit more lemon zest or even extra vanilla would have helped.

Overall, quite enjoyable and the perfect sweet treat to have sitting on the counter for anyone to slice off a piece and enjoy - with tea or a glass of cold milk, or a spoonful of softly whipped cream!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

My first thought when I saw cucumber sandwiches several years ago wasn't a positive one. I couldn't imagine how cream cheese slathered pieces of white bread that had cucumber slices sandwiched between them would taste good.

I was so, so wrong.

These are incredibly simple but very tasty. Use fresh dill if you have it - I mix it in with the cream cheese. Perfect for a quick lunch or as a pretty little snack at a baby shower, bridal shower, luncheon, and more.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
Makes 24 sandwiches

2 seedless cucumbers, ends trimmed
12 slices white sandwich bread
6 ounces whipped cream cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, optional

Cut each cucumber crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Thinly slice each cucumber piece lengthwise into strips. Place the bread slices on a work surface and spread with a thin layer of cream cheese. Divide the cucumber and dill (if desired) evenly among 6 of the slices (you may not use all of the cucumber). Top with remaining bread. Trim the crusts and cut into quarters.