July 22, 2013

pound cake anyone?

I'm not sure you can ever really be ready for a baby, so with that in mind I've made sure that there's one thing I am ready for - a pound cake craving. I keep intending to stock the freezer with meatballs and casseroles, but in the moment those just don't sound that fun to make, so I make pound cakes instead. Generally each recipe makes two loaves (or I double it so that it does), and I leave one on the counter for daily snacking and slivers and I wrap the other up and stick it in the freezer. Our freezer currently contains two massive bags of frozen peas, a bag of frozen cookie dough, a pint of espresso ice cream and four pound cakes. 
Yes, four pound cakes. There is the cream cheese pound cake that I spotted on Orangette that sounded simple and lovely and like it would be a wonderful accompaniment to all the summer fruit I've been lugging home from the farmers market. It was just as heavenly as I expected. Dense but somehow delicate, perfect for breakfast, but also for dessert. And like any good pound cake, you can cut the thinest of slivers off the end with barely a crumb out of place. Slivers make for good snacks, slivers and apricots, slivers and cherries, slivers and peaches. You can see where I'm going with this...

After the cream cheese pound cake came an espresso pound cake. Espresso powder stirred in boiling water and joined by more eggs than I can remember using in a cake, half and half, flour, butter, and a lot of sugar. It's Zach's grandmother's recipe. I'm still working out a couple kinks, mostly the baking time. You start with a cold oven, only turning it on when the cake is inside. Have you heard of that before? Perhaps you have some tips. I cooked mine slightly too long. It was good, and don't get me wrong, there is one wrapped in the freezer for later, but it was missing just a little bit of the seemingly magical moistness that defines Boggi's version. I'm going to keep baking and keep tweaking and hopefully there will be a recipe for you soon.
The third contestant in the pound cake bake off isn't actually called a pound cake, but rather a snacking cake, a Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake to be exact. When I saw it on Jess's blog and realized it was officially a snacking cake, as opposed to a breakfast cake or a dessert cake or a birthday cake, I knew I had to try it. As it turns out Jess was also nearing the end of her pregnancy when she made it, making me think that maybe there's something about snacking and cakes and pregnancy that align to create the perfect cake. And this is the perfect cake. It's subtle, which I like, but also sturdy enough to be a wonderful base for peanut butter or jelly or both, or honey, or hunks of fresh fruit. The whole wheat provides a nutty flavor while the cinnamon manages to sneak in to your senses as you're about to swallow. It's a friendly cake, friendly because it doesn't limit itself to certain times of day or certain meals, it's an eat-me-whenever-you-feel-like-it cake, and right now, that's my kind of cake. 
And last up there is the banana bread I made to keep our stomachs happy as we sat through a nine hour infant CPR and first aid course. I've made this banana bread a lot. You could say it's my go-to. But this time, I went back to the original recipe. After a healthy amount of tweaking it seemed necessary to reign it in a bit and revisit the original, and I'm glad I did. The original calls for shredded coconut, which I had initially left out thinking if I was going to use chocolate - and I always use chocolate in banana bread - that it would be too much to also use coconut. Turns out I was wrong. The coconut is not overpowering and lightens the texture a bit. Even with the chocolate and the coconut, this is still very much a banana bread. 

Banana Bread
Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
makes 1 loaf

8 Tbsp/1 stick butter, softened 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork until smooth
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 - 1 1/2 bars dark chocolate, chopped. 

Heat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with butter. 

Mix together the dry ingredients. Cream the butter with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer. Beat in the eggs and bananas. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, just enough to combine. Gently stir in the coconut and chocolate. 

Pour the batter in the loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, until nicely browned. This bread is meant to be moist, so while a toothpick should come out fairly clean do not expect it to be perfectly dry, especially with all the chocolate in there. An overcooked banana bread is a sad thing, so try your best to guesstimate when it's done. Let it cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. 

And when you've finished the banana bread make these two cakes.....
And because I'm sure you are curious, here is my pound cake belly....I mean my baby belly. 37 weeks in the water and 36 weeks with the polka dot bag. I'm now 38 weeks, quickly making my way to 39! wow. I don't feel like the baby is going to make an early arrival, but then again, what do I know?

Since the freezer is already stocked with cake I want to spend the next two weeks squeezing some savory meals in there. Do you have any recommendations? I'm struggling to think of things and I'd love to hear any ideas that you might have.