Thursday, March 17, 2011
**This post was originally published on HonestCooking.com, a brand new online food magazine, for which I am a contributor. The website launched this past monday, and it is a great new resource for recipes, travel, restaurant reviews and foodie opinion pieces. Check it out here!**
When I say a hint of spring, I am talking a very teeny-tiny hint. One day over 50 degrees here in Chicago has made me ready for full-on sunshine, budding flowers, chirping birds, fresh produce, and all those other things that make spring such a wonderful season. Last year about this time, I had practically handcuffed myself to my Dutch oven. I was kicking and screaming and praying for snow, so I could settle in and spend the entire day over a bubbling pot of soup. I was just not ready to let winter go. All the braised meats, stewed vegetables, heavy soups, and thick pasta dishes were taunting me. I was having a little trouble moving on from those wonderful dishes and my winter hibernation.
Oh what a difference a year makes! This year, it is more than just the physical changes in the weather, or the different types of foods cooking on my stove that are making me long for spring. As the middle of March approaches, I am finally ready to make some 'new year's' resolutions. A few months late maybe, but January is such a depressing, bleak, dark month and with so many weeks until the warm weather arrives, it can feel completely futile to make resolutions for the coming year. Maybe this is why so many people don't keep their resolutions, present company included.
Spring is different. Plants are sprouting, produce is plentiful, neighbors are emerging from their hibernation. In the springtime, there is a natural motivation to get outside, exercise, try new things, and meet new people, that just isn't present in the dead of winter. For me, this particular spring is full of hope and exciting opportunities, new jobs and challenging classes, friends getting married and having babies. Life seems to finally be settling into place, and heading in the right direction.
In my kitchen, I am delicately transitioning from winter into spring. I am not quite yet letting go of my winter comfort foods, but am finding small and subtle ways to add a bit of brightness to an otherwise cold weather dish. Some orange zest added to a formerly dense and heavy pound cake turned out to be a gentle way of coaxing spring into my cooking and I find myself welcoming the season with open arms.
Orange Pound Cake
adapted from williamssonoma.com
makes 6-8 mini loafs, 2 regular loafs, or 1 Bundt
2 3/4 cup (6,5 dl) flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2,4 dl) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (3,54 dl) granulated sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (2,4 dl) whole milk, room temperature
zest of 3-4 large oranges
Preheat oven to 350 F, placing a rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter and flour your loaf pans, shaking out all excess flour and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk or sift together, set aside.
In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cream together with butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the egg, beating thoroughly and scraping down the sides between each addition. Add the vanilla and beat just until incorporated, about 1 minute.
Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated, then add half of the milk, beating again until incoporated. Scrape down the sides in between each addtion. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remainder of the milk, then the remainder of the flour. Gently and quickly mix in the orange zest.
Spoon batter into your prepared pan(s), filling about 3/4 the way full. If you fill them too high, they can overflow and make a big mess. (Rest assured though, they will still be delicious!)
Bake for 20-30 minutes, (can be more depending on what size pans you are using) until golden brown, and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
If you want to add a little something extra to these cakes, mix together 1 cup powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons orange juice, and 1-2 teaspoons orange zest. Pour over the cakes for a simple, quick, and tasty glaze. This helps moisten the cake, and helps keep it that way for a few days. It also helps it taste like a donut, which in my book, is never a bad thing. They would also be delicious dipped in chocolate, or served with whipped cream.
Welcome to spring, where the possibilities are endless.