Lemon Cake

April 8, 2012

Margaux says…

I’ve been on a serious cake baking hiatus lately because I haven’t personally had the appetite for one. I’m 19 weeks pregnant, and sweets are the last thing I’ve been wanting to eat. Plus, I’ve been super tired, so just getting dinner on the table every night has been the extent of my abilities. I’ve really been missing baking, though, so when someone asked me to make a cake for their Easter dinner, I jumped on it.

I wanted to make a bundt cake because they’re a whole lot easier than fancy layer cakes (in my opinion), and right now I still need things to be easy. I’m not one of those pregnant women that gets a huge surge of energy in their second trimester and feels better than they ever have in their life. No way…I’m the opposite. I’m one of those pregnant women that wants to just lay down and sleep for 9 months, and I’m really good at complaining about it as much as possible. Luckily I have a very patient husband. 🙂

This cake, another winner from one of my cooking heroes, Ina Garten, is one of the most lemony and buttery cakes you will ever have. It has a moist pound cake texture, with bright, sweet lemony flavor. It’s pretty easy to make, and is great for company, like all bundt cakes are. I served it with raspberry sorbet, and the flavors were perfect together! It’s also, of course, great with vanilla ice cream.

Lemon Cake
Adapted from ‘Barefoot Contessa Parties!’

Yield: 2 loaf cakes (or one bundt)

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper. If using bundt pan, spray with baking spray with flour JUST before pouring the batter in. This prevents the oil from pooling on the bottom.

2. Cream butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.

3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between pans, smooth tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean (I would check at 40 minutes…my cake was done at that point).

4. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.

5. When cakes are done, let them cool 10 minutes. Poke holes in the top of the cakes (still in the pan) with a toothpick and spoon about 1/3 of the syrup over the cakes. Let sit for a few minutes. Invert them onto a rack set over a tray, poke with holes, and spoon rest of lemon syrup over cakes. Let cakes cool completely.

6. For glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cakes, and allow glaze to drizzle down the sides. If needed, after about 10 minutes, brush more of the glaze that has pooled underneath over the cakes with a pastry brush.

Happy Easter!

Pappa Al Pomodoro

January 7, 2012

Margaux says…

Happy birthday, Desi! My son is 3 today, and it reminded me of this soup, which I made for his birthday party last year. This year we’re skipping a meal with the party, but I made the soup this week anyway because it was on my mind, and it is SO GOOD!!! This has got to be at least in my top 5 favorite soups, if not number 1. I saw Ina make it on Barefoot Contessa last fall, and have made it SEVERAL times since. It was in the same “bread” episode that I got this recipe, which is also pretty wonderful. Anyway, back to the soup…for one thing, it has fennel in it, which is fast becoming one of my favorite ingredients. If you haven’t tried fennel yet, you must…it adds so much flavor to things! The other awesome thing about this soup is the topping–you have to make that part, because it’s divine. If you’re making the soup vegetarian, it’s no problem, the topping will be just as good without the pancetta (although you may need to add a smidge of olive oil to make up for the lack of grease).

If you’ve never used fennel before, you chop it like you would an onion. First, you need to remove the stalks completely, then cut the bottom off, and then slice it lengthwise. Remove the outer layer, and cut out the core at the bottom. Then lay one half cut-side down on a chopping board, and slice lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Then slice again crosswise, in about 1/4″ slices. Super easy.

If you have leftover croutons after the soup’s all been eaten up, they also taste great on salads (including the pancetta)!

Make this vegetarian by replacing the chicken broth with water, and eliminating the pancetta. Make it vegan by eliminating the parmesan, which I actually did last time I made it and it was just as delicious! I found that one large loaf of ciabatta will work for both the soup and the topping. I don’t remove all the crusts from the bread that I put in the soup, just the toughest bottom part (I have a hard time wasting all that bread!).

Pappa Al Pomodoro

from Barefoot Contessa

1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (water for vegetarian)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (eliminate for vegan)

For the topping:
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped (eliminate for vegetarian)
24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper

Directions
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Greek Panzanella Salad

March 5, 2011

Margaux says…

I’ve made this salad a few times in the past month or so, in order to combat these winter blues (salads always give me hope of spring!).  I saw it on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, and decided to make it for my mom when we went home one weekend, because it sounded like something she would love.  It was very simple to make, and it was a hit!  I’ve made it a couple more times since then, once as the main course for just my husband, son and me, and once as a side dish for company.

Greek Panzanella
from a Barefoot Contessa episode, by Ina Garten

Ingredients

* Good olive oil
* 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
* Kosher salt
* 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
* 1 red bell pepper, large diced
* 1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
* 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
* 1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
* 1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
* 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

For the vinaigrette:

* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 cup good olive oil

Directions

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.

Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Panettone Bread Pudding

December 11, 2010

Margaux says…

I have a new obsession: panettone.  I was watching the Food Network because there was nothing else on (I’d already seen every cop show that was on, and had already caught up on all my shows on On-Demand).  So I happened to catch a Barefoot Contessa episode about bread.  Thrilling, right?  That’s what I thought, until she got to the bread pudding recipe.  The panettone, the eggs, and the half-and-half had me on the edge of my seat (well, I would have been had my 2-year-old son not been sleeping on me), and I could practically smell it baking.  I’ve actually never had panettone…I always just passed over it during the holiday season when it pops up at the grocery store because I assumed it was just an Italian fruit cake, which I really don’t like.  Well, thanks Ina, for broadening my horizons!  I seriously couldn’t stop popping pieces in my mouth while I was slicing it for the pudding.  I think I’m going to buy a loaf every week!  This stuff is like candy-bread!  Just think of the possibilities!  Panettone French toast!  Panettone toast and butter!  Panettone plain, with tea, for a mid-day snack!  Panettone and almond butter sandwich!  I’m so excited about this stuff.


This recipe is great for a crowd…luckily my babysitter has a huge family and I was able to send a bunch home with her this morning.  It’s serious comfort food, and I recommend serving it after a nice, comfort-food like dinner.  It would also be great served at a brunch.  The almond topping makes it very elegant, and I could see it at a post-wedding weekend brunch for the family, or for a birthday brunch.

I didn’t trim the crust from the panettone because there wasn’t really any super dark parts, and she didn’t trim it on the show…she actually said you don’t need to bother with that.  Also, I didn’t have extra-large eggs on hand, so I used one more whole egg and one more egg yolk, and it turned out perfectly!  I was a little hesitant about the 2 teaspoons of almond extract…that’s a lot of almond…but went for it anyway, and it was just right.  Tastes great served warm with vanilla ice cream!!

Panettone Bread Pudding
from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa show, Bread Winner episode 2008

1 Italian panettone, about 1.2 pounds
Unsalted butter, for greasing the dish
3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim the dark brown outer crust from the panettone. Cut the rest of the loaf in 1-inch cubes and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Toast the panettone for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Grease a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish with the butter. Place the panettone cubes in the baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts and sugar. Pour this custard mixture over the panettone. Set aside for 10 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the pudding.

Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add very hot tap water to the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the baking dish. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the pudding is light golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.