Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Sunday, June 15, 2008

We’re back from Australia and New Zealand, and we had a fabulous time. However, crossing the International Date Line seems to be hard on a person’s body, at least on this person’s body, so I’ve been a little under the weather.
First, a few days before we were scheduled to leave, I was trying out my new exercise ball. I’d had a few glasses of wine (you can already tell that the combination of a few glasses of wine and an exercise ball are not going to lead to a happy ending, can’t you?) and decided it would be an excellent idea to do a backbend using the exercise ball. Not surprisingly, the ball slid out from under me and I flew through the air, whacking my leg on the corner of a door. I watched in awe as the leg turned purple and swollen before my very eyes. By the next day, I could barely walk.
My own personal physician, Dr. Liz, my new doctor-daughter, told me she was worried I might have a deep vein thrombosis or a tiny fracture, either of which might interfere with our trip, to put it mildly. But a visit to a real doctor revealed that all I had was a big fat hematoma, which is sort of a fancy name for a bruise. I was a little alarmed at first because I remember from my soap-opera watching days that people are always dying of hematomas, at least on soap operas, but then I remembered that those were subdural hematomas—bruising on the brain, I think—which is a very handy thing to know about if you’re a soap opera writer and are often required to kill of characters quite suddenly. Anyway, my clinic doctor (the doctor I have to pay for) told me to wear a compression stocking on the flight, but the bruising and big goose-egg lump on my leg was going to last a good long time.
So I limped all over Australia and New Zealand. Then I got blisters on my other foot, probably because I was walking funny; then I could walk only by doing a sort of shuffle-shuffle-hop, which was even a funnier walk than before.
I also developed a urinary tract infection while I was in the outback, about 500 miles away from anything else.

Royal Flying Doctor Service to the rescue! They had a little clinic at Ayers Rock resort that gave me some antibiotics.

The next day I woke up with a big spot floating around in front of my eye. Jim said, "Oh, that's just a floater--I have them. It happens when you get old." Dr. Liz said, "It could be a sign of a detached retina--but probably not." So I had spots in front of my eyes for the rest of the trip, but apparently it is just a floater, and it is just one of those things that happens as you get older. Dr. Liz says it must be hell getting old.

Then I got a cold and a sinus infection as soon as I got back—probably from breathing all that airplane air with billions of germs floating around in it.
You thought you were going to get a mini-travelogue, or at least something about a pound cake, and all you get is a tale of woe.

Despite these woes, the holiday was amazing. (I’m going to start saying holiday instead of vacation and rubbish instead of trash, in order to sound more cosmopolitan). I loved Sydney, and would like to go back there for several months, in order to explore the city and some other areas in Australia.

The south island in New Zealand was perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, especially the trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

We did a tour of some wineries on the south island, and I’m trying to track down some of those wines, especially the pinot noir, to buy locally. Jim will probably post some pictures eventually, but now it’s time for me to get back to the subject at hand—baking.
On Mother’s Day, I baked the first project of the Lazy Bakers’ No-Rules Club. The second project was a vanilla-bean pound cake recipe from The Cake Bible. It seemed only appropriate to bake another project for Father’s Day. Since it was my choice, I guess I have to post the recipe, so here it is:

3 tablespoons (45 grams) milk
1 vanilla bean
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) cake flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon (3.7 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
13 tablespoons (184 grams) unsalted butter, softened

Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise, place it in a small saucepan with the milk and scald the milk. Cover pan, remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Remove vanilla bean and scrape black grans from its center into the milk.
In a medium bowl, combine the vanilla-infused milk, eggs, and vanilla.
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add butter and half the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until dru ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for one minute.
Scrape down the sides and add the rest of the egg mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.
Scrape batter into a buttered and floured 8" x 4" x 2 1/2" loaf pan and smooth the surface. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover looselyly with buttered foil after 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and invert onto a greased wire rack. Reinvert so the top is up. Cool completely.

Melinda Pickworth won a massive amount of vanilla beans in a vanilla-bean-lottery she participated in, and she generously shared them, so I have a bunch of vanilla beans to use before they dry up and wither away. Since I love Rose’s recipe for pound cake, it seemed like a good idea to bake the vanilla-bean variation. And it was a good idea.

Here is why I like Rose’s pound cake: 1) it’s easy; 2) it tastes magnificent, with a tender but still substantial texture, a rich, buttery taste, and a slight buttery crunch to the crust; 3) it’s not so big that I will gain five pounds if I should happen to eat the whole cake; and 4) pound cake is the best excuse in the world to add fresh fruit and whipped cream to the dessert plate. The pound cakes are best made in a small loaf pan. Rose says they’re better if they’re kept small, and she advises against doubling them, so I never have, but I’ll bet if you wanted a cake that would fill a whole bundt pan, you could double the recipe anyway and it would still be delicious.
I was hoping that the vanilla beans would be a little bigger, so they’d be more noticeable in the cake, as in Edy’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, which our family always called “ant gut ice cream.” But, since you can’t really see the vanilla beans very well in this cake, I can’t very well call it Ant Gut Cake.

Served with whipped cream and fresh strawberries and blueberries, this cake was a very satisfying end to a casual Father’s Day dinner. Jim said it was more than he deserved, and he is probably right.


Melinda said...

Dear, dear Marie! For heaven sakes!
I am so sorry to hear that you have had such rotten and miserable things happen just before and during your trip! It's just awful but very funny!
You poor thing.
You certainly have my sympathies regarding sore feet. The last 5 trips I have done always involve something horrible happening to my feet. Really.
I am glad you were able to enjoy your trip despite it all. I am sure you hardly complained. (yeah?)
I haven't done any blog baking while you were away.
I am impressed that you managed to get the vanilla pound cake done. I am going to do it for my husband's birthday on Wednesday, plus it is Wimbledon fortnight so there will be a nod to the English strawberry too!
Your pound cake looks yummy.
Is your haematoma still with you? Eat pineapple is suppose to help break down tissue injury such as bruises (haematomas,
and that is the special UK spelling just for you!)
I'd like to hear more about your trip even if it involves more illness and mishaps!
Despite teasing you, I do hope you are feeling better and have been able to go back to work! Argh!

evil cake lady said...

Your pound cake looks lovely. I was just thinking to myself tonight that it was high time I get it together and bake that vanilla pound cake. But then I baked something else instead!
I am sorry you had so many medical mishaps during your trip, but your photos are amazing! If that helps. If you would like to hire a personal acupuncturist to go around with you and treat you during your next holiday, I'm available.

breadbasketcase said...

I've done more complaining about my cold, which came after the trip, than I did during the trip. I guess I had enough distractions to keep my mind off my mishaps. And how is your foot?
Yes, my haematoma (thank you!) is still with me. Thanks for the pineapple tip.
By the way, Sarah has now decided that she thinks she wants to go to Paris or Prague instead of England for her graduation trip. But I will come to England sometime in the next few years, I promise!
In fact, I think we should have a Lazy Bakers' Convention in London.


I can't wait to see your pound cake. Your cakes always look so delicious. I love the idea of a personal acupuncturist! I suppose I would have to pay all your expenses? I'll have to run that by Jim.

jini said...

well marie i'm glad to see you have returned. i suspected you had moved to those down under places. it sounds like a wonderful trip except for the physical aches and pains, but seeing new things makes for good medicine!
we have always wanted to take that trip so i will look forward to your tales of travel.
oh.....and the cake looks very yummy!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie!

I have never posted here, but I really enjoy your blog and tune in weekly to see what you are up to. I love your writing style (especially your humor and candor). I loved following your journey with TBB and was so happy to see that RLB came for dinner.

Anyway, I wanted to post about a great way to preserve vanilla beans. It comes from "The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook." Here you go:

12 vanilla beans
3 cups vodka

Place the beans in a tall jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the vodka over them and store at room temperature for about three weeks (it takes that long to soften the beans).

When you need vanilla, take a bean out of the vodka, cut the tip, and squeeze some of the essence into your recipe. Return the bean to the vodka, and it will continue to work. From time to time, you may have to add a little vodka to the top of the jar so that the beans are covered at all times. Beans can be preserved for years following this method.

Hope this helps!

All my best,
Laura Lee

Doughadear said...

Hi Marie, glad you are back from your wonderful trip. So sorry about you mishaps. I can totally sympathize as I broke a toe just before I left for a Las Vegas trip. I had packed a few pairs of shoes but they were too painful to wear and had to wear flip flops even when I went out to a fancy resturant. Welcome to the floaters club I've been a member for a couple of years. Hope to make it to Autstralia one day as my husband was born there.

Pound cakes are one of my favourite cakes and yours looks heavenly.

Welcome back.

Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back on your blog, I look forward to reading your posts! Your holiday sounds marvellous apart from your aches and pains, but you will have lots of good memories I'm sure. My husband and I (I sound like our Queen, don't I?) came over to Canada 3 years ago and travelled from east to west , it was a wonderful holiday with lots of good memories and pictures to enjoy plus we met some very nice people.
Your cake looks perfect, I'm wondering whether mine will turn out so good without American cake flour, I have my doubts! Perhaps I'll make the one in Dorie's book as it uses AP flour instead. Jeannette.

breadbasketcase said...

It really is true that seeing new things is good medicine, isn't it? It really is a boon to get out of your usual routine, and have a period where everything is new and everything is an adventure. I highly recommend the trip, although even 19 days was only enough time to barely scratch the surface.

Laura Lee,
Thanks so much for letting me know about the vodka method of preserving vanilla beans. I wonder if the vodka tastes good, too.

I didn't know your name was Oriana--I always think of you as Doughadear! (Oriana is a beautiful name, by the way). I brought four pairs of shoes along on this trip, but could only wear two--so I had some odd outfits too. I'm not glad that you have floaters (what a nuisance, especially when you're reading!)--but I am glad that you told me. My doctor said they're common "in older people," but I don't know anyone (except Jim) who has them. Maybe Jim and I are just the oldest people I know!

I didn't remember what an ordeal it is to get cake flour in England until I started making the recipe. But, as there are "no rules," I think it's perfectly okay to make the cake in Dorie's book.
It sounds like you've seen more of Canada than I have, even though Minnesota is next door to it. Two of my very favorite cities--Toronto and Vancouver--are in Canada.

jini said...

edesia on monday?

breadbasketcase said...

I can't make it on Monday--but I'm hoping to go to the one in July.

jini said...

oh marie, you missed a really good one. the handmade brautwurst from clancey's was amazing! the home smoked bacon and brisket absolutely delicious, AND the carmelized bacon was to die for (and probably from.) like candy made with fat and sugar, what's not to like???

Anonymous said...


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On a side note, I love your Australia pictures. I was there last winter break - it's beautiful.

Jennifer & Sandi said...

This is my first trip here and I love your site. I love baking and cooking and I collect recipe books.

I enjoyed your pictures of Australia. My husband (who has been in the wholesale wine and alcohol business for 30+ years) visited a winery there several years ago and just loved it.


jonathan drewes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pinknest said...

oh dear, i'm sorry for your woes! but still a fabulous-looking trip!

breadbasketcase said...

You're too cruel to gloat about those amazing-sounding treats that you got to eat and I didn't!

Thanks for checking in. They make some excellent wines in Australia and New Zealand. Somehow I was hoping for $3 glasses of local wines at restaurants, but that didn't happen

My woes are pretty much over now, and it was a fabulous trip. It looks like Provence was fabulous too.

Christine said...

sorry to hear about your woes!

On a more upbeat note: I made a super easy dessert a few weeks ago-grilled pound cake topped with grilled pineapple, whipped cream, and fresh raspberries. I think that recipe would be great with your vanilla bean pound cake!

breadbasketcase said...

I've never thought about grilling pound cake, but, now that I think about it, it sounds like a good idea--especially as you describe it, with grilled pineapple, raspberries, and (of course) whipped cream.

Chai18 said...

Found a bread recipe that you might find interesting:

breadbasketcase said...

Chai 18,
Thanks for the recipe--it looks healthy and crunchy! Her recipe calls for some "dark whole wheat" flour, but mostly "whole wheat" flour, but the pictures look like it's mostly white flour, not all whole wheat. I'm pretty sure I'd use at least some white flour because I think the taste is better. Have you made this yourself?

Chai18 said...

haha if only! I'm still a novice baker, I haven't worked my way up to breads, yet...though one would imagine having read your blog it would be enough inspiration to go ahead and master the art of bread day...

breadbasketcase said...

You may not think so, but I consider myself a novice baker too. Rose is the one who's mastered bread baking--I still just follow directions. I'll consider myself good when (if ever) I can make up a recipe myself.

Sophie said...

We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email if interested. Thanks :)