Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sidebar Sunday: Friends

What is a friend? I mean, it's hard to quantify, really. And it's different for everyone, the parameters of friendship. My idea of a friend is someone who confides in me and with whom I can do the same; someone to spend time with for no particular reason at all, indeed, but above all, there is no friend like the one who will take you to the airport.

A Lemon Cake for Molly

Molly is a beautiful soul. She is the sweetest girl I have ever met in my life. No. Seriously. She's one of those people whom you say about: not a mean bone in her body. I wish you all could meet her, your lives would be better for it. And frankly, it would take a million cakes to show Molly how wonderful and lovely and special she is (and not just because she takes me to the airport). I love you Molly! (and not just because you take me to the airport).

Indeed I was on my way to the airport to attend my best friend's wedding in Seattle, I was the bridesmaid/chef/wedding cake baker. The wedding cake was naked and gluten free and served with stone fruits that I macerated in St. Germaine liquor and chantilly cream. The ceremony was very sweet, set in the couple's luxuriously wild back yard and Seattle couldn't have given us more glorious weather. Oscar and I have been friends for 12 years. It has been that many years of nothing but laughter (and food) and love (and food, oh, and wine). I left Oscar and Donn to plan their honeymoon in China. Another friend gained, and hopefully many more years of laughter and celebration.






As it turns out, this has been a celebratory month. Aside from the wedding and the airport cake for Miss Molly, I have been baking up a storm for two of my closest friends' birthdays. It's what I do, you know, to let the people in my life know that I love them. Sandra's birthday was just last week, and I made her this cake that I make when I have something important to celebrate, like a birthday, or a friend stopping over with a bottle of wine. I also baked her chocolate scones, a couple of loaves of bread and a fabulous spelt focaccia and for days after I received texts about how much she and her family were enjoying it as they powered through it all. Sandra is a supermodel-turned-chef with fiery Spanish blood. She and I instantly connected because of a like-minded candor and because we both have professional cooking careers in common. A warm spirit whom I cannot imagine having in my life, it is with great fortune that I get to call her one of my dearest friends. Indeed, I think I'm the only friend she has who cooks for her. She's definitely the only friend I have who has strutted down the runway.


Finally there was a blueberry tart for Mika, another lovely woman who I am lucky to have in my life and who has become like a sister to me. Our friendship is one of deep confidence. Mika is the first friend I gained in L.A., and since we met five years ago, I find myself searching for excuses to invite her over for dinner (er, Bastille day? No better thing to celebrate than that!). Oh, the dinners we have had. They start with loads of food and wine and end with tears of laughter. But more than that, Mika and I have spend many more days sitting quietly on her porch admiring her lovely garden and eating of its spoils as the sun goes down. And it never fails when we are together that I look at her and wonder how it is that I came to find such a perfect and wonderful friend. Lucky. Me. Since I've been in L.A., no one has 'been there' for me like Mika has. I don't know how I would have done this infernal city without her.



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So this month has been less about occasions to celebrate than friendship. These three lovelies have enriched my life in measures that I probably don't deserve. Always here for me. Always loving. Always effortlessly. I am fortunate, and I never take it for granted.

Oh, before I forget, dear reader, I am finishing up a rather lengthy bread experiment and will be back at the page in a short bit to share it. I just have a few more things to tinker with to make sure the formula is up to snuff. Until then, you can make this cake.

Have a look.



Gather together:

(For the cake)
1 1/2 cups Giusto's Baker's Choice flour
1 cup cane sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TB pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
A few rasps of nutmeg

(For the glaze)
3 TB lemon juice
3 TB powdered sugar
Zest of one small lemon
A couple of rasps of nutmeg

Preheat the ov to 350. Cut a strip of parchment paper and line a standard 9x5" loaf pan with it. The idea is to cut it so that it's only wide enough to cover the bottom and long enough to come up over the top of the pan at the sides about two inches on either side. These will be nifty little handles to lift the cake out of the pan later on. Butter the parchment/sides of the pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk in the zest and the nutmeg. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. When fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time. Beat thoroughly. Beat in the vanilla. Turn the mixer down to low, add the cream, and beat just until thoroughly incorporated.

Using a rubber spatula, and broad, sweeping strokes, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in two passes, making sure that you don't overmix or the cake will be tough.

Get the batter into the awaiting pan and smooth out the top. Bake till a skewer shoved into the center of the thing comes out clean. Be sure to flip it round toward the end of the baking so that it browns evenly. Mine took an hour (?).

When the cake is done, cool in a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then carefully pull the cake out of the pan, using the parchment as handles. Cool for another 30 minutes.

When the cake is cool, mix together the glaze ingredients: the powdered sugar, lemon juice, zest and nutmeg, whisking out the lumps. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture all over the cake (including the sides!), making sure to drizzle a bunch in that crack at the top.

Give to a friend, preferably one who takes you to the airport.




To the staff of life!

4 comments:

  1. The blueberry tart looks amazing! Would you mind posting the recipe??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi guys. I'm sorry. I totally winged the recipe! Actually, I used the tart dough recipe from 'Standard Baking Company Pastries', but it didn't work. It was too soft to roll out as they directed. So, I pressed it into the bottom of the pan, and whatever was leftover, I just cut out and lined around the edges of the pan as you can see. No frangipane. The inner part is only a layer of blueberry jam and fresh blueberries. I hope this helps!! xo

      Delete
  2. I am also very interested in the recipe! Is the topping cake-like? Crumble-like? Frangipane? It's beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi guys. I'm sorry. I totally winged the recipe! Actually, I used the tart dough recipe from 'Standard Baking Company Pastries', but it didn't work. It was too soft to roll out as they directed. So, I pressed it into the bottom of the pan, and whatever was leftover, I just cut out and lined around the edges of the pan as you can see. No frangipane. The inner part is only a layer of blueberry jam and fresh blueberries. I hope this helps!! xo

      Delete

Hey. So, I answer all comments, but it might take me a few days. Sit tight, and I will get back to you as soon as I can!