Grapefruit & Brown Sugar Pound Cake

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Feeling adventurous? Love citrus? Try this aromatic grapefruit pound cake, made with dark brown sugar and plenty of vanilla. The flavours are unique and delicate, making it the perfect loaf to serve alongside a steaming cup of earl grey tea. If you find grapefruit a little bitter for your taste, reduce the zest to 2 teaspoons for a more mellow finish.

Grapefruit Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, “ Perfect Pound Cake”.

Ingredients: 

3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (150g)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
13 (6.5oz) tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (65°-68°F)
1 tablespoon loosely packed grapefruit zest

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease an 8×4 inch loaf pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the paper again. Flour the tin.

Use a fork to combine the milk, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large measuring glass.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt and baking powder. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer* to ensure that the brown sugar is fully broken up and well blended with the flour. Using the paddle attachment, mix for 20 seconds on low speed to finish blending.

Add the softened butter and half of the stirred egg mixture to the bowl and mix on the lowest setting until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (speed 4 on a Kitchen Aid) and beat for 60 seconds. Scrape the bowl well. Add half of the remaining egg mixture and beat for 20 seconds on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl. Add the final bit of egg mixture along with the grapefruit zest and beat for a final 20 seconds. It is important to beat the mixture enough to aerate the batter and create structure, but keep in mind that over beating will compromise the final texture. Give the bowl a final good scrape to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared and smooth the top level with the back of a spoon. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 55-65 minutes, until the middle springs back to the touch or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then lift it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store for up to one week in an airtight container at room temperature.

* Note: The cake may be prepared using a hand mixer. Increase the beating speed to high and follow the recipe as written.

Sugar Glaze

Ingredients: 

1 1/4 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method: 

In a small bowl, whisk together the three ingredients until smooth. Use more sugar or juice to reach desired consistency. Immediately drizzle over cooled pound cake.

Contemporary Pecan Pie

Here is what you need to know about this pie:

A mixture of brown sugar and honey takes the place of corn syrup.
Brown butter makes it toasty and rich like a dark cup of coffee.
One tablespoon of lemon juice cuts through the sweetness like a knife.
A subtle 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon adds depth and warmth.
It tastes 100% traditional.

When I set out to make a classic pecan pie without corn syrup, I had to pause to ask myself why. Was it because corn syrup is inherently evil? Had I just been brain washed into thinking that it was that bad? I had avoided corn syrup in the past largely because it seemed a more processed product than raw honey and organic maple syrup, but to completely denounce the sweetener without any research hardly seemed fair.

What I discovered was that due to the unknown effect of consuming large amounts of fructose, high-fructose corn syrup is generally considered to be a consume-at-your-own-risk kind of ingredient. On the other hand, pure glucose syrup is a simple sugar that has several interesting applications in the kitchen. The problem is that most commercial corn syrup actually contains an unspecified amount of high-fructose syrup as an ingredient, unless the brand advertises otherwise. Eventually, after sifting through multiple conflicting articles, I decided that regardless of the possible pitfalls of corn syrup, honey and maple syrup are always going to be superior options for me. Not only do they impart so much more flavour, but it is incredibly easy to find people who produce these products locally and organically.

With that settled, I turned to crafting a recipe that was both free of corn syrup and ‘traditional’ – that is one without bourbon, chocolate, or any other third party ingredient attempting to offset the sweetness. Rather, I relied on the subtle aroma of darkly browned butter, a whisper of cinnamon, and soft notes of floral honey to add dimension without compromising the classic flavour of molasses and nuts. Use this as an opportunity to see how far you can brown your butter without burning it, and you will be rewarded with unparalleled flavour.

Contemporary Pecan Pie
Adapted from: Carole Walter. ‘Southern Pecan Pie.’ Great Pies and Tarts.

Ingredients:

1 disc prepared pie pastry*

7 tablespoons unsalted butter (3.5 oz)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mild honey
8 oz pecans

*an additional disc of pastry is required for a braided edge

Method:

Roll the disc of pastry into a 12 inch circle. Carefully fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate, then crimp or decorate the edge as desired. Freeze the shell for at least 30 minutes.

Darkly brown the butter, then let it cool while you prepare the other ingredients. Click here to learn how to make brown butter.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the oven racks so that you can place the pie plate on a rack in the lower middle of the oven, and a baking tray underneath it on the bottom rack.

When the oven has finished preheating, toast the nuts on a baking sheet for 6-8 minutes or until they are aromatic and slightly oily.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large measuring cup, combine the cooled brown butter, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.

Pour the liquid over the sugar mixture and stir until the ingredients are moistened. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, just until they are well combined. Wisk gently – you do not want to incorporate too much air into the mixture or it will puff up during baking. Whisk in the honey.

Remove the prepared pastry from the freezer. Spread the cooled nuts across the bottom of the pie shell. Give the filling a final stir then pour it over the nuts. Fill the pie to a scant 1/4 inch below the top of the crust, to allow room for the filling to expand during baking.

Place a large metal baking sheet on the bottom rack of the preheated oven. Place the pie on the middle rack and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, rotating carefully after 30 minutes. Use a pie shield if necessary to prevent overbrowning in the last 20 minutes. The pie is finished baking when the crust is completely golden brown and the filling has puffed up through to the centre. The filling should still wobble slightly when the tray is jiggled, and it should only begin to crack in the last few minutes of baking – if at all.

Let the pie cool completely before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Mastering the Basics: Let’s Get Ready to Crumble

Humble crumble, one of the baker’s quickest and most versatile toppings for many different kinds of muffins, cakes, and pies. Yet like anything else in the baking world, sometimes the simplest steps can go disappointingly awry. A buttery crumb topping can easily melt into a cake when it hits the heat of an oven, and instead of a crunchy top layer the result is a compromised or soggy texture in the final product. The solution is to freeze the crumble, and use it right from the freezer, so that the crumbs have time to bake and form structure before the butter melts. It is the same concept that helps sugar cookies and pie crusts hold their shape during baking: freeze that butter.

Basic crumble is a simple combination of flour, sugar, salt, and butter. To keep it interesting, spices may be added, most often cinnamon because of its versatility, as well as ground nuts or oats.

There are various means of incorporating the butter into the flour/sugar blend when making crumble. Some methods include working in cold cubed butter, stirring in melted butter, and even creaming the butter and sugar together first before adding a measure of flour. In our experience, the quickest and crunchiest crumb results from melted butter and the help of a freezer. Plus, you have the choice of browning the butter beforehand for additional flavour and bonus chef points.

Follow this recipe for perfect, crunchy crumble every time.

Baker’s Note: If you decide use brown butter you will need to begin with at least 5 ½ ounces, as the butter will reduce by roughly 25% during the browning process. Measure out 1/2 cup of the liquid brown butter and continue with the recipe as directed.

1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour (188g)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Use your fingers to break up any large chunks of brown sugar.
  2. Melt the butter, whisk in the vanilla extract and let cool slightly.
  3. Stir the butter into the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time to disperse evenly. Pour the butter over dry spots in the bowl and use a fork to toss, until all the liquid is absorbed and you have a nice blend of large and small clumps.
  4. Spread out on a large tray to avoid clumping, and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Spoon the frozen crumble into a large plastic freezer bag and store until ready to use.

This recipe makes enough topping to easily cover a dozen muffins or a large pie, with some left over for another use. We scattered the crumble atop a giant butternut squash coffee cake, which was fudgy, flavourful, and almost ready to be unveiled.

Coffee-Nut Shortbread Cookies

Satisfy your cookie cravings with a smooth, rich and nutty shortbread flavoured with coffee and roasted hazelnuts.

The problem with having your heart set on something is that it may take some time and a bit resourcefulness to get exactly what you want, but often what you end up with is the most delicious and effort-worthy version of your idea. This week I was firmly set on baking a nutty shortbread, but specifically one that was flavoured with a taste that I look forward to every day: coffee.

As it happened, I came across a recipe for hazelnut and brown sugar pan shortbread and suddenly remembered a stash of hazelnuts tucked away in my freezer waiting for such an occasion. There were only two obstacles between me and my cookies, how to procure finely ground nuts and instant espresso powder without food processing equipment or proximity to an Italian supermarket. Luckily both snags were easily solved with a plastic freezer bag, a wooden rolling pin, and an inexpensive spice grinder.

To achieve a rough nut meal, simply toss toasted and cooled nuts into a plastic freezer bag and take a heavy rolling pin to them. Avoid the instinct to give the nuts a good pounding, which will only tear the plastic, and apply heavy pressure as you roll the pin over a hard surface. The finished product will not be as fine or as even as machine processed nut flour, but for this recipe it will be just as yummy.

In the past I have used instant coffee (which on its own I abhor) to flavour desserts by dissolving the granules in a tablespoon or two of boiling water and then using the liquid as if it were a mild extract. However in the case of shortbread and many other cookie recipes I would hesitate to add the additional liquid, so another brilliant option is to combine fine espresso powder with the rest of the dry ingredients. To convert course instant coffee grains into a fine powder, I popped a half cup into a small electric spice/coffee grinder and gave it a few whizzes, just until the granules were reduced to a light and perfectly whisk-able dust. Do make sure to use your new ingredient in moderation, as finely grinding the coffee greatly increases the potency per tablespoon. For a large double batch of shortbread, I used only 1 tablespoon of the flavouring.

And the result was almost as satisfying as the first roast of the morning. The dark aroma of coffee heightens the richness of the shortbread and brings out the creaminess of the butter, while the presence of toasted hazelnuts and brown sugar rounds off the entire ‘latte’ experience. A drizzle of chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream wouldn’t hurt either.