Monday, November 29, 2010

Desserts by Pierre Hermé: Lemon Loaf Cakes

I was just feeling lemony today.  That, and I realized I still hadn't made anything out of my Pierre Hermé dessert cookbook.  I mean, talk about a sin!  Plus, I needed to get rid of some crème fraîche.  I hate nothing more than spending $7 on an ingredient of which I use one tablespoon.  While most of the desserts in the book look a little more complicated, these lemon loafs are pretty straight forward.  And honestly, you can't beat a good pound cake.

The loaf weren't that hard to pull together, but when I tasted them, I was...underwhelmed.  They are lemony.  They just aren't LEMONY.  They need to take a bath in lemon syrup or something.  Maybe some lemon extract in the batter.  Maybe I just like my lemon cakes really tart.  Otherwise, they were fabulous.  I would follow the directions in small print below the recipe that suggest toasting a slice with butter.

Lemon Loaf Cakes
From Desserts by Pierre Hermé by Dorie Greenspan

2⅔ cups cake flour
¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
Zest of 3 lemons - removed with a zester and very finely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup crème fraîche, at room temperature, or heavy cream
3½ tablespoons rum
Pinch of sea salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 1 cup of lemon marmalade, for glaze, optional

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour two 7½x3½x2½-inch loaf pans, dust the interiors with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside.  (These are the perfect size pans for these cakes, but they're not always easily found.  If you don't have them, use two 8½x4½x2½-inch loaf pans.  Your cakes won't be as tall, but they'll be every bit as flavorful.)  Prepare an insulating layer for the cakes by stacking two baking sheets, one on top of the other, or use an insulated (air-cushioned) baking sheet.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and reserve.

Place the chopped zest and sugar in a large mixing bowl and rub them together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic.  Add the eggs and, using a whisk, beat until the eggs are foamy and pale.  One by one, add the crème fraîche (or heavy cream), rum, and salt and whisk until the ingredients are incorporated.  Using the whisk or a large rubber spatula, gently stir the flour mixture into the batter in four additions; you'll have a smooth, thick batter.  Finally, fold in the cooled melted butter in two or three additions.

Immediately pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans, place them on the baking sheet(s), and slip them into the oven.  Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the cakes are crowned, split down the center, and golden.  A long thin knife inserted into the center of each cake should come out dry and crumb-free.  (Check the cakes at the 40-minute mark.  If they are browning too quickly, cover them loosely with foil tents for the remainder of the baking period.)  Remove the cakes from the oven and turn them out of the pans onto a cooling rack; invert them so they're right side up.  Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature before glazing or serving.

If you want to glaze the cakes, place the marmalade in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat (or heat it in the microwave oven); strain the marmalade.  Use a broad pastry brush to paint every surface (except the bottoms) of the cakes with a thin coat of glaze.  Allow the glaze to dry at room temperature before serving (or wrapping).

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