Monday, March 16, 2009

Like peanut butter and pink shoes

It's late on a Sunday (for me that means 10:15), I am sore from far too much dancing, but I couldn't help but write tonight. Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life" has bewitched me into staying up later than usual today, making me salivate over fruit balls and Aunt Bill's, pain du chocolat and banana bread. Reading her book gives me all the warm fuzzies and comfort of things familiar -- like a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, my rugged pink Converse, and leaping into warm laundry. In fact, I feel a bit like Fraulein Maria tonight, desiring to sing about "a few of my favorite things." I apologize that this probably won't rhyme or have parallel structure, but who cares? Sing with me...

Chocolate and "Jane Eyre" and "Anne of Green Gables,"
Permed hair and toe socks and tv with cable,
Lighthouses, roses and pearls on a string,
These are a few of my favorite things...

Ok, that wasn't so bad. But in homage to Molly, I have decided to make her Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake. As she says, "There is no problem that cannot be solved with cake. It's the right answer to everything."

This morning ...

Woke up at 8, and still thinking of cake (I guess that I haven't gotten "The Sound of Music" out of my head yet -- or its classic yet slightly psychotic soundtrack). Opting for her blackberry-lemon zest-orange zest version of this pound cake, I folded together the dry ingredients, dousing myself and the kitchen in a fluffy cloud of Swan's Down. Page 20 of my new book was quickly covered in splotches of flour and butter, since I used my moistened index finger to make sure that I was following the recipe correctly.

Bouncing from the book to the food processor, memories rose as easily as the flour and the aroma from the orange and lemon zest I was adding to the wet ingredients. For a small moment, as I watched my hands grow purple from bursting blackberries, I was a little girl again, picking blackberries on Island Drive in Seattle with my brother and cousin. There is something incredibly lawless and delicious about picking berries -- something that doesn't feel like it ought to be right to pluck each plump berry from their thorny home and simultaneously run from angry bees. We were interrupting their world -- and we knew it -- but we didn't care.

Memories like that never get old -- even 20 years later, when instead of picking berries I buy them from the market and constantly wish they were on sale.

"A Homemade Life" is full of little gems like that -- precious moments from Molly's life. Her father's adorable and sagging belly, his love for experimentation, those dear and difficult last moments at his deathbed, her banging pots and pans in the kitchen as a little girl, that insanely small flat in Paris after college, her romantic early interludes with Brandon -- sigh. That was a fragment (I know), but it was the only way to explain the quirky and adorable recipe of memories that she cooked up for us devotees.

I've laughed from this book. I've cried from this book. I ate Ghirardelli's with this book. We've bonded.

Folding together the dry and moist ingredients and the berries, I licked the naughty drips of batter that fell from the cake spatula onto the food processor. I could only dance (dorkily) as I imagined the flavor getting even better when the blackberries, orange and lemon zest burst and surrendered their flavor to the oven's heat. Smoothing the batter into the bundt pan, I popped it in the oven.

Taking the cake out of the oven about an hour (and many paranoid peeks) later, I admired the finished product: a fluffy and perfect circular cloud of a cake, complemented by the freshly burst blackberries along the top. Eating one slice was equally amazing -- the consistency was smooth and light, the berries tart without being sour.

This pound cake surely met my craving. Thanks, Molly.

Curling up with "A Homemade Life" and Orangette is like biting into a macaroon at Jin Patisserie here in LA -- sensitive and unique, handcrafted and colorful, tender and satisfying. I can't wait until her next book -- because, when I finished this one, I was bitter that it was over.

Blackberry Pound Cake
Adapted from "A Homemade Life," p. 20

5 large eggs
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature, plus a bit more for the pan
1 Tbsp. organge zest
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 cups plus 8 Tbs cake flour, plus a bit more for the pan
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups of blackberries

Set an oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Generously butter a 9-cup Bundt pan, and dust it with flour, shaking out the excess.

In the bowl of a food processor, blend together the eggs and the sugar until smooth and thick, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the butter and blend until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the bowl. Add 2 cups plus 6 Tbs flour, orange and lemon zest, baking powder, and salt, and pulse twice or so to just combine. Do not overmix.

In a large bowl, toss the blackberries with the remaining 2 Tbs flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter into the berries. Transfer this finished batter to the prepared Bundt pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake until a toothpick or knife inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes; then invert it onto a rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, with tea, ice cream, or whipped cream, as the weather dictates.

1 comment:

Molly said...

What a lovely, lovely post, Winter! Thank you for all of your immensely kind words about my book. I'm blushing! Thank you.

P.S. Three cheers for cake!