and Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pound Cake
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Today, I tried Rose Levy Beranbaum's pound cake:
The recipe can be found on starchefs.com and a lemon poppy seed variation can be found on Ms Beranbaum's website.
I'm close to couple decades tardy in discovering Ms Beranbaum's highly regarded cookbook, The Cake Bible. Every other cake author I've read has referenced her in some way, and I've leafed through The Cake Bible at bookstores and libraries before but it isn't until a week ago that I finally bought it.
Ms Beranbaum's claim to fame is her use of the two-stage method in mixing cake batters. Also called the one-bowl method, this manner of mixing begins with combining all the dry ingredients in a bowl, then moistening this mixture with butter and some liquid, followed by a minute or so of beating and the addition of more liquid.
It rose exactly as high as Ms Beranbaum said it would: 2.5" on the sides and 3.5" in the middle. The split occurred naturally, and for those who value a more precise split, Ms Beranbaum suggests taking a sharp buttered blade or knife to cut a six-inch slit down the middle of the batter 20 minutes into the baking time.
The mixing method produces a silken batter, which tastes good. At first, I found it odd that I am beating the batter long after the liquid and the flour have been added together. This is a stark contrast to the creaming method where I take extreme care not to over beat the batter. The addition of butter into the flour deters the formation of gluten, that boon to bread-making and bane of cake-bakers.
The pound cake looks rustic on the outside, but has a luxurious, velvety texture. The crumb is very fine. However, it also tastes like it could be a touch sweeter. I do wonder if people in the '80s - the cookbook was written in 1988 - had less of a sweet tooth. When I bake from the 1975 Joy of Cooking, I always notice how distinctly non-sweet the cakes and pastries are, and have been told that people were less of sugar junkies in the past.
I cut the cake right after it cooled so I can examine it, but it's best to ripen pound cakes for at least a day for best flavour.
My curiosity is piqued. Before, I was certain that the creaming method produced the most tender cakes. Now, I'm not so sure....