It’s true, I do. My maternal grandmother’s kitchen always smelled like freshly baked bread, cinnamon toast, and banana bread. When I write “cinnamon toast,” I don’t mean sprinkling a cinnamon sugar blend on buttered toast from the toaster. I mean that you spread butter (no substitutes) on bread, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar blend to taste (my mixture tends to be dark – more cinnamon), and place in the oven broiler (or toaster oven) until the sugar starts to bubble and carmelize – super fantastic!
My maternal great aunt’s kitchen smelled like freshly baked bread and what is commonly known as “monkey bread.” We never called it that. I first heard that term less than 10 years ago. The recipe card in my box is labelled “Aunt Mary’s Coffee Cake.” Mind you, Aunt Mary did NOT use frozen bread dough, only the real thing from real ingredients. The eggs were from chickens that lived on the property.
A favorite family story centers around the time that my uncle and I were babysitting my younger siblings at Grandma’s house and really craving banana bread. Neither one of us had made it solo before, but we really wanted it, so we went for it. Heck, we’d seen it done countless times, how hard could it be? One thing that both my grandmother and mother always obsessed about was making sure the bananas were thoroughly mashed. Well…neither one of us had the patience at the time to heed that instruction. As a result, our first banana bread attempt was a bit gooey, with wet chunks of banana. It just wasn’t the same as when Grandma and Mom made it. Frankly, it was gross. I’m proud to report that I am now an expert. I expect he is, as well.
For the past 5 or so months, my baking adventures have been quite limited, by choice. My quest to give away a number of extra pounds of weight have deterred me from tempting myself with baked goods. However, when hosting a small and casual dinner party a couple of weeks ago, I made a recipe from one of my favorite books – Chocolate Pound Cake by Alice Medrich. I made a vanilla yogurt, cream cheese, and honey topping, which one of my young guests liked so much that I sent all of it home with her.
The name, pound cake, originated from an original recipe of the 18th century, which included 1 pound each of eggs, butter, flour, sugar. The recipe has evolved over the centuries and there are numerous variations, but the original essence remains.
For anyone that loves chocolate, desserts, and would prefer to dial down the calories, fat, etc., of a traditional luxury dessert, but are not willing to sacrifice quality and flavor, I highly recommend this book – Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts, by Alice Medrich. It is my go-to source for chocolate recipes. The recipe for Michael’s Brownies is the only one I make. Here is the recipe for that wonderful chocolate pound cake. It is forgiving in substitutions, as I have used skim (fat free) milk in my recent bakings. Today, I substituted almost half of the regular, white flour, with wheat pastry flour. I very much enjoyed the three small slices. The recipe can easily be halved. As with most pound cakes, it is better a day or two after baking. The crumbs compact and the cake becomes more dense. It is just simply wonderful.
2 – 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites
2 tablespoons instant espresso or coffee powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 – 2/3 cups sugar
1. Have all ingredients at room temperature. Position the rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Spray 12-cup tube or bundt pan, or two 5-cup loaf pans, with vegetable oil spray.
2. Combine and sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Whisk the whole eggs with the egg whites in a small bowl. Set aside. Dissolve the espresso powder in 3 tablespoons warm water and combine with the vanilla and buttermilk in a small bowl.
3. Cut the butter into chunks and place in an electric mixer bowl. Using a stand mixer, beat to soften, about 1 minute. Add sugar gradually, beating constantly for about 3 minutes at medium speed. Gradually dribble eggs into sugar mixture, beating at medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes. On medium-low speed, beat in a third of the flour mixture, scraping the bowl as necessary. On medium speed, gradually dribble in half of the buttermilk mixture, scraping the bowl as necessary. On low speed, beat in half of the remaining flour followed by the rest of the buttermilk, always scraping the bowl as necessary. Beat in remaining flour mixture until well combined. Batter may look slightly curdled.
4. Scrape batter into the pan or pans and smooth the top as necessary. Bake loaves for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake starts to shrink from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out barely clean. Cake in a tube or bundt pan will bake in 55 to 55 minutes. Do not overbake.
5. Cool cake, in the pan, on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert and remove pan. Turn right side up if baked in loaves. Cool completely on the rack before storing.
Cake remains moist and delicious for 4 to 5 days, well wrapped. Cake may be frozen for up to 2 months. Best if baked 1 day before serving.
Serves 20 (slice=0.85 in) to 24 (slice=0.71 in)
Calories per serving: 196
% calories from fat: 31%
Alice Medrich’s blog