Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Lemon-almond loaf cake, for a New York weekend
New York is a city any foodie would love. Spend an afternoon wandering through any of the neighborhoods, and stop to eat whatever strikes your fancy - ever so often, it turns out to be something you've never had before, or the best-ever of some food you always liked. Or poke through the many ethnic grocery stores, their shelves piled high with exotic herbs, spices and relishes! I had a wonderful time this weekend sampling Brooklyn's best and then some: capuccino at Cafe Pedlar, fresh hot sandwiches at Ted & Honey, lovely Italian small plates and wines at Frankie's Spuntino, myriad veggie dumplings at Dim Sum Go Go, sweet treats at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and Sweet Melissa.
Needless to say, I did not do much cooking over the weekend. I did, however, make this lemon-almond loaf cake, which made for a great snack in between all of the other eating (!). I am so glad I went for that run across the Brooklyn Bridge and back!
Lemon and almond is another of my favorite flavor pairings. Fresh, lively and perfumed, the lemon brings out the nutty sweetness of almonds beautifully. Here, I use them together in a tangy loaf cake that's perfect for the summer - not too sweet, not too sour, equally at home in a picnic basket or dressed up with a pile of juicy berries and whipped cream for dessert!
The luscious lemoniness (yes, I may have just made that word up) of this cake comes from finely grated zest, as well as a lemon syrup that's poured over when it comes out of the oven. I am planning to try an orange version too, with a splash of orange blossom water in the syrup for a flavor boost.
Lemon-Almond Loaf Cake (makes 1 medium or 2 small cakes)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground blanched almonds (I used ready-ground but you can grind your own as well)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
6 tbsp milk
Juice of 2 lemons
A few drops almond extract (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Lightly grease a 4 1/2"X8 1/2" loaf pan. I used 2 disposable aluminium foil pans, each of 1 3/4 cup capacity.
Sift the flour with the baking powder, then stir in the salt and ground almonds. Cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just mixed, followed by the zest and almond extract. Lightly fold in the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour into the prepared pan(s).
Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Combine the lemon juice and the remaining sugar in a non-reactive saucepan. (You can use more than 1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want your cake to be. Taste the syrup once the sugar is dissolved, and if it seems too tart for you, add more sugar to taste.) Bring to boil over high heat, then turn the heat down and simmer for 2-3 minutes. The syrup should be light and quite runny. You can stir in some limoncello, light rum, or even an orange liqueur like Cointreau, into the syrup at this point if you like.
When the cake comes out of the oven, poke plenty of holes all over it with a toothpick. Slowly pour the warm syrup over, trying to make sure most of it goes in the holes and not running down the sides. Let the cake cool completely in the pan before cutting, as it may be soggy until the syrup is fully absorbed.