By Jessica Roy One of the things I love most about being a chef is the fact that there are endless things to learn. It's possible to have a tried and true method for your favorite techniques. However, one simple tweak can change the outcome and therefore the outlook on the whole picture. It's these little mind blowing moments that keep me coming back to the kitchen for more experimentation.
The realm of experimentation for me, is most prevalent in baking. There are those who love cooking but claim "I can't bake" (I used to subscribe to this excuse), but that's not quite true. As told to me by a dear friend who is a fantastic pastry chef, you just have to understand the Why and the How behind it all. And then you have to measure.
So, in keeping with my resolution to get more people into the kitchen, this recipe is for all you hesitant bakers out there. Today we jump into the world of sweet confectionery bliss with some logistical explanations and a little science via my Blueberry Pound Cake.
A pound cake is moist and dense, but I like a bit of a light texture in contrast to solid bread brick, so I'm enlisting the help of a couple of leaveners to bring it all together and give it a little rise. It is a "cake," after all.
Adding richness: butter, sugar, eggs, and a little Greek yogurt. Leavening agents: baking powder, eggs, and air (!). Taking the time to beat the butter and sugar into a light and fluffy mixture, followed by beating in eggs one at a time, incorporates air into the mix providing opportunity to rise a bit during baking.
Since we are using tender berries in the pound cake, make the batter first, and then gently fold in the blueberries by hand so that they don't break, and are plump and whole for baking.
Blueberry Pound Cake
1 1/2 cups butter, soft at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, and more for topping
3 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, fine ground
2/3 cups fresh whole blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, and then line it with 2 strips of parchment paper: one long strip to run lengthwise, and one fat strip to run across the wide side. Allow the parchement to hang over the edges by about 1/2 inch. This will help to pull the pound cake out of the pan when it's done.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on high speed until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. This will take a few minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat in vanilla extract.
Break the eggs into a small bowl, and break the yolks with a fork. Turn the mixer onto medium speed, and add the eggs one at a time, until each is fully incorporated.
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl, and stir them all together with a whisk. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter, and continue to mix until incorporated.
Add the Greek yogurt, while continuing to mix on medium speed. Next, add the rest of the flour mixture and incorporate into the batter. The batter will be very thick.
Working by hand with a rubber spatula, gently fold half of the blueberries to the batter. Repeat with the remaining blueberries being careful not to break them.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top so that the cake bakes evenly. Place the pan into the center of the preheated oven, and bake for 30 minutes.
Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees F. Continue to bake the pound cake for 45-50 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven, sprinkle with sugar as desired, and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes prior to slicing.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.