Monday, December 31, 2007

Closing the Books on 2007 with a Slam

Today is thankfully the last day of what can only be called my personal "Annus Horribilis". For a year that started with great promise, 2007 has been frankly an awful year. I lost people who were close to me. I made a life changing decision to leave a long term situation and then I struggled with the transition from life in a city (Boston) where I didn't need a car to life in the commuter burbs of Connecticut where I can't get any errands done with one.

On a more positive note, the I made a re-commitment to fitness by hiring a fantastic personal trainer who, along with her sunny roommate, has become a close friend and gave me the most awesome pumpkin bread recipe ever. I met Lisa and Helen in Cleveland and we tore it up for a super fun weekend of cooking, drinking, smoking, and general mayhem. With the Daring Bakers, I have conquered my fear of puff pastry, hot caramelized sugar, survived the Martha Crepe Cake and did that awesome Wheat Sheath with the Tender Potato Bread Challenge.

I bought the mixer of my dreams, a Kitchenaid Pro 5 Plus and named her Isabelle.

I have traveled to some pretty exciting places, including Moscow.

My plan for 2008 is to carry the good with me and toss the bad away. To that end, I am reprinting the best recipe I made all year, The Pistachio and Cardmom Pound Cake from Survir Saran's American Masala. This has become a "go to impress" recipe and I make this about twice a month to share with various friends.


Pistachio and Cardamom Pound Cake with Lemon Icing

For the Cake:

1 cup raw, shelled unsalted pistachios
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk

For the Icing:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1 Tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon heavy cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. To prepare the cake, place the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and browned, about 5 minutes. Cool and then pulse in a food processor until they become very fine (be careful not to over process; otherwise you'll have pistachio butter) and set aside. Reduce your oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with 1/2 Tbsp butter. Place a long strip of parchment paper in the pan bottom. Grease the top of the parchment with 1/2 Tbsp butter and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup, whisk in the vanilla, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the remaining stick and a half of butter and sugar until they are light and airy. Drizzle in the eggs, a little at a time, beating between additions to incorporate and scraping the bowl as necessary. Alternate adding the flour and the milk, starting and ending with the flour and mixing until the batter is just nearly combined between additions, scrapping the bowl as necessary. Fold the pistachios into the batter by hand, then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake the cake until a cake tester inserted into the cake's center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack and turn it so its top faces up. Let the cake cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the icing: Sift the confectioners' sugar and cardamom into a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and cream or milk. Spread the icing over the cooled cake, letting it drip over the sides. Once the icing has set, slice and serve.

Good-bye and good riddance 2007. Hello 2008!!! May you and yours be safe, sound, and happy in the new year.