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Shirley O. Corriher
Ina Pinkney's Famous Pound Cake
There is always a humbling experience just around the corner. I knew totally and completely that my pound cake was the best. That is, I knew it until about a month ago, when, on a visit to Chicago, I had Ina Pinkney's pound cake!
Oh wow! When you take a bite, your whole being is filled with buttery wonderfulness, and then the vanilla hits and everything in your mouth is dissolving, melting tenderness! You've got to have another bite.
This cake is amazing. It is prepared in the food processor and is very easy to make. It just takes a few minutes. A vital step is that Ina melts the butter. This liquid fat coats the flour proteins better than solid fat and thus limits gluten formation, to give the cake its dissolving tenderness.
With this amount of butter, you may wonder how the cake can work technically. Ina has four eggs in the recipe, giving you almost equal weights of eggs and fat, moderating the protein setting ingredients (eggs and flour) with the tenderizing structure-wreckers (fat and sugar) to produce an excellently balanced cake -- well set, but completely moist and tender.
Ina uses cake flour, which gives you several advantages. Because of the cake flour's acidity, the cake sets faster for a better texture. Cake flour is very finely ground and lightly chlorinated. Fat adheres to chlorinated starch, producing better distribution of the fat -- again making a better texture. Cake flour can have a slight sharp taste, but in this cake the vanilla and butter totally override any flavors from the flour.
The marvelous seductive vanilla comes from vanilla bean paste, which is made of finely ground vanilla beans. It is very easy to get "hooked" on good vanilla bean paste, but beware. Some processors use vanilla bean paste as a way to get rid of old, dried beans. Neilson Massey and Vanilla.com both have fresh, outstanding products.
Ina makes the cake in a small Pullman loaf pan (about 9 by 4 by 4 inches) without the lid. (USA Pan makes a great nonstick pan like this.) This produces a loaf with a perfect square cross section. Ina cuts thick slices (almost 3/4-inch) and toasts both sides (you can do this in a toaster or on a grill or even a frying pan), then she cuts the square slice from one corner to the opposite corner to form two triangles. She serves the cake with one triangle standing up and one lying down.
Ina is a remarkable lady. She said that she baked her first cake when she was 37 years old and it was wonderful. She had had 19 jobs and been fired from 17! She finally found something that she could really do. Boy, oh boy, can she bake! Everything I ate -- sour cream coffee cake, brownies, the works -- was outstanding, totally different from an ordinary coffee cake or brownie and completely wonderful!
Ina developed these recipes for her restaurant/bakery, Ina's, in Chicago. It is just west of downtown Chicago (1235 West Randolph Street). She serves breakfast, lunch or dinner to between 400 and 500 guests a day. Everyone eats there -- all the politicians included. She pointed out a table and said that was where David Axelrod ate breakfast every morning while he was planning Barack Obama's campaign and another table that was the habitual perch of a big-shot politician who later was indicted.
She started as a bakery and breakfast place and is known as "The Breakfast Queen." People love her great food and her. While I was sitting near the door having breakfast with Ina, half of the people who checked out waved or threw a kiss to her. She very generously shared the recipe for the cake that I loved so much and said that I could share it with others. Now, you, too have an opportunity to make and love this cake.
Ina says, "Two things make this my new favorite Pound Cake: I use a food processor and Vanilla Bean Paste." Nielsen-Massey's product is ideal here, but there is also an outstanding high-quality vanilla bean paste supplier at Vanilla.com. This is a vital ingredient! Do not make this cake without it.)
Ina Pinkney's Famous New Old-Fashioned Vanilla Bean Pound Cake
Makes about 10 servings.
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), gently melted in microwave or on stovetop
6 ounces cake flour (1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 3/4 oz. sugar (1 1/4 cups)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey or Vanilla.com Vanilla Bean Paste
1. Position a rack slightly below the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.
2. Melt butter and set aside to cool.
3. Grease a 9-by-4 small Pullman loaf pan with butter and flour or non-stick spray. A Pullman loaf pan has straight sides, not slanted. USA Pan has an excellent pan this size. Do not use the top of the Pullman loaf pan.
4. In a medium bowl, beat together well with a hand mixer or vigorously by hand with a whisk, the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
5. In a food processor, process sugar, eggs and vanilla for about 2 to 3 seconds. (Ina beats a few seconds longer, but I limit to avoid a crust.)
6. Stir the melted butter well to mix in the separated solids. With the machine running, pour butter through the feed tube in a slow and steady stream. Blend for about 3 seconds.
7. Scatter the flour mixture over the top of the egg mixture in the processor. Pulse 5-6 times until the flour is incorporated. You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse 2-3 more times.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 and bake until deep golden brown and the tester comes out clean.
9. It should bake about 35 minutes. Rotate pan halfway through the baking.
10. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, unmold, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Toast each slice on both sides before serving.
Ina cuts almost 3/4-inch thick slices, toasts on both sides, cuts at an angle to form 2 triangles, serves with one triangle standing.
Ina Pinkney's Famous Pound Cake - Shirley O. Corriher Recipes
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© Shirley O. Corriher