Posts Tagged Nigella Lawson

Last-Minute Easter Desserts

Easter Pound Cake

Orange pound cake, my last-minute Easter dessert.

I hadn’t given a lot of though to Easter this year, besides Wonk the Plank’s Easter basket. Maybe I was too busy making matzoh, but Easter kind of slipped my mind.

But I’m going to an Easter dinner this Sunday, and I realized yesterday that I had no idea what to bring for dessert. I wanted to make something quick and simple, but that would still wow my hosts. So I scoured through my favorite recipes, and came up with this quick Easter dessert guide:

Gateau Breton
Ya’ll loved the Gateau Breton. I don’t think I’ve gotten as many commenters swearing that they were going to make one of my recipes before. This large, round, cake-like shortbread is soft, sweet, and deeply buttery. For Easter, I’d add a couple teaspoons of lemon zest to the dough and serve the cake/cookie with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Shortbread Fingers
These cookies are amazing – rich, soft, deeply chocolaty, with a hint of cinammon that makes them absolutely to-die-for. While they may not be specially Easter-ish, these are so good that you really won’t care.

Orange Pound Cake
And finally, my own-last minute Easter dessert – my take on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s perfect pound cake. Faithful followers of this blog will remember that Rose’s pound cake made an appearance in the February Pound Cake Project — and, at the end of the month, her buttery pound cake was my favorite recipe. I changed a couple of things: added some orange flavoring to the dough and added an orange glaze. This cake could be dressed up with raspberries and whipped cream to make it suitably fancy for Easter. Or it could be served as a sweet addition to your Easter brunch.

Orange Pound Cake Recipe


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March Shortbread Project, Take Four: Gateau Breton

Gateau Breton

Nigella Lawson's Gateau Breton. Not quite a shortbread, not quite a cake - and absolutely to die for.

This shortbread-ish recipe slips in under the wire as the final entry in the March Shortbread Project.

As I said at the beginning of the project, I had never made shortbread before I tried Michelle Obama’s Shortbread cookies, because I wasn’t a big fan of crisp, dry butter cookies. Still, I felt remiss in my baking and blogging duties, because I had gone through the entire without making a classic, round shortbread cookie that you cut into wedges. But I didn’t want to make a huge cookie that I didn’t want to eat.

I found the perfect compromise in Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess.” Her recipe for Gateau Breton, a Brittany butter cake, is “a cross between a shortbread and a pound cake.” Really, I should have done it at the beginning of the month, because it could have bridged the February Pound Cake Project and the March Shortbread Project.

The cookie/cake is extremely simple, but absolutely to die for. The batter is high in egg yolks and butter, and the resulting cookie is sweet and buttery, rich without being overpowering. The texture is crumbly and soft – it reminded me of the texture of Nigella’s Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake, but denser. I can’t imagine why anyone would go back to eating classic shortbread cookies after tasting this cookie/cake.

I made a couple changes to the recipe. I added 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to enhance the buttery flavor of the cake, and I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to complement the sugar. I actually was extremely surprised that the recipe didn’t call for salt to begin with, since you usually add salt to enhance the flavors in baked goods.

I served this in my office, cut into thick wedges, but it would be a fabulous dinner party dessert as well. I would dress it up with berries and a dollop of whipped cream, and serve it with coffee.

Gateau Breton
“Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess,” By Nigella Lawson


6 large egg yolks, 1 tsp reserved
1 tbs water
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10 inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the pan again.

After separating your eggs, take the one teaspoon of reserved egg yolk and mix with the water. This will serve as your glaze

Place flour in a mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and salt until combined. Add butter, yolks, and vanilla and stir until the dough comes together. It will be a deep golden color.

Scoop the dough into the pan and smooth out with lightly floured hands until it fills out the pan and is of uniform thickness. The top will be slightly lumpy. Brush with the glaze. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, slash the top with a decorative lattice or other design of your choosing.

Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the cake is firm to the touch.

Remove cake from oven and place on a rack to cool. Cool the cake entirely in the pan. Invert the cake onto a plate and peel off the parchment, and then reinvert onto a serving platter.

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February Pound Cake Project Take Three: Nigella’s Lemon Not Quite Pound Cake

Nigella Pound Cake 1

Nigella Lawson's lemon syrup loaf cake, with some changes.

My soul was flagging a little in the middle of the February Pound Cake Project. For all that I love highly tested, extremely scientific recipes, part of me wanted to bake something comforting and homey, without all those explanatory notes about the chemical reasons for using cake flour rather than all-purpose flour.

It was in this state of mind that I turned to Nigella Lawson, whose outrageously descriptive and soulful prose seemed like a perfect antidote to scientific overload. Also, seeing as the pound cake originated in England, it made a certain kind of sense to try the recipe of this British domestic.

But I ran into a road block, as Nigella doesn’t actually have a recipe for plain pound cake in How To Be A Domestic Goddess. But many of her recipes are loaf cakes, which all look to be variations on the classic pound cake recipe. “Close enough,” I thought, happily bending the Project rules to suit my own will.

I chose to make her lemon-syrup loaf cake with a couple of changes, the biggest of which is that I omitted the syrup. I’ve never understood why some pound cakes are drenched in soaking syrup, transforming a perfect piece of cake into a dense, sickly sweet and sloppy creation that shouldn’t be allowed near a dessert tray. In lieu of the soaking syrup, I made my own lemon icing and drizzled it over the cake.

The recipe also calls for self-rising cake flour, which I didn’t have on hand, and which I doubt they even sell in my crappy Giant. So I used the substitution suggested in Wonktheplank’s Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, (add 1 teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of cake flour).

The result was perfection. This cake was definitely different than the first two pound cakes – those had a tender, close crumb, that melted in your mouth. This cake was lighter, without the close crumb, and much more crumbly. The lemon icing and the lemon zest in the batter also added greatly to its appeal – it’s amazing what a little citrus can do for a cake!

Nigella Pound Cake Slices

Mmmmm, lovely slices of pound cake.

The Recipe for Lemon (Sans Syrup) Loaf Cake

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The Great Hybrid Banana Bread Experiment

I always think it’s funny on Top Chef when, during the inevitable challenge that involves making some kind of dessert, the chefs discuss the difference between a chef and a baker. The conversation always seems to follow the same formula: the chef is an artistic improviser who works in the moment, adding a dash of this and a dash of that before perfecting a dish. Whereas a baker is a scientist, one who loves exact measurements, who desires precision above all else because, unlike in cooking, when you miss a vital ingredient in baking (say, baking powder in a cake batter) then your cake is kaput. The chefs always make bakers sound like boring, fussy squares, who just aren’t as fun as the spontaneous, artistic and impulsive chefs.

I guess this makes me an odd duck then, because I am incredibly imprecise, love to experiment with recipes and throw in bits of this and that that weren’t called for, and yet I really, really love baking. Ever since my mother showed me how to make Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies (probably in utero) one of my favorite childhood activities was playing Princesses with my sister, baking up a batch of cookies, and pretending to distribute them among the poor in our kingdom (the poor being my sister and I. And maybe our little brother, if he wasn’t being irritating and chasing us with one of his many swords).

Granted, many of my baking “experiments” haven’t always turned out so well. There was the time I tried to make cookies by using proportions of ingredients that seemed similar to other cookie recipes, and came up with dry and brittle hockey pucks. There was the time I made an apple cake with margarine instead of butter (we were out), and ended up with a greasy and dense mass that even my perpetually hungry boyfriend wouldn’t eat. And don’t even get me started on the loaves of rock-hard bread I’ve produced – loaves that, in a pinch and with the right amount of brute force, could have served as deadly weapons.

However, I had a completely successful baking experiment with banana bread the other day, and I thought I needed to share it, since they are incredibly rare.

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