Baking is one of the few areas where I started out ahead on this project. Though my other happy housewife skills may be lacking, I'm a very good baker.
In Practical Suggestions for Mother and Housewife (1910), author Marion Mills Miller writes:
All other duties of the housewife are subsidiary to the great subject of preparing food for the household. The care of the home, the care of health, etc., all either bear upon this work or require ability to perform it.
Though the book does not explicitly mention baking as part of this important task (it does, in fact, go on to two lengthy chapters on the preparation of meat), I'm going to have to give myself some leeway there. Mark is the real cook in this house--I make a pizza or something from time to time, but he does the bulk of it. (I'm sure Marion Mills Miller is turning over in her grave.) I just bake.
It started with a trip to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. It's the height of strawberry season here, and they were everywhere, looking and smelling divine. I bought a basket and brought them home, intending to rinse and eat them as-is. Mark took one look and said, "pound cake."
Mark likes pound cake. I like pound cake. I used to make it a lot, to have with berries or plain with tea. But I hadn't made any in months. So, mid-afternoon yesterday, I removed a pound of butter from the freezer to thaw. Before dinner, I measured out a cup of milk and took six eggs from the fridge and put them out to get to room temperature. And, after dinner, I put on my apron and made pound cake.
I use the pound cake recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook (1977). There are not likely many philosophical similarities between Mollie Katzen and the authors of my vintage housekeeping books, but I love her all the same. My copy of Moosewood is the original version, in paperback, is from the Goodwill in Portland. There's an inscription on the inside from cover, reading:
for my friend Amber
...thinking of all the fun dinners we've made in the past (Chinese hot pepper food comas, etc.) and to many more. Love you.
There are some telltale use splatters on the pages for Lentil Soup, but the real use of the book is clear. Page 200. Pound Cake.
1 hour, baking time
one full-sized bundt or tube pan
1 pound sweet butter (If you use sweet butter, add 1/2 tsp. salt. If you use regular butter, add only a dash of salt.)
3 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
(all above should be at room temperature)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbs. baking powder
4 cups unbleached white flour
Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one-at-a-time, beating well after each. Remove from electric mixer.
Sift together dry ingredients. Mix together milk and vanilla extract. Add wet and dry to butter mixture alternately, beginning and ending with dry. Mix by hand, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, after each addition. Mix thoroughly just enough to blend, without excess beating.
Pour into buttered & floured bundt or tube pan. Bake 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out dry. After the cake cools ten minutes, turn it out onto a plate. Let it cool completely before you slice it.
I don't make many modification to this recipe. I replace the vanilla with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and the rind of a whole one, for a slightly lemon-y cake. I bake it in two Pyrex loaf pans, rather than a bundt or tube pan, both because I prefer that shape and because I can then easily freeze one of the loaves--this makes a lot and it freezes very well. That's about it. There are some suggested variations in the book, including one with blueberries and a mocha swirl option, but I've never even tried them. I like this cake for its simplicity.
Last night, we enjoyed slices of still-warm cake with fresh sliced strawberries and lightly sweetened whip cream. This morning, I had a plain slice with my coffee. And remembered why I stopped making it so often--when it's around, you want to eat it with everything, and that pound of butter is always in the back of my mind. But it's worth it.
For those interested in the fashion side of things, I'm wearing:
denim Bermuda shorts: Smith's (Marshall's)
black ruffle front tank top: Ann Taylor Loft (thrifted)
green doggie apron with black polka dot trim: Boojiboo
green and blue head scarf: Cost Plus World Market