23 August 2009

Toast Points

Pound cake is delicious.

Toast is delicious.

Therefore, toasted pound cake will be delicious.

I remember learning about the transitive property in geometry class- incidentally, the only math class I ever got even a B in (probably because it involved letters, not just numbers).

When you add heat to certain foods- I'm thinking of the fat and sugar variety- something interesting happens. For example: Cheese, good. Grilled cheese, murder-worthy. So while this blueberry-yogurt pound cake I adapted from the July Martha Stewart Living (I'm a bit behind on the reading, too) was quite delicious on its own, toasting it was transformative: the moist, velvety sweetness gains an almost savory dimension, and the coarse grains of sugar on top caramelize into a beautifully crunchy crust.

I didn't think I could love pound cake more- it's one of those confections, even straight-up, that gets shoved into your mouth increasingly quickly. There's no frosting, you think, so it's not like eating regular cake. And it's designed for tea, an elegantly simple sweet requiring no sauces or utensils.

The thick, bold grassiness of a megami sencha was a perfect foil to the richness and the intensity of the warm blueberries, which burst, juicily, in every bite. But there's something about the green tea-blueberry formula that makes me think any other sencha would be equally as delightful.

Blueberry-Yogurt Pound Cake
Makes: 1 cake.

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup blueberries, washed, tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

1. Heat oven to 325°. Butter one 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

2. In small bowl, sift together flour and salt. With electric mixer, cream butter, yogurt and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about five minutes. Beat in vanilla.

3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries, and pour into prepared pan. Tap on counter to distribute batter evenly, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

4. Bake for 65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely before slicing and toasting.

If you've never made pound cake before, let this one be your motivation. It's quite simple to make- as long as all the ingredients are at room temperature (leave the butter and eggs out for about an hour before you start baking) and the butter and sugar are thoroughly creamed, that smooth, rich texture will result.

07 August 2009

Feed Thyself

Dear TeaSpot,

I never believed this could happen to me. I forgot to blog for an entire month!


I've also neglected to cold-brew iced tea, bake anything dangerous or delicious, and form complete, grammatically correct sentences. Don't worry, I haven't exactly been pounding Snapple and Chips Ahoy; more like re-balancing my intake and output. Of everything.

After so much time, even taking a decent photo of a cup of tea in the 7 a.m. sunlight can seem an arduous process. But tea isn't about suffering; in fact, it's about the complete opposite. And I've never stopped enjoying its quiet yet essential role in my every day.

I've also been thinking a lot about the role tea plays for its other adherents, and it seems, at least in most media, to be one of effect: There's no lack of articles extolling its health benefits, or even how to boost its value.

But when any food is considered solely as a vehicle for its nutrients, or evaluated primarily as preventive medicine, something strange happens. What we consume is such a fundamental part of what makes us who we are, and that gets lost if we look to products like green-tea pills and tea extracts. Yes, it's possible to isolate catechins in a laboratory, study their antioxidant effects and attempt to create a live-forever supplement. That doesn't mean it should be done.

I'm all for reading labels, and using nutritional science to understand what you're putting into your body. But food is not medicine. It's food. It provides, it nourishes, it comforts.

You don't need to analyze tea- just enjoy it. So sit down, shut up and drink a cup of matcha already. It's what I've been doing every single morning for the past month, and it's been sustaining me.