Pound cakes, served bare, have never been a favorite of mine. A pound cake is typically made with a pound of butter, sugar, flour and eggs; artery cloggers for such a simple cake which makes them less likely to be made as I myself would prefer to spend my calories on a decadent chocolate cake. But the picture of it served with crème anglaise and some fresh raspberries somehow paints a very appetizing image in my mind. So it was with much interest while perusing “The Notebooks of Michel Bras” that I find a pound cake recipe that called for no butter but milk skin. I did not fancy making milk skin and opted instead for crème fraiche which the recipe mentioned as a worthy substitute. And what do you know; I have a big tub of it sitting in the refrigerator begging to be converted into a pound cake! Of course I was fresh from the success of making banana bread so I had more confidence in making anything in a loaf pan now. Besides, the cookbook labeled the recipe as quick and easy so how difficult can this be? The pound cake turned out quite creamy and surprisingly light on the taste buds… read kind of bland. However, a dressing of crème anglaise turned out to be the perfect combination to the unobtrusive taste of this cake. Add to it a couple of raspberries and you have an elegant dessert or afternoon tea pastry.
For the Pound Cake
1/2 cup crème fraiche
4 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 ¼ cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Beat the eggs and sugar until mixture turns pale. Gently fold in the crème fraiche. Sift the flour and baking soda, and stir them into the mixture with a spatula. Butter the pan and dust with sugar. Tap the pan lightly to remove the excess. Pour in the batter.
Bake in a 325 °F oven for 45 minutes. Insert a skewer to check that the cake is done. This pound cake will keep longer if wrapped in plastic.
For the Crème Anglaise
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy or whipping cream
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
Pry the vanilla bean open with the tip of a knife and scrape some of its grainy black interior into a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla bean itself, milk, and cream. Heat over medium heat until the mixture just begins to steam. Stir the egg yolks, sugar, and a generous pinch of salt together in a bowl. Drizzle the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Strain the yolk mixture into the top of a double boiler.
Bring about 1 ½ inch water to a boil in the bottom of the double boiler. Make sure the water does not touch the top pan. Stir the custard mixture constantly until it just begins to thicken. Remove from the double boiler and continue stirring. Dip a large spoon into the custard, then remove it. The custard should be thick enough to leave a line when you drag your finger across the middle of the spoon. This is what recipes mean by “thick enough to coat a spoon”.
Transfer the custard to a bowl. Dot the surface with butter or cover with a piece of plastic wrap touching the entire surface of the custard. Refrigerate until needed.
As expected the pound cake was relatively easy to make however you need to make sure that the eggs are at room temperature so you can whisk enough air into it. The crème anglaise, recipe from “Cookwise” by Shirley Corriher, was not difficult to make but took a while to thicken. It is important to whisk constantly as the custard might thicken unevenly and to use a rubber spatula so you can get all the cream and not leave a coagulated mess at the bottom or sides of your pan. I just spied another promising recipe for crème Anglaise from Sherry Yard’s “Secret of Baking”. I know it’s not going to be long before I try that one J .