As I mentioned earlier (when I made bouchons au thon), this month's selection for the Foodie Book Club was A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette.
If you are not familiar, this book is an autobiography of Molly's life. Each short chapter tells a story and ends with a recipe. The stories span from her childhood to college to Paris to her father's death and finally her romance with her now husband Brandon, whom she met through her blog. I think what I love most about this book is although it is definitely about food, it is actually more about the people in her life. Each recipe is tied to a specific person or a specific memory and Molly invites you into her world and describes it so well that the recipes end up being an added bonus.
And what an added bonus they are! The first time I read the book last summer it seemed that at the end of every chapter I was making a mental note: "Must make this soon!" Soon, I was wondering if I would come across anything I wouldn't want to make. Since then, I have made several recipes from this book, as well as her blog, and not a single one has been disappointing. I made her Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger at Christmas, the Tarte Tatin, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, roasted rhubarb, the bouchons au thon earlier this month, countless others I can't recall at the moment, but mostly, her Buckwheat Pancakes.
The Buckwheat Pancakes have become my go-to pancake recipe. I make them maybe once every month or two (in fact, I made them this morning before dropping my little sister off at the airport). I almost always make them with sliced bananas and sometimes, when I'm feeling indulgent, a few dark chocolate chips. But that was a complete tangent. I'm not writing about those pancakes today, but the Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche.
I made creme fraiche for the bouchons au thon and knew I would have some leftover. I happened to flip past this recipe and decided it would be the perfect way to put that extra creme fraiche to use, along with the buttermilk I used to make the creme fraiche in the first place. It fit perfectly. Molly's version actually includes glazed oranges, but I decided to omit them. The cake turned out perfectly. Tangy, light and not too sweet. Molly says that it is best on the day it's made, but leftovers "make a nice 'dessert' after breakfast." I actually kept the cake around for maybe even 5 days. It did dry out slightly but was still delicious. I wasn't sure about this after-breakfast dessert thing, but every mid-morning that the cake was around, I found myself cutting off a thin slice, so I think she was definitely onto something.
(The macaroons pre-chocolate ganache)
Just as the bouchons led to this cake, this cake led to Molly's coconut macaroons with chocolate ganache. The cake calls for 4 egg yolks, leaving you with just enough egg whites for her recipe, which yielded rich, chewy sweet macaroons dipped in a bittersweet chocolate ganache. A definite must if you make this cake and are feeling naughty enough to go for something indulgent instead of the usual healthy Leftover Egg White Omelet.
All in all, I am a huge fan of Molly/Orangette. We are actually going to Seattle for our honeymoon and I am definitely making sure we eat at Delancy (her and Brandon's restaurant) while we are in town!
Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche
From Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 cups cake flour (I was too lazy to make my own and used whole wheat pastry instead)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
Creme fraiche (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch springform pan. Line with parchment paper and grease the paper as well.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and set aside.
Put the sugar in a medium mixing bowl and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl. Use your fingers to rub the seeds into the sugar and break up any clumps. Add the flor, baking powder, and salt and beat at a low speed for a few seconds to combine.
Cut the butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients along with the rest of the buttermilk. Beat on low until moist and then medium to combine for about one minute. Add the egg mixture in 3 doses and beat well inbetween each addition. The batter will be thick, airy, smooth, and pale.
Pour into the ban and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes before removing and then cool completely. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.