I'm a little obsessed with Chef Suzanne Goin's "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" these days. This book is full of simple but inventive recipes using fresh, seasonal ingredients, and it's become my go-to when I'm looking for ideas. I've used it as a jumping off point for some creations of my own, but we'll talk about those another time. Right now I want to tell you about this cake that I made a few weeks ago.
In the book, Goin tells readers that this cake didn't sell well, until she came up with a poetic name for the menu - "Pastel Vasco, toasted in the woodburning oven with blackberries and poured cream." It sold me, and I bookmarked it to make as soon as I found myself a loaf pan. When I saw this royal blue Dansk model on eBay, I knew I was good to go. It started me on a buying jag though, and I picked up three pieces of this stuff before I had to stop - the blue loaf pan, a red paella pan and a taxi-cab yellow rectangular baking dish. The only issue is that they're quite fragile, despite appearances - and the loaf pan arrived with a giant chip out of the corner that you can kind of see down there on the left. It doesn't affect the function though, luckily.
Pastel Vasco is a Basque dessert, and this recipe pairs the traditional rich buttery pound cake with a berry compote made with caramel. The compote sounded delicious, but I found it way too sweet, and I didn't like the sticky thick texture from the cornstarch. Assuming your berries aren't terribly sour, I think a simple lightly-cooked misture of berries with a little sugar, water and lemon juice, would work just as well, so that's what I've included here.
After baking, the cake is lightly buttered and toasted in a skillet, then served with more of the compote and some poured cream. Trying to be at least a little bit nutritionally responsible, I used a bit of stirred Greek yoghurt instead of the cream. It's not exactly low fat, but certainly better than straight cream - and the tangy flavor reminds me of creme fraiche. I didn't toast the slices, since it was just fresh from the oven and still warm when I served it - but I am sure that would be fantastic since toasting pound cake to serve with berries always improves the flavor ten-fold.
The cake itself was the teensiest bit dry, but with the compote and the yoghurt, it was delicious. I wonder if taking out that last little bit of flour (the 1/4 cup called for in the book) would solve that problem. I may try it on my next go round. Here is the recipe as I adjusted it for my loaf pan, which I believe is about 10 cups. The recipe in it's original form can be found in the book - which I highly, highly recommend. Especially as we head into summer, when the recipes are perfectly tuned to the ingredients that will be showing up in our local Southern California farmers' markets.
Pastel Vasco with Blackberry Compote and Stirred Greek Yoghurt
adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin
3 1/3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 extra large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons
2 and 1/2 sticks of butter, melted (oof!)
3 Tablespoons of Dark Rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 pints blackberries
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
2 Tablespoons of water
3 Tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
For the compote:
Place berries in a medium non-reactive saucepan, sprinkle with sugar, and add lemon juice and water. Cook berries over medium heat, until the berries start to soften and break down, but don't completely lose their shape. Scoop out about half the whole berries, and mash the remaining berries in the pan with a potato masher. Place the contents of the pan and the whole berries in a bowl and set aside to cool.
For the cake:
Sift the baking powder and flour together and stir in the salt
Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl, whisk in the sugar, melted butter, rum, extracts and orange juice. Fold in the dry ingredients and let the batter rest in the fridge for thirty minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400, and lightly butter a loaf pan. Pour 3/4 of the batter into the pan and add just over 1 cup of the berries, spreading along the batter. Top with the remaining batter, allowing some of the berries to show through. Bake for about one hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
To toast the cake, wait until it cools completely, and cut into 3/4 inch slices. Butter lightly on both sides and toast in a cast iron skillet until golden brown. Arrange the slices on a platter, and spoon the remaining compote over the top. Pass a small pitcher of cream or bowl of stirred Greek yoghurt around the table.