Please note: this post contains obscene butter usage.*
I’ve been thinking a lot about butter lately. Not in terms of health concerns or anything like that. The thing that has held my focus the most is simple yet perplexing to me… there can never seem to be too much butter in something. No, I’m not running for president of the Paula Deen fan club or anything like that (even if we are from the same hometown). But… can you think of anything that a little butter does not make better? Cooking mushrooms? butter. Radishes? butter. Pancakes? butter. Toast? butter. What are brownies without butter?… Have you ever put butter on a biscuit? How about a muffin? But… why would you do that? I mean, they are made with a reasonable amount of butter already. And yet, it isn’t wrong. It is oh so right. Right? (or am I the only one who butters her biscuits?). Anyway, this is what has been running through my head lately.
All of this is really just to say that butter is a wonderful thing. And brown butter? Well, I hadn’t thought much about brown butter until I opened the October issue of Gourmet, and there on the last page was a brown butter pound cake. For the next week I obsessed over it. At first I wanted to put it off… pound cake is a pretty big commitment. Not that it’s hard to make, it’s just… well, a lot of butter. And I love butter. But even for me, it seemed a little excessive. I could not shake the idea of brown butter and so yesterday I broke down and baked the pound cake.
I told Dan I was making pound cake, but not to worry because there was “hardly any butter” in it. He said, “so… on a scale of none to a ton, it’s closer to none?” Yes, exactly. You see why I love him, right?
Brown Butter Pound Cake
(adapted from Gourmet, October 2009)
I may have over-browned the butter a little; I have to wonder since my cake came out at least two shades darker than the one pictured in Gourmet. Nonetheless, the (extra-)brown butter gives this cake a nutty, caramel character. The scent drove me crazy from the time the butter hit the pan until the cake came out of the oven.
Makes one 9-inch x 5-inch loaf
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (regular) sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- loaf pan (8 1/2 inch by 4 1/2 inch or 9×5)
- mixer (optional, but makes life easier)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees with rack in the middle. Butter and lightly flour your loaf pan
- Brown the butter: Heat butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until the milk solids on bottom are a dark chocolate brown. Transfer to a shallow bowl and chill in freezer until just congealed, about 15 minutes. [I actually browned the butter and put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours while I went to run errands. I had to take the butter out and let it soften just a touch when I was ready to use it.]
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Beat together brown butter and sugars with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
- At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.
- Transfer batter to pan, smoothing top, then rap pan on counter to settle batter [umm. I didn’t do this part and everything seemed to work out fine.]
- Bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
- Cool in pan 30 minutes. Then remove from pan and cool on a rack for 1 hour. [or cool in pan for 15 minutes, move to a rack and slice off a corner because you can’t wait to taste it… your choice]