Yesterday morning I called my local bookstore to make sure they had the book I wanted in stock. A very nice sounding young man only took a minute checking the shelves and came back to the phone to inform me that yes, "We have three copies of 'A Homemade Life' in hardcover. I'll hold a copy for you at the counter."
Best. News. Ever.
You see, we have a road-trip coming up soon and I do not want to be stranded in the passenger seat of my own vehicle without something interesting to read. In fact, after I read a post written by another Molly Wizenberg super-fan, I decided I absolutely had to go pick up the book for this particular trip. I know that Tim will be committed to driving for long periods of time with few breaks and I am going to need to be completely absorbed in something to make the time pass. Everywhere I look people have raved about how this book made them laugh, cry, and want to cook, so even though I'm late to picking up this book I know I will have it finished by the time we are home (or maybe by the time we get there).
While we were at the bookstore, I decided I absolutely needed a new cookbook (can you ever have too many?). Tim didn't know this, but I had already decided which one I wanted before we even left the house. There was only one copy of How to Be a Domestic Goddess and it left the store in my bag.
Nigella Lawson has always been one of my favorite food writers and cookbook authors, mostly because of her va-va-voom style and sly charm that makes me think she just might wink at me when she finishes a sentence. I sat down last night and began reading this cookbook just as if I were reading a novel. As Tim fell asleep, I was still sitting up in bed with the reading lamp on absorbing tips and tricks about baking. Her foreword is absolutely spot on when she says that being a "domestic goddess" is more a state of mind rather than any action you perform. Doesn't it make you feel good to bake a cake? Don't you feel proud when you make scones from scratch? I'll answer for you--yes and yes.
The only difficulty with the book is what I'd consider a language barrier. I have spent a good chunk of time today translating her British slang, metric measurements, and Celsius temperatures. Did you know that dessert is referred to as pudding over the great Atlantic pond? That took me a while to catch on to that--for a while I assumed she was talking about a mushy cake! Complicating matters further, I am fairly new to baking (Tim is the baker in this family) and I don't own a scale. More time was spent googling different opinions on how grams translate to volume for dry ingredients. I think I got it figured out, but I imagine that any recipe would be even better if I were to do it completely as it was written.
A recipe for a Rosemary Loaf Cake really stood out to me. For one, I recently saw another favorite blogger of mine make an Olive Oil Cake that contained rosemary and also because the rosemary plant in my backyard is finally starting to take off.
Rosemary may seem like an odd choice in a dessert, let alone a cake, and Nigella addresses that. She said to just trust that the flavors of sugar, vanilla, and rosemary would be a complimentary. Two teaspoons of rosemary in this recipe may seem like a very small amount but it definitely created wonderful aromatics in the house while this was baking.
Assuming my translation from mass to volume was correct, I thought that the crumb of this cake was perfect. It was slightly crumbly, sort of like a corn cake, but very soft and moist in the middle.
The flavor was distinctly sweet, with a perfectly sugary top crust. The hint of rosemary was in the forefront of its taste and, wouldn't-you-know-it-Nigella-was-right, complimentary to the vanilla as if they were the epitome of sugar and spice.
Nigella suggests serving this with cold stewed apples or other fruit, but that didn't strike my fancy tonight. I had one slice before dinner and a second one after just to be sure it was as good as I had remembered it being 30 minutes ago. I think if you wanted to serve it with something, I'd go with a nutty ice cream or a basil gelato (the latter being something my friend Meg has already commissioned for her birthday this fall).
Rosemary Loaf Cake
adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess
18 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp
3 large or 4 medium eggs
1 2/3 cup self-raising flour*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp rosemary, chopped small
4 tbsp whole milk
*If you do not have self-raising flour, you can do what I did and sift together 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp 3/4 tsp salt, and 2 1/4 tsp baking powder. Thanks to Bob at Cooking Stuff for the timely post.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Sift together the 2 flours in a medium bowl. In the mixer bowl, cream the butter until it's really soft and then add 3/4 cup sugar, creaming both together until pale, smoothe and light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, alternating egg and then 1/3 the flour, then egg, and so forth. Mix each until just incorporated and be careful not to overmix. Then mix in the vanilla. Fold in the rosemary. Stir in the milk to thin the batter. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the additional 2 tbsp sugar.
Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool in the loaf pan on a wire rack until it's completely cooled. Slice and serve or wrap well in tin foil until serving.