Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Anise Pound Cake

What? Pound cake and anise? Well, yes. And you need to know that I don't like licorice. As in licorice candy. Not even one bit. But I like fennel. Which is akin to the anise plant. And I like fennel seed, in moderation, in a few things, like cooked cabbage. And I really like this cake, made with toasted anise seed. Fennel and anise are different plants altogether, although they're related, like first cousins. They both have licorice overtones; I think the anise has more of it than the fennel.

Probably I mentioned in a previous post that in the late 1980's I was quite enamored with the cooking of Mark Miller (Coyote Cafe, Santa Fe, New Mexico). He was the first, or one of the first, to introduce "fine cuisine" to the Southwestern food genre. And he was kind of all-over the foodie scene. When I visited the restaurant (in the 80's) I bought his cookbook, Coyote Cafe. What I found, though, was that most of his dishes are very labor intensive, requiring a sauce for this, a finishing glaze for that, a different marinade, or that most of his dishes needed one or two complicated sides. Everything is made from scratch too, including beans. After making several things, I closed the book and put it on my cookbook shelf, to be opened rarely. But in that interim, I needed a cake for a Southwestern gourmet picnic, and this one fit the bill.

I've made this many, many times. It's a fairly standard pound cake mixture, and the only unusual thing is the toasted anise seed, subsequently ground finely, which is added to the batter. Because it's toasted seed, it's mellows out considerably. There's no harsh licorice flavor, just a little background nuttiness to it. There's a lot of anise seed in it - four tablespoons - but somehow it doesn't seem like anywhere near that much. It peppers the batter, though, so you know it's something different.

A few years ago I altered the recipe - it called for 1 full pound of butter. Somehow that seemed obscene to me to use that much in one cake, even though it served approximately 18 people. The batter is very heavy besides. So, even though I'm not much of an experimenter when it comes to baking (there's too much science attached), I put in much, much less butter, and I separated the eggs to lighten the batter.
Serve this with some fresh summer fruit - either peaches, apricots, or berries. My favorite is strawberries, sliced thinly. And top with either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Anise Pound Cake
Recipe: adapted from the Coyote Cafe cookbook (Mark Miller)
Servings: 18
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
14 ounces unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons anise seed -- roasted, ground
5 whole eggs -- separated
2/3 cup sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Sift together flour and salt, then set aside.
2. Cream the butter with sugar, vanilla and anise seed until light. Whip the egg whites and set aside. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream. Scrape the bowl well and mix until blended. Then fold in the egg whites until mixed in and there are only a few streaks of white visible. (This is a bit difficult because the batter is thick.)
3. Pour into prepared pan and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch.
4. Serve in small slices with fresh, sliced summer fruit (peaches, strawberries, other berries) and whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top.
NOTES : This has been adapted slightly from the original - I use less butter, add some baking powder and separate the eggs.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 365 Calories; 21g Fat (52.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 4 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe only, click title at top.


Britt-Arnhild said...

Wow, this looks really yummy :-)

Anonymous said...

I want to make this one. Do you have any cookie recipes with anise? I would love to find a biscotti one..
Your friend,