There are a few basic recipes you can try in a cookbook to get a sense of the quality of the book. I always go for the banana bread, pound cakes or a classic Bundt. I know they sound too simple to give any indication of a chef’s worth, but the simple recipes are the hardest. They can’t hide behind icing or sauces. If they don’t stand perfect as they are, then chances are the rest of the recipes won’t either.
I recently got a copy of Sarabeth Levine’s newest book, Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook. For those of you who don’t know Sarabeth, she is a pastry chef who has had an acclaimed restaurant in NYC for decades. I first visited Sarabeth’s when I was in high school in the 1980s. My aunt, Melissa, lived in Manhattan and I’d go into the city from Connecticut to visit her. Brunch at Sarabeth’s became our tradition. I remember having a popover and marmalade for the first time and I was in love. Both the popovers and a Mandarin Orange spread are in her cookbook, but I haven’t gotten to them yet.
The lemon Bundt cake is perfect. It is the most delicate texture and rich flavor. I had rather small lemons and wanted it to be an intense flavor, so I added more zest. I also had a chunk of ginger on hand, so I added it to the lemon soaking syrup, but otherwise the recipe is all Sarabeth.
3 cups (426 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used 3 because my lemons were small)
2 1/2 cups (490 grams) super fine sugar (I used regular granulated sugar and it came out just great)
2/3 cup (174 grams) plain yogurt
1/3 cup (75 grams) whole milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces.
5 large eggs, at room temperature.
Lemon soaking syrup:
1/3 cup (84 grams) fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (98 grams) sugar
1-inch ginger, sliced thin (optional)
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and flour a 10-cup (9-inch) Bundt pan.
Whisk together the flour, soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
In another medium bowl, rub the sugar and zest together. This helps to spread the lemon flavor throughout the cake.
Whisk the yogurt, milk and lemon juice together.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter on high until smooth, about 1 minute. Slowly add the lemon sugar and continue beating until light in texture and color, about 5 minutes. Don’t skimp on this step, since it is crucial to the texture of your cake.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
Reduce the speed to low and add 1/3 of the flour. Add half the yogurt. Repeat with another 1/3 flour mixture, followed by the yogurt and finishing with the flour. Scraping the bowl as you go.
Put the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean.*
Allow to rest in the pan for 10 minutes.
*Make the soaking syrup:
Mix the lemon, sugar and ginger together until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to sit while the cake bakes.
Turn out onto a serving dish.
While the cake is still warm, brush the entire surface with the lemon soaking syrup.
Serve for breakfast or dessert. Would be lovely with berries or fresh fruit, but it really needs nothing at all.
The publisher kindly sent me a copy of the book for review.