I made that!

Pine nuts are expensive.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of by brandi on April 29, 2011

What a week!

Construction on my new business, The Pantry, is moving along, and I can finally see how the space is going to feel when all done. Such a good feeling. Then we released our class schedule on Monday and my “How to be a Pie Ninja” classes sold out in three days! And THEN, as if that wasn’t enough to make me blush, I wake up on Wednesday to the announcement that “I Made That” is a finalist for Saveur Magazine’s Best Cooking Blog award along with 101 Cookbooks, Lottie and Doof, Smitten Kitchen, Sprouted Kitchen and The Wednesday Chef! Seriously, my friends, I am glowing. And a little intimidated…I mean, I knew I had a few readers out there, but I don’t know how I landed in that company. All of a sudden I’m staring intensely at my photos, worried that they just aren’t up to snuff. And what recipe do you post when people are actually LOOKING? I was so scared I actually went out and bought $25 worth of pine nuts, because suddenly walnuts just weren’t good enough! I’m cracking people, I obviously can’t take the pressure. But thank you, whoever nominated me, you are a very nice person. And I mean that.

After a week like that there is only one answer: cake. And, well, I might as well put those pine nuts to good use…

So I toasted them.

And folded them into one of the weirdest cake batters I’ve ever made. It’s from the book “Urban Italian” by Andrew Carmellini, which is a book that I just love. Everything I’ve made from it has been right up my alley, and I’m excited to share this particular recipe. The book has you start with creaming the butter and sugar, and then go straight into adding all of the flour. Once all the flour is in, THEN you start adding the eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. That’s just crazy. But it worked. The cake has a beautiful crumb and it’s not too dense for my taste at all (did I mention it gets meringue folded into it? That probably has something to do with it).

It’s a simple cake, with the texture of a pound cake and a flavor that is almost savory. I made the recipe as he called for, except that I added salt, because all cakes want a little salt. And to be honest, I might add a bit more next time to make it feel even more savory. Or maybe make a salty caramel to pour over it. In fact I might just go do that right now. Certainly all that salt I just added makes it count as dinner rather than dessert, right?

Pine Nut Cake (Pinolata) Recipe (Andrew Carmellini):

cake batter:

2 cups pine nuts

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature

zest and juice of 2 lemons

4 cups flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 whole eggs

3/4 cup yogurt

for the meringue:

4 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

- Toast the pine nuts over very low heat in a dry saute pan until they have just begun to take on a golden color. Remove from the stove and reserve. I actually just toasted them in the oven…

- Prepare the batter

- Meanwhile, cream the sugar, butter and lemon zest together in a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment. Be sure to scrape down the sides as you go to make sure everything mixes evenly.

- When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour and baking powder. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated and then begin adding the eggs, one by one, waiting until each egg is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Turn the KitchenAid up to high for about 5 seconds to combine everything thoroughly, then scrape down the sides and the bottom with a spatula and mix in any bits that have failed to incorporate.

- Add the yogurt and mix in with the paddle attachment until it’s thoroughly incorporated.

- As you continue mixing, add the lemon juice and incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom and mix well with a spatula. Then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

- Fold a third of the meringue into the batter using a rubber spatula to combine well. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in well until the mixture is combined. Fold in the pine nuts, reserving about 3 tablespoons for the top of the cakes.

- Brush 2 9×5 loaf pans with melted butter. Fill each loaf pan with the batter. Smooth and flatten the tops with the spatula. Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with the reserved pine nuts. I forgot to do that part. (Now I’ll never win!)

- Bake the loaves on the middle rack until you can put a knife into each and bring it out clean, about 45 minutes.

- Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 30 minutes and then turn them out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

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