A Kilo Plus Vanilla Bean Pound Cake with Rosé Glaze

I came back from France up a solid kilo, newly equip with a little more padding around my middle region and a liver that just wouldn’t quit.  Nice and all, but I felt in need of a detox. 

When I throw around a term like “detox” what I really mean is that I try to avoid drinking for a solid six days, try to eat more plants, and try not to sneak cookies at lunch.  Some of you may know this as “moderation.”  I lasted until Thursday. 

By Friday I was making a cake that contained three sticks of butter, lavishly glazed in rosé syrup.  Shoes don’t stretch.  Men don’t change.  And I don’t detox very well.  You can take these things as fact, friends. At least for as long as there are women who love dessert and pink-hued wine and who can talk themselves into buying ill-fitting shoes and the words of men they attract.

But I’m veering off course here. I need to keep this short and sweet because I have lunges to do. The inspiration for this cake came from Provence and from a recent recipe by Jess of Sweet Amandine.  She makes the cake without the syrup here, inspired by Hi-Rise.

While touring a winery in Provence, I came across some crisp, buttery cookies made with vanilla and a little rosé, biscuits vanillé aromatise au vin rosé de Provence if we are being fancy.  I wanted an excuse to use my new loaf pans.  I also wanted an excuse to bake this pound cake Jess spoke of and open a bottle of wine I lugged back from Provence.  You know where I’m going with this.

The biscuits I bought were delicate, barely sweet with just a faint hint of rosé.  There is nothing delicate about this cake.  It’s pound cake. 

It calls for eight eggs.  It uses four cups of sugar.  There is no moderate use of butter.  No moderate use of its sticky wine glaze.  And certainly no moderate use of vanilla beans, either.

It’s everything a real pound cake should be.  It’s dense, like a glazed donut in loaf form.  Cut in thick slabs and served with tart berries it’s pure summer.  And it’s delicious with a glass of rose, also pure summer.

So I’m off to lunge, stretch, and then take my middle section for a jog.  And afterwards, well, we’re probably going to eat some wine cake.

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake with Rosé Glaze 
Adapted from Sweet Amandine (and a few other places)


For the cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1½ cups butter, room temperature (plus extra for buttering your pans)
2½ cups vanilla sugar (see note)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out (save the pod)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
8 large eggs, room temperature 
sprinkling of fleur de sel (optional)

For the glaze

1½ cups sugar
1 cup rosé wine
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (plus the pod from above)
splash of orange blossom water
pinch of kosher salt 


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter two-9 inch cake pans (or alternatively, loaf pans; I used 3 of varying size).  If using loaf pans, fit parchment paper inside your buttered pan, letting the sides of the paper hang out; butter the paper too.  

Sift the flour and baking powder together into a medium bowl.  Add in the salt; set aside.

Cream the butter and vanilla sugar until light white and fluffy in a stand mixer.  Add the vanilla bean seeds, vanilla extract, and then add the eggs one by one with the mixer on low speed.  Increase the speed and beat until well combined.

Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, a little bit at a time, until just combined. Scrap down the batter from the sides of the bowl and fold the batter a few times to make sure everything is well mixed; do not over mix.  Divide the batter between your cake pans (or among your loaf pans).  Bake 30 minutes and then rotate the pans and bake for another 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of your pans.  (The loaf pans took a total of 65 minutes.)  The cakes are done when a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

While the cakes are baking, make the syrup.  Combine the 1½ cups sugar with the rosé wine; add the vanilla bean seeds, split vanilla bean pod, plus the additional reserved pod.  Heat on medium, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.  Add in the orange blossom water and pinch of salt.

When the cakes are finished let them cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes (or until the pans are cool enough to touch).  Gently remove the cake from the pans (if you are using the loaf pans with parchment paper this will be very, very easy; just loosen the ends and tug at the parchment paper sides.  (Then remove the parchment paper.)

Brush the syrup over the top and sides of the cake.  You’ll want to do this a few times, about every 10 minutes or so.  (I ended up having about ¼ cup of syrup left.)  Sprinkle the top of the cake with a little fleur de sel, if desired. Let the cake fully cool and then serve, cover, or freeze.

Makes two-nine inch cakes or 3-4 small loafs

-To make vanilla sugar just stick a few pods of vanilla, after you’ve used the seeds for something else, into a jar of sugar and let it hang for at least a few days.

- This recipe is a great use of leftover rosé, as it only requires one cup (a moderate amount).  This amount also dictates that one cannot drink an entire bottle.  (Unless, of course, there is another bottle.)

-This is a sweet cake.  Serve it with some fresh berries or a perky sorbet.


The Good, the Bad, and the French: With Minted Fava Beans and Peas

It’s about two pm as I write this.  Which means it’s nearly eight in France.  I still haven’t quite acclimated to being back home.  Around this time in Paris my mother and I would start our nightly ritual.  We’d head out for dinner.  We’d be tired.  This would be an early night, we’d say.  And then we’d find ourselves trudging home around midnight.  Sometimes later.

Travel changes you.  Challenges you.  Exhausts you.  But also replenishes you.  Nudges you to see the world a little bit differently.  Stay up a bit longer.  And perhaps drink a bit more wine.  The ten days I spent in France were certainly no exception. 

My trip was filled with little treasures that I carried back across the Atlantic.  I returned to my Boston apartment and put away narrow, petite cake pans from E. Dehillerin; cinnamon gros sel and fleur de sel from the Boulevard Raspail market; green olive tapenade from a winery we visited, Château de St. Martin; Bourgueil and Sauternes from Spring’s wine boutique; and unpacked my new memories.

There is the memory of my mother and I eating lunch at our first Parisian café, near the École Militaire, which served a delicate couscous with a crisp dice of zucchini and cucumber.  And an even better bun curry, a light orange brioche roll with the flavor of curry baked in. I wish I could remember the name of the café. We ate at a long, wooden table. Our waitress wore bright red lipstick and a bare face.  She brought us a basket of chewy sourdough bread.  She was kind and tolerated my very rudimentary French.So I suppose the name of the café matters only in that I cannot sing its praise more specifically. No-name cafés and forgotten carafes of wine remain lodged in the crevice of my vacation mind.

Another one of my favorite lunches was at a little café in the 1st arrondissement. We sat outside under an awning and ate rich olive oil-laden ratatouille as it poured outside.  I drank a delicate glass of Chinon that cost as much as my mother’s Earl Grey tea.  Later that evening, we dined at Verjus.  I had seven wonderful courses, each paired with wine, and eaten in a dining room lit by candle in a way that only the city of lights could pull off. 

Duck breast with red onion ravioli and a 2009 Nicolas Réau Chinon, “Garance.” Grilled lamb with braised artichoke and gnocchi and a 2010 Domaine Bordes Saint-Chinian, “Les Narys.”  Strawberry tarragon sorbet and salted peanut butter mousse paired with a 2010 Château la Tour Grise Ze Bulles Zéo Pointé Rosé.  I could go on.

Later in the week we drove down the freeway from Paris to the French Riviera, listening to techno versions of Carly Rae Jepsen and Lady Gaga songs that played hourly, while snacking on Poilâne’s pain d’épices: a spice cake that wasn't overly sweet and was good even when dried out and eaten out of hungry desperation days later.  We drove through Burgundy and the Rhône, speeding by old French villages and all-white cows.

We sipped rosé the color of ballet slippers in Provence.  We sat on a dock on the Côte d’Azur, drank in its teal water and walked on sand that I could swear contained actual specks of gold.  We ate roast chicken with olives and lemon prepared by a chef from our resort in Mougins who dripped French charm and took a particular liking to my mother. Though—let me be frank—our trip was not filled with carefree with glasses of vin, charismatic men, and sandy beaches. 

Our Volkswagen broke down in a tollbooth lane somewhere along A6.  The police we talked to spoke very little English and sent us off down the highway in search of an SOS phone.  And driving back into Paris was sheer terror, quickly having to adapt a key French axiom: where I am, you cannot be.  Paris was, at times, quite unkind. The inside of my flats came to look like a murder scene from my blistered and bloodied feet.  We had our fair share of missed streets and crumpled maps.  And I had a near critical incident after consuming a midday cheese plate carelessly followed up by a croque-madame and soupe à l'oignon. (See: lactose intolerance.)

But the good far outweighed the unpleasant. Perhaps my favorite memory of the trip was opening (and then later closing) the dinner service at Au Passage.  The first to arrive around eight, we drank a bottle of Le Cousin Rouge and had little plates of food.  A fresh, drippy burrata.  Smoked potatoes with dill and sea snail.  Grilled spring onions with pesto and parmesan.  Along the way we befriended two cute, quirky French men who asked if we cared to split a leg of lamb.  A slow braised lamb arrived that required carving, served with a large plate of mustardy lentils.  After consuming another carafe or two of wine, we were the last to leave, apart from our new French friends and the staff.

And so I have arrived back to Boston both inspired and admittedly a bit overwhelmed with all my new memories.  I have a long list of food to cook and a new collection of French tools to use.  But one of the first meals I made when I came back was this one, which is best explained as a dissected version of our trip.

Many of the restaurants in Paris had fresh ricotta on their menus. Green plants like zucchini, fava beans, and mint also made frequent appearances.  As for the bread, it’s Jim Lahey’s no-knead version with poppy seeds, lemon zest, and coarse ginger gros sel added. 

It's simple, elegant, and a bit of a pain in the ass to make when you are jet-lagged.  But as the coup de grâce for my French vacation, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Ricotta with Minted Fava Beans and Peas on Poppy Seed Bread


A handful of shelled fresh peas (or frozen if fresh is not available)
A handful of shelled fava beans (still in their white outer coverings)
~1 tbsp bacon fat (bacon reserved for another use)
Fleur de sel
Black pepper
6-8 sprigs of fresh mint
1-2 tbsp olive oil
A few drops of lemon juice
Ricotta cheese (see note)
Poppy seed bread (or other variety, see note)


Cook peas briefly (if using fresh) in salted boiling water, for about 1 minute, and then remove them using a slotted spoon; set peas aside.  Add the shelled fava beans to the boiling water and cook until their inner flesh is tender when pierced with a knife (typically this takes less than five minutes).  Once cool enough, peel the white shell of the fava beans.  Add bacon fat to a hot pan and add the fully shelled fava beans; season with salt and pepper and sauté until the beans are crisp and slightly browned; set aside.

Meanwhile, finely chop the mint leaves; mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, and season with salt to taste; toss the fava beans and peas in the mint dressing.  Spread ricotta cheese on a slice of poppy seed bread. Top with minted peas and fava beans.

-A recipe for homemade ricotta can be found here.  I halved the recipe and it made about a cup.  (You probably won't want to let it drain for an hour or it may get too dry.)  If you are looking for a little more richness you may want to try this.

-The inspiration for the poppy seed bread came from a jambon et fromage sandwich (on white poppy seed bread) from a French rest stop on the drive down to Provence.  You can find the recipe for making Jim Lahey's bread here.  (Though the original recipe I have calls for 1/2 tsp yeast and 1 1/2 tsp of salt.) I added the poppy seeds, zest of one lemon, and salt before the second rising of the bread.

-This is a very loose recipe. (Please excuse any errors that may have been made due to jet lag and/or excessive wine consumption.)


Caramel and Macadamia Nut Tofu, a Much Needed Intervention

I’ve been really overdoing it lately.  Carrying on as though there is an award for self-exhaustion.  And it needs to stop.  I need an intervention.  

I imagine it would go something like this:

You need to start getting more than five hours of sleep … ice cream is not an acceptable breakfast option … nope, not for dinner either … put down the cake … I mean it … have you even been reading Tender? … you know that’s a book about vegetables, right? … no, white Russians do not count as a serving of dairy … you should probably stop using that as an excuse to have cheese for lunch, as well … I know you just got a tetanus shot, but still … keep this up and you’re going to hurt yourself … seriously … I’m not checking you for ticks again … I’m concerned.

So before shipping off to Paris, I thought I’d instill some rules.  Bedtime at 10 pm sharp.  Eat more green, leafy things.  Please do limit the dairy, as you are lactose intolerant.  Step slowly away from anything that has been aged in a barrel. 

In the spirit of compromise, things like whole grain muffins and dried fruit-studded rolls are encouraged.  As are meals that include more than cake.  A source of protein is required.  Ingredients like sugar can be used when intentions are pure. 

And, thus, I cannot tell you how pleased I am to present the resultant dish, born from excess and a little self-destruction.  Sure, it’s tofu, but don’t let that stop you.  Please.  Those in the tofu-hater club, particularly: take note. 

First, you’ll need macadamia nuts.  (A good start, no?) After toasting them, crisp up some tofu in oil until golden brown.  Sauté some aromatics; the shallot was born to play this role.  Then, add back the tofu and—are you ready for this?—toss in three heaping spoonfuls of sugar.  Yes, sugar.  After you let the sugar coat the tofu, add some liquid and a bubbling caramel glaze will form.  Fresh herbs go in at the end and become sweetly lacquered and crispy.  Lemon verbena is lovely, if you have it, but a number of substitutions could be made here.  Mint comes to mind.  Think green and bright and you’ll be fine.

I’m telling you.  This dish is so good it almost feels intervention worthy itself.  When paired with a loose slaw of shredded brussels sprouts, lemon, pistachio oil, and dried cherries it very easily makes it as my new favorite go-to dinner.  So it’s au revoir to all that excess.  Bonjour, tofu.  And hello to my sanity again.

Caramel and Macadamia Nut Tofu


¼ macadamia nuts, chopped roughly in half
15 ounces tofu (or 1 package), cut into thick strips
~2-4 tbsp olive or peanut oil
½ shallot, sliced thinly
½ serrano pepper, seeded and diced
Pinch of salt
3 heaping spoonfuls of sugar (about 3 tbsp)
Splash of ponzu sauce
~7 lemon verbena leaves


Toast the macadamia nuts in a dry saucepan on low heat until they become fragrant and browned.  Meanwhile, pat tofu strips dry with a paper towel.  Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside.  Add about 1 tbsp of oil to the pan and then add about ½ the tofu strips.  Cook the tofu on one side on medium-high heat until golden brown on its underside and then flip and cook until well done on the other side.  Repeat with the remaining tofu, adding more oil to the pan when necessary and adjusting the heat as needed if the tofu starts browning too quickly.

Set the cooked tofu aside and add a little more oil to the pan to sauté the shallot and pepper.  Add a pinch of salt and cook the vegetables until they start to soften, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the tofu and the macadamia nuts back to the pan and then add the sugar, tossing gently with a rubber spatula to coat.  Add a splash of ponzo sauce; stir gently.  Add a splash or two of water (~1-2 tbsp).  Just enough to help the sugar start to bubble and caramelize.  Stir gently, just enough to help coat the tofu with the caramel glaze.  Add the lemon verbena strips, or other herbs, and cook just until the tofu is fully glazed.

Makes 2-3 rough cups of tofu strips.

-The inspiration from this came from the lovely 101 Cookbooks.  The whole dish comes together in less than 30 minutes.

-I imagine a splash of citrus, such as orange juice, might be nice.  Perhaps as a substitute for the water.  Though watch the sweetness.  Surprisingly the caramel doesn't become overly saccharine against the tofu, but adding other sweet items might send it over the edge.

-This is the ponzu sauce I tend to use.