It’s Christmas Eve and there is a feeling of beauty and magic and holiday all round.
Everyone seems to be on vacation from work with the busy-ness of last-minute shopping, family get-togethers, nights in front of the fire, holiday soirees, lingering dinners, and family traditions.
And while on the topic of holidays and celebrations, I am a little wistful for festive cheer and fairy lights and snow and a trip to Paris (ah, yes!), but most of all, mistletoe.
Among a million things to do, a million messages to respond to, and nostalgia-laden thoughts, a lull hangs in the air and I am thinking of taking the next few days off from work to spend some time with family and friends and soak in the magic of the season.
This year flew by in breathtaking speed, and it has been extraordinarily good in many, many ways. While there was loss, there was also so much love. The highlight of the year has been my brother’s wedding, a few memorable trips—most especially my very first visit to the US (a dream come true!), involvement in the SeeMyDoha project, and this feature by HuffPost.
Soon there will be the making of resolutions and ambitious planning for the new year and plenty of work to get back to and dreams to dream. But for now, let me catch up on my long pending blog post and share with you this delightful recipe for a loaf cake. I still cannot believe that a year has gone by since I last updated my blog. Things have been a little too hectic with too many things on my plate and no time to write at all. I have missed writing. Sigh.
Busy holiday times call for super-simple yet impressive recipes. And nothing like this nutty pound cake to hit the spot on your festive table.
If you love pistachios, like me, then you most definitely should try this. The recipes is plain awesome. Just like the Orange Almond and Yogurt Loaf recipe I shared last year. Both from my favorite book, Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery. I love cakes. I love baking them and eating them, and sharing them with my family and friends. I really took an interest to baking a few years after marriage--never baked before that though I enjoyed eating cake since I was a child.
With a moreish nutty flavor from ground pistachios and tint of green, a generous slice of pistachio loaf is all you need with a cozy cuppa by the fire on a chilly afternoon—oh bliss. I was tempted not to do the icing just to cut down on extra sugar, but glad I actually went ahead with it.
The original recipe uses the creaming method where the sugar and butter are creamed until pale and fluffy, and then the eggs are added, followed by the dry ingredients, and finally the sour cream and vanilla. I followed the two-stage method for mixing. This means all the dry ingredients are first put into a mixing bowl and then the fat, along with the liquid ingredients, are beaten into the batter. It is critical to have all the ingredients at cool room temperature. This produces a cake with softer texture and velvety crumbs.
The butter has to be at the right temperature. It should be soften—if you stick your finger in, it should leave a nice dent.
Baking unlike cooking, is science, not art. So measure your ingredients accurately. Use digital scale for measuring, if possible. Make sure the cake tin is the right size for the recipe. No matter what size tin you use, the rule of thumb is to fill it about two-thirds full. Cooking time can depend on your oven—use the specified time range as a rough guide, checking the cake after the minimum time for readiness. The cake should be well risen with a golden brown curst. Cool the cake completely before icing. If you drizzle when the cake is still warm, the glaze will thin and run, so you will have to “baste” the cake several times with the drippings. This is exactly what I ended up doing!
So, who doesn’t love yummy homemade cakes baked with lots and lots of love? It tastes even more gorgeous than it looks—trust me.
Pistachio Loaf with Drippy Icing
(Adapted from Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery)
Prep 15 mins; cooking about 60 mins
190g (7oz) unsalted butter, softened (room temperature), plus extra for greasing
190g (7 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
109g (7 oz) caster sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp baking poweder
¼ tsp baking powder
25 ml (1fl oz) soured cream
1 ½ tsp vanilla essence
100g (3 ½ oz) shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
For the glaze
102 G (4 oz) icing sugar
40g (1 ½ oz) ground pistachio
2 tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325 F), gas mark 3. Grease the loaf tin—8.5 x 17.5cm (3 ½ x 7 in) non-stick loaf tin with 7.5cm (3in) sides—generously with butter, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Line the bottom of the tin with parchment paper, and butter and flour the paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a medium blow, whisk together the eggs, vanilla essence and sour cream. Set aside.
Using a hand-held electric whisk or a stand electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients—flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar—on low speed for about 30 seconds, to evenly distribute the salt and the leavening. Add the softened butter and half of the egg mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Then, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about one minute. This will aerate the batter and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are properly mixed together. Add half of the remaining egg mixture, beating for about 30 seconds. Finally, add the remaining batch and beat again for 30 seconds. This will strengthen the cake's structure.
Stir in the chopped pistachios by hand.
Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with the back of the spoon or an offset spatula. Place in the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until the sponge feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean, with no uncooked batter sticking to it.
Allow the loaf to cool a little in the tin, then turn out on a wire rack to cool down fully before adding the glaze.
Place the icing sugar in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of water and mix together. This will form a fairly runny paste; if the glaze seems too thick, add a little more water to thin it – ¼ teaspoon at a time. Stir in the ground pistachios, keeping a small amount aside to sprinkle on top. Pour the drizzly glaze over the cooled loaf and sprinkle with the remaining pistachios.
“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” –Vincent van Gogh
It’s time to celebrate and I’m wishing you days filled with the magic and romance of the season, and an impossibly beautiful, happy, and glamorous new year.
Merry, merry, and happy, happy!!