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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bring a Bundt!

We went to a friend's place for a barbecue and some ping pong yesterday afternoon.

What?  Ping pong, you ask?  You didn't know that ping pong is making a huge comeback?!  Well it is.  Or at least I think it is.  If you have a ping pong table hidden away somewhere in the basement or garage, do yourself a favor and bring it out.  It'll take you back.  In a good way.

Yesterday afternoon's get-together was the type where everyone pitched in and brought something, which is always nice.  You know...share the cooking.  The hosts had things set up to grill (and the ping pong table, paddles, etc...ready) and the rest of us brought beverages, side dishes, snacks and dessert.
So kind of a 'retro bbq' with the whole ping pong thing, but so was the dessert I brought:  a bundt.

Now a bundt is one of those things that perhaps doesn't readily spring to mind when you're thinking about what to make for dessert.  If it was 1978 it might, but sadly, the bundt seems to have gone the way of the avocado-colored kitchen appliances and the rotary dial phone.

I've always loved bundt cakes.  As I've said before, I have a tremendous fondness for old-fashioned American desserts.  Maybe you remember this scene from My Big Fat Greek had me in stitches.  Let me reassure you that in my experience, this is not the typical reaction you get when you show up at someone's house with a bundt cake in hand.  People love bundt.  Ever hear of the classic self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People?  Well I'm here to tell you it should include a chapter on the magical powers of The Bundt!  Appear on someone's doorstep with a bundt cake and you will have the world at your feet.  No joke.  It seems the effusive affection for bundt is not mine alone.  Bundt seems to bring back good memories for all.  There's something approachable about a bundt -- it's not complicated and fussy like a layer cake with all that frosting.  I've been bringing bundt cakes to various friends' parties and gatherings over the past year and I've found it's the surest way to achieve universal love and acclaim.  Oh.  And lots of oooh's and aaaah's too.
As a Leo, I like that sort of thing.

Now that I've convinced you to bring a bundt along to your next pot luck (...or what the heck, make one for dessert at home!) go dig around in your cabinets and track down that bundt pan you've got tucked way in the back.  (No judgment there -- I bought mine years ago, with good intentions, and then proceeded to completely ignore it for years.)

I have a wonderful bundt recipe to share.  Previously, I've had great success with an excellent Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt from Cook's Illustrated that's dense and perfectly rich and chocolatey.  (Come now -- who doesn't simply adore a chocolate bundt?!)  But now that summer is here, I highly recommend a recent, smashingly good lighter-style cake:   Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Bundt.   Perfect on a hot summer day, it actually improves over the course of a couple days and is equally delicious in the morning,  afternoon or after dinner.  (Maybe as a follow-up to grilled burgers?!)  The recipe is adaptable to a variety of berries or fruit, depending on what is in season.  I used blueberries, but the original recipe from Rustic Fruit Desserts, calls for rhubarb and lists cranberries as a good option too.  I think I'll try raspberries next.

The main thing to remember is to grease that pan extremely well with butter (or cooking spray), and then when you think you have every nook and cranny covered, go over the pan again.  EVEN if the pan is "non-stick".   The chocolate bundt recipe tells you to dust the greased pan with cocoa powder (pure genius, but that's those cooking nerds -- they think of everything!) to help with the release of the cake from the pan.  Other recipes call for dusting the pan with flour.  Whatever you do, take the time to be thorough with this step.  There's nothing worse than pulling the cake from the pan, only to feel it tear and pull away, a huge chunk still stuck to the pan.

So I urge you...if you don't already own a bundt pan, start scoping out the garage sales...and if you do...well, go out and spread the word:  Bundt is Back!

Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake (with Blueberries)
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson
serves 10 to 12

NOTE:  I don't love a ton of glaze, so I halved the amount and simply drizzled for the look you see here -- for more glaze, double the amounts I have here.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (for tossing with the fruit)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 pint blueberries (or 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and very thinly sliced)

1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, or more as needed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tablespoon soft unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10-cup Bundt pan well.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.  Using a mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the lemon oil  Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.  The batter will be very thick.

Toss the blueberries (or the rhubarb) with the 2 tablespoons of flour and fold half the blueberries into the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining rhubarb on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm and the center springs back when lightly touched.  Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before inverting and removing the pan.

To make the lemon glaze, whisk the confectioners sugar, lemon juice and butter together.  The mixture should be thick.  If it is not, whisk in another tablespoon or two of confectioners' sugar.  Spread the glaze over the cake as soon as you removed the cake from the pan.

Storage:  Covered with a cake cover or plastic wrap, the cake will keep at room temperature for 3-4 days.

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