I the very first book on the kitchen arts I owned - which was actually called "My First Baking Book" - and it overflowed with the magical secrets of sugary sweets, ones that didn't just spell out how half a teaspoon of this a a cup of that could so easily be transformed into crunchy cookies and moist cupcakes, but outlined how thoughtful decorating could turn already tempting treats into even more enticing cupcakes-shaped-like-kittens. (Or dragons.)
Like kids need any help wanting to devour baked goods.
Now sure, over the past say fifteen years, I've gone hot and cold on my cooking and baking hobby, but it's always been on my terms. Like so many of you, I even relearned baking basics after getting the celiac diagnosis handed down to me, just to prove that a lack of gluten wasn't going to get me down.
But for the past few months - as seen by a lack of updating 'round here - I haven't been able to cook, bake, broil, or saute much of anything. And it hasn't been my choice; in February, I developed cataracts. Given the kitchen accidents that could've befallen me do to limited vision range - from the severe (cuts and burnings) to the comical (swapping in sugar for salt) - I found it best to hang up my apron, close my cookbooks, and get used to eating food from the freezer.
All that is about to change, though. Tomorrow is my first surgery. By the first week in June, I should have normal vision in both eyes. It's a pretty exciting possibility for both my retinas and my tummy. A girl can't live on Amy's rice crust pizza, alone.
Yet, I love cooking, and I miss it. And - call me Emily Post, or Bree Van De Kamp - but I can't stand the idea of attending a meeting without bringing along a freshly made dessert, cataracts or no. So not feeling comfortable enough to experiment with flavors and flours I can only somewhat see, I whipped up a variation of my favorite pound cake for a few ladies who worked so very hard planning and executing a fundraising benefit on behalf of Northeastern Ohio's Homeless.
While I swapped out the orange zest and almond meal from the pound cake in favor of a lemon poppy seed (nut allergy friendly) version, the true exciting experimentation was the use of brand new gluten-free product Expandex - a modified tapioca starch that puffs up gluten free baked goods and imitates that gluteny texture you all know, love, and woefully miss. Currently, Expandex's only retail vendor in Ohio is the Raisin Rack, but do check their website for more information.
My pound cake with Expandex didn't just have the light, airy taste a pound cake should, it actually looked more appetizing - more springy and bouncy - and that was only using half of the recommended amount! I'm honestly embarrassed to say that I had a dream about using it to make french bread last night, yet in the face of gluten-free honesty, who among us hasn't had a dream about bread? I thought so.
Perfect Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake
adapted from Ina Garten's Orange Pound Cake
8 Tablespoons of Earth Balance Butter (or regular butter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
the zest of 2 -3 large lemons
1 and 1/2 cup of GF flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 tablespoon Expandex (optional, if you can't find it)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
scant 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant 1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a loaf pan.
Combine buttermilk, orange juice and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, xanthum gum, baking powder, baking soda, and Expandex.
In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter (beat with electric mixer about 3 minutes, until fluffy). Beat in eggs - one at a time - and chase it with the lemon zest and then the poppy seeds. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredient mixtures to the batter, starting and ending with the flour.
Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes, then turn the pan upside down (over a plate!!) and tap on the bottom until the cake slides out. Continue to let another 5 minutes.
When you're ready to serve, combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar, stirring it into a glaze, and top the cake as desired.