Vanilla Pound Cake

From Emily Luchetti's "The Fearless Baker" article in the Press Democrat, Aug 17, 2011

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup buttermilk (or 2/3 cup whole milk mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)

For Vanilla Syrup:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons water

½ vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of the 8½ x 4-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and baking powder. Add the salt (you can just leave it on top of the pile because it gets mixed in later.) Set aside.

Using the stand mixer, or a medium bowl and handheld mixer, on medium-low speed, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until well combined before adding the second egg. Scrape down the side of the bowl with the rubber spatula.

Stir the vanilla extract into the buttermilk. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk, again mixing until combined. Add the remaining flour, then the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly, nudging the batter into the corners of the pan. Bake until a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Right after you remove the cake from the oven, run a small knife around the cake to loosen it from the pan and invert it onto a piece of parchment or aluminum foil on the counter. Poke a dozen or so holes in the bottom of the cake with a bamboo skewer. Then, with a pastry brush, brush half of the vanilla syrup (see below) onto the cake (if the syrup is too thick to spread, warm it up over low heat). Turn the cake over, poke some more holes in the top of the cake, and brush on the remaining syrup. Let the cake cool to room temperature before slicing.

For Lemon Pound Cake:

Skip the vanilla extract and instead, add the grated zest of 3 lemons to the mixing bowl with the eggs.

Instead of Vanilla Syrup make Lemon Syrup:

In a small saucepan, combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar with ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved, then turn off the heat. Don't let it boil. Set aside until the cake has finished baking.