I had high hopes for this breakfast cake. With tart cranberries, sweet maple syrup, and lots of pecans, I imagined this was going to be a keeper. This is from the new book Flour by Joanne Chang, the pastry chef and owner of the two Flour Bakery and Cafes in Boston, and I received a copy to review. This was one of those books that had me turning pages and walking toward the kitchen at the same time. It's full of irresistible looking treats and informative tips in each recipe. Chang's background includes an education in applied mathematics and economics, but her love of pastries inspired an eventual career change. She worked in other restaurant kitchens, including a stint in New York with Francois Payard, and then opened her own bakery in Boston. Her philosophy is one of "simple things are best" because even complex pastries start with the basics. Hence, the name Flour for her bakery. Those simple things throughout the book range from breakfast treats to cookies, cakes, pies, and tarts, and then there are other sweets and breads. I have a feeling I'll be mentioning this book frequently around here. I've already baked two items from it, and both were very well-received.
For this breakfast cake or pound cake or whatever you'd like to call it, maple pecans were made by warming pure maple syrup and toasted and chopped pecans in a saucepan. The goal was to stir the mixture and allow the pecans to absorb the syrup. Then, the pecans were cooled while the batter was mixed. Flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter were mixed, and the instructions include the amount of time for mixing with a stand mixer and a hand-held mixer depending on what equipment you are using. I like a thorough recipe like that. Then, in a small bowl, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and more maple syrup were whisked together before being added to the flour mixture. The liquid ingredients were added in two parts, and again mixing times were given. Last, fresh cranberries and the maple pecans were folded into the batter, and the batter was scraped into a parchment-lined loaf pan. It baked for just over an hour and filled the house with maple goodness all the while. Once it cooled, the cake was removed from the pan and topped with a thick maple syrup and confectioners' sugar glaze.
In the notes for this recipe, Chang writes that "the cake tastes remarkably like pancakes," and it really does. The maple flavor permeates the cake, and the pecans and cranberries accompany it well. I was so thrilled with the cake when I first tasted it, I declared it Christmas breakfast-worthy. And, if you have any left for the day after Christmas, it just gets better.