07 May 2010

Sunshine...in Round, Edible Form

There is something so perky and refreshing about citrus-infused food that makes it so ideal for celebrating clear, beautiful days.  Lemony desserts, in particular, just remind me of sunshine.  The tangy-but-sweet flavors of citrus also seem to invoke a certain sense of "lightness," contrasting with richer, seemingly "heavier" goodies like chocolate--a little mind trick I sometimes blissfully ignore as an excuse to indulge.  (On a somewhat related note, a friend once told me that she read somewhere that citrus-scented perfumes and body sprays makes others tend to perceive that the wearer weighs roughly 10 pounds lighter than her actual amount.  We were never sure about the extent or validity of that study, but at least it was good for a few stupid jokes now and then.)

Anyway, readily associating lemons with eating outside in the sunshine was all it took to get me to make a luscious lemon cake for another family gathering/barbeque/potluck/birthday celebration recently held at my brother and sister-in-law's home.  The weather was perfect for a barbeque, but rather than bring another savory dish to share with the everyone, I opted to bake up the Light Lemon Bundt Cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking, which I had been eyeing periodically for who-knows-how-long.  The rarest of rare occurences happened (at least for me): I followed the recipe exactly as written!  I was already pleased with the prospect of a refined sugar-free cake (the recipe calls for maple syrup) and decided against my usual whole wheat flour substitution (in place of all purpose) for fear of muddying the final product.  And it was good--very good, in fact.  I did actually end up making a small amount of lemon icing that wasn't actually called for, because I ended up drizzling the outside of the cooled cake with some Lemon Sauce (also from the book) just to see how it would look, but didn't like the moist appearance.  The icing was flavored with Lemon Sauce, and a quick drizzle did a sufficient job of covering the sauce misstep while adding a bit more visual interest to a very plain-looking (but deliciously lemony) bundt.  The cake didn't even really need the sauce, but it does add even more lemon punch, so when I make this cake again--and I definitely will--I'll be smart about it and just serve the sauce on the side.
Another globe of citrus-infused goodness from the past week manifested itself in the form of bread, of course--specifically, Portuguese Sweet Bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  This is essentially the original form of what many of us call Hawaiian sweet bread, as one of the major culinary influences in Hawaiian cuisine is of Portuguese origin.  As a child, I was practically raised on this bread.  Although it was available in roll form (my older sister's favorite version of the bread), I preferred the more traditional round loaf that came in aluminum pie tins.  I could go to town on the plain bread, often yanking massive hunks of it messily with my greedy little hands, or when I tried to be tidy and patient, I would cut a modest wedge and toast it in a dry pan.

When I first took to the vegan lifestyle, my heart sank at the discovery of the egg- and dairy-laden nature of my beloved Hawaiian sweet bread.  Even searching for recipes that could potentially result in suitable vegan facsimiles was a bit troubling, as so many recipes called for huge amounts of eggs, fat, and sugar.  But alas, Peter Reinhart put my mind at ease, providing a Portuguese Sweet Bread recipe that scales back a bit on the eggs, fat, and sugar and also alters well to fit a vegan's needs.  For my attempt at the recipe, I substituted the eggs with unsweetened soy yogurt, used vegan margarine for butter, omitted the dry milk powder, and replaced the water and egg wash with nondairy milk.  The resulting bread smelled heavenly and tasted close to the sweet bread to which I'm so accustomed, just not quite as sweet (but sweet enough).  Lovely citrus and floral notes derive from the use of lemon, orange, and vanilla extracts, which also contribute to the sweetness.  The recipe makes two round loaves, and with careful pacing, I've somehow managed to not finish both of them off in the course of the past week.  I found that it's best plain and untoasted when eaten shortly after baking, but slices or wedges certainly toast well and seem to enhance the bread's sweetness.  Next time I make this, I'll probably try to incorporate some whole wheat flour into the dough for at least some added nutrition.
It looks like the next few days will feature more blue skies and mild weather, so perhaps we'll see how the sunshine further inspires what comes out of my kitchen.  I hope you all have a lovely weekend!


  1. The bundt cake really baked up perfectly! I sometimes wish I could just once not sub whole wheat flour, but I just can't seem to make myself do it. I've found that using white whole wheat really helps to keep cakes light.

  2. Both your cake and bread look gorgeous!

    You had me at lemon infused. I love anything with lemon. ;-)


  3. That bundt cake is just gorgeous, especially with that glaze! Sweetness addict that I am, I would probably use more rather than leave it off ;-) I use white whole wheat for all my pastries too, and don't notice a difference.

  4. Beautiful breads, both of them!

  5. I love that lemon cake! Your loaf looks so wonderful! I'd love to try the recipe one day. It's really funny that I never came across that kind of bread when I was in Portugal. Though I probably looked in the wrong places and it wouldn't have been vegan anyway. It's awesome to know that Reinhart's version is so easy to veganize. I'll try this out soon.

  6. That bundt cake is just gorgeous, especially with that glaze! Sweetness addict that I am, I would probably use more rather than leave it off ;-) I use white whole wheat for all my pastries too, and don't notice a difference.


Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)