[Little poundcakes, with chocolate or not]
It smells like the week-end around here. Actually, it’s been smelling like it for a week now.
And boy, week-end does smell good. Just-brewed coffee and toasted baguettes. Roast vegetables and fish caught the night before. Soup and summer tart; perhaps with a handful of late raspberries, or a plum compote.
At times, it even smells of sand, and sea, and sun. Most likely when the sky is just about to turn pink and I jump on my bike for a promenade along the beach.
Tomorrow, we’ll wake-up early. Possibly before the dawn. With the sound of boiling water going through a filterful of freshly ground coffee beans as the only alarm. And the smallest loaf-cakes as the only valid option to dip in our – well mine, since my grand-mère goes black – latte.
Indeed, those little cakes are perfect for this.
Good – if not slightly dry, just as a quatre-quarts should be, really – on their own. They make any cup of coffee a little sweller.
Actually, if I were to list my favourite coffee-dipping material, quatre-quarts would rank first. Perhaps, along with madeleines; but then, the two do taste very similar, especially when still-warm from the oven (in my opinion, the best way to eat quatre-quarts on its own).
And I can’t take this path without mentioning Petit Brun. The very same my dad used to have after lunch with a café au lait. Yes, they do make somewhat delicious coffee-dippers.
Petits quatre-quarts, au chocolat ou pas
Those small loaf-cakes can be made in a pinch. And much to my liking, they are also very versatile. Mix in a handful of chopped dark chocolate, add a sprinkle of cocoa powder in half the batter, then swirl for a marbled effect.
And this is just for the chocolate possibilities.
They are – as mentioned above – very good on their own, although they tend to be slightly dry when cooled down. A quick trip in the microwave or in a cup of coffee will work wonders though.
Because let’s face it, almost every cake tastes better when warm or wet. And no, this is no tease.
As usual with my loaf-cakes, I cannot recommend piping a line of soft butter on top for a neat crack enough. This is – and forever will be – my favourite technique.
And for the baking method, I still go 180°C for 5 minutes, 170°C for 10, 160°C for 15 and 150°C until a knife inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean; usually around 10 to 15 minutes.
This ensures a plump cake with a light crumb.
Of course since those are on the small side, I baked them much less. Perhaps 17 or 20 minutes in total.
But if you’re making a large one, the guideline above is more than wonderful. Trust me.
The secret for the perfect batter is to have the butter and eggs at room temperature. If that’s made easy by microwaving the butter for 30 seconds or until soft, it’s another story when it comes to the eggs. My little trick is to soak them for ten-ish minutes in tap-hot water.
Petits quatre-quarts, au chocolat ou pas
makes a large loaf-cake or ten individual ones
for the cake base
250g butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
seeds from one vanilla pod
a tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
for the a chocolate-chip cookie cake
a handful of chopped dark chocolate
a tsp flour
for the chocolate-marble cake
25g cocoa powder
butter, softened, extra for piping on top
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a loaf tin with butter and line with baking paper.
In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy; around 5 to 10 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt until just incorporated.
If you’re making the chocolate-chip version, coat the chopped chocolate with flour and gently fold into the batter.
If you’re making the marbled cake, divide the batter into two bowls and fold the cocoa powder in one half of the batter. Then pipe alternatively in the tin (I will make a marble cake 101, one day).
Pipe a thin line of softened butter on top of the cake.
Bake as described above, until golden-brown.
Allow to cool for a few minutes. Then unmould and wrap in clingfilm for a moist cake. Or leave to cool on a rack for a crisp crust.