Saturday, May 2, 2009

Buttermilk, Birthdays, and Black Velvet

I’m a barmaid at TipTop (432 Franklin), a neighborhood bar in Bed-Stuy. One might think I’d feel out of place. Yet, every Wednesday, I walk in feeling more and more at home. My maternal grandparents, in addition to being farmers, ran my hometown’s (town is a stretch, there were 1000 people) bowling alley. Before they sold it while I was in junior high, it was a magical place. My parents met and fell in love there; as children, we were allowed to run around—through the kitchen and the inner workings of the pin-setting machines—all the places customers couldn’t go. TipTop, replete with twinkling Christmas lights, shiny streamers, and a jukebox that plays soul-funk jams, is similarly otherworldly. TipTop’s owners—Junior and Corene—have become surrogate grandparents. Their customers my uncles: avuncular in the “sit on my lap and let me tickle you” way.

After having made a pumpkin bread for their 50th anniversary, Boss Lady asked what I was making for her birthday. Every party they throw is one of sensory over-indulgence: exuberant music, stiff drinks, and TONS of soul food. I finally decided on a Buttermilk Cookie recipe and a Citrus Pound Cake, both from the January 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine. My dad is a bricklayer/masonry contractor. Sometimes, when I bake I’m reminded of how he talks about building people’s homes and hearths, with his bare hands, as creating a space for family, love, future. Though my labors are comestible, I think of them as nourishing, loving, sweetly imbuing the devourer with tender morsels. So, for these recipes (below) I didn’t even bother with the mixer, choosing to make it all by hand.

Buttermilk Cookies
3 c all-purpose flour
1 teas grated lemon zest
½ teas baking soda
½ teas salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teas vanilla
2/3 c well-shaken buttermilk

1 ½ c powdered sugar
3 Tbls well-shaken buttermilk
½ teas vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Butter 2 large baking sheets.
*Whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, and salt

*Beat together butter and sugar in large bowl, with electric mixer, until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Mix in flour and buttermilk, alternating additions, ending with flour mixture.

*Drop level Tbls of dough about 1 ½” apart onto baking sheets.
*Bake 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and edges are golden, 12-15 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute, then transfer to racks.

*For the glaze, whisk together all ingredients. Brush on top of warm cookies.

*Let stand until cookies are completely cooled and glaze is set.

Citrus Pound Cake
2 c sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 teas baking powder
½ teas salt
1 c granulated sugar
1 Tbls grated orange zest
1 teas grated lemon zest
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teas fresh orange juice
1 teas fresh lemon juice
½ teas vanilla

*Preheat oven to 325. Butter a loaf pan (8 ½” x 4 ½”)
*Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt
*Mix together sugar and zests, with electric mixer set to LOW, until sugar is evenly colored.

*Add butter and beat on HIGH until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

*Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, at MEDIUM, scraping bowl often. Then beat in juices and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture, on LOW, until just combined.
*Spread batter into loaf pan. Rap on counter to eliminate air bubbles.

*Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 60-75 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes, then run a knife around the pan’s edge. Remove from pan. Cool completely.
*Suggested garnish is a dusting of powdered sugar. I used the remaining glaze from the Buttermilk Cookie recipe and sprinkled with left-over lemon and orange zest.
Flavor is said to improve if made a day in advance.

1 comment:

  1. Boss Lady Corene thought the buttermilk cookies were "on the money"... That's one ringing endorsement I'll take to the bank and to heart. :)