I think this was one of the first architectural concepts our professor taught us. Das Zwischen - the in-between - the transitional space between two spaces - neither one, nor the other. Ever since I learned about the concept 12 years ago and even as I ventured away from straight up architecture, Das Zwischen has stuck with me. Partly because I love saying it, strongly emphasizing the 'ts' sound of the German 'Z'; but mostly because its undefined nature intrigues and soothes me. Das Zwischen is what I love to explore, where I love to roam. It's what attracts me to the spatial and material explorations in minimal art, conceptual art and installation art. It's what pulled me into my research. It's where I, standing in between architecture and art history, feel comfortable and at home.
It doesn't work that way with the seasons, or with their produce at least. Yes, the sun seems to shine more brightly when we're still transitioning from winter to spring. The cold, dark days of December and January still fresh in our minds, we consider each sunny day a treasure and try to soak up every last bit of those rays. Our fruit basket, however, doesn't seem to have caught up yet. It's too late for tart and brightly colored citrus; still too early for the juicy, flavorful produce of spring. Everything is available, of course, but nothing is at its prime. Not just yet.
This is an in-between that I struggle with every time I'm at our local grocer lately, trying to decide what fruit to buy, and it's one that I struggle with even more since Yossy Arefi's beautiful book Sweeter Off The Vine hit my doorstep last week. I mean, Yossy's book is filled with beautiful and original seasonal fruit desserts, oozing with brightly colored juices and seductively waiting to be made. I wanted to step into my kitchen the moment I got my hands on it. Yet, I also want to do these recipes justice and make them with the best seasonal fruit I can find. I want to put sweet and flavorful strawberries on top of her pistachio cake, not the watery kind we have now; I want to fill her blueberry skillet cobbler with fresh berries that haven't traveled halfway across the globe to reach me; and I really, really, really want to make her apricot berry galette and small-batch apricot jam with the luscious apricots that are only available during the hot summer months.
See? I'm getting ahead of myself.
Since none of these fruits are at their prime right now and some aren't even available, I forced myself to put the book aside for a little while and directed myself to Yossy's blog instead. Having made her Walnut Pound Cake before, I figured it would be a perfect treat to celebrate the end of winter and to keep me busy while fruits were ripening. To make the cake extra hearty, I married Yossy's recipe to that of my favorite pound cake: a whole wheat cake with a cinnamon sugar crust. The result is a wholesome cake that has little to do with the fresh and vibrant recipes in Sweeter Off The Vine, but that pairs perfectly with a steaming cup of coffee and the chilly mornings of this transitional space between winter and spring.
• It's best if all of your ingredients are at room temperature, but it's no disaster if you forget to take everything out of the fridge beforehand. You can always put a little heat under your butter to soften it - just don't take it too far or your cake won't rise properly. Using cold eggs will most likely result in your batter curdling, but it should come back together once you add the flour mixture.
• A pound cake is mostly unassuming, but you could dress it up with whipped cream and an extra sprinkle of the topping or - if you're craving a little freshness - with a vibrant fruit coulis. I'll be sharing a recipe for a Berry Ginger Coulis (using frozen berries, for now) next week!
Whole Wheat Walnut Cake
adapted from Apt. 2B Baking Co.
makes one loaf cake
120 gr walnuts
140 gr all purpose flour
140 gr whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
120 ml whole milk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
250 gr unsalted butter, room temperature
250 gr granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp demerara sugar or raw cane sugar
1/4- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2. Spread walnuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then set aside 20 gr. Finely chop the remaining 100 gr.
3. In a medium bowl, combine finely chopped walnuts, both flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a wooden spoon or spatula, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, only adding the next when the previous one has been fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then alternately add the flour and milk in 3 additions. When most of the flour is incorporated, stop the mixer and finish off the batter by hand, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure it is evenly mixed. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
5. Prepare the topping. In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp of demerara sugar with 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon. Roughly chop the remaining 20 gr of toasted walnuts and add to the cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle over the top of the cake.
6. Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes, until the top is cracked and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then remove cake from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.