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Vanilla Bean Loaf

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)


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Introduction

The original version of this loaf is still made at the Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser offered up her own adaptation in [%bookLink code=039305196X "Cooking for Mr. Latte"] and Adam Roberts shares it on his blog, The Amateur Gourmet. However, should you find yourself short on the required 8 eggs, 3 sticks of butter, and 4 vanilla beans, try this slightly milder version instead. It's essentially the original recipe cut in half, with a few minor variations in proportions and technique.

Ingredients

    Loaf cake
    1. 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
    2. ¾ tsp. baking powder
    3. ¼ tsp. salt
    4. 1½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
    5. 1 cup vanilla sugar (see Note)
    6. 1 vanilla bean
    7. ½ Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
    8. 4 large eggs, at room temperature
    Vanilla syrup
    1. ¾ cup sugar
    2. ½ cup water
    3. Vanilla bean seeds left over from the cake, plus the bean pod

    Steps

    1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
    2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
    3. Put the butter and sugar in a stand mixer and cream it for several minutes on medium speed, until the butter is light and fluffy.
    4. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and, using the flat back of a knife, scrape out the seeds. Put half of the seeds into the butter-sugar mixture; mix briefly to combine. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs; mix briefly to combine.
    5. Sift the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and mix briefly to combine. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and, with a spatula, fold everything together evenly.
    6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the pan around and bake for another 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
    7. When the cake has finished baking, let it cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the cake out of the pan onto the rack.
    8. Make the syrup: While the cake is baking, make the syrup by dissolving the ¾ cup sugar in the ½ cup water over medium heat. Add the remaining seeds from the vanilla bean, plus the scraped pod. Stir to disperse the seeds, then remove the pan from the heat.
    9. Assemble the cake: Pour the syrup into a shallow baking dish. Set the cake loaf in the syrup and let it sit for several minutes, soaking up syrup. Use a pastry brush to slather the top and sides of the cake loaf with the remaining syrup.
    10. Put the sticky loaf on the rack over a baking sheet, plate, or other catchment device, and let it finish cooling, with the syrup dripping off it. Periodically brush the cake with the syrup as it cools. (If you like, save the vanilla pod from the syrup for storing in sugar.)
    11. Store wrapped in waxed paper, or simply eat straight away.

    Note

    I generally just toss used (rinsed and dried) vanilla pods — from, say, Tapioca Pudding — into my sugar jar and leave them there. But if you feel like making vanilla sugar just for this recipe, split 1 vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and mix both pod and seeds into 1 pound of sugar. Leave it alone for a few days before using it. You can also make this cake with ordinary granulated sugar.