Ah, patience. Laboratory chemists, kindergarten teachers, intergovernmental negotiators, driving instructors: these are people with freakish levels of patience. But for some of us, patience can be an elusive trait. The idea of waiting and working — politely and diligently — with few immediate results seems far too tortuous.
But if you want to bake, you need patience. You need to carefully measure ingredients, wait for ingredients to bake and often — much to my dismay — wait for the cake or bread or baked good du jour to cool. Oh, the cooling…requiring so much patience and self-restraint, and sometimes, I just don’t have it in me.
This Ukranian honey cake, for example, is so subtly spiced that you really need to let it cool for all the flavors to come together: the floral honey, the toasty coffee, the spicy cinnamon. But when the cake emerges from the oven, its surface craggy and golden and slightly sticky, you’ll want to cut off a slice right then and there — just a little one, to see if it came out okay…
Wait it out, though, just a little. Patience can be challenging, but in this case, you’ll be rewarded.
One quick housekeeping note: To those who read this blog, you also have amazing patience. Between planning a wedding and working like crazy, I’ve been a little…how shall we say…inattentive lately. My apologies, truly. And now I will ask you to have even more patience, as I’m headed to Asia for two weeks! I’m literally writing this as I pack…. I promise a full report of my culinary adventures in Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong when I return. So thank you for your patience :).
Ukrainian Honey Cake
Adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Note: Not quite a cake, not quite a bread, this loaf makes a perfect breakfast or afternoon snack with a cup of coffee or tea. It reminds me a bit of a pain d’epices, with more subtle flavoring.
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 cup honey, preferably a flavorful variety such as wildflower
1/2 cup sugar (the recipe suggests granulated; I used light brown)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to lukewarm
Center a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350F. Butter a 9″x5″ loaf pan and dust it with flour, tapping out the excess.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until slightly thickened, pale and smooth, using either an electric mixer or mixing by hand. Add the honey and cooled, melted butter and mix until blended and smooth.
Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add half the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir in (mix on low if you are using an electric mixer). Blend in the coffee, then stir in the remaining dry ingredients, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the batter, adding a little of the egg whites at first, then gently folding in the rest and stirring several times. The batter will be quite wet.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and place on a rack to cool completely before slicing. (The bread-like cake will keep for a few days, but slightly stale bread is delicious toasted and slathered with butter.)
Yield: One 9″x5″ loaf