When I was writing my newspaper column this week, I started mulling the idea of whether home cooking can really be quick and easy. It’s something that I strive for in my cooking and my recipe development, but for the extreme kitchen novice, can it ever really be quick or easy?
Much of the recipes you read in food magazines today come from magazine test kitchens, which are most often staffed with culinary school graduates. While this is great, given their professional expertise, it’s also impractical. Culinary school graduates possess knowledge in the kitchen that the average home cook doesn’t have, and that can mean recipes called easy that aren’t really for the novice.
One of my pet peeves as a food writer is leafing through magazines and books devoted to quick meals — things that proclaim they’ll be ready in 30 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever — and seeing long, long, long ingredients lists. This is counterintuitive. For a recipe to be truly quick and easy, it needs to both be ready in a relatively short amount of time and also have a short ingredients list. Once the list becomes 10 or 15 ingredients deep, the time gathering and preparing those ingredients chips away at the easy factor.
Speaking of long ingredients lists, my 10-year-old son Will recently picked up a used copy of a Rachael Ray cookbook for kids. After digging through the book, he found a recipe for lasagna roll-ups that he’s psyched to make. As he read the ingredients to me, taking stock of what he’ll need, I was surprised by how many ingredients will be needed to make the dish. Moreover, I was shocked by the number of steps necessary for this quick and easy meal for kids to make.
There’s some irony in there.
(More on that recipe later … once he makes it.)
What do you think? Are some quick and easy recipes unobtainable? Are my quick and easy recipes generally quick and easy? I would love your feedback. When I say something can be made in a certain amount of time, I mean it — but I also recognize that my time estimations come with the assumption that you have certain kitchen skills.
For that matter, would videos on how to slice, dice and mince faster help with the quick and easy factor of the recipes I share?
Now … onto the cake.
Olive Oil Tea Cake is a simple cake that can be whipped up in about an hour or so. This cake is sweet, but not overly so. And it’s, as the name suggests, delicious with tea.
As far as cakes go, this one is pretty easy. It’s made in one bowl — the bowl of a stand mixer — and requires little more than adding ingredients to the mixer in a certain order. Once it’s baked, the cake is cooled and then dusted with powdered sugar.
Easy? Definitely. Tasty? Absolutely.
This is best served warm, not long after making it. When it’s warm like that, it has a nice crust and a tender, light crumb. It’s so comforting like that. Flavored with vanilla extract, which provides a certain warmth to the flavor, and a touch of orange blossom water, this reminds me of a cake version of a madeleine cookie (a French butter cookie).
Just try it.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp orange blossom water
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup heavy cream
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch round baking pan. Flour the pan (to do this, put a little flour into the pan and tilt it while tapping it gentle so the flour covers the surface all around).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the olive oil and sugar on medium speed until well combined. Add the eggs and beat for 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract and orange blossom water and beat well to combine.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the bowl. Run the mixer on low until just moistened. Add the heavy cream and beat for 1-2 minutes, until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out cleanly.
- Let the cake cool in the pan on top of a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before using a knife to gently loosen the edges and remove from the pan. Dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy.