Italian Lemon and Anise Sweet Bread

Sunday March 30, 2014

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My favorite Italian flavors–lemons, walnuts, anise, and raisins–are the spirited Mediterranean additions to this barely sweet cake, which you will be proud to serve for a festive occasion.  It also toasts nicely after a day or two.

Yield:  One 10-inch tube cake

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure anise extract
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375º.  Grease and flour a 10-inch plain or fluted tube pan and set aside.  With an electric mixer, blender, or balloon whisk, beat the eggs, sugar, and oil on high speed or briskly by hand until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt.  Combine the milk and anise extract in a measuring cup.  Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients alternately with the milk mixture.  Beat just until moistened but thoroughly blended.  Do not overmix, but there should be no lumps or dry spots.  Fold in the raisins and the walnuts until evenly combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared tube pan.  Bake in the center of the preheated oven until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand in the pan for 15 minutes.  Remove from the pan by inverting the cake onto a rack right side up; cool slightly.  Place the powdered sugar in a small sieve, place the rack over a piece of waxed paper, and dust the sugar over the cake while slightly warm.  Transfer the cake to a serving plate.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.  This cake freezes well for up to 2 months, but dust with the powdered sugar pushed through a mesh sieve just before serving.

Excerpted from The Best Quick Breads, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.


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