There’s no two ways about it…I’m one of those breakfast eating challenged-type folks. Are you? If so, my condolences.
To be honest, it kind of ticks me off that my stomach refuses to wake up in the morning even long after I’ve remembered my name.
It especially stinks during the holidays, when breakfast casseroles rule on my husband’s side of the family. I mean, I like a savory sage sausage, egg and cheese Christmas breakfast casserole as much as the next gal. The one my mother-in-law makes whenever she hosts for the holidays is particularly tantalizing.
And yet, every Christmas it’s the same story. I watch everyone else eating at the breakfast table as I meekly sip on a strong cup of Irish Breakfast tea and try not to look too stupid. By the time I could actually negotiate a bite of casserole deliciousness down my throat, everyone has had their fill and has gathered around the Christmas tree to open presents.
I know, I know…may my holiday challenges always be this grueling. I’ll sign on the dotted line right now. It does, however, still leave me breakfast challenged.
‘But it’s the most important meal of the day!’ loved ones have uttered over and over again – before eventually giving up – at various points in my life.
And they were right. They are right. Clearly. I know. I’m the health-conscious nut that’s been trolling health food stores since I was 18 years old and reading books on nutrition ‘for fun’ in my 20s. I know I should be eating lean protein and whole grains and fresh fruit to power-charge my brain for optimum performance.
But just the fact that I used the word ‘should’ in the previous sentence tells me the whole concept of a breakfast meal is an ill-fated one. ‘Should’ is one of those trigger words that says it all, like ‘fire!’ or ‘the Krispy Kreme light is ON!’ When it comes to should, though, it doesn’t spell disaster or a lusty sugar fest…it just means ‘yeah right…I’ll be doing that REAL soon.’ It’s more of a non-action trigger word.
The action I CAN take, and do take, regardless of all my should-ism, is to follow Marie Antoinette’s own ill-fated advice and eat cake for breakfast. Not the chocolate cake of pre-scandal Bill Cosby fame, complete with sticky, sugary frosting, but more of a breakfast cake. One that’s not too sweet, and that has the calming aroma and taste of vanilla.
For whatever reason, this cute ringed little cake is my breakfast non-eating antidote. All of a sudden I too become the little engine that could and eat it first thing in the morning. Often before my first cup of tea is even brewed. Go figure.
In Italy we call this cake ciambella, and every household has its very own version. My mom’s is chock-full of raisins and lemon zest. It goes beautifully with a cup of tea or coffee at breakfast. Or as a snack. Or anytime, really. Growing up, I couldn’t stop eating it. Its very vanilla-ey aroma brings a smile to my lips to this very day.
(By the way…in the not too distant future I’ll be featuring some savory ciambellas as well. Just look at this lovely that I found on Pinterest: Salami and Smoked Scamorza Ciambella. Doesn’t it look so decadent? I can just see it now on my kitchen counter when we have friends over for dinner. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a nice, chewy glass of red wine. I also found these other two recipes for savory ciambellas, one with zucchini and the other with a mix of cheeses. They are written in Italian, though, which I guess makes perfect sense since this is an Italian dish. In any event, they have inspired me to create my own version to share with all of you. Very soon.)
making ciambella…breakfast ring cake
Preheat the oven to 375°F and soak 3 handfuls of raisins in hot water for 10 minutes.
Soaking the raisins in an important step, by the way. Doing so prevents the raisins, once in the oven, from stealing moisture from the rest of the dough and creating the Sahara desert in your mouth when you bite into the finished product. By filling them up with moisture ahead of time, we prevent any unwanted osmosis migration of liquids.
Place 3 cups unbleached white flour, 2/3 cup of white granulated sugar, 3 large eggs and the zest of 1 lemon in a large mixing bowl.
I used my KitchenAid to make this cake.
Heat 1 cup of whole milk in a small pot on medium heat to almost boiling and add 1 stick (1/4 lb or 113 grams) of unsalted butter.
As soon as the butter melts, remove from heat, add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Add the butter/milk liquid to the mixing bowl with the flour. Mix well.
Add 1 tablespoon of baking powder and the soaked raisins and mix well once more.
Spoon it into 2 individual 5-inch mini paper cake pans or one buttered Bundt or pound cake pan. I decided to use the mini paper cake pans because I found them at World Market and thought they were just too darn cute.
Place in the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 45 minutes if using the mini pans and 50-55 minutes if using a Bundt or pound cake pan. Allow to cool completely before unmolding (if using the Bundt or pound cake pan) and slicing. Makes 12 servings.