Monday, October 31, 2011

October Baketogether: Spiced Coffee Cake + Cocoa Streusel + Chocolate

Spiced Coffee Cake + Cocoa Streusel + Chocolate
Streusel has been a stumbling block.

There’s the messy factor of all those crumbs showering about, landing on your chin or clothing. (But don’t mistake me for a neat freak.)

And while I love cinnamon, sugar, flour and butter, I don’t enjoy them so much on top of a cake. (Or an apple pie, come to think of it.)

So, yes, the streusel appeal (like Broadway musicals) has been lost on me, which I realize sounds a bit un-American.

I was rehashing all this to my husband and before I could finish he said, “I like coffee cake. I like streusel.” He also enjoys musicals.

Abby Dodge’s Classic Sour Cream Coffee Cake for the October Baketogether challenge was too appealing to ignore — a richly spiced cake moist with tangy sour cream. I most definitely like cake. As for the streusel ribbon and topping, I thought I could work with it.

Here’s what I did:
• I substituted about 2 T. cocoa powder for cinnamon in the streusel. (Is it no longer streusel without cinnamon?) Warm spices take so nicely to chocolate — chocolate chips, glazes and frostings with spice cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies. Love it.

• I added chopped dark chocolate to melt into the streusel mixture.

• For the cake batter, I used 2 t. of mixed pumpkin pie spices instead of the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves called for in the recipe. This move was purely one of convenience on my part, but I liked the result.

• I used less streusel on top of the cake, not wanting to overdo it. Next time, I will use it all, but probably swirl through the batter a bit more.

Stumbling block removed to streusel success. Thanks, Abby, for organizing #Baketogether and offering a new recipe for my files.

Spiced Coffee Cake with Cocoa Streusel and Chocolate
adapted from Abby Dodge

Chocolate Streusel
2/3 cup (4 5/8 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup ( 3 3/8ounces) all purpose flour
2 good tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 cups (9 ounces) all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spices
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour  cream, at room temperature
3 to 4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

To make the streusel:
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour and cocoa. Drizzle over the melted butter. Using a fork (or use your fingers), mix the ingredients until they are well blended and form small crumbs. Place in the refrigerator while cake is prepared.

To make the cake:
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour the sides and bottom of a 9 x 2-inch square baking pan.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowo. Whisk until well blended. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl and beaters as needed. Add about half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until blended. Add the sour cream and mix just until blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Evenly scatter half of the streusel mixture over the batter. Sprinkle half of the chocolate pieces over the streusel. Spoon the remaining batter evenly over the streusel and spread evenly. Scatter the remaining streusel and chocolate pieces evenly over the top.

Bake until the top is browned and a pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 43  to 45 minutes. Cool the pan on a wire rack until warm or room temperature.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pizza from Scratch: Cracker Crust

Cracker Crust Pizza
Pizza has returned.

I took a break from it this summer. A 500-degree oven seemed a bit excessive considering outside temperatures were in the high 90s or low 100s for weeks.

Since taking Chad Clark’s pizza class at New Pi this spring, I’ve wanted to create a thin cracker crust like the one we sampled. All styles of pizza crusts are good and my goal is to master several varieties. My first few attempts with cracker crust were not at all crispy. This time I am getting closer.

What I’ve learned about making a cracker crust from scratch:

• Flour.
Use bread flour or — better yet — a even higher gluten flour such as Sir Lancelot from King Arthur, which is what Chad recommends. Higher gluten means more chew, crisp and crunch. Sir Lancelot was not in my pantry, so I used Italian Antimo Caputo 00 flour, a type designed for Neapolitan pizza making. This flour can be purchased online or at Italian markets. New Pioneer now sells it, though my first batch came from Gateway Market in Des Moines (a very cool place by the way). If you live in Youngstown, or Pittsburgh, or Chicago, or anywhere that has good Italian grocery stores, you should be able to find this. Read what Chad Clark has to say about pizza flours.

Monday, October 24, 2011

From Paris Sweets: Toast-Point Apple Tart, Tarte aux Pommes au Pain de Mie

Toast-Point Apple Tart adapted from Lenôtre via Paris Sweets
Sometimes we play the warm spice theme a little too often with apple desserts. I’m certainly guilty of adding cinnamon and its friends with nary a second thought.

It’s as if we forget that apples are worthy enough to stand on their own.

And that’s why a nonspicy take on apples can be a welcome change.

Consider this Toast-Point Apple Tart from Lenôtre, which appears in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets.
Sliced apples are baked in a caramel cream. It’s appley, but not apple-ginger-nutmeg-cinnamoney.

And it’s sweet and custardy, a bit like apple pie and ice cream flavors.

Raisins and walnuts are strewn about, just in case there wasn’t enough textural interest going on.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Recipe for Applesauce Cake

Applesauce Cake based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour
Every autumn for the last several years, I’ve adopted a Favorite Apple Cake. I’ve baked the recipe over and over until family, friends and co-workers grow tired of it. Then, come the following autumn, a new Favorite Apple Cake arrives on the scene.

The 2011 favorite is about as humble and modest as they come. This Applesauce Cake has no extravagant ingredients or techniques, and leaves few dirty dishes to tell the tale. It’s from King Arthur Flour, which happens to be the source of many Favorite Apple Cakes. They do apples well up in New England.

The recipe calls for whole wheat flour and that’s what I used. I love whole grain baking, though I admit some sweets made that way can taste a little too healthy. Not so with this cake. The flour adds depth of flavor and takes well to the warm spices. Your skeptical friends will not know it’s made with whole wheat. Bake it and keep quiet.

The full cup of applesauce ensures it won’t be dry and crumbly. This cake stays moist for days and its flavor develops more fully with time — that is, if you can keep it on hand that long.

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