Tried and True.
1 August, 2007, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Sweets


I’ve reached a point in my personal studies with food and recipe experimentation, still very elementary, to where I like to pick an outcome, but try different ways of getting there, in search of the “best” if you will. The outcome of this labor is in a great deal of invested product and time, especially when most recipes are of a baking method, which we all know takes time and patience.

When I came across fresh, local and very modestly priced blueberries at the farmer’s market a few weeks back, I decided that I didn’t want to go the usual muffin route, but I didn’t want to get to technical either. So, I settled on an area of baked goods that I hadn’t visited since I first put my hands on the degree button of the oven: quick breads.

To my credit, I have very little experience with making them, so I always turn to a professional who has tried their own recipes at least a dozen times, of which many are favorites at their local shops. This time I chose Ina Garten. Although she is a Food Network “star” and personality, I’ve had great success with many of her treats, so when I came across her sour cream coffee cake, I knew that it would be a great avenue in which to showcase the blueberries’ intense flavor.

The result was exactly as I wanted it to be, excellent. But, for some reason, as metioned before, I was curious to see if there was someone who could do it better, and so I turned to Martha Stewart, whose recipe was just slightly different, and in the end I came out unhappy. I guess it just goes to show you that sometimes, you shouldn’t try to fix it if it isn’t broken.

I’ve adapted this recipe for my own tastes, and because I do not have a tube pan, like most all coffee cake recipes call for, I tried it first in two loaf pans, and then again in one loaf pan and a standard 12-muffin pan. Both resulted in a very moist, dense, but incredibly light and not too-sweet cake.

Again, with most recipes like quick breads, they are flexible after the standard measurements of flour, butter, eggs, and the various powders in which backbone the recipes. I urge you to try this recipe with different fruits, flavors and wet ingredients. Not a big fan of sour cream, I opted for low-fat Greek yogurt the second time, and I was just as pleased if not more than the first.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten at


12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream ** (I used non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt here)
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
** I added 2 cups of blueberries to the batter before it went into the pans


For the streusel: 
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
For the glaze: 
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar 
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.
Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate.

Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.


It was only a matter of time.
29 May, 2007, 7:12 pm
Filed under: Sweets


After telling all of my stories to my friends and co-workers about my trip to Switzerland, it wasn’t long before they asked me when I was going to make brownies again. I had not forgotten my place in the kitchen and neither had they. Honestly, I could not have been happier. It’s not exactly the time of year for nearly two pounds of chocolate and one pound of butter, (please see all available fruits at your local farmer’s market), but J thinks that any time is a good time (especially for breakfast!).

Many people take their brownie preferences, cakey or fudgey) seriously, ranking up there with cars I think, but I have always enjoyed recipes that produce the latter of the two. I came across this recipe last year during a Barefoot Contessa marathon and tried it on for size. This is a serious recipe, yielding a whole sheet pan, so make sure you have lots of friends and acquaintances that you are anxious to give cavities.

This is very flexible recipe as far as the kinds of nuts and coffee powder goes. I use expresso powder for a more pronounced coffee flavor. While I do enjoy the walnuts that are listed in the original recipe, I opt to leave them out in case of any food allergies, because most of them end up at work as an afternoon pick-me-up for all of the staff working doubles.

The kind of chocolate that you use is most important because it outweighs all other ingredients by two. I use half Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet and half Vahlrona 61%, because again, you get out what you put in. These are best stored in the refrigerator for up to one week (though I am sure you will find they won’t last that long).

Outrageous Brownies
(This was adapted from a recipe for chocolate globs in the Soho Charcuterie Cookbook.)

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa @

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour, divided- 1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and bitter chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not overbake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.