Sour Cream-Fudge Layer Cake

Happy Valentines Day!

Sour Cream Fudge Layer Cake

My valentine made this cake for dessert tonight. I know Sour Cream Fudge cake does not sound that appealing but really this is an amazingly good cake. The cake is light and moist with a rich heavy icing that will make any chocoholic happy. The recipe was dug out of the Baking Illustrated cookbook. A book we highly recommend.

Recipe

Sour Cream Fudge Layer Cake
1 cup natural cocoa powder
2 tsp instant espresso powder , or instant coffee
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
16 Tbs unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs , at room temperature
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt

Chocolate Butter Icing
9 oz bittersweet chocolate , or semisweet
8 Tbs unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup light corn syrup

1. For the Cake: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-by-1 1/2-inch round baking pans with butter or shortening. Line pan bottoms with waxed or parchment paper; grease the paper as well. Dust pans with flour removing the excess.

2. Mix the cocoa and instant coffee in a small bowl. Next add boiling water and mix until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

3. Beat the butter in bowl of an electric stand mixer set at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds. Gradually sprinkle in sugar beating the mixture until fluffy and almost white (3 to 5 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, beating 1 full minute after each addition.

4. Stir in vanilla and sour cream into cocoa mixture. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. With stand mixer on lowest speed, add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to batter, followed immediately by about 1/3 of cocoa mixture; mix until ingredients are almost incorporated into batter. Repeat process twice. When the batter appears blended, stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl with rubber spatula. Continue again at low-speed; beat until batter looks satiny, about 15 seconds longer.

5. Divide batter evenly between pans using a scale (weigh each pan first). Smooth the batter to pan sides with an even top. Bake the cakes until they feel firm in center when lightly pressed and skewer comes out clean , 23 to 30 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks; cooling for 20 minutes. Run knife around perimeter of each pan inverting the cakes on to racks, and peel off paper liners. Flip the cakes on to additional racks and cool completely before frosting.

6. For the Icing: Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl set over pan of almost-simmering water or any double boiler setup. Stir in the corn syrup. Set bowl of chocolate mixture over a larger bowl of ice water, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is just thick enough to spread. Apply icing on to first cake layer and spread with a long metal spatula, top with second cake layer, top second layer with icing, spread and then ice sides.

Servings: 12

Basic White Bread

Basic White Bread

Baking bread is an easy way to put smiles on faces. The smell and texture of this basic white bread is wonderful. Folks at our house were getting cabin fever after another 12 inches of snow put us to an all time record for snow in one winter. Smiles were on the decline so it was time to bake some bread.

The bread recipe is from Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: The Best Sandwiches in America. This is the basic foundation bread recipe for a collection of other flavored breads. I have changed the measures and yields of the recipe from the book because most people do not have stand mixers that hold 16 cups of flour! I am not sure where the editor for this book was during the proofing. Maybe the editor does not cook.

Get the butter out and spread some on this wonderful bread; you will not regret it.

Recipe

1 Tbs yeast
2 cups warm milk
2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup butter melted (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 1/2 Tbs salt
1 egg
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs butter for coating pans
1 Tbs Honey (optional)

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk and half and half (liquid needs to be warm). Let stand at least 5 minutes until the yeast is foamy. Add butter and mix with a whisk. Add powdered sugar and mix well to break up the clumps.

2. In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl combine flour and salt. If using a stand mixer attach the dough hook. Slowly add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and knead well. If using a stand mixer, knead for 3-4 minutes. If by hand, 4-7 minutes.

3. Place the kneaded dough in a generously buttered bowl, cover with a towel and let rise in a warm dry place for 60 minutes.

4. Punch the dough down with your fist and divide into 2 equal portions.

5. Generously butter two 9 inch loaf pans. Roll the dough out into a 9 by 11 rectangle and then tightly roll the dough into a loaf, folding in the edges as you roll. A tight roll will ensure a good crumb and minimize air pockets. Form as a loaf and put them in the pans. Let rise another 45 minutes. (At this stage you can freeze one of the portions for future use.)

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

7. Beat the eggs and water together to make an egg wash. Brush over the dough. Alternatively, you can choose your own topping. Bake for 55-60 minutes.

8. Carefully remove loaf from the pan and tap bottom. If sound is hollow it is done. Let loaf cool for 30 minutes in pan on wire racks. You can optionally brush honey on to the top at this point. Cool another 30 minutes before slicing.

Basic White Bread Loaf

Letting the Dough Slide

A stand mixer with a dough hook does a remarkable job of saving time and hand work when making bread. However, as the blender mixes the dough it will often climb onto the hook and never be properly kneaded. If you lightly grease the dough hook in advance with a cooking spray or other oil the problem is eliminated.

dough hook

Kitchen Aid Dough Mixer

Oatmeal Cookies

For years oatmeal cookies were an inexpensive snack for children coming home from  school; but today they seem to have been replaced by the Chocolate Chip cookies.  The oatmeal cookie came in many forms.  Mothers added dry fruits such as raisins, apricots  or what ever was in the house including nuts.  Today they  seem to be full of spices and raisins are the preferred fruit.  You will see on the  website, a recipe for Mary’s Wafers. They are a very crisp cookie which tastes like oatmeal.  Try it as a single serving or you can take two and put various fillings between them as they were served to me. In past years it was often a date filling, but simple fillings like jam work well. Here is the recipe:

Mary’s Wafers (Oatmeal Cookies)

Coconut 4-Layer Cake

Here is the best coconut cake we have ever tasted. The toasted coconut brings out the flavor while adding a crunchy texture. The buttercream frosting is lighter than you would expect where many coconut cakes have whipped cream frosting. This is a great cake for a spring time event such as Easter but we make it any time of year. Enjoy!

Coconut 4-Layer Cake

Coconut 4-Layer Cake

Recipe

Cake
1 large egg
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup cream of coconut
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool
2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut (about 8 ounces)

Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 lb unsalted butter (4 sticks), each stick cut into 6 pieces, softened, but still cool
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1 tsp coconut extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Add a cutout of parchment paper to the bottom of two 9-inch round pans then grease the pans with shortening and dust with cake flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Beat egg whites and whole egg in large measuring cup with fork to combine. Add cream of coconut, water, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

4. With mixer still running, add 1 cup liquid. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining 1 cup liquid in steady stream (this should take about 15 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)

5. Divide batter between cake pans and level with offset or rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown, cakes pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes (rotate cakes after about 20 minutes). Do not turn off oven.

6. Cool in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans with paring knife, invert cakes onto racks and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.

7. While cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Cool to room temperature.

8. For the Buttercream: Combine whites, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 1/2-inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.

9. Transfer bowl to mixer and beat whites on high speed with whisk attachment until barely warm (about 80 degrees) and whites are glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer and scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute.

10. To assemble the cake cut each round in half using a knife or cake cutter. Spread about a 1/8 to 1/4 inch layer of buttercream on each layer stacking as you go. Spread remaining icing on the top and sides until fully covered. Lightly pack the toasted coconut on the top and sides of the cake.

(Note: Adapted from a recipe in Baking Illustrated.)

Silicone Baking Mats ( Silpat )

I was an early adopter to using silicon baking mats. It saved me a lot of effort on cleanup and no more burnt cookies. My challenge has always been storing our 4 mats. They just flop around in a mess with the other baking items in the cabinet. A tip by Sharon Sneller in the most recent issue of Cuisine at Home solves the problem. Simply store your mat in an empty paper towel roll. The mat stays clean and undamaged and is easily stored in a drawer or your cabinet. You are also doing your part for the environment by recycling the empty roll.

Recycle It!

Pie Crust Additives

I read cooking magazines and listen to cooking shows a lot so I never know where the ideas come from but here is one for you to try in your kitchen. Next time you make pie crust add some dry or finely chopped fresh herbs for savory pies and some citrus zest to compliment fruit pies.