Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Marbled Coffee Cake, and the Truth of Julia Child's Words

Sour Cream Black and White Coffee Cake
Like many of you, two of the reasons I started this blog were to give me the incentive to use my many cookbooks, and to document what I do. The good news: it's working! The bad news: I've had to increase my cardio workouts at the gym.

One of the items that I decided to bake is a Sour Cream Black and White Coffee Cake from Carol Walter's fabulous new book , Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More: 200 Anytime Treats and Special Sweets for Morning to Midnight. This is quickly becoming one of the favorite cookbooks in my embarrassingly large collection. I'm not going to write out the recipe - the directions to get the swirl pattern are quite lengthy, and I'd rather spend my time cooking!

When I notified Master Chow that I had just just baked the aforementioned coffee cake, a look of mixed joy and horror crossed his face: he loves coffee cake, but he squeaked: "What! Before my reunion?!" You see, he has a Major Reunion coming up this June, he's looking fit, and he doesn't want to blow up into a blimp before then. "Master Chow," I said patiently, "it's February. You don't really expect me to stop baking for the next five months, do you?" He promptly realized the futility of any such argument. He and I tasted a little piece, and he took the rest to work. A happy compromise!

I learned a couple things from this recipe: do not substitute low fat ingredients, even it that's all you have on hand. The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, but I highly recommend you use semisweet - the cake is not overly sweet, and really benefits from a slightly sweeter chocolate. Now, you ask, how did I discover that? Why, I burned my first batch of chocolate, that's how! I tasted a wee part that hadn't turned into charcoal, and promptly realized that I need to use a sweeter chocolate, so I did. But that's another story. For those of you who have never burned chocolate, and might be tempted to use it anyway - don't. I learned that many years ago, the hard, nasty-tasting way. Ugh.

Now, the interesting thing is that, even though I loved the taste of the cake, it was a bit drier than I would have liked, because I used low fat sour cream (all I had on hand). As it sat out in my husband's office, he said it became even drier. And you know what? Folks told him that it was the best or one of the best coffee cakes that they had ever had! They also said that the chocolate was "really good," so use a good one if you decide to make something like this - it makes a difference.

All this made me realize, once again, how little most people cook, and that their access to baked goods is usually limited to Aisle 4 in the grocery store. Good eggs, fresh butter, and premium chocolate make a difference.

I recently heard that Julia Child once said that "people have forgotten what food is supposed to taste like." So true. And that's one of the reasons I cook so much - I love the idea of keeping a tradition of "real food" alive, even if a cake comes out a little drier than expected.

Update: there was a typo in the recipe - it called for 11 1/2 teaspoons (!) of baking powder, when it should be 1 1/2 teaspoons!


Blogger Deborah said...

I have this book on my want list. I have been hearing so many good things about it!

February 13, 2008 4:26 PM  
Blogger Brilynn said...

I've heard nothing but great things about this book, and that swirl is awesome!

February 14, 2008 2:21 PM  
Blogger Cakelaw said...

This cake looks great - love your swirly cake tin.

February 16, 2008 5:02 AM  
Blogger creampuff said...

Isn't that book the greatest! Great cake!

February 16, 2008 7:06 PM  

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