Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip-Sour Cream Coffee Cake

OK, doesn't that title just say it all?

Seriously.  What could possibly be wrong with the combination of *sour cream*, *chocolate chips* and *cinnamon*?  Add in a pretty copious amount of both butter  and sugar, and you know you're going somewhere wonderful.

I'm not a huge breakfast eater.  Never have been.  And now, I'm not working, so I don't get up at the crack of dawn any longer.  OK.  Confession time.  I never really *did* get up at the crack of dawn (a morning person, I most certainly am not....), but I do get to sleep later now than I used to.  But a couple of hours or so after I've gotten up, I do want a little "sumthin' sumthin'" in my tummy, and when I was working, I'd gotten into the habit of baking up some "breakie-type" goodies on the weekend for me to have with my coffee and my morning medications.  A little cushion in the tum-tum as it were.  I still try to do that about once a week or so (scones, coffee cakes, that sort of thing), and what I don't eat, I can share.

I found this recipe somewhere on the Webs, and just doing a Google search now, it led me back to one of my favorite blogs "Smitten Kitchen" (see the list of links to the right).  Somehow that doesn't surprise me.  Smitten Kitchen's food always seems like it's straight out of my kitchen.  I can't see much difference between the cake I made, and the recipe that was originally published on "Smitten Kitchen", so I'll just give all the credit there, and not even say it was adapted.  Other than maybe I'll give you some comments on what I did a bit differently....

If you haven't been over to "Smitten Kitchen", and you like to cook (and eat) you should check it out.

Anyway, this cake is a marvel.  Rich (obviously) but still sort of tart and tangy from the sour cream, and spicy from the cinnamon, and surprisingly, not overtly sweet.  At least not cloyingly so.  And rich, so satisfyingly rich.  And moist, it just melts when you put it in your mouth.  And stays moist for several days under plastic wrap at room temperature, which is always welcome.  There's nothing worse than dried out baked goods...

Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip-Sour Cream Coffee Cake
From Smitten Kitchen
(makes one 9x13", very rich, cake)

3C all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1&1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1&1/2C sugar
3 eggs, separated
1&1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
16 oz. sour cream

12 oz. chocolate chips
1/2C sugar, mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon powder

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan.  I also laid a piece of parchment on the bottom, and greased that as well, just to be sure that the cake would eventually release (don't ask my why I'm paranoid about that......).

Sift together the flour, soda, powder and salt, and set aside.  The best way to do that is in a sieve, set over a bowl.  Note...use a larger sieve than I did, I made a helluva mess sifting the dry stuff into the bowl.  It's a volume thing I have, I always use a vessel way smaller than I need.....

Here's the sifting rig:

Yeah, that sieve's a bit small.....

Separate your eggs (we all know how to do that, but hey, here's a gratuitous egg-separation picture),

Normally, I do the separation thing by running the egg back and forth between the broken shells, but I was low on eggs, and couldn't afford to muck one up, so I went to the "egg separating for dummies" method with the device.  Whites in one bowl, yolks in another....

Set the yolks aside.  By the way....see the difference in the color of the yolks?  The pale one's from Trader Joe's, which had been my previous gold standard.  The darker ones are from my CSA.  Guess what....?  Free-range, really fresh eggs have FLAVOR.  Who knew?

Anyway, whip the whites into stiff peaks and set aside:

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the yolks and vanilla, and beat until well-incorporated.  Gently mix in half of the sour cream, then half of the flour, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  Here's the action shot of the butter creaming....ewwwww....ahhhhhh:

Then repeat with the remaining half of the sour cream and half of the flour mixture.  Be careful not to over mix.  At this point, the batter becomes a bit heavy, but not to worry.  I switched to a large silicone spatula rather than the KitchenAid to get the rest of the work done, just to be sure I didn't over-work the mix.

Once the flour and sour cream is fully incorporated, fold in about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to lighten the batter.  Again, be careful to just incorporate them, and not over-mix.  Once that's accomplished, fold in the balance of the egg whites, again, just until they're incorporated.

Spread half of the batter into your prepared pan.  Sprinkle on half of the chocolate chips and half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Should look somethin' like this:

You will need to work the batter into the corners of the pan.  It's very thick and stiff (at least mine was), and will not flow on its own.

Then *carefully* spread the rest of the batter over the top of the filling, and spread to the corners/edges.  You'll need to finesse this.  Again, my batter was stiff and thick, and seemed barely enough to cover.  Not to worry.  It'll work.  Then take the last half of the chocolate chips and cinnamon sugar mix and top off the cake.  Like so:

Slide into your preheated oven and bake for 40-50 minutes (check after 40, mine was done then), or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool on a rack slightly (or to room temperature) before serving.  Lasts several days, wrapped well in plastic wrap.

Next time, I'd use the full 12 ounces of chocolate chips.  Some of the reviews I'd read said that was too much.  Um...no.  It wouldn't have been.  As you can see from the pics, that's actually a bit scanty on both of the layers.  Use the full 12 ounces.  You won't regret it.

Here's the done deal:

Man oh man, was that good.  I gave about a third of it to a neighbor who'd done me a favor, and a big chunk of the rest to a friend, but I sure didn't have a problem snarfing up the balance.  One other note...I'd make it in maybe an 11x7-inch pan next time, instead of the 13x9.  Might have been easier to spread out that batter.

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