Category: brown sugar

Cherry “surprise” coffee cake (the surprise is cream cheese!).

Indy, my baking buddy.

Indy and I are best buds. When Jay leaves for work at night, it’s just us. We watch TV, cook (okay, I cook), read, or cuddle in bed, sometimes blogging. He usually naps during those activities. However when I get up he follows me around relentlessly. Even waiting outside the bathroom for me. I call him my shadow. My 100-lb. shadow… & bodyguard.

Consequently, Indy is also my baking buddy.

He sits (quite adorably) on the rug in front of the sink as I mix & whisk & scoop. He leans his right side against the cabinets, hind legs off to the left side, his head turned & nose just barely reaching right over the counter, sniffing to see what exactly it is I’m doing today. I talk to him as I recite the recipes, or experiment with ingredients. Sometimes he looks up at me intently, as if he’s genuinely listening; or more so, actually absorbing what I’m saying. Other times he lays down on that rug ignoring me, but ever so close to me at the same time. Usually with a paw just touching my foot. And then once it’s in the oven he scoots forward to see. And again, as I move from room to room or from sink to dishwasher he follows me, tail wagging, possibly in hopes that whenever whatever it is I baked comes out of the oven, I have sympathy – or empathy- and ultimately give him a slice.

It hasn’t happened yet. But even as I take my photos, he tries. Respectfully.

Cherry surprise coffee cake; the surprise is a cream cheese filling floating throughout.

Always respectfully. He never pulls anything off the table or eats it without permission. He’s a true gentleman. And of course, aside from being a stellar example of canine restraint, he was well trained by his momma & poppa.

Cherry "surprise" coffee cake (the surprise? Cream cheese!)

I don’t blame him for trying. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out of my kitchen all the time! A man has to try, has to give it his best shot, even if he knows he’ll be shot down.

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Amish baking at it’s best… Shoo-fly pie.

Amish Shoo-fly pie.

Shoo-fly pie is one of those extremely interesting pies that’s really nothing more than sugar. It’s a goo-pie, really. Made with sticky molasses & sugar. And a little flour, and baking soda. But mostly sugar.

Obviously, it’s one of my favorite things.

So back when Jay surprised me with a new cook book, I was pleased to find out that it was this one!

The Amish Cook's Baking Book (and a recipe for shoo-fly pie!)

It’s filled with amazing pies & cakes & cookies & Amish stories. The first thing I wanted to make was the shoo-fly pie.

However, truth be told, I was hesitant to try to make a shoo-fly pie. See, Dutch Haven in Lancaster, PA makes THE BEST shoo-fly pie, ever, and I’ve eaten enough of it to know. Most shoo-fly pies aren’t as sweet as theirs, and that’s what I love about it. It’s a lot to live up to. Trust me, I know this well. Jay & I once went in three times in one day to sample it (they offer everyone who enters a sample!). We bought three to take home. And ate them. In like a week. So yes, I know all too well the high standard of shoo-fly pie.

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Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

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Figgy pudding bars made with Duchy Originals oaten biscuits!

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree!

Christmas is officially on it’s way. The big tree in Rockefeller Center has been lit for 2 weeks now, everyone has been shopping up a storm, and of course baking! Rightly so… it’s literally 8 days away! If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking of Christmas-y treats. Which brings me to today’s post. If you’re a longtime reader, you’ll remember both my figgy pudding cupcakes & also that last holiday season I made a recipe featuring Duchy Originals lemon shortbread cookies.

(If you’re a new reader- well, suffice it to say, one time I made figgy pudding cupcakes & another time I made a lemon cranberry cobbler recipe featuring Duchy Originals lemon shortbread cookies. Haha.)

Duchy Originals oaten biscuits... transformed into figgy pudding bars!

Anyway… the lovely folks at Duchy Originals wanted me to create a new recipe, this time for their Oaten biscuits. The oaten variety was the first one that was made for Duchy:

The Oaten Biscuit was the original Duchy Original – it was their first product back in 1992. Duchy Originals grow the wheat and oats themselves on farms in the UK. To get the perfect recipe and flavor, they teamed up with Walkers Shortbread who have been making shortbread in the Scottish Highlands for over 100 years.

Of course I said yes! I absolutely love the Duchy company & also the Walkers Shortbread company. In case you weren’t aware, Duchy was started by Prince Charles (yes-that Prince Charles!) in 1992 in order to promote organic food and farming and to help protect and sustain the local countryside and wildlife. it is one of the U.K.’s leading organic and sustainable food companies, producing a range of over 250 products from biscuits to preserves and gifts to garden seeds. A donation from the sale of Duchy Originals products is given to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. More than $1 million is raised annually in this way for distribution to charitable causes all over the world. Duchy Originals from Waitrose shortbreads and cookies are baked by the world famous Walkers Shortbread in the Scottish Highlands.

And I thought it appropriate that being that they’re an English brand, and it’s Christmas, I make a “figgy pudding” reference.

Easy figgy pudding cookie bars! Made with Duchy Originals oaten biscuits & fig butter. You can use store-bought fig butter if you need to.

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I didn’t know what to call these, so how about ‘peppery orange ginger muffins’?

After a while, coming up with names for things gets old. And tiresome. And when I’m doing 600 million other things (like for example: painting 5 rooms, 1 ceiling & a hallway, refinishing hardwoods, installing new light fixtures, getting new appliances, redoing my bathroom- there’s literally NO walls just studs & insulation, and of course on top of all that figuring out what’s going on for Thanksgiving) I can’t really focus well enough to come up with a name thats either a) clever or b) makes sense.

See, there’s been a lot of work going on at the house. There are a lot of people working very hard- myself included. I need to have snacks & goodies on hand to feed the troops… or else they might revolt. And the revolt might include not finishing my house! So I try to throw together things that are unique and not just your average snack repeated over & over. Being that it’s been so chilly & windy, I thought a warm, spicy, gingery muffin would work. Then I’d post the recipe if they came out good. Which they definitely did.

Peppery orange ginger muffins. Or spiced orange ginger muffins with black pepper. Whatever they are, they're amazing!

So I just gave up.

Peppery orange ginger muffins it is!

They’re like gingerbread cake, but with orange to sweeten it up a little more. There are so many flavors going on in these, you’d think they’d be “messy” tasting, but they’re not. They’re right on target.

Side note: they came out so delicate & perfectly rounded. Not big or obnoxious or overflowing out of the pans. I don’t know why that is, but they’re good. And I guess it really doesn’t matter. So I eat two instead of one. Big deal.

Ginger muffins with orange zest, candied ginger & black pepper.

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Apple cake, sadness, sickness & Spode.

Apple cake made with hazelnuts. The hazelnuts toast in the oven & the middle layer of apples just melts into the coffee-cake style cake, leaving you with a moist, delicious dessert.

Alliteration at it’s finest, ladies & gentlemen. My 7th & 8th grade English teacher Mrs. Clarey would be proud. Shamefully ‘apple cake’ doesn’t start with an ‘s.’ Anyway, even though I’ve shown you the cake… first let’s tackle the easiest of the four: Spode.

A while back, I told you all about my adventures in thrifting- or, as Xenia says: Tales from the Thrift. I’ve bought some pretty little things since that post & you’ll see some of them today.

Like, right now.

Vintage Spode Cowslip pattern bread & butter plates (+ a recipe for apple cake with hazelnuts).

See? Those plates. They’re Spode “Cowslip” pattern bread & butter dishes, or appetizer dishes. I got them for less than $2.00 a piece (actually closer to a buck a piece) in a thrift store, and according to Replacements.com that’s quite a good deal. I should’ve bought the whole dinnerware set, but they were asking a bit much considering there was quite a lot of it missing. Regardless, I’m happy with my four little plates- dating from December 1950, according to the marks on the bottom (D50). Since the pattern was only started in the 1940′s and discontinued by 1972 that’s pretty cool.

Spode Cowslip plates (& a recipe for apple cake).

I just love me some cute little plates for serving desserts or snacks. Or cake.

Cake! Apple cake!

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A literal “coffee cake.”

Really, I’m not sure if there’s a more literal interpretation of “coffee cake” than this one… except for maybe a cake made with coffee. Seriously. You see a lot of coffee cakes, and they’re all meant to be served with coffee, hence the name… but this one is truly a coffee cake. Or rather a coffee can cake.

 

It’s a coffee cake baked in a coffee can.

How cool is that? Pretty friggin’ cool.

I saw this during my travels on the inter webs & I thought, “That’s so cute!” Yes, I had heard of bread or fruitcake being baked in coffee cans before, and my mom used to do it. But I thought making a coffee cake in a coffee can was super adorable. And interesting. Something I’d never done before.

Only problem is: I don’t have any coffee cans. I have a Keurig, and when I do buy coffee it’s bagged. The only can I have is one from Cafe Du Monde & I’m not using that for baking. So I had to enlist my father to see if he had any of his trusty Chock-Full-O-Nuts cans laying around, which thankfully he did, and tons of them at that (although I’m still not sure why). Unfortunately, your average coffee cans have gotten smaller lately… from one pound to 11.3 ounces. It doesn’t really make much of a difference to this recipe, however, so if you’ve only got 11-ounce coffee cans, don’t freak. It worked out just fine for me! Yeah, there was some overflow. But not enough to really matter.

If you’ve got one of those really big coffee cans, maybe you can make the entire recipe in one can? Not sure, but I don’t see why not, as long as the large can is at least double the size of a regular one.

CARDAMOM COFFEE CAN CAKE (adapted from iVillage)

Ingredients:

  • 2 coffee cans (1 pound size is preferable, I had to use 11.3 oz. cans)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter (for coating the cans)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cool but not chilled, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (*OPTIONAL)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1.  Soak the coffee cans in hot soapy water to clean them and remove any labels and/or glue. Please do not attempt to make these with the labels still on the cans. Dry the cans thoroughly in a warm oven. Heavily coat the interior of the cans with the soft butter (3 tablespoons) once they have cooled.
  2. To make the dough, combine the buttermilk and butter slices (1/2 cup or 1 stick) in a small saucepan over medium heat and warm the mixture until the butter slices start to melt. Set the pan aside. Combine the warm water, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measure and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set the mixture aside.
  3. Put the flour and the cardamom (1/4 teaspoon) in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade or the steel chopping blade. Pulse the machine on and off three times. Add the brown sugar, salt, eggs, and yeast mixture to the flour mixture and process for 1 full minute. With the machine still running, slowly pour the buttermilk mixture through the feed tube, then immediately turn off the processor. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl and add the raisins. Pulse the processor on and off several times or until the raisins are distributed throughout the dough. Divide the batter between the two prepared coffee cans.
  4. Cover the cans with a tea towel and set them in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 45 minutes, or until the dough has risen to within 1 inch of the can tops. When the dough has finished rising, remove all but the lowest rack from the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
  5. To make the topping, melt the 1/3 cup of butter and brush it over the top of each coffee cake. Combine the granulated sugar (5 tablespoons) and spices (1 teaspoon cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon) and liberally sprinkle each cake with half of the mixture.
  6. Bake the cakes in their cans for 35 minutes, or until the tops are a dark golden brown. Thump the tops as you would a melon and listen for a hollow sound, like a ripe melon. If you do not hear a hollow sound, bake the cakes for another 8 minutes and test again. Cool the cans for 1 hour on a rack, then unmold them.

Next time I would make a streusel for the topping, instead of what’s given in the recipe. It tasted good, but it didn’t look that great. I just think it’s better suited to a chunky, spicy, sugary streusel instead. Oh, if only. Hindsight is 20/20! I also didn’t use the raisins. I just don’t like raisins. But if you do, then throw those suckers in.

See? Not a very… well… flattering photo.

By the way- speaking of what I didn’t use… I didn’t use a food processor, I used my stand mixer with the dough hook, and it worked out just fine. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a food processor and vice versa. And you might have some trouble getting the cake out of the cans. I had some trouble myself, but I just finagled it by cutting the tops off first, then taking the rest out. Then I just sliced them all up right away for serving. But eating them right out of the can with a couple of forks isn’t the worst thing to ever happen, is it?

And of course, they’re served with COFFEE. And it’d be perfect with some of that Swedish style homemade flavored milk.

(If you want to give them as a hostess gift, iVillage says to do the following: wash and dry the interiors of the cans. Roll each cooled coffee cake in a strip of parchment paper and put the cakes back in the cans once the cans are dry. The finished cakes should be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap until you are ready to assemble and deliver the gift. You can also tie ribbons around the cans if you like.)

Irish tea, bread & sympathy.

Coming from a family environment where my main grandparental influence came from my maternal grandparents, I’m pretty well versed in all things Irish (and German- but that’s another post). My grandmother Agnes was full-blooded Irish, second generation born in New York, and my grandpa was 1/4 Irish, 3/4 German. My grandpa passed away when I was very small, about 6 years old. But my grandmother was with me my whole childhood and young adult life. She passed away when I was 30, so I’d say that from her I got a full course in Irish-American tradition. Tea was a big part of this. My grandma drank tea all day. ALL DAY. She never drank coffee, not unless it was a fancy coffee once in a while after dinner, or an Irish coffee at one of her favorite Irish pub/restaurants that me & Jay used to take her to. My whole life, tea was a major player in everything. If you were sick- have a hot cup of tea with honey or lemon (or both). Sad? Have a hot cup of tea with milk & sugar. And in the summer, as expected, there was always iced tea.

The same can be said for Irish soda bread. I’ve made all different kinds, ate all different kinds, both homemade & store-bought. My favorite still remains; the Irish soda cake. I could eat it morning, noon & night. But I still come up with new ones to try, despite my allegiance. And this one is a recipe I tore out of Gourmet or Bon Appétit ages ago and never made. It’s from Downey’s in Philadelphia, and the addition of dark brown sugar intrigued me.

Soda bread (Serbian: česnica/чесница, Irish: arán sóide, Scots: fardel) is a variety of quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate (otherwise known as baking soda) is used as a leavening agent instead of the more common yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread areflourbread sodasalt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Other ingredients can be added such as butter, egg, raisins or nuts.

In Ireland, the flour is typically made from soft wheat; so soda bread is best made with a cake or pastry flour (made from soft wheat), which has lower levels of gluten than a bread flour. In some recipes, the buttermilk is replaced by live yoghurt or even stout. Bakers recommend the minimum amount of mixing of the ingredients before baking; the dough should not be kneaded.

Various forms of soda bread are popular throughout Ireland. Soda breads are made using either wholemeal or white flour. In Ulster, the wholemeal variety is usually known as wheaten bread and normally sweetened, while the term “soda bread” is restricted to the white savoury form. In more southern parts of Ireland, the wholemeal variety is usually known as brown soda and is almost identical to the Ulster wheaten.

The Soda farl or “Griddle cakes”, “Griddle bread” (or “Soda farls” in Ulster) take a more rounded shape and have a cross cut in the top to allow the bread to expand. The griddle cake or farl is a more flattened type of bread. It is cooked on a griddle allowing it to take a more flat shape and split into four sections. The Soda Farl is one of the distinguishing elements of the Ulster Fry, where it is served alongside potato bread, also in farl form.[11]

MY VERSION OF DOWNEY’S IRISH SODA BREAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F with rack in the middle. 
  2. Blend flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and butter in a large bowl with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Stir in buttermilk and eggs until smooth dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide into small round individual loaves (I got four). Space them evenly on a lightly floured baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour, and cut an X in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife.
  4. Bake 20 minutes, then reduce oven to 375° F and continue to bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer loaves to a rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with butter, creme fraiche, marmalade or jam.
  6. Bread is best the day it’s made, but can be frozen. Just wrap it tightly in 2 layers of foil and freeze no longer than one month. Refresh, wrapped in foil in a 325° oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.

 

This recipe can be made into one large, round loaf or doubled and made into either three long “baguette” style loaves or two large round loaves.

You can feel free to add raisins (or Jameson soaked raisins) or caraway seeds, if you wish. I come from a family that happens to prefer it plain, as do I, so I rarely if ever add anything to it. It’s best, like stated above, the same day. But I wrapped it in foil and reheated it slightly the next day & it was perfect. Also, it’s just personal preference as to what to serve with it. If you’re having it with a meal, then butter is the norm. If you’re serving it with tea or coffee or as a snack, then jam, orange marmalade, clotted cream or creme fraiche is good. But it’s great plain too.

And I must say, as much as my old standby recipe is my favorite, this one was really, really good too. If you never found a soda bread you like.. I suggest you try making some of your own, that way you can tweak it and add or subtract the elements you want to. You just might end up a fan.

Speaking of hearty…

(…not that anyone was… or wait…)

For Christmas 2011, it seemed like everyone gave me a stack of cookbooks. One of the ones Jay gave me was the Williams-Sonoma Bread book. I haven’t made many things from the book yet, just a few. Give me a break- I have a bajillion cook books I’m trying to get through! But one of the things I keep making over & over again from the book is the beer bread. And it became Jay’s favorite thing ever the minute it came out of the oven. Trust me- that’s a big deal. He’s a picky one, and he BARELY eats any of my goodies! (side note: feel free to tell him in the comments that he’s crazy, and remind him how some would kill for that opportunity)

I’m telling you, though, once you make a good beer bread, you never want to stop. You want to just keep making it using all kinds of beer, any kind of beer you can get your hands on; all of a sudden it’s “Mmm this beer is good… I bet it’d make a great beer bread!” I’ve tweaked some of the amounts of things just a bit, based on my experience making it, so that’s the version I’m giving you. It’s such a rustic bread, it always reminds me of old fashioned pioneer breads or Colonial bread, so it’s only fitting I used Samuel Adams beer.

Either way, no matter what beer you use, it’s so incredibly SIMPLE to make and it’s always a hit.

Also, just a note: I’ve made this bread with Samuel Adams Summer Ale, Blue Point Oktoberfest, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Harp Lager, Guinness stout and now, Samuel Adams Winter Lager. Every single beer gave the bread a totally different flavor, and yet every single one made it delicious. I haven’t hit on a bad one yet!

JAY’S FAVORITE 5-INGREDIENT BEER BATTER BREAD (adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Bread book)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 rounded tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bottle beer, (12 fl oz/375 ml), unopened and at room temperature*
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (I use unsalted, but if you’re using salted just use half the amount of salt in the recipe), plus more for greasing the pan

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Grease (with softened butter) a 9″-by-5″-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, stir the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt together. Open the beer and add it all at once; it’s going to foam up. Stir briskly just until it comes together & everything is combined (the book says 20 strokes). The batter will be a little lumpy- that’s okay. It might even be a big ball of dough (like a regular bread dough), and that’s fine too.
  3. Pour (or scoop) into the prepared loaf pan. Tap the pan on the counter to even it out, and pat it down if it needs it. Drizzle with the melted butter.
  4. Bake until the top is crusty and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, roughly 35-40 minutes. Let the loaf rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature the day it’s made. Cut into thick slices and serve with plenty of butter.

*Avoid using an overly bitter beer; you’ll get very unsavory results.

Jay likes to eat his either right out of the oven or warmed up in the toaster oven, with salted butter. Depending on the kind of beer you use, I think it can be spectacular with soup, especially an Irish potato soup. However I do find it’s best when warm, so if you have leftovers be sure to heat them up a little, or even toast them slightly. Unlike the Guinness ginger cake, which keeps for days, this doesn’t keep well over long periods of time. It’s best to eat it within one to three days (three days being tops). It won’t go bad after that but it just won’t taste as good… it gets a bit rubbery.

It’s absolutely best the day it’s made, however.

Like I said, with this batch I used Samuel Adams Winter Lager. It came out wonderful (again), ironically with a kind of banana-y note to it. I cannot stress the following enough: Be very careful of the beer you use! A bitter beer will make a really nasty bread. A sweet beer will make a sweet(er) bread, etc. For example: a dark, creamy porter or stout will make a bread better for dessert or breakfast, whereas an ale or lager will make a better savory bread. Beware of IPA’s & pilsner’s; they can be a bit too bitter or hop-y. Very crisp beers aren’t suited for this, really, because there’s very little else in the bread to help flavor it. If you use a chocolate or cream stout or maple pecan porter or something, you could probably add some chopped nuts to the bread too, or mix a little brown sugar into the melted butter before you drizzle it on top. If you’re not sure of the different styles of beer & what they’re like, try checking out this website. I’d also recommend using a fancier (read: better quality) beer than, say, Coors Light or Budweiser. Those don’t have much flavor to impart, and the bread probably wouldn’t turn out very good.

If you’re a beer lover, I’m serious; you need to try this bread. Start out with a sweet beer & ease into the experimentation. Soon you’ll hit on one that’s your absolute favorite!

In need of something stout & hearty.

Argh. I know I’ve been repeatedly saying this, over & over again. But let me reiterate: it’s f*!%ing cold.

Early Sunday Morning on Orchard Street, by Vivienne Gucwa

Pardon my French, but really. It’s freezing. And one of those eerie signs of a cold day in New York? A white sky. When it’s just stark white or a very pale milky grey, my grandma used to say it was a sky full of snow. When it looks like that, I have no desire to do anything other than stay under the duvet in a warm, dark room, playing around on my MacBook listening to music while the wind whistles outside & frost patterns form on the windows. Screw interacting with society. I’m better off indoors, warm, with my four-legged companion(s) and my kitchen. There goes that Lisbeth Salander tendency again- good thing I got rid of the mohawk.

And good thing I love New York, & I was born here… or else this shit would get really old, really quick. I’m used to it… but that doesn’t make a 19° degree temperature any less shocking.

Anyway, this cake is warming. And really easy- which means I don’t have to be out of bed for very long to make it.

The best part? It’s made with beer.

Guinness stout, actually. It’s a delicious… cake. Bread. It’s more like… I don’t really know. It teeters between a bread and a cake, and just when you think it’s one thing, it’s another. Just when you’re thinking it’s a great dessert it jumps up and slaps you right in the face, saying: “I’d be excellent for breakfast, too.” And if you’re thinking that a cake with beer in it wouldn’t work for breakfast? Well then you’re not Irish/Polish/German and you’ve also never had this cake. It isn’t sweet, it isn’t savory. It’s an enigma. It’s like gingerbread, just not as sweet. And it’s like a brown bread, but moister and not as savory. And when I say moist? I mean it. It’s not something you can gorge on- one small slice at a time is plenty. You can add some diced candied ginger to the batter, or you can add a little fresh grated ginger, just to up the gingerbread-y-ness of it… or you just can top it with some whipped cream & then put some candied ginger on top. Speaking of whipped cream? I think if you put a whiskey whipped cream or a bourbon whipped cream on it, you’d knock your guests right out of the chairs. On the other hand- it would be good toasted (or baked twice) into an almost biscotti-like texture and paired with a soup that borders on the sweet side, like a creamy chestnut soup. It would even be good toasted, with butter, but you just can’t imagine how good it is plain, at room temperature, with just a bit of mildly sweet, homemade whipped cream.

But then again, everything is better with whipped cream, no?

I know, it doesn’t look like an enigma, does it? But it is. It’s a cake-bread. A bread-cake.

Anyway. It is what it is. You make it & figure it out.

All I know is that it’s spectacular with a simple whipped cream and a smidgen- just a sprinkling- of confectioner’s sugar, accompanied by a hot cup of Irish coffee made with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

GUINNESS GINGER CAKE (adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Guinness Irish stout*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, and set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, bring the Guinness to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally. Take off the heat and add the baking soda (mixture will froth). When the foaming subsides, stir in both sugars & molasses until dissolved. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients. In another large bowl, pour the Guinness mixture. Then whisk in eggs & oil until thoroughly combined.
  4. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture in thirds, stirring until completely smooth between each addition. DO NOT OVERMIX/OVERBEAT: less is more.
  5. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and gently tap it on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top of the cake is just firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

*If you haven’t got Guinness, any stout will do. Samuel Adams cream stout would work wonders too, I imagine.

I repeat: it is NOT a sweet cake. It’s not a chocolate fudge caramel drizzle cake that’s going to make your teeth ache just looking at it. And it’s NOT a full-on bread, because it’s too sweet to be. It is nothing like a beer bread at all, and it’s not like any cake you’ve ever had before. Seriously. Maybe if you use a more chocolatey stout, or maybe Samuel Adams Merry Mischief stout, it’d be a bit sweeter (and also stronger! That Merry Mischief stuff packs a wollop!)… but that’s up to you to experiment with, if you so choose.

I’m secretly giggling at that little peak that formed in the whipped cream… (!) It almost looks like a middle finger, doesn’t it?

Yeah. You’re welcome.

Now I’m crawling back into my warm bed, with a full plate & hot mug of Irish coffee, of course.

Sources & credits: Bailey’s mugs; vintage, silverware; vintage.