Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Most Important Meal of the Day

The guys over at Baked are the first to admit their Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl is "not the most nutritious breakfast." If that's what you're after, I suggest granola or a homemade power bar. But if you want a real treat--coffee cake and crumb topping in the perfect ratio of moist cake to crumbly topping--keep reading.

This coffee cake is a keeper. It's pretty classic, with its batter made with sour cream, and its crumb topping a mix of brown sugar and nuts. But then there are these tasty in-between layers of chocolate and cinnamon. I love a healthy breakfast as much as the next person, but there is nothing like a delicious piece of coffee cake with a cup of coffee on a winter morning. And 'tis the season, right?

A few notes: I used walnuts in the crumb topping, instead of the suggested pecans. This wasn't a problem. And spreading the batter over the cinnamon swirl is a little tricky. Just do what you can; using a small offset spatula helps. Finally, the recipe suggests you do not substitute low-fat sour cream or yogurt to reduce calories. I absolutely agree.

If you've got family coming into town for the holidays, or a brunch party coming up, or if you're just sick of good-for-you-breakfasts, now's the time. Sour Cream Coffee Cake is calling your name.--S

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl

Serves 16

Crumb Topping

3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
1/2 t salt
3/4 c pecans [or walnuts, or other nuts], toasted
6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1" pieces

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl

1/2 c sugar
1 t dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 t cinnamon


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 c sugar
4 large eggs
16 oz sour cream
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract

Crumb Topping:

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. Add the pecans and pulse until they are finely chopped and incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until mixture looks like coarse sand. Cover and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl:

Mix ingredients in small bowl.

Sour Cream Cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Scrape down bowl and add sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl as needed.
3. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping down the bowl before each addition and beating only until each addition is just incorporated. Do not overmix.
4. Pour one third of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread batter evenly in pan. Sprinkle half of the chocolate cinnamon swirl mixture over batter, covering the entire surface of the batter. Spoon half of remaining batter over the swirl mixture and spread it evenly. Top with remaining swirl mixture, then the remaining batter, and spread the batter evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top of the batter.
5. Bake in the center of the oven for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

The cake keeps for a few days, tightly covered, at room temperature.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Party Time

Sure, I take a two-week break from blogging, and all of a sudden, the holidays are upon us. Time to shop, bake, party... and eat hors d'oeuvres! I have a perfect one, so listen up. It's easy, festive, can be made ahead of time, and looks rather impressive. And I have yet to find a partygoer who does not like to pop two or three of them between sips of wine or beer.

Pepperoni and Asiago Pinwheels are your new go-to appetizer. All you need to make them are a medium-sized block of Asiago cheese, a package of thinly-sliced pepperoni, honey mustard (make your own if you don't have any), some dried herbs, an egg and a package of frozen puff pastry dough. You thaw the dough, unfold it and spread some honey mustard around. Lay the pepperoni in a single layer, top it with grated Asiago that you've tossed with dried thyme, oregano and pepper, and then roll the whole thing up, sealing the seam with a bit of egg. At this point you can put the roll in the fridge for anywhere from a half-hour to a day, and 15 minutes before you want to eat the pinwheels, you slice the log rather thinly, lay the slices (which resemble misshapen pinwheels at this point) on a baking sheet, and toss them in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes.

It's like a Shrinky-Dink experiment: 15 minutes later you have gorgeously puffed-up, bite-sized pinwheels, oozing cheese and spiked with herbs. They're rather addictive, actually. Go ahead, I dare you to find someone who'll say no when you're passing these babies around at a party this holiday season.--S

Pepperoni and Asiago Pinwheels

Makes about 60 pinwheels

1/2 c grated Asiago cheese
3/4 t dried thyme
3/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
2 T honey-Dijon mustard
2 oz packaged sliced pepperoni (about twenty-four 1 1/2-inch-diameter slices)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

1. Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl.
2. Cut puff pastry crosswise in half to form 2 rectangles. Spread 1 T mustard over 1 puff pastry rectangle, leaving 1-inch plain border at 1 long edge. Place half of pepperoni in single layer atop mustard. Top pepperoni with half of cheese mixture. Brush plain border with egg. Starting at side opposite plain border, roll up pastry, sealing at egg-coated edge.
3. Transfer pastry roll, seam side down, to medium baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pastry rectangle, mustard, pepperoni, cheese mixture, and egg.
4. Chill rolls until firm, about 30 minutes, or wrap and chill up to 1 day.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Cut each pastry roll into about thirty 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Transfer pinwheels to prepared sheets. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
6. Transfer to platter; serve.

Recipe courtesy of The Bon Appetit Cookbook