Monday, April 13, 2009
"Real" Coffee Cake
Highway 36 is an old artery that connects the Oregon coast to the fertile farm lands of the Willamette Valley. The winding two lane highway lies in a gorge that's cut through the Coast Mountain Range by the Siuslaw, a now gentle river that's been known to rage and flood on whim. The length of the highway is peppered with dying mill towns. The general stores and post offices in these communities are now boarded and the cottages of the remaining residents are gradually succumbing to neglect and creeping Oregon damp. There's a part of the highway - the stretch that runs from Swiss Home to Deadwood - that sits on some of the most beautiful land in the state. The steep canyon walls are verdant and their green hues highlight the rushing white water of the shallows below. Here and there you'll find a town that has survived. Deadwood, population 502, is one of them. There are some prosperous ranches in the valley that runs alongside Deadwood Creek and at mile marker 7 - the means by which distance is measured in these parts - you'll find the 285 acres that support the well-known Alpha Commune, an intentional community that has survived the vagaries of fad and fashion and remains intact, true to its original charter. There'll be more about the Alpha community and their kitchen in weeks to come. For now I want to take you back to the Deadwood general store where coffee is free and the conversation warm and inviting. Free coffee. Imagine that. Because we are often in the area to harvest ramps and fiddleheads, I wanted to find a way to thank these folks for their hospitality. Today's "real" coffee cake is my way of doing that. The next time we head down Highway 36 the cake will come with us. The recipe was developed by Maida Heatter. It's a lovely cake, strongly flavored with coffee, and it's very easy to make. I normally glaze it with melted chocolate, but I thought the mocha icing would make a better photograph. I prefer the chocolate glaze. I hope you'll try this European-style loaf cake.
"Real" Coffee Cake
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup instant coffee granules
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 egg yolk
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons boiling water
1) Adjust a rack to lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously coat a 14 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with butter. Dust with flour. A nonstick baking spray may also be used.
2) Combine milk and coffee crystals in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring to dissolve crystals. Set aside to cool.
3) Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Set aside.
4) Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add vanilla and sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat for 1 to 2 minutes at high speed after adding last egg. Mixture will look curdled. It's not a problem.
5) With mixer on low speed, add flour in three additions and milk mixture in two. Beat only until smooth. Turn into pan. Spread until level, then use a spatula to move batter slightly up the sides of pan, leaving center slightly lower than sides.
6) Bake for 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert on rack and remove pan. Ice cooled cake upside down.
1) Combine butter, sugar, coffee crystals, egg yolk an 1-1/2 tablespoons boiling water in a small bowl. Beat until smooth and spreadable.
2) Spread over top of cake. Some icing with run down the sides. Let it be. Yield: 8 to 10 large slices.
For those who would prefer chocolate with their "coffee" cake, here's a recipe for a chocolate glaze.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons milk
1) Melt chocolate and butter in a small bowl set over simmering water. Add corn syrup and milk and beat until smooth.
2) Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Pour warm glaze over top of cake, smoothing top but allow drips to remain on side of cake. Let set for a few hours before serving.
Cook's Note: Two 8 x 4 x 2-1/2-inch amay be substituted for the larger loaf pan. This cake does not store well. It dries out quickly.