3 November 13 • MAV

This weekend I was a baking machine! For many reasons, some of which you will find out next week (eep!), I had a list of items to bake and I was more than pleased to spend most of my weekend in the kitchen. It was so much fun to be buried in bags of flour, cartons of eggs and blocks of chocolate! Made me excited for the holidays for the first time. Such a nice feeling to feel excited about it and not overwhelmed. I plan to hold onto that feeling in the coming weeks.

The biggest reason I was in the kitchen was because it was my dad’s birthday this past week (love you, Dad!) and I wanted to make him a stellar chocolate cake.

I’ve made my share of chocolate cakes, mind you, but I wanted to really nail this. It was the first chance I had had, probably in my adult life ever, to make my dad a birthday cake in real time. I needed to nail this cake.

I wanted it to be traditional yet, somehow, sophisticated. I really wanted to use all the good things … natural sugar, dark chocolate. And I became obsessed with the idea of doing a different sort of frosting. I love a cream cheese frosting and I wanted to do something similar.

I came across Not Without Salt’s Chocolate Cake With Sour Cream Frosting and knew this was the one. And boy was it the one! The “tangy” frosting was AMAZING. The chocolate cake itself was the best I’ve had of this variety.

The only changes I made were that I did not bake layers (just baked the cake in one tall cake pan and sliced it into two layers) and I made half of the frosting that she called for (just halved the recipe and it turned out great). I did not want to have all of that frosting. I wanted to leave room for a little sprinkle of confectioners sugar on the bottom … almost like twinkling stars in the night sky. I usually leave the sides unfrosted entirely but this time I gradated the frosting down. I wanted to balance out the lightness of the white cake stand and tone of my favorite beeswax candles. (You can see I was taking this very seriously.)

I have noted the recipe here as I made it. You should really check out Not Without Salt if you have not before. I also made her Chocolate Chip Cookies this weekend and everyone raved! I was asked to bring them to our big Thanksgiving. Sure thing!

Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted From Not Without Salt

3 C all-purpose flour
2 C natural sugar
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
3/4 C canola oil
2 T white vinegar
2 t vanilla
1 C brewed coffee
1 C water

Preheat oven to 325°F/180°C. Oil your cake pan(s). Whisk together dry ingredients well, set aside. Whisk together wet ingredients well. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until combined. Spread the batter into your cake pans and bake until a tester comes out clean (for my one 9 x 3 inch cake pan it was about 60 minutes; for 9-inch layer pans it would be half that time). Let the cake cool a bit and then turn out onto a rake to cool completely.

2 C bittersweet chocolate
1-1/4 C sour cream
1/2 C confectioners sugar
1/4 t kosher salt

Melt the chocolate in a bowl that is sitting over a pot of simmering water. Once melted turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water. Stir in the sour cream until combined. Stir in powdered sugar and salt. Taste it and if you like it sweeter add more sugar. Remove the frosting from the heat and let it sit for about an hour until it thickens. Once ready frost the cake to your liking.

* * * p.s. Special thanks to those of you who chimed in on Instagram yesterday. You guys got your cake!

3 November 13 • SCB

After a week of Halloween sweet excess, we found ourselves craving salty and wholesome things this weekend. Warm, chewy pretzels felt like the antidote that my kids wanted. We used to make these soft pretzels quite often when they were small (even though waiting for the dough to rise can be interminable to a little one), but somehow they had fallen out of our repertoire in the last few years. Truth is the rising/shaping/boiling/baking steps can feel overwhelming, but the time/mess investment is pretty minimal for the winning result. It’s a recipe that I adapted to include some whole wheat flour, but you can make it with all white flour if you wish (or all whole wheat—which makes for a dense and chewy pretzel that I quite like).

These don’t store particularly well, so make sure you have a small crowd with which to share them!

Soft Pretzels
adapted from Alton Brown
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the boil:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

For the topping:
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
pretzel salt (we used sea salt crystals)

Place the yeast, water, and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add the flours, salt, and butter to the bowl. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low until well combined. Knead on medium speed for five minutes. Dough will be smooth an elastic. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Let the dough sit in a warm place for an hour or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare two cookie sheets by covering them with parchment and spraying or brushing with oil. Bring 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saucepan or dutch oven.

Turn the dough out and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, and then cross at the ends. Fold the cross over to form the pretzel shape. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, individually, for about 30 seconds. Remove them with a large slotted spoon or spatula and place on parchment lined sheet. Brush the top of each pretzel with the egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, approximately 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Best eaten immediately!!