Friday, March 19, 2010

Guest Blogger Tracie: Gooey Butter Cake

My darling friend has decided (by decided I mean I told her she was going to and she said ok) to grace us with her presence today on Emma's Eats as a guest chef(or as they say on tasty kitchen, home cook extraordinaire)/blogger. I was feeling a tad bit uninspired (i.e. lazy) and felt it was time to shake things up, hence this guest post. And you know, being in grad school and all she has much more free time for this sort of thing than I do being unemployed and all (I do have my work at the hospital and by work I mean three and a half hours of volunteering every week). So with only a few minor tweaks (she wanted to post 38 pictures....) here is the gooey butter cake by Tracie.

Guest Blogger! Say what?! I honestly have no idea why I just typed that, it isn’t a phrase that frequents my everyday vocabulary. But hey, I’ve adopted a “type it and it stays” approach to this entry. Which is a way to say, basically, I’m sorry in advance. I am typing this blind, ps, not in the sense that my eyes are shut, but in the sense that I am writing it without any idea as to what, if any, introduction Em has written about me. Go ahead and assume none of it is true [Emma: you should not tell lies to these lovely people, I only tell the truth] (unless she is raving about me, because then it is true. Fact)

Anyways, I came home the weekend of the 12th for a mini-spring break. Because, it turns out, being in graduate school and having a non-paying internship that you are still required to go to really cuts into your loafing-about-at-home-and-not-doing-anything time. Not that I let such obstacles stop me. For instance, I am currently writing this instead of doing the vast amounts of research that awaits me. So… in my mini-vacation, I decided to pack as much baking and cooking as I could into one trip.

If my internal ramblings haven’t lost you yet, dear reader, let’s get to the baking and the pictures of the baking. On Friday after being poked with a sharp needle to determine that I’m not dying, I started baking in early afternoon. Of course, I called my hetero life-mate Emma-Pants to the scene to help. And by “help” I really mean take pictures and catch me up on gossip. Emma and I have a track record of baking things together that end up going disastrously wrong. [Emma: there once was a strawberry rhubarb pie which resembled something that had already been eaten, if you catch my drift I hear it was tasty but couldn't make myself try it] Which is a source of amusement for us because we are both capable cooks, but we can’t seem to make anything together. (Side note: Word’s grammar check suggested I use “record of accomplishment” instead of track record. This amuses me to no end) BUT! These two delightful creations turning out perfectly mark a turning point (I hope).

The first recipe I made was Smitten Kitchen’s St Louis Gooey Butter Cake, instructions to be found here. SK adopted it from an article in the New York Times who adopted it from a person at the Park Slope Farmer’s Market. It’s pretty much deliciousness in a buttery vanilla-y square[Emma: it's true, I ate one and it was soooo tasty]. They look sorta like lemon bars and have an internal consistency slightly reminiscent of those molten lava cake things. But it’s got more structure because of the yeast dough base. And that base is topped with a yummy oh-so-healthy combination of butter, vanilla, sugar, and corn syrup.

I used a ceramic dish that was slightly smaller than the 9 x 13 dish I was supposed to use, so my cake was a bit taller, and in retrospect, I should have let it bake a little longer because I think it should have been slightly firmer. Also in retrospect, I should have greased the sides of the dish more --my topping stuck in a few places.

This is me, by-the-by. In my adorable T apron. I apologize for the look on my face, I was talking while this was being taken.

The cast of characters for both the dough and the topping. I need you to imagine an extra egg and some butter here.

I added yeast to milk and warm water and whisked it until it combined and foamed a little. There probably would have been more foam if I had used fresher yeast. At first, I tried to mix this up with the baby spoon seen on the right. That was pretty much an epic fail and so I switched to a more reliable method: a fork.

Then I combined butter, sugar, and salt in my mixer and creamed them together. Notice my awesome paddle with scraper already attached[Emma: it is quite loud though]. My mom got it for Christmas. It’s pretty much awesome (like her).

In went the egg and then I began alternately adding the flour and milk/water/yeast mixture. Then we kept mindlessly beating it for a few minutes until I double-checked the recipe and SK said to switch to a dough hook. We did and the dough did indeed form a ball that pulled away from the sides slightly.

Then we put the dough in the dish and smushed it about until it reached the edges. Next we covered it in plastic wrap and let it sit for the recommended 2.5-3 hours so it could double in size. In the mean time, we made the other recipe[Emma: stay tuned for the other recipe, I should post it in the not too distant future]. Side note: my dough was not rising, which I found most distressing. Turns out, the kitchen was too cold for it to rise properly, so I stuck it in a warm oven and it rose nicely. Important lesson: when a recipe says to sit something in a warm place for it rise, don’t assume your kitchen with all the lights on and a bunch of people in it is necessarily warm enough [Emma: it's still much warmer than my house, which despite our new magical energy star windows still kind of feels like the inside of a fridge].

While I was preheating the oven, I made the topping. I mixed corn syrup, water, and vanilla together in a bowl. Why yes, that is a stackable bowl from Ikea in a festive red shade. Also, notice my adorable tiny whisk. I love this whisk a lot. And I love being able to legitimately use it without being inconvenienced by its tiny size. It was perfect for this job.

Then I creamed more butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. There was also an addition of an egg, that once again you don’t get to witness. It’s a violent act. I added the corn syrup/vanilla/water mix and the flour. By this time, Emma and her camera had tragically abandoned me to go home [Emma: I am super fabulous and crazy busy, duh], so I started taking the photos myself using my dad’s camera. (Thanks Daddy!)

This is the cake after it rose but before I figured out how to turn the flash on manually. Honestly, I didn’t figure it out and had to turn off the lights in the kitchen to get a balanced shot.

Anyway, you dollop the topping on (and it bothered me that my dollops weren’t symmetrical, they kept sinking towards the center) And then you spread the topping out evenly over the cake using an offset spatula. Maybe you should grease this a little too, because when it touched the cake dough, it would stick a bit and the grease would make it glide smoother.

I pulled it from the oven when it was golden brown. And inserted a knife to make sure the center was still liquid-y. Then I let it cool and dusted it with powdered sugar and cut it into squares.

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