Making waves

One of the reasons I was really looking forward to moving back to Canada and having a fixed address was the prospect of subscriptions. What could possibly be better than rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning and grabbing the paper from the front step while still in your PJs? Maybe coming home from a long day at work to find the latest edition of your favourite cooking magazine waiting in the mailbox. I speak from personal experience.

This Christmas, my Mom gave me a subscription to Fine Cooking. It's a great little magazine with solid technical advice to pump up your culinary knowledge and recipes that are delicious, but not daunting, for all skill levels. This is just one of the tasty morsels I've tried from my first edition.

My local grocery store was out of cake flour due to the Christmas baking rush, so I used all-purpose flour instead. While delicious, I think the cake flour would produce a finer crumb and more tender cake. Let me know if you give it a try.

Chocolate Ripple Coffee Cake

Streusel Topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup toasted pecans
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa

3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 2/3 cups berry sugar (superfine)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and generously butter a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.

To prepare the streusel topping, heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until almost melted. Remove from heat and cool to tepid. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pecans, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder and salt using a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter and stir until evenly moistened and crumbly. Set aside.

To prepare the filling, pulse the pecans, chocolate, sugars and cocoa in a food processor until the chocolate is finely chopped (about 12-14 times). Take 1/2 cup of the finished filling and add it to the streusel topping mixture above. Set aside the rest.

To prepare the cake, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar slowly, beating until combined and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well between each. Mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and sour cream in several parts, beginning and ending with the flour, mixing on low speed between each addition.

Spoon 2 generous cups of the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spoon. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of filling evenly over the batter. Cover the filling with about 2 cups of batter, dropping dollops around the pan and smoothing carefully with the spoon. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup filling evenly over the batter and cover with 2 more cups of batter. Layer on the remaining filling and the remaining batter. You'll end up with 4 layers of batter and 3 layers of filling. Insert a table knife 1" from the side of the pan straight into the batter almost to the bottom. Run the knife around the pan 2 times without lifting the blade, spacing the circles about 1" apart. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.

Take a handful of the streusel crumbs and squeeze firmly to form a large clump. Break into smaller pieces and distribute them evenly over the batter. Repeat with the remaining streusel.

Bake until the top of the cake is brown, the sides are beginning to pull away from the pan, and a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (about 70-75 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour before removing from the pan.

Store at room temperature, well-wrapped or under a cake dome, for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Source: Fine Cooking, December 2008/January 2009, pp. 70-71.