Coffee Cake

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When you get the new issue of Martha Stewart Living and there is a whole article on coffee cakes, you should never resist the urge to bake one.

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Especially if it is a “New York style crumb cake”.

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Because you are an East Coast-er and you’re almost a native New Yorker, you know that such coffee cakes require at least an inch of glorious cinnamony buttery crumble topping.

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So you are thrilled (and slightly horrified) that the crumble portion of the recipe calls for over three cups of flour and over two sticks of melted butter.

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You are also thrilled with the outcome of said cake…

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It is pretty divine. Just make it. Continue reading

Coconut Cake

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“I wish I could photograph the way this SMELLS.”

That, dear readers, is all you really need to know about what follows. That, and, you must bake this. Right now. This very moment.

Nevertheless, if you are brave, intrigued, or bored, read on.

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Here is the scenario. One day, your friend emails you a recipe. It seems pretty harmless from the title–simply “Coconut Cake”. You begin to read. Turns out it is from Cook’s Illustrated. You realize your friend means business. You read on to discover a batter that uses no less than 5 egg whites. You realize Cook’s Illustrated means business. You and your friend devise a coconut feast (lovingly nicknamed Coconutfest) solely as a prelude to the devouring of this cake. Everybody means business. This has gotten serious.

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The day of Coconutfest arrives. You begin. You realize quickly that this recipe is weird. It starts with a flour mixture that seems more like the beginning of scone dough than of a light, angel-food-like cake. It uses cream of coconut, which you find in the liquor section of the grocery store and which has the consistency and smell of sunscreen. But you know better than to mess with America’s Test Kitchen and you do what it says. A good decision. Trust the Kitchen.

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And so. You invert.

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You snack on the sliced-off top. You swoon. Your friend might get a little teary eyed. (Coconut can do that to people.)

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You toast. And burn your eyes in the process. (Don’t ask. You may never know why that happened.)

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You prepare to ingest over five sticks of butter.

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You save your buttercream from almost certain destruction with a little Googling. You ice your cake with buttercream that is somehow, miraculously, the consistency of an expensive designer silk dress. You still don’t understand. You just accept.

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You sprinkle.

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You serve. You eat. And your friend cries. (That’s another thing coconut can do to people.) Continue reading

Sea-Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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In college, I was known for pearl sugar cream scones. I would bake them on weekends for my housemates, working on their thesis papers. I would bring them to bake sales for the art history department. I would make them for a friend who was feeling down. They were my little signature baked good. Here in Milwaukee, those scones do not go uneaten. But my new known-for? Sea-salted chocolate chip cookies.

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This all started because one day I decided I needed to put some sea-salt on chocolate. So I found a cookie recipe. It seemed OK. It had a cute French elementary school story attached to it. But it needed work. So I made these things about four times before I’d adapted it to my liking. Then I made them four more times because I couldn’t stop eating them.

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Now they are so good, they drive me crazy.

Why do they drive ME crazy, you ask? Because everybody I know–when I ask what I can bring to a party, what they think I should bake this weekend–they emphatically cry, “Those salted cookies!” I’ve reached the point where they’re not exciting to make any more, and I don’t even want to eat them any more. (This statement sort of frightens me, because this girl? turn down a cookie? really?, but then I think about how I made them pretty much every weekend straight during the five months of My First Midwestern Winter 2010, which, well, I don’t even want to count how many dozen cookies that must add up to, but turns out that number could be the breaking point even for me, sweet tooth girl extraordinaire.)

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What to do? Well. When all your friends are begging, you can’t exactly ignore them…

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So you grab the best chocolate chips ever (you have a stash in your baking cabinet because friends keep giving them to you as gifts–hint, hint), and just whip up a batch. Because you’re a good friend.

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And because, well, since they’re sitting there, right out of the oven, staring at you, being delicious and all, you could probably stomach just one cookie…

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Continue reading

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

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Today was miraculous. Here is why: It snowed. A lot. Like almost two feet. And it was windy. So windy my windows were bowing in last night and the cats were wailing helplessly as they ran through the apartment. This is what happens in Wisconsin when the wind gusts reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour.

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But the real miracle was not the crazy weather. Below zero cold and lake effect winds are all in a day’s walk to work around here. No. The miracle was that today, we had a SNOW DAY.

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This never happens. The public school district called off school the day before (unheard of!); city buses weren’t running this morning (insane!) my workplace sent a reluctant email telling us not to come in (surprising!); and the media called for the life-threatening storm of the millennium (not at all unexpected. Way to dramatize things, as usual, Milwaukee media).

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Naturally, this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime event called for celebration. In the form of something hot and comforting and spicy that went with coffee so that I could snack on it all day long. Translation: Pumpkin bread.

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Pumpkin bread that was sweet, but filled with heavy spices–ginger, fancy cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves. Speaking of icing, sweet bread needs a topping that knocks the sugar around a little–thus a tangy cream cheese glaze was absolutely necessary.

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Also, just so you know, I cheated. These are not really bread. They’re little cakes masquerading as bread. I mean, come on, there’s even icing. But let’s just go ahead and call it bread because it will make us feel better about eating a few loaves right out of the oven, yes? Yes.

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So if you need me, I’ll just be over here, downing slice after slice of cake–I mean, bread–for every meal today, while I watch the glorious Party Down on Netflix Instant and hope my snow day, and my supply of pumpkin bread, never ends.

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