Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wish Fulfillment - Sour Cream and Coffee Chocolate Bundt Cake

I cannot word this in a way which doesn’t sound like an irritating humble-brag, so please forgive my next sentence: My boyfriend bought me the cake pan of my dreams for my birthday. For the past five or more years, I have adored a certain cake pan the same way one might adore a fancy car, or any other fancy covetable belonging. Heavy, shiny, technically functional and of course, expensive for what it is, now that I think about it, it actually might compare to that 6th Gen. Camaro that said boyfriend desires.

Of course, then, the maiden cake of this pan must be similarly worthy. Surveying the household opinion, the shouted conclusion was chocolate cake. Ah, but which one…? A quick search yielded approximately 695,000 results (thanks, Google!), none of which seemed to be exactly right. In the end, there was a spreadsheet of similar recipes, all scaled to 1 cup of butter, and an alarming number of identical recipes. The closest, actually, happened to be the King Arthur Flour recipe for Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake, were it not for the fact that I totally disregarded the instructions altogether. But enough about the dang pan and process, Jesus, girl, how was the cake?!

Well, then, I wouldn’t be writing this if the cake did not blow my mind, now would I? With a dual-layer texture that changes my preconceived notions on bundt cake, it’s been sliced and slivered away piece by piece. The crust tastes almost toasted, the best chewy brownie corners fading to velvet crumb three-quarters of an inch in. The flavor is dark and seductive, just sweet enough with hidden slivers of chocolate and bolstered with a full cup of freshly brewed coffee. This cake is best served 24 hours from the oven, having allowed its “crust” and “crumb” to settle together and flavors to smooth out.

Sour Cream Chocolate Bundt Cake
Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Every Other Cake Recipe available on the Internet
Around 10 cups of batter, bakes into 1 regular bundt cake or 2 8" x 4" loaves

¾ cup cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting the pan
1 cup hot coffee
1 cup butter, plus the paper butter wrappers (or extra) for buttering the pan
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate, finely chopped (~2-3 oz.)

  1.  Put the cocoa powder in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup or larger, and add the hot coffee, stirring all the while with a fork or a whisk. The result will be quite thick, as though you’ve made a very nice hot chocolate. Allow to cool while you complete the next steps.
  2. Cream together the butter and both sugars. I prefer a stand mixer, but this is definitely possible with a hand mixer or a spoon, patience, and elbow grease.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape the bowl between beating each one in. The batter will get much more creamy and smooth, starting to resemble excellent buttercream frosting.
  4. Add the vanilla and sour cream, and beat them in as well.
  5. Add the salt, baking powder and baking soda to the batter, mixing thoroughly.
  6. By now, the cocoa powder and coffee should be cool enough that the butter doesn’t immediately collapse when you add it. Carefully, because it may splatter, mix the chocolate into the batter.
  7. With a spatula, fold the flour into the batter, making sure to scrape the bowl. Flour and butter like to hide in the bottom of the bowl, particularly since there is a lot of batter in this one! Set the batter aside.
  8. Finely chop the chocolate and fold it into the batter. I liked dark chocolate for this one, but if you prefer your cake sweeter, perhaps milk is more to your taste.
  9. Thoroughly butter your bundt pan or 2 loaf pans, making sure that butter gets into every sharp corner. Take a handful of cocoa powder and sprinkle the inside, dusting it as you would flour. This preserves the nice brown color of the cake, and I like to think it adds an extra touch of pure chocolate flavor. If there is some left after coating the pan, pick up the pan and lightly tap it so the extra cocoa powder falls into the cake batter.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  11. The batter is thick; pour/spoon the batter into the bundt pan. You may need to turn the pan and spread it evenly, since the batter doesn’t flow well. Tap the pan onto the counter, a sturdy table or your knee to even out the batter.
  12. Pop it into the oven and bake for between 50-65 minutes (mine took 60 minutes for a wooden toothpick to come out clean).
  13. When the cake tests done, cool it on a rack for about 30 minutes. Then, turn it onto the rack and gently unmold the cake. Allow to rest for 24 hours, if possible.
  14. Slice and enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Getting Better – Tomato Cabbage Soup and Rice with Green Tea

And so I qualify as an old fart. With the move back to Riverside, I’ve been taking the train to work everyday, prying myself out of bed between 5am (early train), 6am (later train) and once, 6:30am (&*#%@\^$ I missed the train…!). This means, however, that once out of bed, I can no longer convince myself that falling back asleep is an option. This is helpful for normal days when I need to survive until 6:37pm (train is back in Riverside), not so great for sick days such as today.

Thing is, Bossman and Bosslady have been coughing around the office for 2 weeks. 2 weeks ago, I was sick with a sore throat and general misery, but the symptoms were different. I can only guess how it spread.

In any case, the past couple of weeks have been a comedy of errors, complete with packing miscalculations, missed trains and illness and injury. Things learned this past fortnight:
  • Do not try to pack and move everything you own within a single day.
  • 12-ft trucks are inadequate for the contents of a 1-bedroom apartment.
  • A single friend to help you move, no matter how dedicated (you’re awesome, and I probably owe you more Brazilian cheese bread), is probably similarly inadequate.
  • Perhaps moving the day after a particularly intense, full day of karate seminar, Instructor Training and your moving buddy’s black belt exam is not the best idea.
  • Shifting your sleep schedule several hours earlier is difficult.
  • Moving until 2am and waking up at 5am to get to work via a completely new transportation system will lead to errors in judgment.
  • Santa Ana is incredibly bike-unfriendly.
  • Sometimes, bike lanes are a ludicrous length, or lack thereof. Record goes to the one on Grand Avenue that is about 100 feet long.
  • Riding on the sidewalk, with frequent stops for pedestrians/cars pulling out of driveways/extraordinarily narrow sections due to power poles, etc. is surprisingly well-accepted. The alternative is to ride in the road, while cars blow by at 10mph above the speed limit, closer than 3 feet (illegal). See above point.
  • The bus will only be on time when you least expect it.
  • Biking in the rain and arriving to work more or less soaked is actually a lot faster than taking the bus in the wrong direction for nearly the entire length of the line. Thank you, Google Maps and GPS.
  • Karate training will come in handy when you need to sprint all the way from work to the bus stop in a mad dash with your backpack on, because the next bus will miss the late train going home.
  • Karate training will be awful when you realize that you are indeed competing this weekend, and indeed, your favorite kata (form) will be off-limits because you have torn the bottom of your right foot from wear and tear. This is a food blog; no further details provided.
  • Karate training will continue as regularly scheduled. When you go to bed, your abs will want to know why you are still using them. 
  • Karate training will result in getting home at 10pm, much improved from 11pm. The slow cooker will be your best friend. My boyfriend is the best slow cooker button-pusher in all of North America.
And with that, I present a soup that is simple, light, nourishing and very, very cheap, with a bonus of a simple, light, nourishing, cheap snack or breakfast. Do you see a theme here?

Tomato Cabbage Soup
Loosely inspired by The Wednesday Chef
Makes one fairly large pot

Small puddle of cooking oil
1 yellow onion
1 head green cabbage
2 14.5-oz. cans chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Black pepper


1. Peel the onion and cut into quarters. I like to cut it in half from root to stem, then turn 90° and cut again from root to stem. This lets me slice the onion into quarter-rings, which are basically small strips.

2. Wash and slice the cabbage. I repeat the onion slicing procedure with the cabbage, since they are both layered vegetables.

3. In a pot big enough to hold all the soup (no slow cooker) or a medium pan (slow cooker!), pour a puddle of oil about the size of your hand. I haven’t found that it makes much of a difference whether your hand is closed, open or you cover the entire bottom of the pan in oil (otherwise known in the food television world as "just a little bit").

4. Add the onion and turn on the fire; the onions will tell you when the oil is hot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are somewhat wilted and translucent.

5. Add the cabbage and cook further, until the cabbage is wilted and there are brown marks on both onions and cabbage. Add a bit of salt here, around a teaspoon or so.

6. If using a slow cooker, now is a good time to transfer all the vegetables to the slow cooker.

7. Add a bay leaf, the cans of tomatoes, and as much water as you like to the soup. I tend to use this water to rinse out the tomato cans, and end up adding between 2 to 3 cans of water to the soup. Season with another teaspoon of salt or two.

8. Cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 10 hours. This recipe is flexible!

9. When the cabbage is soft, salt to taste and add black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

This soup reheats spectacularly and keeps very well. My boyfriend says that it goes particularly well with bread, although I like it best plain.

Rice with Green Tea
Inspired by Just Hungry
Makes enough for 1 or more, depending on quantity

Cooked rice, preferably leftover
Hot water
Green tea bag


1. Cook the rice, or retrieve last night’s leftover rice that has stuck to the pan.

2. Boil water, add green tea bag.

3. Add tea to rice. Enjoy!

If you must have measurements…. I think I had ¾ cup cooked rice to 1 cup hot water, but honestly, the proportions matter very little. Some people enjoy a lot of tea, some people basically sprinkle their rice with tea.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

One more note: you may have guessed; this is an excellent way to clean the pan if the rice stuck to the bottom, simply by pouring the tea on top of the stuck rice. In a few minutes, it will be delicious and the pan will have no rice stuck to it.