Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

Several weeks ago, I was talking with one of my friends, a talented pastry chef, and we were mulling over the concept of her future dream bakery. We were discussing a baker's individual brand and how that would effect the bakery aesthetic and baked goods. To me, having a clear understanding of exactly who you are is what makes for the best dining establishments because the experience is so cohesive. When the idea of "New England Style" came up, I loved the idea and then quickly realized I did not have a grasp on what that really meant. Ask me about Florida style baking and I can easily relate to an array of citrus and tropical fueled treats; but New England style drew a blank for me. Considering New England is my home now, I felt it was important to understand what stemmed from this region and how these dishes have impacted culture and tradition since.

I was approached by the Harvard Common Press to take part in their Boston Blogger Cookbook Tour by selecting a cookbook from a list and writing a recipe to share. When I got the list of cookbooks it was difficult to choose but New England Home Cooking stood out to me immediately. At 672 pages, this thing is the bible of New England fare. The best way to understand what food was really like during the 20th century isn't to read published cookbooks by chef's and restaurants; it's to look at the recipe curation booklets from church groups, industry wives, and neighborhoods. That's what New England Home Cooking reads like - honest and uncomplicated - like each recipe could've been made by my own mom growing up. I learned a ton about lobster,oysters, and chowder but of course skipped directly to dessert!

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)

A large portion of the dessert section in this cookbook is dedicated pie and I have a lot of American pride for pie since we were the very first to make it sweet rather than savory. USA! Alas, pie has dispersed it's popularity across the country and I wanted something more uniquely and currently New England. Instead, I went with a chocolate cake recipe, seemingly boring until you realize the secret ingredient - mashed potatoes! Not growing up with this technique made me skeptical, but luckily previously mentioned pastry chef friend had introduced me to The Holy Donut in Portland, ME which makes incredible mashed potato based donuts. I decided to go for it. The cake was light on cocoa, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with roughly a quarter-inch layer of powered sugar. When complete, it looked stunning, rustic, and tasted great too! I'm proud of my first adventure into New England baking and am really excited to continue learning from The New England Cookbook and discovering this region's food for myself.  

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Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)
Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1+1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4oz unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole or lowfat milk
  • confectioners sugar

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tub or bundt pan.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a microwave oven or in a bowl over simmering water.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium sized bowl.
  4. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with 2 cups of sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Beat in the mashed potatoes and the cooled chocolate until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, mixing just until no specks of flour remain. 
  5. Beat the egg whites until frothy in a clean bowl. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until smooth and glossy.
  6. Stir one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites just until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  7. Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on the shape of the pan, until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Begin checking at the minimum baking time and do not overbake.
  8. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan, turn the cake out of the pan and cool completely on wire rack.
  9. To serve, sift confectioners sugar over the top of the cake. 

Photos by: Zac Wolf Photography
Recipe from: New England Home Cooking

New England Apple Cider Doughnuts

I'm willing to bet that if I polled people in the New England area about their favorite reason to go apple picking - apple cider doughnuts would be one of the top responses. It's crazy how good these doughnuts are and it's something about their delivery - still warm, in a single napkin, passed through a window - that really makes me respect how they can hold their own in the ever-exploding trendy doughnut scene. In New England, cider doughnuts are synonymous with falling leaves as one of the first signs of autumn. They surely sell them at supermarket chains but the best doughnuts come from the side-of-the-road farm stores. They are small and dense but pack serious cider flavor. Even the cinnamon sugar crystals linger on your lips and question your decision to order just one. I can't wait to head out to the orchard for my annual picking session and consequent questioning of "okay now what do I do with all these apples?" One thing is for sure - I'll be pondering that over an apple cider doughnut. 

apple-cider-doughnuts

New England Apple Cider Doughnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil for frying (enough to fill 3" in a large pot)
  • 1+1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1.  In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed (with the paddle attachment, if using a standing mixer) beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  5. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.
  6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment, wax paper, or a silpat and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto 1 of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes.
  7. Pull the dough out of the freezer. Using a 3-inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second prepared sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. (You may re-roll the scraps of dough, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.)
  8. Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Have ready a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels. Keep your eye on this temperature and adjust your burner to make sure it doesn't fluctuate too much.
  9. While oil is heating up, mix together granulate sugar and cinnamon in something with a flat bottom and short sides like a small casserole dish or cake pan. Set aside.
  10. To fry and assemble: Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels after the doughnuts are fried. Roll the doughnut in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until fully covered. Set on a cooling rack or eat warm (my favorite!)

Recipe adapted from The Washington Post (2004)
Photos by: Zac Wolf Photography


Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)

Have you ever had a Cinnabon? Those babies are a sugar induced heart attack disguised with cream cheese frosting. They are also all I ever wanted at any mall or airport growing up (THANK YOU mom to saying no 99% of the time). On the rare occasion that I did get  to indulge in a monstrous Cinnabon, I would basically go straight for the middle by carefully unrolling the bun until I reached that soft, hot, bready core. My fingers would be covered in sticky cinnamon magma that no amount of wet-naps could contain. Looking back I'm realizing where my habit of being the messiest person at the table stemmed from. Oops. Anyway, the maple bacon cinnamon buns I made here remind me of that core because all edges are soft and sugar coated. Nothing is worse than an over-baked cinnamon with hard edges - at least in my opinion. These rolls - stuffed to the brim with cinnamon and sugar - are yeasted but have no rise time. What that means is you can be enjoying a casserole dish full of ooey-gooey goodness in about one hour! 

Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)
Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)
Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)

Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour  + extra flour if needed, see directions
1 cup buttermilk, warmed 1 min in glass measuring cup in microwave
2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (one 1/4-ounce packet)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

Filling
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), very soft
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons cinnamon
2-3 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped

Glaze
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9-inch pie dish or 8x8 inch casserole dish by spraying with cooking spray

2. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine all dough ingredients and knead for about 7 minutes, or until dough is soft, smooth, and has come together in a firm mass. If hand-kneading, you may need to knead a few minutes longer.  Note - Dough should be smooth, not overly sticky, and fairly easy to handle. If your dough is very wet, moist, sticky, or gloppy, add flour in 1 tablespoon increments until it comes together easily.

3. Turn dough out onto a silpat-lined or cooking sprayed work surface.

4. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a rectangle that's approximately 9x14 inches.

5. Spread butter in an even layer over the surface of the dough, leaving about 1/4-inch margins around edges; set aside.

6. In a small bowl, add sugars, cinnamon, and stir to combine. Evenly sprinkle mixture over the buttered dough. Sprinkle chopped bacon over cinnamon and sugar.

7. Starting with the 14-inch side, roll dough up into a tight log.

8. Make approximately 1-inch slices using plain (not mint) waxed or unwaxed dental floss. It's the best way to slice rolls so they don't get squished and lopsided.

8. Place rolls into prepared pan.

9. Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until cooked through and set. Watch rolls closely so you don't burn them. The dough is so white and will fool you into thinking it's still raw when it's not. Rolls continue to firm up as they cool. While rolls bake, make the maple glaze

10. Over low heat, melt the butter and maple syrup together. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/2 cup powdered sugar. 

Recipe adapted from: Averie Cooks
Photos by: Zac Wolf Photography

Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls | Becca Bakes (www.becca-bakes.com)

Chocolate Sprinkle Peanut Butter Cookies

Hey all! I'm on vacation this week so I just made something quick, easy, and delicious. These Chocolate Sprinkle Peanut Butter Cookies are great for a snack on a flight or a long car ride. Expect a more in-dept and exciting post next week! 

Chocolate Sprinkle Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (not all-natural)

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1 eggs

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 cup chocolate sprinkles

1. Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into batter.

3. Fold chocolate sprinkles into batter and then place batter in refrigerator for 1 hour.

4. Scoop on to baking sheet with a 7/8oz scoop. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for about 10-12 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. Do not over-bake.

Recipe adapted from: All Recipes