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!
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
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tub or bundt pan.
- Melt the chocolate in a microwave oven or in a bowl over simmering water.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium sized bowl.
- 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.
- Beat the egg whites until frothy in a clean bowl. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until smooth and glossy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To serve, sift confectioners sugar over the top of the cake.