March 30, 2012

Everyday Chocolate Bundt Cake

Last weekend I visited a few of my best friends on the planet, who all conveniently live in Brooklyn, which is naught but a four-hour bus trip from here. Counter to my fair city’s reputation for transience, the DC I know is a place where mostly everyone seems to have known their friends from the age of zero, and where one Sunday at a bar, for instance, Joey ran into a years-old roommate and two former smooching partners, one of whom was also the baby-love from his elementary glory days. Having unceremoniously abandoned California nearly four years ago, I’ve put myself in the sometimes liberating, sometimes lonely position of spending the majority of my time with people who haven’t known me for all that long, and whose perspective on my personhood must be so much different (more forgiving? more confused?) from that of those who knew me during my unconfident, yet ballsy college days.

More than anything, the trip to Brooklyn was really a relief. We drank, loafed, and ate; we joked, complained, and plotted. With hands to the ceiling and dance moves a-go, we scream-sang karaoke to Hole and Kelly Clarkson until 5:00 a.m. before sleeping for three hours to wake up and eat deviled eggs at breakfast the “next” day. Spending the whole weekend with my old friends—some of whom I hadn’t seen in years, actually—was like allowing myself to bask in our shared weirdness, or our unfiltered self-ness. It felt like being home. I’m not sure when I’ll get to see them next, especially as I am making very exciting decisions that take me fairly far away from New York and DC, but I am thrilled to have had last weekend, just as I’m looking so very forward to knowing my DC friends for years upon years and coming home to them too.

And finally, in the spirit of roots, here is this amazing Bundt cake, the shape of cake that is my very absolute favorite. I grew up with Bundts, from my mom’s utterly drunken rum cake, to her casual yellow cake with chocolate glaze and the kissin’ cousin angel food cake with mashed strawberries which is so similarly shaped. I prefer it to all cakes except birthday cakes, because the shape is somehow reassuring, and because generally the batters come together without fuss. This one features some whole-wheat flour, beer, yogurt, and beer again in the glaze, and I highly recommend that you make it right soon and share it with all of your friends. 

Everyday Chocolate Bundt Cake
Adapted, barely, from 101Cookbooks

2 cups (16 oz.) chocolate or coffee stout or porter (I used Southern Tier Jahvee)
3/4 cup cocoa powder, not dutched (I used the fahn-cy kind), plus more for dusting
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar (trust)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup maple syrup, grade B is best
1 1/2 cups plain whole fat yogurt (I used 2%)

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder, not dutched
2 to 3 tablespoons chocolate or coffee stout or porter
Sea salt for sprinkling

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the center. Generously grease an 11- or 12-cup Bundt pan with about two tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle with cocoa (Pro tip: instead of your usual flour, cocoa will keep the chocolate cake from having white streaks after it's baked) and tap out the excess. If you lack such a serious Bundt pan, use two standard loaf pans and adjust the baking time (about the same for metal, more for glass; start checking the cakes at 30 minutes), or one 8- to 10-cup Bundt pan and some side cupcakes. Whatever pans you choose, just try not to fill them more than two-thirds to three-fourths full, cautions Heidi.

2.  In a medium saucepan, simmer the stout for about 25 minutes until it is reduced to one cup. Whisk in the cocoa powder and butter, and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally to break up the heat.

3.  In a medium bowl, sift flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, syrup, and yogurt until uniform in appearance. Gradually whisk in the cooled stout mixture, stirring all the while. Add the flour mixture, folding with a rubber spatula until just blended.

4.  Transfer batter to your choice of pan (I vote Bundt!), and bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 45 minutes until a knife inserted into the relative center comes out clean. Start checking your cake at 30 minutes, as this is one you don't want to overbake. Remove from oven and turn cake out onto a cooling rack after seven minutes.

5.  While the cake is cooling, whisk all of your icing ingredients in a medium bowl. Add more stout or more sugar as necessary to achieve your desired consistency. Pour over the top of the cool-ish cake, or use an off-set spatula to swathe it on. Sprinkle with some flecks of sea salt before enjoying; don't be dismayed that the salt will eventually dissolve and leave li'l dimples in your frosting. It still tastes great. Cake keeps for about four days, covered, or longer in the fridge. It's actually great cold, so I recommend the latter.

March 9, 2012

Pi(e) Day: A Benefit for Radio CPR!

Next week marks the unfortunately undercelebrated and totally wonderful holiday of 3.14, or Pi(e) Day! In California, I tagged along in college to supreme math nerdery in a kitchen of mad scientists who every year ate nothing but pie -- sweet and savory both -- all day long, but the holiday fell by the wayside in my recent years until my pal Emily brought her awesome ideas back to DC. Nothing in the House celebrates Pi(e) Day every year, and every day really, and this year she is getting together with the community of folks behind and in support of Radio CPR to throw a Pi(e) Day station benefit. 

A host of DJs, bakers, musicians, supporters, eaters, designers, and friends (including yours truly) are getting together to fill St. Stephen's Church with pie, coffee, and community as we raise some funds to keep the radio station reigning tall. If you're in DC, consider attending! A five-dollar donation is suggested for all the pie you can eat, pretty much, and there will be a pie walk from whence one lucky winner will take home a full pie. Radio CPR is essentially the reason why I have any friends in DC, thanks to the post-modern lady magic of Dianamatic, and you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be there with a full pie artillery in support. See you there!

CPR benefits previously: here and here