Tuesday, September 30, 2008

cinnamon squares

Don't be deceived by the name. This is a cake. A fairly addictive one at that, and easy to make, too. I'm all about maximum return on effort. You might think it a bit boring or flat with just cinnamon, but I assure you it's not. This cake is warm and inviting from the spice, and a touch decadent from the layer of dark, unsweetened chocolate and espresso in the middle. The original recipe called for a bittersweet chocolate buttercream frosting, but upon eating a piece warm from the oven decided that it would be ridiculously rich and overpower the nice spice, chocolate, and coffee balance. With a handful of toasted pecans tossed in, this recipe would make for an excellent coffeecake.

Generally when you bake something sweet, you start by creaming together butter and sugar, adding the wet ingredients, then adding the dry. This recipe called for something a bit reversed that I had never seen before by mixing together dry, adding eggs and milk, then finally stirring in melted butter. I was intrigued by how homogeneous a batter I'd obtain, and how that would affect the texture of the cake. I can tell you that you will be rewarded for your unorthodox approach!

Cinnamon Squares
Mostly from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tbs sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (instant coffee works, too)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
10 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 8" square baking pan.

In a small bowl, stir together 2 tbs sugar, 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 1/2 tsp espresso together.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, salt, and 1 tbs cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla.

Pour liquid ingredients over flour mixture, and gently stir until you have a homogeneous batter. Will look lumpy, like so:

Next, gently stir in the butter just until absorbed. At first it looks like the butter will never incorporate, but keep stirring! You'll have a smooth, satiny batter when you're done.

Scrape half of the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the chocolate over the batter and dust with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cover with the rest of batter and smooth the top again.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. A thin knife or fort inserted into the center will come out clean. Let cake cool rest for 15 minutes before flipping it out onto a cooling rack. At this point you will not be able to resist any longer, so go ahead and cut yourself a piece.

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