Wednesday, December 16, 2009

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

It's been a good year. If I could, I would bottle it up and store it in the bottom of my coat closet to open in the middle of a future year that isn't so awesome. Maybe then I'd have the time to actually savor and really enjoy the year. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's hard not to think about all the wonderful things I've experienced this year.

I've made new friends, gone to new places, accomplished new goals. What more could you ask for?

One of the most memorable things I've done this year was run a 200 mile relay across Kentucky with 11 other runners. Some people I knew beforehand, but the majority of the team were complete and utter strangers to me up until a few months before the relay. I happened upon the role of Team Captain and throughout the planning process I worried about such a large group of random people in tight quarters, under extreme conditions (running in the middle of the night, living in a van) getting along together.

But you know what? We all did. Everyone was awesome. I was so happy and impressed with how team-oriented everyone was. It was a great experience (despite the shitty weather) and I cannot wait to Captain the team again next year.

To celebrate how awesome we were as a team (we had an amazing finish time), I hosted a post-relay party at my place. It was a good chance for the team to reassemble and hang out together. I made a big pot of chili, had a bunch of beer, set out some chips and salsa and a couple of different types of cookies.

In case you don't know any runners, let me let you into a secret about us: 1. we love food and 2. we love booze. Seriously... runners run to eat and drink (or at least all the ones I know do). I came across this recipe linked on Serious Eats and immediately bookmarked it.  Gooey and Butter are two words that make me swoon. And so when this party rolled around, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to give them a try.

As always, I read through the entire recipe and was undeterred by the fact that it calls for a stand mixer and yeast. I've got a hand mixer. That's good enough, right?

Well, as I was mixing the yeast mixture (for 10 godforsaken minutes) I started to realize that this method just might not work. My dough never pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Never really formed a "dough" like I thought it should. But, I proceeded anyway. And when it never really rose or doubled in size. I thought.. what the hell? I've already invested a lot of time into this, I'm just going to bake it off anyway and hope for the best.

I baked it for a little longer than it needed, just because I was nervous that the dough was going to be.. gooey gross instead of gooey good.

And you know what happened? I was thrilled with the results! The bars were chewy and oh so sweet. Simple and yet deliciously decadent. Ironic that these bars turned out much the same way as the relay team that they were intended for did. High expectations, nervous and anxious while preparing, but a stellar outcome.

I can't wait to make them again.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
recipe from NY Times

This recipe was supposed to turn out awful. I didn't use a stand mixer, my dough didn't rise. But in the end... it turned out awesome! I'm not sure if thats the way it's supposed to be, but I was happy with the results and so were my guests.

It's not a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming, because of the yeast dough. So make sure you have the time to commit.

3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the topping:
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

1. In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

5. Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

Yield: 16 to 20 servings.