August 30, 2011

Looking for an ordinary day...

After this past week, I am looking for some ordinary days.  Bring me back some calm, quiet, boring days.  I've had enough excitement and it's totally overrated in my book.  To recap, first there was the earthquake in Virginia that we felt here at home in New Jersey that took us completely by surprise and not four days later, Hurricane Irene rolled into the East Coast.  I mean, a hurricane - practically unheard of here on the East Coast, meaning we were unprepared and had a steep learning curve going into it.  Well...we scrambled, we worried, we strategized, and mostly, we hoped for the best.  The evening of August 27th was one long night but I'm thankful to report that we were very lucky and came out of it safe and without any damage.  I think the general consensus is things could've been a lot worse and while we're dealing with flooding and power outages in many places nearby, I have to think we were lucky.

It's not everyday that you live through an earthquake and a hurricane within the course of one week.  And I sure hope never to have to say that again.  I keep reliving the images of Hurricane Katrina in my head this past week (and every so often, frankly, because those images are difficult to forget once you've seen them) and I am just grateful that we didn't have to face the full force of Mother Nature because you just can't fight her. 

Unlike some of my neighbors in the area, we were lucky to maintain power during and after the storm.  And in times of stress and when we're stuck in the house, I headed into the kitchen (a lot) to bake something chocolaty.  I went for this "everyday chocolate loaf cake" because it's simple and I like the thought of an "everyday" cake right now - nothing fussy, nothing dramatic, just comforting, ordinary, and a bit plain.  That's what I'm craving at this moment.
I was a little off my game when I was making this new recipe.  Putting it into the loaf pan, it didn't look much like the beautiful cake batter I saw on smitten kitchen, where this recipe comes from.  Suffice it to say I was a little distracted by all the broken tree limbs I see outside the kitchen window and by the latest updates from our water company.  I wasn't sure how this cake would turn out but it tasted better than it looked going into the oven.  It has a nice flavor, not very sweet, and is great under a scoop of ice cream and with some chocolate sauce if you have it (unfortunately, I didn't). 
This chocolate loaf cake is simple and comforting, just what I was looking for.  It's not rich or decadent so if you're looking for a cake to wow the in-laws, this is probably not it.  But if you want a nice simple chocolate fix with your family after a storm, I think it's perfect.

Here's to calm days ahead...

I've bookmarked this cake from smitten kitchen for some time now.  It's no surprise since I love chocolate and simple, everyday cakes are great because you don't need a special occasion to make or eat them.  The pictures from the site had my mouth watering so I was disappointed when my cake batter didn't look like what I was expecting.  I could blame it on the effects of Hurricane Irene but I'm good with it since the outcome was a tasty one.

To make this everyday chocolate loaf cake, I used a standard loaf pan and butter and floured it.  In retrospect, I'd coat it with cocoa powder instead of flour since you're using cocoa in the recipe anyway and with no frosting to hide anything, the cocoa would give it a nice dark color all around when it comes out of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees while you mix up the batter.  First, cream a stick of room-temperature butter.  Once it's smooth and creamy, add a cup of packed light brown sugar and half a cup of regular sugar and beat for about 3 minutes until the sugars are well incorporated into the butter.
Then add one room-temperature egg and beat it into the butter-sugar mixture.
Add a cup of buttermilk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  This is the part where I wasn't very focused.  I took a picture while I dumped all the buttermilk into the bowl but probably should've poured it in slowly with the mixer running on low, which is what I'd normally do.  I also wonder if I should let the buttermilk sit at room temperature a while before I use it in baking where there's no other hot liquid because it's bound to be difficult to evenly incorporate a cup of cold buttermilk into room-temperature butter.  But I've never seen a recipe that specified room-temperature buttermilk so I didn't think it was particularly necessary.  The batter was uneven, with small lumps of butter in the mix but the recipe specifices not to worry if it looks a little uneven so I decided not to worry about it.
Now, either sift the dry ingredients directly over the bowl or like me, add them already sifted earlier, into the bowl.  Mix by hand and try not to overmix, as with most cake batters.  It was a bit hard for me not to overmix it since I was trying to work out some of those little butter lumps and since the batter turned out to be thicker than I expected.
My loaf was done in an hour.  Let it cool for about 15 minutes in the pan and then remove it and let cool completely on a wire rack. 
The cake had a dark, tasty chocolate flavor.  I like the additional moisture from a scoop (or two) of ice cream.  You could serve it with whipped cream and berries, as the recipe suggests also.  Or just wrap a piece up in a napkin and munch on the go.  Afterall, it's an everyday cake so no need to be too fancy. 

Anyway, my taste-testers and I enjoyed our slice of after-the-storm, everyday chocolate cake.


Everyday Chocolate Loaf Cake
From smitten kitchen, who adapted it from At Home with Magnolia

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room-temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room-temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Confectioners' sugar (optional), for dusting finished cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Use wrapper from the stick of butter to butter a standard loaf pan and coat it lightly with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth.  Add sugars and beat for about 3 minutes until fluffly and well incorporated.  Add the egg and beat well.  Then add buttermilk and vanilla, mixing and scraping down the bowl as needed.  The batter will be a bit uneven with some specks of butter.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the wet ingredients.  Stir this together by hand until blended, trying not to overmix the batter.  Scrape into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top.

Bake the loaf cake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove from the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.  Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve slices of the cake with ice cream of your choice.

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