Monday, November 17, 2014

Tunnel of Fudge Bundt

I'm feeling sort of grouchy today. I'm not sure why. I mean, I ate a piece of delicious fudge-tunnel bundt last night. I started re-watching my favorite docu-series of all time, Ken Burns' The West (I'm a total sucker for sweeping landscapes and sad violin music and stoic b&w pics and awkward historians). Everyone in my house accidentally fell asleep and we woke up just in time to make it to our show -- our improv team, Lady Parade, was participating in an indie cagematch and despite our drowsy state, we won! It was an exciting night of improv and friendship.

But still, I woke up late, and sort of perturbed. I tried all of usual tactics to shake it. I went to Target (for dish soap and tampons, but still). I listened to my favorite Beyonce classic, "Countdown," and car-danced. I even ate a tiny square of cheese. Two squares, really.

My therapist and I recently went through a mutual and necessary break-up because I abruptly switched insurance plans. You know what, that's not fair, it didn't need to be abrupt, I knew about it for months. I turned 26 and was dropped from the sweet, comfortable, includes-dental nest of my parents' health insurance. I knew it was coming and I didn't really make that clear to her because I felt awkward. So, I cowardly left a voicemail last week that let her know I wouldn't be at my appointment that week or... ever. And I said I'd send a check and quickly hung up and felt very guilty -- a perfect emotion to discuss with my therapist, unfortunately. She left a voicemail this morning that said she was "sorry I wouldn't be coming back," she was "sorry she didn't accept my new insurance" and she "truly hoped the best for me." It feels like all that's left is for me to pick up my stuff at her place, if I had left anything at her place, and listen to some sad music. If it's anything like one of my last breakups, which she knows quite a bit about, I should listen to The Eagels' "Best of my Love" on repeat in traffic and sob-talk the lyrics. I probably won't do that again, but never say never!

Okay, regardless of my current mood, Saturday was National Bundt Day, which is a big fucking deal. Because information is power, here are some facts about everyone's favorite cake-with-a-hole-in-the-middle:

  • Like me, the bundt pan was born in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
  • Unlike me, the bundt was created in 1950s by the Dalquist Brothers, who founded the Nordic Ware cookware company. They were approached by women from the Minneapolis Jewish-American Hadassah Society who wanted a modern, cast-iron version of a Gugelhupf (traditional German fruitcake) pan. 
  • In German, "bund" could refer to way the dough is "bunched" in the pan. It could also refer to a "group of people," since one typically shares a bundt with loved ones. The "t" was added to successfully trademark the pans.

For some reason, the bundt pan wasn't initially very popular, and the Dalquists considered discontinuing the pan. 

Helfrich and her two masterpieces (her cake and her hair)
However, that all changed in 1966, when Ella Rita Helfrich won second place in the Pillsbury Bake-Off with her "tunnel of fudge" bundt cake. The bundt took the country by storm! And we've been loving them ever since. 

I AM a busy lady!
In honor of National Bundt Day, I really had to attempt the famous tunnel of fudge situation, despite the fact that the name continues to make me feel uncomfortable. The cake itself is a magic trick -- the "tunnel of fudge" forms inside the cake only if you cook it at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time. Some message boards even recommended using an oven thermometer, which I was not going to do. Miraculously, my cake still produced its very own fudge tunnel and once again, I was disproportionately proud of a cake. I mean, what else is new. 

This recipe is somewhat controversial because Pillsbury apparently discontinued the Double Dutch frosting mix that was originally used to create the tunnel. They swear it was basically cocoa and powdered sugar, but depending on what website you're on, some Midwestern ladies continue to lose their shit and really lay into Pillsbury over this great loss. I didn't know it, so it's hard to miss it. ( <-- poignant take-away from this post.) 

Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake

1 3/4 cup softened, unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup white sugar
6 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chopped walnuts 
(believe it or not, they are apparently essential to create the fudge tunnel)

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 to 6 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Aggressively grease and flour your bundt pan.
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until it is fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time.
Add the powdered sugar. 
Add the flour, cocoa, and walnuts, and stir by hand. This will probably be pretty difficult, because the batter is incredibly thick and unwieldy. I thought about giving up several times, but you should power through, because there is fudge in it for you at the end (and on the spatula, if you're into that sort of thing, as I am).
 Spoon the batter into the bundt pan, making sure it is evenly spread.

Could be eaten on its own, I'm sure.
Bake for 45 minutes. Because of the nature of the cake, you cannot use the toothpick test, but you can tell the cake is done when the edges start to separate from the pan. Don't over-cook.
Cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 1 1/2 hours.

This cake is DONE!
Flip that shit onto a plate (because the cake is so heavy, it is a very satisfying clean release). Cool for another 1-2 hours.
Prepare the glaze by mixing together the powdered sugar, cocoa and milk. I tried to do this over heat to make a "hot fudge" scenario and that sort of crashed and burned. If you want a thick, shiny glaze, don't do what I did. 

This... kind of didn't work.
Drizzle the glaze over the cake, letting it run down the edges.
Cut into it and hope a tunnel of fudge reveals itself to you.

This cake is HEAVY. It is like the craziest brownie you've ever eaten that wasn't crazy for other reasons. You'll definitely want to have a big glass of milk on hand -- or, like me, a big wine glass full of milk to add some elegance to your dessert experience. 

Happy baking!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Marbled Mocha Walnut Bundtlettes

I was home last weekend (again, I know, shuddup) and while I was primarily in the North Star State to attend a wedding -- a super fun marriage of two of the best people I know, no big deal -- my trip happened to coincide with my sister's weekend trip home from Chicago. We did have to share a car, and avoided most issues except when I straight-up took her car keys and there were no spares and I was in a show and that was a problem. But mostly, now that we don't live in the same place and neither of us live at home, coinciding trips are rare and fun.

Annie is very good at selfies.

Even though she's 22 and I'm 26 and we are basically very grown-up ladies, given the right cocktail of circumstances, we have no problem returning to the approximate ages of 10 and 14 and realllllly giving each other the business. We used to bicker a lot when we were younger, mostly over things like personal space and volume -- of the TV or the other one's voice. We are pretty different people, which was not something to be admired with perspective when we were sharing bunk beds or the middle seats of our family's GMC van. I'd like to think I was a very cool big sister, but I wasn't a "very cool" anything and did some pretty torturous things -- like when I told the peanut-hating Annie that peanut M&Ms were bigger because they had more chocolate in them and she ate one and threw up in the lobby of a skating rink. Or when I threatened to put grapes under the grape-hating Annie's pillow if she didn't bring me a pop. I knew where to hit to make it hurt the most. I was a monster. But! In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, she could be incredibly annoying and... and... ugh. I don't remember any specific things she did to me. Maybe recorded over some of my SNL VHS tapes? I don't know. Like I said, I was a monster. Processing some things now...

...and I'm back. Yeah, we were both mean to each other, I'm sure. Yeah, yeah.

I look too satisfied, like I was the one who just had the baby.

When we were little, it felt like a problem that we were different people who did things differently. We didn't look alike, we didn't dress alike, we solved problems in our own ways and had different types of friends. This was even hard for our parents to process, I think. I signed up for every single activity available to me, and when my parents went through the motions of putting Annie in the same sports and clubs, she straight-up refused to participate. I remember her standing on the ice rink, completely still with tears down her cheeks, staring at my parents in the bleachers and silently begging for them to put her out of her snow-pantsed misery (the peanut M&M incident was not related, we spent a lot of time at ice rinks). I thought, Why not just skate? Just do it and have everyone watch you and then you can feel great and special and skilled! But that's never what Annie wanted. She only did the things that made her happy, for herself, and she's still like that and it's very admirable and something I'm working on because I'm still all, Just do it and have everyone watch you and then you can feel great and special and skilled! Processing some things now...

...and I'm back. Yeah, yeah, everything's fine.

Annie didn't get a lot of credit growing up for all of the things she's really, really good at. And while I think it took her until high school and college to truly figure out all of the things she loves and wants to do, she's currently in a great groove and I'm so proud of her I could cry. She has an incredibly big heart that is full of patience and love, which is why she's so good at being around kids and animals and why she's studying early childhood education and photography at Columbia College in Chicago. (Some of this post makes it sound like she's dead, with this past-tense business, but she's not and I sent her this post before I published it because, you know, she's not all, Just do it and have everyone watch you, etc. etc.)

Thanks for this one, Sears Portrait Studio!

As I was gathering ingredients to make these bundtlettes, I called her to vent about my essentially trivial problems, and she said, "Instead of saying 'I feel guilty,' try saying, 'I am grateful.' It's a completely different tone and perspective. It's lighter."

My little tiny baby sister has grown into this very insightful young woman and it sort of blows me away -- not because I don't think she's capable of being wise, but because I sometimes can't help but see her as that 10-year-old in my personal space being annoying. She still hates my boring clothes and I cannot believe how much zebra print she wears and surrounds herself with, but we have found a lovely common ground. And I don't feel GUILTY about accidentally hitting her in the face with a baseball bat when we were little, I am GRATEFUL she has forgiven me and that they were just baby teeth.

Marbled Mocha Walnut Bundtlettes

 First of all, this recipe certainly accommodates a full-size (12-cup) Bundt pan... You don't have to make bundtlettes but COME ON, HOW CUTE ARE THEY?!
Also, the mocha ribbon is more of an accent flavor and is not dominant, so if you want something more chocolatey, you could add more or... whatever, try something that isn't so chocolatey, you chocolate animal.

2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup ground walnuts (Don't ever pay more for finely-ground anything. Do it yourself with your inner strength/rage!)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of softened, unsalted butter (Shh... butter is good for you...)
2 more tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter (Everything's fine)
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Ghirardelli, because did you know I'm very fancy??)
 1/4 cup coffee, hot or cold
1 teaspoon finely-ground instant coffee
1 3/4 cup white sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease/flour your bundt pan WELL. We've been over this.

Greased and floured and ready!
Whisk together the flour, walnuts, baking powder and salt. Depending on the texture you want, you can keep some of the walnuts in pieces.

Crushed these with my own brute force.
 Double-boiler time!! If you don't have a double-boiler, don't worry! Make your own, like I did! But DO NOT put the chocolate mixture over direct flame. Instead, use a bigger pot to boil water on the stove. Put the 2 tablespoons of butter, chopped chocolate, coffee and instant coffee in a smaller pot.

Butter and chocolate and coffee -- pretty much all of my favorite things.
Place the smaller pot over the simmering water and stir constantly until it is melted and well-mixed. Keep the heat fairly low -- the water doesn't need to be at a rolling boil to do the job.

Double-boiler, shdouble-shmoiler!
When melted, remove the smaller pot from the heat and set aside.
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine the sugar and 2 sticks of butter until it turns to a paste (about 3 minutes).

This consistency is very frustrating. Deal with it.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture becomes smooth and satiny.
Keeping the speed on low, alternately add the dry ingredients and milk.
Drizzle the batter and the chocolate in the pan, in layers.

Basically art.
If you are using a bundtlette pan, bake for about 15-18 minutes (the batter should be enough for 12 bundtlettes). If you are using a regular bundt pan, bake for about 65 minutes.
As always, use the toothpick test to determine if it's done. But you already knew that.
Let it cool for about 5 minutes before carefully releasing onto a plate!

Feel free to dance around the kitchen if you, too, achieve a perfect flip!
These moist lil' guys are hefty and delicious -- and the walnut batter is incredibly good... just trust me, don't judge me. 

Happy baking!