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Anatomy of a coffee cake recipe


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Suzanne--the recipe does specify blending with a mixer for 45 seconds--first in the bowl with the sugar, egg and butter (I didn't--I mixed by hand) and then again when the moist mixture is added to the flour and baking soda and powder mixture and again at the end with the addition of the final ingredients. But it does specify that each go with the hand mixer should be short--approximately 45 seconds.

As much as I ever follow a recipe to the letter of the law (I hand mixed rather than used a hand mixer)--I did so this time because I knew exactly what I was after and I wanted to end up with the "Claire's" cake. I am open to trying other mixing methods (and even different recipes) but she does give specific instructions in the recipe and I really do think that something has been altered over the years--or that the recipe in the book is simply not the one they use in the restaurant.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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...  I really do think that something has been altered over the years--or that the recipe in the book is simply not the one they use in the restaurant.

Now THAT is more than likely! Especially since you followed the directions (closely enough) as stated.

What can happen in restaurant kitchens is that the "official" recipe gets lost and then recreated from (imperfect) memory; or someone makes a change that becomes part of common practice without becoming part of the official recipe. Or field conditions change -- maybe a particular brand of ingredient drops off the market, and the substitute just doesn't perform the same way. And the home cook might use an entirely different set of brands and equipment -- all of which perform differently from those at the source.

These are only a few reasons why a "restaurant" recipe doesn't yield the same result at home that one gets at the source. What got my back up here was the almost immediate assumption that the recipe was "erroneous" -- and by extension that the source was somehow guilty of obfuscation or worse. Also that people were so willing to suggest making substantial changes, without knowing all the circumstances of the experience. Bad science.

Fat Guy @ Feb 3 2003, 12:01 AM

Field trip to Claire's, followed by baking experiments.

That's the way! :biggrin:

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...  I really do think that something has been altered over the years--or that the recipe in the book is simply not the one they use in the restaurant.

Now THAT is more than likely! Especially since you followed the directions (closely enough) as stated.

What can happen in restaurant kitchens is that the "official" recipe gets lost and then recreated from (imperfect) memory; or someone makes a change that becomes part of common practice without becoming part of the official recipe. Or field conditions change -- maybe a particular brand of ingredient drops off the market, and the substitute just doesn't perform the same way. And the home cook might use an entirely different set of brands and equipment -- all of which perform differently from those at the source.

These are only a few reasons why a "restaurant" recipe doesn't yield the same result at home that one gets at the source. What got my back up here was the almost immediate assumption that the recipe was "erroneous" -- and by extension that the source was somehow guilty of obfuscation or worse. Also that people were so willing to suggest making substantial changes, without knowing all the circumstances of the experience. Bad science.

Fat Guy @ Feb 3 2003, 12:01 AM

Field trip to Claire's, followed by baking experiments.

That's the way! :biggrin:

It wasn't immediately assumed that the recipe was wrong. It was assumed that Ellen had been meticulous in her craft, since she was after a specific result, and seemed to be sure that she was going to get what she wanted as long as she followed the recipe. The fact that it produced an acceptable cake indicates that the recipe she followed worked. The fact that it did not produce the cake as advertised indicated that the recipe was wrong. There is an assumption here (later confirmed by Ellen herself), but it's a stretch to call it bad science.

[soapbox]

I don't see where intent makes a difference. A recipe that is wrong is a recipe that is wrong, regardless of how it got that way. This was from a published, consumer-level cookbook, not a professional collection. There's no excuse for not testing recipes, and testing them under the conditions that the reader is likely to encounter. The purchaser of a cookbook has a right to expect that what is in the book will be accurate -- that's part of what they're paying for.

[/soapbox]

Nothing personal, Suzanne. I have a great deal of respect for you, your experience, and your opinions :smile: .

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Claire says, emphatically, that the recipe in the book is the exact same recipe used in the restaurant, and has offered to walk us through the whole process at some point. So, I will snack on my hat for now and report back when we learn how to make this thing right.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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To achieve the moister, denser, darker coffee cake, I would try

1- using brown sugar instead of regular sugar,

2- stick with the butter or replace it with 1/2 cup vegetable oil,

3- cut out the Baking powder and just use the baking soda

If that still does not work out more moist and dense, try adding another 1/2 cup sour cream.

Another thing to consider is using a flavoured coffee soaking syrup after the cake is baked, poke a few holes in it with a skewer and pour a bit of coffee flavored syrup over it then cover it and let it soak for a bit.

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Like another poster - this is EXACTLY the same recipe I use for my Sour Cream Coffee Cake (an old family favorite). Risking being redundant, and overly simplified, I think the issue is the mixing. The butter and sugar are creamed ONLY until blended. Sour cream and eggs are added, again only until blended. Then the flour, salt and leaveners - sifted together, added in stages. I do this in my kitchen-aid (fondly named Kermit cause he's green) and once the butter and sugar are creamed, I never raise the speed past 2 and come out with a VERY thick batter. This results in a very dense, silky. moist cake, not airy or light at all. I am curious to see if this is the answer as Claire's mystery unfolds.

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  • 4 years later...

I am resurrecting this *very* old post because I haven't had a slice of Claire's delicious Lithuanian coffee cake since 2003, and I've had a major craving lately! I bought her cookbook years ago while I was still in college, but like other posters, the outcome was nothing close to what she sells in her restaurant (even the filling tastes different).

Has anyone had better luck???

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  • 6 months later...
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