After spending a week with me here in Boston, Ian, my boyfriend, left to fly home today. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wouldn’t get to see him for most of the summer and how much I would miss him, which was how those little tears came to be. But no matter, I’ll have the whole summer to learn to have a life outside of him (sorry hon :)), take care of my family, and happily experiment with more baking!
That being said, I was reading one of my favourite cookbooks the other day, The Best of BetterBaking.com by Marcy Goldman, when I stumbled upon her recipe for Kouign Aman (Breton Butter Galette). With the recipe was attached a story about how she had first been introduced to these sinfully buttery pastries when visiting a small local bakery in Montreal. Kouign aman is a many-layered pastry that is similar to a croissant dough but a bit heavier. It bakes up wonderfully chewy on the inside and delightfully sweet and crisp on the outside. The whole thing just reeks of butter, one bite immediately sends you to a butter-laden heaven. At least, it did for me. After reading the story, I realized that Ms. Goldman was talking about the very same bakery I had visited! I had gone to the charming little Montreal bakery for its kouign aman because I first learned of it from this exact cookbook! After making the mental connection I felt, I would imagine, how one would feel upon learning that one had dined at the same restaurant as one’s favourite movie star. I was elated. I felt special. I craved for that sweet buttery feel on my tongue once again.
And so I was inspired to make another recipe from Marcy Goldman’s book, the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. The recipe has always intrigued me, particularly by the use of yeast in a so-called cake. I’ve never been to St. Louis and have never heard of the dessert before. Ian has gone to St. Louis a few times although he’d never noticed it there either. But, as the recipe contained a healthy dose of butter and contained the word “gooey” in it, I felt that it may satisfy my butter craving.
It isn’t a difficult recipe, if you’ve had any experience at all working with a yeast dough, it should be a piece of cake (pardon my very bad pun ;)). The end result is a lovely round loaf with a light crumb, and a gooey, creamy topping, as promised. The cake seems more like a sweet bread to me but who cares what it’s called when you first bite into all that buttery gooey-ness?
Here is the recipe. I used a 9 1/2 inch deep dish pie plate and smaller round glass dish instead of two 9-inch cake pans. I also cut the topping in half and replaced the corn syrup with honey.
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
(makes two 9-inch cakes)
adapted from The Best of BetterBaking.com by Marcy Goldman
3 Tbsp. warm water
3 tsp. instant yeast
1/2 cup warmed milk
1/3 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour (may need a bit extra)
2 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup warm water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Spray with cooking spray or grease two 9-inch round cake pans, set aside.
For the dough, whisk together the water and yeast together in a large bowl and let stand for a few minutes to dissolve and activate the yeast. Stir in the milk, sugar, egg, butter, vanilla, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Blend until smooth and gradually add more flour until a soft, smooth dough is formed (may need extra flour). Knead for about 5 minutes, dusting your hands and the work surface as needed. Place the dough back into the bowl, and put the bowl inside a large plastic bag to let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until almost doubled.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Combine all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix until blended into a smooth paste.
Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide in half. Press each half into the bottom and sides of a prepared pan. Make some slits on the bottom with a small knife. Spread half the topping on each cake. Let rise, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, or until puffy.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, bake for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes, or until bubbled and lightly browned. Let cool until topping settles down, about 15 minutes (if you can wait that long). Cut into wedges in the pan and serve warm, dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired. I dusted mine with some cinnamon because I was out of confectioner’s sugar. At room temperature the next day the topping was less gooey but still delicious.
Look at all that yummy goo!