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Deliciously Organic: Finding Inspiration and a Gooey Butter Cake

Deliciously Organic

A blog devoted entirely to simple, wholesome, organic cooking.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding Inspiration and a Gooey Butter Cake

I’ll admit I’ve felt a bit uninspired for several weeks.  I think the newness of moving has worn off and the reality of living in the desert has set in.  Before, when I needed some inspiration I would sit on my couch and look out among the huge pine trees, watching the squirrels chase one another and leap from limb to limb. In the spring, the cardinals would build their nests and in the summer, the monarch butterflies would come through in droves.  We spent many a morning on the back deck listening to the trees sway and discovering which new flowers were blooming.  Our home is still there, waiting in the woods, near the white sand beaches and the beautiful bay, waiting for us to return some day.  I’m waiting too, but right now when I look out my window, the view is very bleak.  All I can see is brown: brown dirt, brown sand, brown houses, all of it . . . brown.

There are little sacrifices to pay for being in the military and lately this has been one for me. Yes, it could always be worse; I’m the first to admit that.  I’m trying to find beauty in the brownness, but I’m presently having a difficult time.

Fortunately, this weekend I’m traveling for a few days and hopefully the colorful change of scenery will inspire my writing once again. I think we all go through times of drought; this is definitely a dry time for me (even though it’s been a rainy winter in the desert).  I told a few friends I was having a hard time finding inspiration.  They all empathized . . . they live out here in the brownness too. . . they understand.  While it’s completely bleak for me, it’s a great place for my husband to fly.  He was busy this week taking students up in his jet doing tower fly-bys at 600 miles an hour only 100 ft above the ground. (I'm still in awe that he can even do such a maneuver!)

In the midst of my drought I’ve been reading through many cooking blogs and came across this cake from Smitten Kitchen. I substituted whole wheat flour and organic whole cane sugar for the white flour and sugar and came up with a pretty darn good adaptation. It’s a humble cake, one you’d serve if a good friend was stopping by to chat.  It’s chewy on the outside and gooey in the middle with rich molasses flavors from the whole cane sugar.  After pulling it out of the oven tonight I told my husband how I was feeling uninspired then looked over and realized for the first time this cake is really brown. We both had a good laugh. So I guess the desert inspired me after all.

Gooey Butter Cake
This cake is best served warm. 
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 16-20.
3 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (for more info click here)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour, freshly ground preferred

7 tablespoons maple syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Stir milk with 2 tablespoons warm water in a small bowl. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Set aside.  Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, whole cane sugar and salt for about 1 minute on medium speed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn mixer to low, and beat in the egg and vanilla.  With mixer on low, alternately add flour and milk mixture until just combined.  Turn speed up to medium and beat for 3-4 minutes until dough comes together and pulls from the side of the bowl. 

Pour dough into a buttered 13x9 inch pan.  Spread dough (I used a greased off-set spatula) evenly along the bottom of the pan.  (it will seem like such a small amount of dough for such a large pan, but it will work!) Cover dish with a clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust rack to middle position. Pour maple syrup in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until simmering.  Continue to simmer until it reaches 240 degrees.  Take off of heat and measure out 3 tablespoons of remaining syrup into a small bowl.  Whisk in 2 tablespoon of warm water and the vanilla.  (if you wait to do this step, the maple syrup will harden.  If this happens you can melt it again over low heat on the stove.) Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, whole cane 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 maple mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition until throughly combined.

Spoon topping in small dollops over risen cake and use an offset spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cake is golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.

*I have yet to figure out a way to make this with soaked grains.  When I do, I'll make sure and post it for those who prefer soaking. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, your brown cake looks totally inspiring to me. Over here, we are still caught up in grey and dark skies. but let's hold on, pretty soon, colour will fill our window frames and all will be OK!

March 5, 2010 at 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you have to read that through a couple times to make sure you used "desert" and "dessert" in the right places? hahah... I hear you about the brown. I know how nature inspires us cooks. Well, if it is any consolation, I wasn't aware of your lack of inspiration... your blogs still seem inspired. xo Organic Spark

March 5, 2010 at 11:35 AM  
Anonymous mara said...

I'm from Missouri, so I know all about gooey butter cake, but I've never had a version like the whole wheat kind you've made. I think I will have to do some experimenting soon.

March 5, 2010 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Amy Cantilina said...

Thanks for sharing, Carrie. May the brownness of your desert turn into something gooey and sweet and wonderful as well! God always has a purpose to the desert...I know He'll give you eyes to see. And I agree with your other readers, we can't tell you're uninspired. You still inspire us to eat well and cook well.

March 5, 2010 at 12:07 PM  
Anonymous leah Richardson said...

Hi is a is in the wilderness times that God prepares a banquet table for us. It is in the wilderness times that he anoints our hands and lives until our cup runs over. In the browness is where you find him...turning browness into green pastures and still waters. You are such a blessing and your transparency is refreshing in itself! Leah

March 6, 2010 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Gwendolyn said...

My husband and I are PCSing in 3 weeks from the glorious California coast to the incredibly flat plains of Kansas. I hear you on brown and boring. Lovely post though :)

March 7, 2010 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Rachael Hutchings said...

Such a beautiful post. It's amazing how much a move can affect your inspiration. When we moved back to the US from Japan this past time, I really struggled for a long time--feeling a huge lack of inspiration and struggling with boredom. I look forward to seeing how your creativity triumphs over all the brown!

March 8, 2010 at 10:04 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Look past the brownness to each and every sunrise. You will find your inspiration there - they are breathtaking.

March 8, 2010 at 10:13 PM  

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