Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brown Butter-Glazed Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Coffeecake




There are two kinds of people in the world: chocolate dessert people and fruit dessert people. (People who don't like dessert: not people.) I used to place myself firmly in the former camp, and freely admit to being a devout chocophile. But I don't often get a chance to bake with it, since there always seems to be some pesky fruit (or vegetable, as the case may be) to use up, or take advantage of before the season ends. And though I nibble on chocolate almost every day, I can't even recall the last time I ordered a chocolate dessert at a restaurant.


So the other night I thought to myself, aha! I'll bake something chocolaty. Perhaps something classic, like brownies or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. But as I opened the fridge to pull out the butter, a jar of butternut squash puree stared back at me.

After much deliberating, I came up with this coffee cake. The texture is moist and rich, and the chocolate really satisfies (but feel free to increase the chocolate factor if you like.) The brown butter glaze came out surprisingly well, and even a powdered sugar-avoider like myself couldn't stop licking it off of spoons, spatulas and whatever other utensil I found handy (ahem - fingers). I did find myself missing the tang of cream cheese in this cake, so next time I plan to cool the vanilla-infused brown butter and whip it into a cream cheese frosting.


My friend and fellow dancer, Mike, who is about ten years my elder, blurted out the other day, 'Will you be my grandma?!' While that may be physically impossible, this cake did strike me as a rather grandmotherly thing to make. Not by my grandmothers, who were too busy cooking brisket, blintzes and rugelach, but perhaps someone's.

I miss you, Grandmas!


Brown Butter-Glazed Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Coffeecake

Makes one 9" cake, 8 - 12 servings

The cake:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plain, whole milk yogurt (or try buttermilk, sour cream or creme fraiche)
1 cup winter squash puree
2 cups (8 oz.) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
a few turns black pepper
1 cup (5 oz.) dark chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate
glaze, below
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped, for the topping

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350º. Lightly grease a 9" cake pan and line it with a round of parchment paper (or use an unlined springform pan).

Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until fluffy and light, a few minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Meanwhile, stir together the yogurt and squash in a measuring cup and sift the dries into a medium bowl. Alternate adding the dries and yogurt mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dries, in 3 additions. Mix on low until just combined after each addition, then mix in the chocolate pieces.

Spread into the pan and bake until a tester inserted comes out mostly clean (a few crumbs are ok), 45 minutes or so. Let cool. Invert onto a plate, remove the parchment, then flip onto another plate so it's right side up. Spread with the glaze and sprinkle with pecans.

The glaze:

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
pinch salt
1-3 teaspoons water or milk

Combine the butter and vanilla pod and scrapings in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until it turns golden and smells nutty. Combine with the powdered sugar in a bowl, and whisk in enough water to make a pourable glaze (if the mixture 'breaks', don't despair - keep whisking in small amounts of water or milk until it comes back together.)

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