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Sunday Brunch

January 30, 2011

Cooking with a Culinary Scientist

This themed entry of Sunday Brunch takes you to Reuben's kitchen where he helps you recreate a fantastic (and sometimes not so fantastic) Disney recipe.  He could easily post the recipe and give feedback, but that's no fun!  With a background in Food Science and Baking and Pastry Arts, Reuben is hoping his tips and lessons will help in preparing the recipe for optimal results and help you become a better chef.

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It was a crisp, breezy morning by the waters at Disney's BoardWalk Resort and though it's not the salt waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the "sea" air was making you hungry.  Before your brisk walk (or mad dash) to the International Gateway to Epcot, why not fuel yourself with a delicious treat at the Board Walk Bakery?  After being lured in by the fresh baked smells, you ogled at the counter display and decided on a treat.  After 5 minutes, you polished off a slice of the buttery, moist, chocolate chip wonder that was the BoardWalk Bakery's Chocolate Chip Crumbcake!  FLASHFORWARD TO REALITY-you're sitting at home, eating a bowl of soggy cornflakes, wishing instead for a mere crumb of the warm and chocolate-y crumb cake.

You've wished upon the evening star and bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, my friend-like-me, your wish has come true!  Roll up your sleeves, add lots of butter to your shopping list, and prepare to learn how to make your dream vacation brunch a reality at home.  For this week's Sunday Brunch, I bring you-Sunday brunch!

Thanks to our friends, Mickey and the Disney Chefs, the recipe for chocolate chip crumbcake is available right here, right now, for your culinary pleasure.  And it's a mighty good thing this recipe was published because as of summer 2010, the bakery ceased making this delicious treat.  So not only are you getting the recipe for a Disney treat, we're digging it out of the vault!  To start, go shopping if you don't have the basics, but the ingredients for this recipe should essentially already be in your pantry.  I adjusted the recipe to fit in a 4.5" x 8.5" loaf pan.  You can double the recipe for enough to fill 3" x 5" mini loaf pans as suggested by the Disney chefs.  You will need:

- cup plus 1 tablespoon All-purpose flour, sifted
- cup Corn starch
- teaspoon Baking Powder
- cup + 1 tablespoon (about 1 and 1/8  sticks) Unsalted Butter (make sure to check or you'll end up with salty cake!)
- cup Sugar (white, granulated, pure cane-tomato, tomatoe, it's all the same)
- 2 Eggs
- teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract (imitation is fine too)
- Pure Lemon Extract (optional)
- cup Chocolate Chips

Tools: mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, Electric hand or stand mixer, baking pan, rubber spatula, mesh strainer or flour sifter, fork

Later, you will need these items for the Sugar crumb topping.  Weigh these out and set it aside.

1 tablespoon Butter
1/8 cup Sugar
3/8 teaspoon Vanilla
cup All-purpose flour

Let's begin!  I've written pages more than the recipe in the book, so if you just want the directions and wish to ignore my blabber about ingredients, molecules, and mixing methods, just look for the bold instructions.

Let's begin with getting everything in its place or as Chef Louis would say: mis-en-place.  It's most efficient to weigh out all your ingredients first rather than measuring as you go (unless it's something small, like a teaspoon of vanilla).

Cookbooks like to assume you're looking at this recipe hours or days before you're going to do it, but in real life, people crack open the cookbook because they're hungry NOW.  So you're in a quick bind to get some softened butter, and the last thing you want to do is nuke it in the microwave.  If your butter is fresh from your fridge, measure it out first to let it soften to room temperature while you gather everything else.  To speed up this process, slice up your butter in square slices or cubes.  The lesson is: increase the surface area!  By cutting up the stick of butter, you're exposing more of it to the air, so multiple cubes of butter are warming up at the same time rather than the warmth penetrating one giant stick.

When a recipe notes for sifted flour, you shouldn't ignore it, and it's important to measure the flour after you sift it.  If you measure non-sifted flour in your measuring cup, you're altering the proportions of flour in the recipe since cups measure by volume and not weight.  Non-sifted flour has settled, while sifted flour has air between the particles.  Think of it this way-imagine gathering a pound of Tootle's marbles and a pound of Donald Duck's feathers.  Being tiny but a bit heavy, you could probably fit Tootle's marbles in a small pouch.  You'll probably need a large shopping bag to gather a pound of Donald's feathers (you better run too, I hear he has a short temper).  I bring this up because sifted flour (like the feathers) will have a different volume than non-sifted flour (like the marbles), thus measuring by volume (cups) will give you a different amount of flour.  Sifting airs out the flour particles.  So when the recipe calls for sifted flour, sift it, then measure it out in your cup. 

Thankfully, the other dry ingredients (sugar, baking powder and cornstarch) are not as finicky as flour, so measure them with your measuring cups like usual.  Gently blend the baking powder and cornstarch with the flour and set it aside.  If you don't have a handy dandy flour sifter, you can use a mesh strainer like the one above, it works on the same principle. 

If you haven't done so already, have your baking pan, greased and ready for the batter.  You could grease it by brushing on shortening with a pastry brush on the bottom and sides of the pan, or spraying with a light coating of cooking spray.  Be sure to get the corners!  You could bake this recipe in either 3 small loaf pans as suggested by Mickey and the Disney chefs or in one standard bread loaf pan as I have done here.  If you want to get really creative, try out other bake ware like regular and mini cupcake pans, muffin pans, 9" round cake pans, etc., though the volume of this recipe may not be suitable for bake ware larger than the aforementioned.  Also, you'll have to really watch what you're baking b/c different sizes will give you different baking times.  Essentially, the smaller the bake ware, the shorter the bake time.

Now that your mis-en-place is done, we can finally start baking!

      1.  Before we start mixing, let's preheat the oven to 350 F.  A lot of people wonder why their baking doesn't turn out right and chances are they simply didn't pre-heat the oven.  While it's good to be energy efficient and wait until you're ready to bake to turn on the oven, this could drastically alter the final outcome of your product.  Your oven should be at the recipe temperature when you put your baking pan in and NOT be warming up to that temperature while you're baking pan is sitting in the oven.  This starts to pre-bake the surface of your product at a slow rate and at the wrong temperature, which could lead to that surface burning while you wait for the inside to bake.

      2.  Now that everything's prepared, let's start to put it together by creaming the cup + 1 T butter and cup sugar.  This means, you mix the grainy sugar with the chunky butter (that you've softened) until together they make a creamy, smooth, light yellow colored mixture.  You can either use an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment, an electric hand mixer, a heavy wooden spoon, a spatula, or your own two hands.

      3.  Next, add the eggs one at a time.  After you add the first egg, blend it well and then scrape the bowl to ensure even mixing.  Add the second egg and the vanilla and lemon extract with it.  You don't want to add all the eggs at once; otherwise the ingredients won't blend easily. 

      4.  Start to slowly introduce the dry to the wet by adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of the flour-cornstarch-baking powder mixture.  Continue to blend in the remainder of the dry ingredients in stages.  When you're on your last few additions, take the batter off the mixer and fold in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula.  I generally add the dry ingredient blend in thirds, and increase the fraction based on how much flour I have to add.  As with the eggs, it's best to do it in stages to evenly blend the ingredients.  With flour you have to be extra careful because it is easy to over mix the batter.  When you mix flour with wet ingredients, you are hydrating them and creating the structure of your final product.  On a molecular level, you are ripping and tearing up little chains and clusters of protein molecules in the flour and the water molecules bring them back together into a new cage-like structure with greater volume to create a network.  If you add the flour all at once, part of it may have an over indulgence in water while the other is still dry and it won't blend evenly.  When this happens, the first thought is to keep mixing it until it's all even, but you end up working the flour and water too much that it creates so much structure, your final product ends up tough and too chewy.  That's okay for bread to some extent, but definitely not for a soft and tender cake.

      5.  As soon as all the dry has just been incorporated with the wet ingredients, fold in the cup of chocolate chips.  As luck would have it, there were no chocolate chips in my pantry, but I had the next best thing: a chocolate bar.  If you're in the same predicament, chop up the chocolate bar into the desired size of chip.  Remember, the finer the chop, the more chocolate you'll get in every bite.  It's the same idea, just not in the perfect dollop chip form.  While I have your attention, folding in ingredients is just like it sounds. You gently fold over the dough or batter until the ingredient is consumed.  Remember Fauna in Sleeping Beauty?  Do what she did, but be gentler and make sure to crack open your eggs.  The folding method is great because it mixes in your ingredients without risking over mixing with a machine.

      6.  Pour the batter into your prepared pan and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  Oops, I forgot to tell you how to make that, didn't I?  Crumb topping directions: It's super easy, all you have to do is cream the 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/8 cup sugar with a fork, add the 3/8 teaspoon of vanilla, and work in the cup of flour until it's crumbly.

      7.  Sprinkle the top with chocolate so you know it's chocolate chip.  Also it adds a nice contrast between the yellow-white sugar crumb topping and the dark chocolate.  In culinary school, if there is a hidden ingredient (such as potential allergen) within a baked good, you need to garnish the top with it so people know it's there.  This is most commonly done with nuts and oats.

     8.  Bake your chocolate chip crumb cake loaf for 45-60 minutes.  You can check on its doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center and seeing if it comes out dry.  Don't be deceived if you poke a chocolate chip!  Pick a new spot, but try to stay near the center.  I used a large loaf pan, so it took around 60 minutes, plus my oven is finicky.  For smaller pans, you'll need to decrease the time.

Hooray, you've recreated a delicious Disney treat right in your own home!  Mickey and the Disney Chefs recommend serving a slice of crumb cake warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or with a nice hot cup of coffee or tea.  Make sure you move down the table for a clean cup of tea, and get ready to remember the magic of a Disney Sunday Brunch at the BoardWalk Bakery!


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