by Sharon Davis – Home Baking Association
The art and science of baking enriches lives beyond belief, and there are so many to thank! A family baking heritage, mentors, professors, friends, farmers and personal passion. Next to thank on my list is Melanie Wanders, King Arthur Baking test kitchen Research and Development team member and the author of Baking School: Lessons and Recipes for every Baker, October 2022, King Arthur Baking Company.
Melanie is perfectly acquainted with the “bridge” from home to careers in baking. Hers began perched on a stool in Ohio next to the stove watching in awe as her mother whipped up everything from eclairs to soufflés to serve at her neighborhood’s gourmet club. With tape recorder in hand, she’d interview her mom about the process, asking about the ingredients and techniques she was employing to make each recipe. Then, Melanie would head into the kitchen to experiment on her own.
From high school culinary and baking jobs to degrees from Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park NY to intern with Alice Water’s Chez Panisse to chocolatier in New Hampshire and Germany to her return to U.S. as a chef instructor and shop artisan owner in metropolitan D.C. she has honed her skills. Joining King Arthur Baking in 2011, Melanie been our teacher serving on the Bakers Hotline, teaching master pastry and pie techniques at the Baking School and conducting test kitchen ingredient and product development.
“After years of sharing our kitchen with students we searched for ways to bring the Baking School skilled teaching into our students’ own kitchens. We compiled a list of our most popular recipes and captured invaluable instruction and guidance from instructor notes, photographs and chapters. I had the privilege to work on the recipes and instruction for the pastry chapters while other instructors worked on the bread chapters.”— Melanie Wanders
Melanie chose Cocoa Streusel Coffee Cake to share from Baking School. Yield: 1 coffeecake
Cocoa Streusel Coffee Cake
Melanie’s Notes – We love coffeecakes, both yeasted and chemically leavened. This example is the perfect bridge to the world of cakes. We cream the butter just to combine it with the sugar and the eggs rather than creaming to aerate as cake recipes often do, and the result is a somewhat denser crumb.
The cake itself is rich with sour cream and vanilla, and the streusel adds flavor and texture to make this a classic example of the genre. The baking soda reacts with the acidity of the sour cream to leaven the cake, but we also add baking powder to help lift the butter and streusel.
This cake is spectacular baked in a Bundt or tube cake pan, but in a pinch you could bake it in a 9”x 5” loaf or a 9” square baking pan.
113 grams (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
198 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
240 grams (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
300 grams (1⅓ cups) sour cream, room temperature
106 grams (½ cup) light brown sugar
6 grams (1 tablespoon) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
19 grams (2 tablespoons) dried currants
71 grams (⅔ cup) walnuts or pecans, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Place the butter, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer and beat together on medium speed until well combined.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined after each addition.
4. Add the flour in three portions, alternating with the sour cream and mixing until well combined after each addition. Set aside.
5. Thoroughly grease an 8-cup Bundt pan. (Not sure of your pan’s size? Pour 8 cups water into the pan and it should fill it to the brim.)
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
1. Combine all the filling ingredients.
2. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
3. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the batter, then top with the remaining batter. Lightly and briefly swirl together the batter and filling with a small spatula or knife.
4. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.
RECIPE source: Melanie Wanders, King Arthur Baking Company, Baking School: Lessons and Recipes for Every Baker, 2022.
Here is the link to purchase Baking School: Lessons and Recipes for Every Baker whether for you or for the baker you love!