Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dorie Greenspan's baking recipes finally
make it into my week with Cinnamon Squares

Recently I occurred to me that it was high time I tried a baking recipe from Dorie Greenspan.
   While I’ve tried a terrific recipe from Greenspan before, it was for a summer dinner dish (Grilled Scallops and Nectarines with Corn and Tomato Salad).
   Greenspan is also a baking whiz, the author of Baking with Julia for Julia Child.
   I have a copy of Greenspan’s 2006 book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, but just never got around to looking at it properly until recently. (Tuesdays with Dorie, however, an online baking club driven by food bloggers, has been baking its way through the book for literally years now).
   The first recipe I decided to try from the book is Cinnamon Squares (click for the recipe). It was a good one to choose, because they are an absolute delight.
   They’re a charming combination of soft cinnamon cake sandwiching a layer of cinnamon, espresso powder, chocolate and sugar and a frosting of melted bittersweet chocolate and butter.
   The recipe is very easy to make and completely family friendly.
   I did puzzle over one thing about it, though: Its title, Cinnamon Squares. In my mind, this is more accurately called Cinnamon Cake. I always think of squares, in terms of baking, as pieces that are much denser, harder and smaller than the cake produced by this recipe.
   But, as Shakespeare wrote, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and in this case, that’s exactly right (and taste as sweet, too).
   Although the cake is still very good for a few days after being made, I personally found it to be best on the day it was baked. Perhaps if I had stored the cake in the fridge it would have done a bit better in the days after baking.
   Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon are whisked together in one bowl, while whole milk, eggs and vanilla are whisked together in another. The liquid ingredients are poured over the flour mixture and gently stirred, then melted butter is folded in.
   Half of the batter is poured into an 8x8” baking pan lined with parchment or wax paper, and is sprinkled with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and instant espresso powder (available in the coffee section of the supermarket). The sugar-cinnamon layer is covered by the rest of the batter and the top of the cake is smoothed.
   The cake is baked for 35 to 40 minutes, left to rest for 15 minutes and then unmolded onto a rack. It’s left to cool to room temperature.
   To make the frosting, finely-chopped bittersweet chocolate and butter are put in a heatproof bowl that’s placed over a pan of simmer water. The mixture is stirred gently until it’s melted, and then is spread over the cake. The frosting is left to set at room temperature.

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