Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sweet buttery treat followed by hearty beef dinner...

I asked Jeff what he thought would be nice for him to bring in for the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day this week at his office - he thought about it for awhile and decided some sort of snack or coffee cake would be a nice change of pace.

I went through a couple of cookbooks and found a recipe that I've had marked to try for at least a year and a half! Since the past few cake recipes we've made for Treat Day have been in a bundt pan, I choose to assemble this Cinnamon-Nut Coffee Ring in a classic tube-style pan. Layered in between and on top of this cake is a sweet crunchy streusel made from toasted walnuts, mini chocolate chips, sugar, flour, cinnamon and melted butter. Once you cut through the butterscotch tinted crust, you reveal a bright golden yellow interior to see the hidden streusel layer waiting inside to be devoured.

Tender from sour cream, this moist cake is buttery and dense, but not in a heavy way. There is a light cinnamon scent inside the cake that strolls through each piece as you bite into it - this helped to marry the flavor of the cake and streusel together. The mini chocolate chips added a fun twist - feel free to switch them out with dried cherries or cranberries for a different variation. When serving, I would opt to go for smaller slices - packed with flavor, a little goes a long way here.

Don't be daunted by the amount of ingredients that are needed for the recipe, Beef with Spicy Cocoa Gravy, that we made for dinner tonight. To flavor the meat, chunky pieces of top round steak are mixed with a variety of smoky and pungent spices - when thoroughly coated, they are then tossed with flour to help create a crust and to thicken the gravy later on. The original recipe has you toss all of the beef cubes in a Dutch oven to brown them - now maybe mine is small, but there was no way all of that meat was going to be able to fit in there and still have enough room to brown without them starting to stew. I choose to do this part in two batches - while it does add some additional time to an already lengthy recipe, it is very much worth it. When the meat is done, chopped onions and bell peppers go in to soften - they are followed by the addition of dry red wine for flavor and fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Beef broth, along with the browned meat, go back into the thin gravy and are allowed to gently simmer until the beef is fork tender and the gravy thickens into a beautiful hearty sauce. While the recipe name has "spicy" in it, don't take that to mean heat, there is little to no heat involved as the ancho powder is very mild - it just describes how flavorful this really is. While you won't detect a chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder, it wraps the flavors together and enforces a cohesive rich flavor. Since it has a good amount of extra gravy, I served this over whole wheat egg noodles and it was quite a filling dish. I did have plenty of time tonight to make this, but since it is fairly involved, this might be a meal better done on a lazy weekend.

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