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Thursday, July 8, 2010 07:31 am

Molly Killen’s St. Louis gooey butter cake

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Molly Killeen, owner of Made By Molly, is a St. Louis native who for years was pastry chef at NYC’s renowned Amy’s Bread. Her recipe harks back to the original bakery gooey butter cakes; she also reworked hers to be somewhat less sweet – something I appreciate, having found several versions I’ve tried cloyingly sweet.

FOR THE BASE:

  • 1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 5 T. milk
  • 6 T. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt, preferably kosher
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour OR substitute King Arthur white whole-wheat flour for all or part of the all-purpose flour


FOR THE TOPPING:

  • 3 T. plus 1 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 T. pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, preferably salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar, for sprinkling.

 In a small bowl, mix the yeast and 1 T. of the sugar. Warm the milk for a few seconds in the microwave, and stir into the yeast/sugar mixture. Let stand for about 5 minutes. It should start to bubble up. If it doesn’t, the yeast is inactive. Discard it and begin again with fresh yeast.

Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter, remaining sugar and salt. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg. With the mixer on low, add the yeast/milk mixture and the flour. Raise the speed to medium and beat until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.
Lightly spray a 9-inch x13-inch baking pan or dish at least 2 inches deep with cooking spray. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan and form a slight edge of dough around the rims. Cover with plastic wrap or lint-free towel, put in a warm place, and let rise until doubled. This can take anywhere between 1 to 2 hours, depending on the ambient temperature.

Preheat oven to 350º.

 While the dough rises, prepare the topping: In a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla until they are thoroughly combined. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg. Turn the mixer to low and beat in the corn syrup mixture and then the flour, scraping down the sides of the bow as needed.

Spoon the topping in large dollops over risen dough, then use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a light golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Cool in the pan before sifting powdered sugar over the top for serving.

Yield: 16 to 24 servings.

This recipe is adapted from one that appeared in the Nov. 4, 2009, edition of the New York Times.
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