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Summer Reading: Barefoot Contessa Parties!

My favorite show on Food Network is Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa. I've made at least one recipe from every episode and all of the best shows are saved on my Tivo. I love her gay best friend/florist Michael and her bubbly, dorky husband Jeffrey. Her relaxed, yet elegant nature and simple, yet delicious menus remind me of my beloved grandma. Her recipes, which at times can be old fashioned, always highlight the pure flavor of the ingredients. Naturally, I have her Barefoot Contessa Parties! book. The title of the book has a little exclamation point that perfectly demonstrates both Ina and my point of view: parties should always be fabulous! The grilled salmon sandwiches, caesar salad with pancetta, and sour cream coffee cake are recipes that I use and make regularly. The coffee cake is wonderful to bring as a hostess gift, make for a depressed friend, or take to a potluck brunch. To look at the recipe from this amazing book,

Coffee Cake
From Ina Garten

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the streusel:
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light.
  3. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined.
  5. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
  6. For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.
  7. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
  9. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate.
  10. Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.

Serve 8-10.

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