We went South for the holiday weekend—to Iowa. Our retreat to Strawberry Farms was decidedly not a luxury Valentine’s getaway, it was, rather, like going to visit frumpy parents we don’t have (because our parents are not frumpy). Strawberry Farms had country charm—tap water that smelled of rotten eggs, a limping elderly golden retriever, chipped hardwood floors installed in the 1850s, and old, rough, dirt-flecked towels. This was the first bed and breakfast I’ve ever been to in which the hosts come into your bedroom and set up a bedside card table while you sit clutching your blankets about you. The hosts were unapologetically themselves, peeling paint, a century of clutter and all, and that, I believe, is at the heart of genuine country charm. No such dazzle, but ah, rest.
We ventured into several nearby towns during the snowstorm: Le Claire with the Mississippi River Distillery, Grasshopper’s Chocolate, and old timey music booming from old timey lamp posts.
and into Muscatine where we found the perfect post-OB rotation pizza place, and a bottle of wine for an old married couple to share for a Valentine’s Day toast.
This is a recipe I pulled from an article in Cooks Country because I was scandalized to read that this “bread” is routinely made for public school children to complement their chili hot lunch. No, no, no, rural South Dakota, once you have three cups of brown sugar, what you have made is decidedly not bread, it is cake.
Country Cowboy Coffee Cake
Adapted from Cooks Country Feb/March 2013
Bread—okay, coffee cake:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
Cinnamon as desired
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and move oven rack to the middle of the oven. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
For the cake, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and process until combined. Add butter and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in buttermilk and eggs until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
For the topping, return 1/2 cup of the cake mixture back to the food processor and add the brown sugar and butter. Pulse until mixture looks like wet sand. Sprinkle the topping over the of the cake.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes before slicing.
Worst photo I’ve ever taken of one of my meals–but I think after my country experience this weekend my threshold for self-consciousness was several notches below standard.