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The Allure of Rustic-Style Baking

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Written by foodie pam   
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Photo by John Valls 2009.
For me, bakeries fall into two styles - the fancy French Patisserie style with ornate goodies that seem too delicate to touch and the rustic bakery with item after item of delectable indulgence that cries out to be eaten.  While the fancy baked goods have a time and a place I much prefer the rustic. Not only do the baked goods call out to you to eat them but they taste great and their casualness suggests, just perhaps, that you too can make them.

Grand Central Bakery is such a bakery and although I haven't had the pleasure of trying out their baked good first hand, a friend of mine has and attests that the items are truly wonderful.  What I have done though, through their recently published cookbook "The Grand Central Baking Book", is make their goodies in my own kitchen.  

Photo by John Valls 2009.
As Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson state, the goal of the cookbook is to allow home cooks to easily make the bakery's favorites at home using local and seasonal ingredients without fancy equipment.  Picture rustic biscuits filled with jam, muffins (see bread pudding muffin recipe below), scones, sandwich cookies and pies.  None of these items are fancy. In fact, if you ask me, many of them are more appealing when they are not perfectly sculptured but more imperfect, as they definitely are when I make them.  

The Grand Central Baking book not only has some great recipes for such treasures, but they also provide lots of details in how to make them.  And it doesn't stop with sweets, you'll also find breads and savories such as Spicy Potato Hand Pies.

The clover rolls are particularly appealing to me since they make a wonderful dinner roll for upcoming holiday dinners.   But so far, my favorite has been the Ganache Glazed Chocolate Bundt Cake (see recipe below). I admit, recently I've been going through a bit of a bundt cake fetish but this cake is deserving - it's rich, moist and covered with a chocolate ganache - need I say more?  

Ganache-Glazed Chocolate Bundt Cake

Reprinted with permission from The Grand Central Baking Book: Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, Pies, and Satisfying Savories from the Pacific Northwest’s Celebrated Bakery by Piper Davis with Ellen Jackson, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

This chocolate cake is truly a marvel. Not only is it luscious and moist, it bakes up beautifully in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the batter can be frozen without affecting the cake's flavor, texture, or ability to rise. At Grand Central, we use this formula to make cupcakes, layer cakes, kugelhopfs, sheet cakes, loaves, and, my favorite, a classic 12-cup Bundt cake drizzled with chocolate ganache. I'm usually not a stickler for fancy ingredients, but this cake deserves the best chocolate you can find.

Serves 14 to 16


  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1?2 cup)
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1?2 cup)
  • 3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (3 ounces) cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups (1 pound) packed light brown sugar
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8.5 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) lukewarm freshly brewed coffee (110°F to 115°F)
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) milk chocolate chips


  • 9.5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 11?2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) heavy cream

Prepare to bake.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Melt the chocolate.

Put the unsweetened and semisweet chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl suspended over a pot of barely simmering water for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted and is completely smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the dry ingredients. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very light in color-almost beige-y white-and the texture is fluffy, about 2 to 4 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl a few times during the process to ensure that the butter is evenly incorporated.

Add the eggs and vanilla.

Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup and add the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the eggs, letting them fall in one at a time and incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice during the process.

Add the chocolate.

Add the melted chocolate to the butter mixture all at once and mix on low speed until slightly combined; you don't need to fully incorporate the chocolate at this point.

Alternate additions of the dry and wet ingredients.

Whisk the sour cream and coffee together to achieve a smooth, room temperature liquid. (Adding too much of a cold ingredient can cause the chocolate to seize.) With the mixer on low speed, add one-third of the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Add half of the sour cream mixture, mixing to combine. Repeat, using half of the remaining dry ingredients and all of the remaining wet ingredients, mixing after each addition. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stop the mixer before they're fully incorporated. Add the milk chocolate chips and finish mixing by hand, using a sturdy spatula and being sure to scrape up from the bottom of the bowl.


Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the edges of the pan slightly and springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The top will probably split; use a cake tester to check doneness. Unlike with most cakes, the tester probably won't come out clean because of the melted chocolate chips. Refer to the Cake Mixing workshop on page 145 for additional doneness cues. Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before making the ganache.

Make the ganache.

Put the chocolate in a shallow bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until a skin forms, then immediately pour it over the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for a few minutes, then stir gently. The ganache should be glossy and have a smooth texture. If any chunks of chocolate remain, place the bowl over simmering water briefly and stir until melted.

Glaze the cake.

Turn the cake out and glaze it on a rack, if you have one. Place the rack on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Pour the ganache over the crown of the cake in one deliberate motion, distributing it as evenly as possible all the way around. Let the glaze set up for 20 minutes before transferring the cake to a plate or cake stand.

Bread Pudding Muffins

Reprinted with permission from The Grand Central Baking Book: Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, Pies, and Satisfying Savories from the Pacific Northwest’s Celebrated Bakery by Piper Davis with Ellen Jackson, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Bread pudding is normally found in the dessert chapter of a cookbook. When I was a baker, I arranged my baking schedule so that these bread puddings were still warm when the lunch crowd arrived. But there always seemed to be more customers asking for bread pudding early in the day. Not one to stand in the way of people who enjoy dessert for breakfast, I started baking the bread pudding earlier and earlier, until it wound up in the breakfast pastry lineup. Since Grand Central bread pudding is baked in muffin cups and tastes quite a bit like French toast, this seems fitting.

If you can't think about bread pudding before noon, don't hesitate to bake this for dessert. Finish it with a boozy hard sauce or fresh berries mixed with a bit of sugar to draw out their juices.

Makes 12 pudding muffins

  • 1 pound crusty artisan white bread
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 11/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) heavy cream
  • 11/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Prepare the bread.

Slice the bread and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Put it in a large bowl and toss it with the cinnamon.

Make the custard and pour it over the bread.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, cream, milk, and vanilla together until well combined, then pour the custard over the bread. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or generously grease with butter.

Scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of the pudding mixture into each of the 12 muffin cups; each one should be nicely mounded. Top off each pudding with any remaining custard.

Bake for 45 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through the baking time. The puddings should be lightly golden brown on top. Dust them with confectioners' sugar while they're still warm.

About The Grand Central Baking Book

ImagePacific Northwesterners flock to the Grand Central Bakery for their favorite baked goods: gooey jam-filled buttermilk biscuits and hand-formed rustic breads baked in a hearth-style oven, insanely flaky croissants, and flavor-packed whole wheat cinnamon rolls. Now these much-loved recipes are available to home bakers for the first time, accompanied by easy-to-follow pointers on baking for breakfast and brunch, cookies, fruit desserts, cakes, pies, and more. Piper Davis, the daughter of Grand Central's founder who grew up in Grand Central Bakeries, generously lets home bakers in on all the family secrets that have made Grand Central the first morning stop for locals for more than three decades.

Available at

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 December 2009 )
spm (Author) 2009-12-24 11:02:54

Oh my, that cake looks amazing. Will have to do this very soon.
Mrs Ergül (Unregistered) 2009-12-27 05:55:17

That photo really got me there!
Mrs Ergül (Unregistered) 2009-12-27 05:55:37

Wow! That photo really got me there!
Grand Central Bakery
reciperose (Author) 2009-12-28 16:27:03

I've been to Grand Central and can attest to the deliciousness of the many treats I couldn't resist! I'm sure the recipes will taste wonderful from our own kitchens and look every bit as good too!
lena (Unregistered) 2011-06-11 14:23:26

What type of cocoa powder is supposed to be used here: the Dutch-processed (dark/alkalized) or the natural one (like Hershey's)? Thanks.
pam (Publisher) 2011-06-12 18:37:55


In general unless "Dutch process" is specified in a recipe, use natural unsweetened cocoa powder. So for this recipe I'd go with a natural one.
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