The first time I made this, I thought it reminded me of the Sara Lee coffee cakes that I grew up with. (Only better. A lot better.) I based the recipe on a coffee cake recipe from King Arthur. It is one of my husband's favorite things in the universe. I've upped the spices, cut back on the cinnamon and even added a little heat. The spices are forgiving and can be adjusted to your taste, and it's a great winter breakfast--it warms up your morning with a cup of strong coffee. —drbabs
For the Starter
all purpose flour
active dry yeast
For the Dough
All of the Starter
2 3/4 cups
all purpose flour (I've used white whole wheat flour.)
active dry yeast (the rest of one package after you've made the starter)
The night before you plan to make this cake, make a starter. Combine 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of water and 1/8 teaspoon of yeast (reserve the rest) in a small bowl and let it rest overnight at room temperature.
In the bowl of your mixer (fitted with a dough hook), combine the starter, 2 3/4 cups of flour, milk, butter, egg, 1/4 cup of sugar, salt, vanilla extract and the rest of the yeast. Mix together 3-5 minutes on low speed until the dough is smooth, supple and stretches easily. This is a very wet dough, so I think it would be hard to do this by hand. Place the dough in a bowl, covered with a clean towel, and let it rise for about an hour. It may not double--that's OK.
Mix together the toasted pecans,chocolate, spices and brown sugar. Gently deflate the dough and knead the chocolate-pecan-spice mixture into the dough. Keep folding the dough over itself until the spices are blended through the dough and the nuts and chocolate are fairly evenly distributed (but it doesn't have to be perfect). Shape the dough into a flat ball and place it in a 9-inch round cake pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the loaf to rise till it fills up the pan and slightly crests over the top. (about 2 hours) Place pecan halves in on top of the cake.
Heat the oven to 350 and place the rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 45-50 minutes. It should be golden brown and an instant-read thermometer placed in the center of the cake should read 190 degrees. Remove from oven, and after about 5 minutes, take it out of the pan. (You may need to slide a knife around the edge to help release it.) Let it cool completely.
When the cake has cooled, mix the confectioner's sugar, salt and maple syrup together, and drizzle it over the top of the cake. (If you have any leftover, be sure and wrap it in plastic wrap or the cut surfaces will dry out!)