A little while back, CNN created a list of 50 Natural Wonders in 50 States (http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/07/travel/50-states-natural-wonders/). The natural wonder in our state of Missouri is Elephant Rocks State Park. It has been many years since we took our older children to Elephant Rocks, so we decided to pack a picnic lunch and head out to revisit this park we only vaguely remembered. I baked a batch of corn flake crusted chicken and we were off. Such memories…this was the chicken we took on all our family picnics when the kids were home, and it was fun to realize, once again, how good it really is (the recipe is always on the back of the Corn Flake Crumbs box).
Elephant Rocks State Park
The huge pink boulders at Elephant Rocks are red granite. The granite was formed when hot magma cooled over a billion years ago, then gradually weathered into the huge, rounded boulders we see today. Over time the boulders will erode away, while at the same time, other rock is weathered, making new “elephant rocks”. The huge boulders are strewn throughout the park which also includes an old quarry. The granite rocks were quarried during the 1800’s, becoming paving blocks for the St. Louis levee and its downtown streets, facing stones on the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, and the material from which the turned columns on the front porch of Missouri’s Governor’s mansion in Jefferson City were made. In nearby Graniteville, you can see an old schoolhouse and several homes that were built using the highest quality granite blocks from the quarry.
A one mile paved Braille handicap trail leads through the park. There are several side trails leading to other interesting spots in the park. Children love to climb the rocks, they love trying to push the rocks, and hide behind them, making it a great place for a family outing. Here are some of the things you will see as you walk the trail at Elephant Rocks…
Elephant Rocks State Park is located in Graniteville, Mo, about 90 miles south of St. Louis. You can learn more about this “natural wonder” at http://www.mostateparks.com/park/elephant-rocks-state-park.
After leaving the park, we decided to look for a coffee drink. We found an antique, candy, coffee, etc. shop in Caledonia. It is called the Old Village Mercantile. What fun…we got great frozen coffee drinks, which remember was all we were looking for, plus 7 oz. bottles of coke (the only way it is really good), fudge, ground coffee, and those little sugar dots on paper I remember from my childhood. What a neat little shop in a tiny little town in rural Missouri. What a great day we had…a day trip not so very far from home!
Gooey Butter Cake was first made by a St. Louis baker in the 1930’s. It was actually a mistake in recipe ingredients that created this cake, but because America was in the midst of the Depression, the thrifty baker decided to sell the “mistake” anyway. It was a success and Missourians still eat lots of Gooey Butter Cake! There are two ways to make this cake. One way is to use a yellow cake mix and cream cheese. This method is quick and easy, but not the “real thing”. The real cake is made with yeast and lots of butter. It takes time, but it is so worth the extra effort! This slightly adapted recipe for Gooey Butter Cake is from Melissa Clark and appeared in the New York Times in November of 2009.
Gooey Butter Cake
To make the cake:
- 3 Tbsps. milk at room temperature
- 1 3/4 tsps. active dry yeast
- 6 Tbsps. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 Tbsps. sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups flour
Mix the milk with 2 tablespoons of warm water(about 110 degrees) in a small bowl. Add the yeast and whisk until it dissolves. You should see a bit of foam on the mixture. Cream the butter, sugar and salt in a stand mixer. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg. Add the flour and the milk mixture alternately, scraping down the sides of the bowl each time. Continue to beat the dough on medium speed for 7 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. It will form a beautiful, soft dough that you will press into an ungreased 9 by 13 glass baking dish. Cover the dish with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place* until doubled in size, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
*Here is a good hint for raising yeast dough when the weather cools and your house may not have any really warm place. Put the dish with the dough into the oven. Turn the oven to preheat at 400 degrees for exactly 1 minute. Turn the oven off and allow the dough to rise…works great every time! Just don’t forget to turn the oven off!
To make the topping:
- 3 Tbsps. plus 1 tsp. light corn syrup
- 2 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract
- 12 Tbsps. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 1 cup plus 3 Tbsps. flour
- Confectioner’s sugar
Mix the corn syrup with 2 tablespoons of water and the vanilla in a small bowl. Cream the butter, sugar and salt for 5 to 7 minutes until it is light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg. Add the flour and corn syrup mixture alternately, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Spoon the topping in large spoonfuls over the raised dough. Use a spatula to spread the topping over the cake in an even layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Be very careful not to over-bake the cake, keeping a close eye on it the last five minutes of baking. The cake, when finished, should be golden brown with an almost liquid center.
After the cake has cooled completely, sprinkle the top with confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!