Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daring Bakers Yeasted Coffee Cake

Late again.  This pretty much how everything has been with me recently.  Things get done, but definitely not on time.  This is one thing I am glad I got done, even though late. 

The March 2011 Daring Baker's Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria's Collection and Jamie of Life's a Feast.  Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.   I really enjoyed this coffee cake and love that the filling can easily be altered and you can get two variations in one recipe.  I love it when I can provide options without increasing the amount of time spent in the kitchen.  

Because I didn't make it until the last minute and then didn't pay attention to how much time the whole process would take I left it to proof too long.  By the time I got around to rolling the dough out it had started to deflate.  Due to time restraints I didn't let it proof long enough during the second proof, so I don't think the cake part was right, although it was still tasty.
For the filling I had to do a little digging through my kitchen.  I came up with some dried fruit, pecans, almonds, chocolate chips and an apple pear jam.  So, I had one cake with a chocolate chip pecan filling,

and the second cake was filled with dried fruit, almonds and apple pear jam.

I loved both fillings, and my husband was happy to have a non-chocolate option.  The cake with the jam was a little hard to roll and filling exploded.  The jam was a little soft and add a some extra moisture which caused the egg whites to break down.  If I do a jam version again I will make sure to whip the whites a little extra and gently fold the jam in rather than spread it directly on the dough.

This is a great recipe for a brunch or an afternoon snack, just make sure to plan it out so the bread has enough, but not too much, time to proof.

Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar
For the filling:
Jamie’s version:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate
Ria’s version:
1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home – recipe below - or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store)
1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)
Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes
**Garam (means “hot”) masala (means “mixture”) is a blend of ground spices and is used in most Indian savory dishes. It is used in limited quantities while cooking vegetables, meats & eggs. There is no “one” recipe for it as every household has a recipe of their own. Below, I am going to share the recipe which I follow.
4 or 5 sticks (25 g) Cinnamon Sticks (break a stick and open the scroll)
3 ½ tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cloves, whole
100 g. (3.5 oz.) Fennel seeds
4 tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cumin seeds
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g / less than half an ounce) Peppercorns
25 g (less than half an ounce) Green Cardamom pods
In a small pan on medium heat, roast each spice individually (it hardly takes a minute) until you get a nice aroma. Make sure you stir it throughout so that it doesn’t burn. As soon as each spice is roasted, transfer it to a bowl to cool slightly. Once they are all roasted, grind into a fine powder by using a coffee grinder, or pestle & mortar. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.
Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.
With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.
Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.
Prepare your filling:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.
Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.
Assemble the Coffee Cakes:
Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).
Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.
Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.
Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.
Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.
Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.
Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pound Cake

Another month has flown by and it is time to reveal what the Cake Slice bakers have been working on.  This month we made Lauren Chattman's Chocolate Cream Pound cake.  It was a nice cake, nothing exceptional, but since my family managed to devour it in about a day I will probably be making it again.

I made a couple of minor changes.  First I added a tablespoon of coffee to the cocoa heavy cream mixture.  I love the combination of coffee and chocolate, the coffee makes the chocolate much richer.  I sometimes make the coffee a little too strong, but I love coffee, so I am fine if there are coffee undertones.

The second change was the pan.  I received a beautiful min-bunt pan a few years ago and have never had luck with it.  I break it out about once a year hoping it will finally produce beautiful little cakes, but it has yet to work for me.  Most of cakes get stuck and the ones that do come out never look like I hope they will.  I had the same results this time.  The daisy cakes came out fine, one of the sunflowers was a success and the roses were a big mess.  I am beginning to think this pan would be better used as a decoration.

I say give this recipe a try if you are in need of a quick easy snack.  Check out the other Cake Slice bakers for more ideas.

March’s Cake: Chocolate Cream Pound Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

6 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (1stick) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour.
Sift the cocoa powder into a heatproof bowl. Place the cream in a microwavable bowl and heat for 30-60 seconds until just boiling. Pour the hot cream over the cocoa and stir and mash with a spoon to make a thick paste. Set aside to cool.
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bow once or twice as necessary. Beat in the cocoa powder paste until smooth.
With the mixer on medium-low speed add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake the cake until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert it onto a wire rack and then turn it right side up on the rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.
Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Stout Cupcakes

St. Patrick's Day is one of those holidays where I always have great plans for making fun yummy treats and then never get around to doing anything.  This year I had plans for Irish Soda bread and shamrock sugar cookies, both easy yet I never got around to making them.  Part of the reason I didn't get to them was I became distracted by these Stout cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream.  I remember seeing the recipe last year and wanted to make them, but never got around to it, so this year I put everything else aside and decided to focus on the adult desserts and let the kids fend for themselves.  And oh it was such a good decision.
I have made the Bailey's buttercream before and it is just mouthwatering.  I could eat a bowl of it by myself, in fact it is a pretty good snack when slathered on a graham cracker.
I hadn't done the cupcakes before, but am glad I gave them a try, they will definitely be added to the collection.  I did have a little problem when mixing the liquid ingredients together, I didn't bring the beer up to room temperature before adding it to the melted butter which caused the butter to solidify in weird clumps.  I poured the beer butter mixture through a sieve and remelted the butter, but it was still clumpy and the cupcakes had small hard pieces.  Which while not awful definitely messed up the texture.
This recipe makes a lot of cupcakes, I made two dozen large ones and another two and half dozen small ones.  When I make them again I will do even more small ones.  The ratio of buttercream to cake was perfect.  In fact I think I will add them to my mini dessert options.

Courtesy of Jami Schmidt and 
3/4 cup of unsweetened coca plus more for dusting at the end
2 cups sugar
2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp Baking soda
Pinch of fine salt
1 bottle of Guinness (room temperature)
1 stick melted butter (cooled slightly)
1 tbs Pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cups sour cream

Preheat to 350
Mix together dry ingredients in one bowl
In another mixing bowl combine stout, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream until combined and smooth. Gradually add in the dry.

 Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating half way through  

Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting
Courtesy Martha Stewart
3 sticks unsalted, room temp butter
4 C. powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cream butter until smooth.  Slowly add in powdered sugar, scraping down the sides as needed.  Add Bailey's and vanilla and beat until combined and smooth.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dessert Platter

I volunteered to do desserts for a silent auction at my daughter's preschool this past weekend.  I spent too much time debating over what to make and didn't leave myself enough time to make as much as I had hoped, but I was pleased with the items I did get done.
They requested all bite sized items, so I turned to Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker, which is a great source of inspiration.  I have turned to her book quite a few times and have always been very happy with the results.  This time I used her recipes for Sweet Cheese Puffs and Chocolate Macaroons, both were wonderful.
Sweet Cheese Puffs, I have made these a lot and they are one of my favorites.  The dough is a sour cream pastry and they have a cream cheese filling.  This time I did just a vanilla and lemon flavored cream cheese, but I have also added finely diced poached pear to the filling, which is also fabulous.  I like doing these because they can be done a week or so in advance and kept frozen.

Any flavor Macaroons is just wonderful.  I love their crunchy, chewy texture and they always look pretty.  I was scared of them for longest time, anything with meringue scares, but they are really simple - just remember to leave them on the tray until they have cooled completely otherwise you won't get the crisp coating on the bottom.

I had a bunch of mangos that needed to be used and these were the perfect solution.  They were quick and easy to make, it also helped that my husband was willing to be my Sous chef and chopped all the mango for me.

My cake scraps were also put to use to make orange cake truffles.  I used my yellow cake scraps, some cream cheese frosting from a carrot cake I also made this weekend, a couple of tablespoons apricot jam and a tablespoon or two of Cointreau.  I rolled these into small balls, chilled them and then dipped them into dark chocolate.   I know these have been popular for a while, but I have never really liked them when I have had them, so I was a little hesitant about making them.  I think adding some other flavors and not making them with just buttercream made them much more palatable.

It has been a while since I have done a variety of desserts.  There were a couple of others I wish I had the time to do,  but I guess I will have to find another opportunity to give them a try.  What are your favorite bite sized desserts?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Birthday Cake

My daughter just celebrated her second birthday.  We didn't do a party for her, but I my gift to my kids is, and always will be a fun cake.  Her brother and sister have been going to a lot of birthday parties recently so she was very excited to finally have her own cake and a celebration, even though small, just for her.  At this age I get to do what I want, but as they get older I'll let them have some input, maybe.  Since she loves chocolate I made my favorite chocolate cake with a cookies and cream filling, so yummy.
My dragonflies were too heavy for the wire I had so I was only able to get one to "fly" and he was starting to go down for a crash landing.  I am hoping an opportunity pops up to do a spring cake because I really want to try the idea again, with lighter weight dragonflies and heavier wire.  I got the idea from Pink Little Cake and she has a wonderful tutorial on how to make the dragonflies.  I rushed mine, and don't have the same skill set, so hers are much better and I highly recommend checking them out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mango Panna Cotta

I was so happy when I first read about the February Daring Bakers challenge.  The results of last months challenge were amazing, but I found it slightly intimidating and never got around to getting all of the elements together.   I like the idea of a challenge and pushing my cooking abilities, but in like so many other things I don't like it when my goals aren't accomplished.

This month I knew I could meet the challenge.  The February 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen.  She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and nestle Florentine Cookies.  I love Panna Cotta, but don't make it very often because I gelatin and I don't get along.  I always expect gelatin to set-up immediately when it doesn't I start to mess around and often add more, creating problems.  I made the dessert last weekend when we were having friends over for dinner, so I planned ahead and made the dessert the day before, hoping this would resist my temptation to tinker with the amount of gelatin.  I did fine when making the panna cotta and it came out perfectly creamy with a subtle honey flavor.
When I moved on to making the mango puree I wasn't as patient, tinkered and ended up with a gelatinous lump that couldn't even move. ---  Yes if you add too much gelatin it looses its jello shake.  Luckily I had another mango, although throwing out a whole mango hurt a little. On my second attempt with the mango I decided to go with a large dice instead of a puree.  I still cooked the mango with a little sugar and added just a tsp. of gelatin to give it some stability.  The chunks of mango provided a nice contrast to the smooth panna cotta.

The florentine cookies were already a favorite before this challenge, and they served as a nice contrast.  I wish I had omitted the chocolate, it was a little too overpowering and rich with the mango.  Overall these are two great recipes to have on hand, the panna cotta is very versatile, easy and impressive to serve and the florentine is a nice cookie when you need to add a little something extra to your dessert.

Giada' Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt

1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

Nestle's Florentine Cookies

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5).  Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the
back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
4. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or
stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).
5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of
wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
6. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate