Monday, March 28, 2011

Daring Bakers (or How I Baked a Hot Mess for My Coworkers)

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.

Even though we know the challenge recipe a month before the posting date, I invariably wait until the day before to bake the Daring Bakers recipe. Or I make it early in the month but wait until the 27th to write my post and can't remember much about the process. Neither of these approaches is recommended. They are called challenges for a reason.

This month, I waited until the day OF the posting to bake, and things went downhill quickly. It was our anniversary and I was a bit scattered. In fact, I forgot to add the yeast until the dough was two thirds through being kneaded. I tossed it in the mixer and hoped for the best. It took twice the usual time to double, but it did. Then M. announced we were going to the coast for lunch. I tucked the dough away in the fridge and off we went. It was a beautiful day after so many rainy days in a row, and Capitola, the little beach town we drove to, had had flooding from the rains. But we managed to find an open restaurant with a patio on the water, and we had lunch. After a bit of walking around (I just got my boot off a few days ago), we came home.

Last night, I pulled the dough out of the fridge and resumed the prep. I rolled out the dough, made the meringue and sprinkled on the filling. Rolling it up was a challenge in itself. The meringue didn’t want to roll up so I folded it more than rolled it. After forming into a roundish shape, I cut the slits, not being afraid to cut too deeply as the recipe instructed. I covered the pastries with plastic wrap, tucked them back into the fridge and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning, I turned on the oven and pulled the pastries out of the fridge. THEY WERE SITTING IN POOLS OF GOO. I knew this would happen. I know that meringue tends to weep, but this meringue cried buckets. And I wanted to cry buckets, too. After sopping up the goo with paper towels, I stuck them in the oven and hoped for the best.

They baked up nicely. I’ll never know if they were supposed to have a different flavor or texture, but my coworkers seemed to enjoy this treat. The meringue mostly melted into the pastry, and the chocolate, pecans and cinnamon gave it a lovely flavor. While it was a success in spite of my neglect, I can only imagine how it was supposed to turn out.

Many thanks to Jamie and Ria for challenging the Daring Bakers to make this coffee cake. Next month I really, really do plan to make the recipe earlier in the month. Really.


I made Jamie’s version of the recipe but I’m also including Ria’s because it sounds so yummy.

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

Irish (Sort of) Soda Bread

I'd never made Irish soda bread up until a month ago, when I made a very traditional recipe from the back of the King Arthur Flour wheatmeal flour package. This recipe from Melissa Murphy's The Sweet Melissa Baking Book wasn't as traditional so I took it in a different direction. I didn't have currants and don't like cloves, so I went with golden raisins, dried cherries and pistachios, plus cinnamon.

Irish soda bread is so easy to make that it was in the oven in 10 minutes and came out at the perfect time to serve with some lentil soup for lunch. It was delicious with the cinnamon, fruit and nuts...not traditional but just perfect.

Julie of A Little Bit of Everything chose this recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays. Thanks, Julie, for selecting this recipe for us. We enjoyed it a lot.

If you'd like the original recipe, Julie has it for you here. And you can how the other SMS bakers liked it here. If you'd like to make it the way I did, here's the recipe my way.

Irish (sort of) Soda Bread - (adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book)

Printer friendly recipe

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, combine the raisins, dried cherries and pistachios and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk and set aside. In a bowl of of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the cold butter pieces and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of small peas. 

Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to combine thoroughly. Do not over mix. Add the fruit and nuts to the dough and mix on low speed for 20 seconds.

Turn the dough onto the lined sheet pan. Kneed the dough lightly, pressing the dough into one large round - or divide it in half to form two small rounds. Don't over handle.

Using a sharp knife, cut the traditional "X" cutting about 1 1/2 inches deep into the top. Bake for 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes for the large loaf, or 10 minutes for the smaller loaves. The loaves will be golden, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center wil come out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool. It's best the day you make it, but it can be tightly wrapped and stored for a couple of days, or frozen for one month.

Yield: One 3-pound Loaf

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Citrus Currant Sunshine Muffins

What, no chocolate?

It happens. I've been making Meyer lemon bars and corn muffins and this savory bread, but nary a decadent chocolate recipe. Fear not. I haven't forsaken chocolate. But in the spring (or after an entire week of chocolate), my thoughts turn to fruits and vegetables and I really want it to be spring. So this week I'm willing it to be spring with this aptly named, sunny muffin.

The sunshine in this muffin refers to the generous amount of orange juice, supplemented with a touch of lemon to make it extra perky. I was prepared to be meh about these, but they were actually quite nice. One secret I can share with you is using butter to grease the muffin tins. This made the outsides crunchy, which was a perfect counterpoint to the orangy middles. I know using paper liners is easier, but the crunchy crust stole the show for me. The currants were nice, but don't make a special trip to Whole Foods as I did. Dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries would be lovely as well. I also toyed with chopped crystalized ginger, but that would take these in an entirely different direction.

Lauryn of Bella Baker chose this recipe for the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers to make this week. It's from the epic book Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Lauryn will have the recipe for you (I just realized I overbaked mine when I saw her lovely muffins), and you can find the other TWD bakers here. Thanks, Lauryn, for choosing a recipe so evocative of the warmer weather we're all hoping for.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Savory Cheese & Chive Bread

Last week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe was one of the things I made in my flurry of baking two weekends ago. I was celebrating my return to baking (wrist is 98% pain free-yay!) and with the restraint typical of addicts, I was impossible to separate from my kitchen. This bread, with its flavors of chives, Ementhaller cheese and spices was actually my lunch that day. I changed up the recipe quite a bit, using spicy olive oil, substituting pine nuts for walnuts and adding sun-dried tomatoes. It was delicious, though M. and I agreed a little roasted garlic would have made it even better.

The recipe for this loaf came from Dorie Greenspan's book Around My French Table. Every recipe I've tried from this book has been successful and a surprise, either for the flavors or the ease of preparation (or both). Amazon has it for $25. Sweet! But if you're not up for buying the book, you can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cheesy Spicy Corny Muffins

Sometimes, you need to trust your instincts in the kitchen. I know that sometimes that results in massive fails, but more often than not, it gives you a great new recipe or helps you avoid disaster.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick was made by Jill of My Next Life. She chose Dorie Greenspan's corniest corn muffin recipe (she'll have Dorie's original recipe for you), but it underwent a transformation in my kitchen. I'm technically from the south (though Miami is its own region) and I don't love sweet cornbread. Strike one. My corn kernels smelled like the freezer. Strike two. And I love cheese...and she lays down a bunt and gets on base!

So I knew I wanted cheddar and I knew I wanted them to have a smoky flavor but not so powerful that it drowned out the corn flavor. Enter my old friend, smoked Spanish paprika. With a couple of tweaks, these little babies were transformed to can't-get-enough savory muffins. They were easy and soooo delicious, so please make them soon.

Cheesy Spicy Corny Muffins
Printer friendly recipe
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and paprika. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, egg and yolk together until well blended; stir in the cheese. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (12 minutes for minis), or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Yields 12 muffins

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Pudding

As I mentioned on this post, this is chocolate pudding week at Lethally Delicious. It started a week ago with chocolate panna cotta, then we had chocolate pots de creme on Tuesday, and finally good old chocolate pudding today for Sweet Melissa Sundays.

This recipe is from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. As you can tell from the odd appearance of my pudding, I had a few problems. I didn't have the 6 ounce ramekins the recipe specifies so I used my 4 ounce ramekins. The recipe didn't instruct us to poke holes in the foil so I didn't. My puddings steamed (or was that the intention?) When I checked them after 40 minutes, they were the ugliest little over cooked, water logged desserts I've ever seen!

However, even though they were a bit curdled, they were tasty once they chilled. I debated making them again but couldn't bear to go through another-gasp-three cups of heavy cream. So promise me you won't make them the way I did when you make them!

Chocolate Pudding
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) (I used 70%)
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Before you start, position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place six 6-ounce ramekins in a 9 x 13-inch roasting pan.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the cream and about half of the sugar to scalding, or until the milk is steaming and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges. Do not boil.

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Pour enough scalding cream over the chocolate to cover. Let sit for 5 minutes and then whisk until smooth. Pour the remaining cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

In a large bowl, gently whish together the egg yolks, the remaining half of the sugar, the salt, and vanilla until smooth. Temper the chocolate cream into the yolk mixture, pouring it little by little and whisking all the while. Strain the mixture into a clean pitcher and skim off any bubbles with a spoon.

Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until just set. Begin checking after 45 minutes. When gently shaken, a pudding should no longer look liquidy; it will move as one mass (albeit somewhat jiggly) and register 150 to 155 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove to a wire rack to cool to room temperature in the water bath. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours to overnight before serving.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chocolate Pots de Creme

I didn't plan it this way, but it's shaping up to be pudding week at Lethally Delicious. We started with chocolate panna cotta (Italian chocolate pudding to me), are moving on to chocolate pots de creme (French chocolate pudding) and I'll have another chocolate pudding post on Sunday.

And while I never would have chosen to consume so much heavy cream in one week, it has presented an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast different methods for making what is basically an emulsion of chocolate in heavy cream.
While the panna cotta was thickened with gelatin, these pots de creme rely on egg yolks and cook in a water bath.

I used Valrhona 70% bittersweet chocolate because I was searching for deep chocolate flavor and with only 4 ounces of chocolate for 3 cups of cream and milk, high percentage chocolate was a must. Although the custard seemed like the flavor would be light weight, the finished pots de creme were lushly chocolate and creamy. Very dangerous, I must somehow share the rest...

Check out what the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers thought here. And please visit Christine of Black Cat Cooking for the recipe. She's our host this week and I have her to thank for finding this week's best pudding recipe!