Sunday, August 25, 2013

Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake

The "cake" in the word coffeecake can be a misnomer.  There are some coffeecakes that are made with yeast so they turn out to be more of a bread than a cake.  I like both, but I still favor the cake type.

While skimming through recipes, I came to a halt at this one.  The main point that attracted me was that this recipe included creme fraiche.  Having never made anything with that ingredient, I started wondering what impact this ingredient would have on the flavor and texture.

While the creme fraiche is a great component, the careful balance of the selected spices in the streusel does play an important role as well. The end result is a moist cake that stands between the tight crumb of a pound cake and the lightness of a regular cake.  The coffeecake has a mellow flavor of butter and vanilla that overlaps a crunchy pecan and cinnamon streusel.

The batter is placed in the pan first and the streusel is layered on top. In the baking process, the streusel sinks but leaves some brown sugar behind. The brown sugar bakes into a toasty sweet coating that covers the surface of the cake. This recipe makes one 10 round cake and uses a tube cake pan.

Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake
adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 tbs packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
3 tbs cake flour
2 tbs butter

3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup and 2 tbs butter (cubed at room temp)

Prepare a 10 inch tube pan with a removable insert by buttering the interior and dusting with flour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Blending of the streusel can be done with a food processor by pulsing or by using a pasty cutter by hand.  Place all the streusel ingredients in a bowl and blend by either method. The result will be a mixture that is crumbly in texture.  Set aside.

For the cake, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.  Then stir in the granulated sugar.  Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Run the mixer on low and drop in cubes of butter at 30 second intervals.  The mixture will come together as a coarse meal or as a dough after about 3-4 minutes of beating.  The variation is based upon the temperature of the butter and either texture is acceptable.

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients together ( eggs, egg yolk, creme fraiche and vanilla extract) until completely blended.  Add half of this batter to the flour/butter blend and mix on low speed.  Then turn the speed up to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping down sides at two intervals of mixing.  The texture of the batter will become more fluffy and the color much lighter.

Turn the mixer back to low and pour in the rest of the egg/ creme fraiche mixture. Beat for 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides a few times.   Scoop out 1 1/2 cups of the batter and fold it into the streusel.

First fill the tube pan with the non streusel batter.  Smooth the top and then layer the streusel batter on top, smoothing to an even layer.  Place pan in oven and bake until cake gets golden in color and springs back when you touch the top.  Cake should be done in about 1 hour and 10 minutes.   Remove and let cake cool in pan for 3 hours.  Then invert cake onto a plate and invert again.  Slice and serve.

Tips and Notes:
1.  My cake sunk in the middle, extra precaution must be made when smoothing on top layer making sure it is even.  The addition of the batter to the streusel prior to layering is supposed to keep this from happening.
2. Even though the streusel sunk to the very bottom of the cake, it did not cause any sticking to the pan.
3.   Do not let the pan size fool you, the cake does not rise as high as the pan.  The cake should range from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches in height.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Banana Whipped Cream Pie**

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blondie Pie

While this one will not really get the vote for the prettiest dessert, it can hold its own when it comes to chewy rich indulgences.  My first thought when coming across this recipe was that this was a blondie bar in a pie form.  However, it turned out to be much like the texture of fudge instead of cake like.

The two things that control the flavor in this pie is the white chocolate and the pulverized cashew brittle.  If you are one that loves nut brittles or pralines, than this is the recipe for you.  You may favor a different type of nut in this recipe, but be aware that other nuts do have a stronger flavor.  The author stated that the cashews were more of a balance with the white chocolate than other types of nuts.

A little slice of this goes a long way, so make sure your sweet tooth is ready for this one. This recipe makes one 10 inch pie.

Blondie Pie
adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

Ingredients/ Graham Crust
3 tbs milk powder
1 cup plus 2 tbs graham cracker crumbs
4 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs melted butter
3 tbs heavy cream

Ingredients/Cashew Brittle
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs cashews

Ingredients/Pie Filling
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
5.5 oz white chocolate
4 tbs butter
2 egg yolks
3 tbs sugar
pulverized cashew brittle (recipe included)

To make the crust, blend the milk powder, salt, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a medium size bowl.  In another bowl, mix the butter and cream together.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all is damp and no dry powder is left.  The end result should be a crumbly mixture that clumps together with pressure from a spoon or your hand.

Put the crumb mixture into a 10 inch pie tin.  Press crumbs evenly along the bottom and sides of the pan.  Then set aside while you make the other components of the pie.

For the cashew brittle, prepare a pan by lining with a Silpat or wax paper.  Pour the sugar into a small saucepan and place the pan over medium high heat.  Use a wooden spoon and stir constantly until the sugar becomes a dark amber color.  This should take about 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cashews.  Make sure all are coated.  Then tip the saucepan over the baking sheet and scrape out all the contents using a heatproof spatula.  Smooth out the brittle onto the pan and let cool completely.

Once cool, remove the brittle from the silpat or wax paper.  Then break the brittle into big chunks and run thru a food processor.  Set aside until ready to use.

To start on the filling, take the white chocolate and break it into chunks.  Place it in a microwave safe bowl and add the butter.  Heat in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each time.  Once all has melted, stir until the butter is fully incorporated into the chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth.  Combine the melted white chocolate mixture with the egg yolks and sugar by stirring together with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir and drizzle in the heavy cream.  Set aside.

Sift together the salt and flour in a separate bowl.  Then mix in the pulverized cashew brittle.  Fold this dry mixture into the wet.

Place the prepared pie tin on a baking sheet and pour in the filling.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes.  When done, the pie will be a dark amber color and be slightly set in the center.  Let cool to room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. The recipe strongly recommends using a Silpat.  I used wax paper and had a little trouble peeling it off the underside of the brittle, so if you do not want to have that issue get a Silpat.
2. Use your judgement on the consistency of the graham cracker crust, if you feel it is not moist enough add an additional 1-1 1/2 tbs of melted butter.
3. Should you want to use hazelnuts or peanuts, your sugar to nut ratio of ingredients will be 1/2 cup to a 1/4 cup.
4. The brittle sets up in less than a minute, so act quickly to mix in the cashews and smooth onto the baking sheet.
                          **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Italian Wedding Cupcakes**                                   

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Orange Grand Marnier Cake

Out of the many cakes I have made, this particular one got the most compliments in regards to the lightness of flavor and texture. The icing is made with whipped cream and is less sweet than buttercream.  The orange flavor is a mix of orange juice, zest and grand marnier but it is not overpowering. Between the light icing and the chiffon layers, this cake would be good as a part of afternoon brunch or tea.

Orange Grand Marnier Cake
adapted from Sky High, Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

Ingredients/ Cake
8 eggs, whites separated from yolks
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
2 tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbs grated orange zest
orange food coloring (optional)

1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 water
1/4 cup sugar

1 tbs grated orange zest
6 oz chopped white chocolate
2 tbs Grand Marnier
2 1/2 cups cream
optional toppings- white chocolate shavings or candied orange peel

Prepare 3 nine inch cake pans by lining the bottom with parchment paper.  Leave the pans ungreased. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Mix together the egg yolks, orange juice, orange zest and water, set aside.  In another bowl sift together the salt, flour, baking soda.  Stir in just 1 cup of the sugar until blended.  Pour the egg yolk mixture into the dry and whisk until all becomes a smooth batter.   Add the optional orange food coloring until desired color is met, bearing in mind that the egg white mixture will dilute the batter color.

Pour the egg whites into a bowl of a standard mixer. Sprinkle in the cream of tartar.  Beat egg whites until they reach a frothy consistency.  With the mixer on medium speed, continue to beat and slowly add the 1/2 cup sugar.  The mixture should reach a soft peak stage. This is important, any beating beyond this will insure that your cake will be dry.

Scoop out 1/4 cup of the egg white mixture and fold it into the egg yolk/flour batter.  Continue with this process, folding in egg whites to batter until no white streaks remain.  Pour batter in equal amounts into pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester comes out clean, which should be about 16-18 minutes.  Remove pans and run a butter knife around the inside eggs of the pans, releasing the edges of the cake layers. Cool cakes in pans.  As they are cooling, the syrup and frosting can be prepared.

For the syrup,  add the sugar and water to a saucepan.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and let simmer, stirring constantly.  Once the syrup has reduced to about 1/2 cup, remove from heat. Wait until syrup reaches room temperature and then stir in the Grand Marnier.

The frosting starts with a double boiler set up.  Add the white chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream.  Let the chocolate melt in the pan over simmering water. Remove from heat and let this also come to room temperature.  When the desired temperature is reached mix in the Grand Marnier and orange zest.

Then chill a bowl with mixer beaters. Fill the bowl with the remainder of the whipping cream and beat until almost a stiff consistency.  Then fold the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture.

Peel off the parchment and invert one layer of cake onto cake round or cake plate.  Brush the face up side with 1/4 cup of the syrup and then follow up by adding 1 cup of the frosting on top, smoothing it out evenly. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process.  Then do the last layer and frost top and sides.  If desired, garnish the top with chocolate shavings or candied orange peel.
                               **LAST YEAR: Strawberry Shortcakes**

Sunday, August 4, 2013

White Velvet Cut Outs

After the recent extravagant dessert, I decided to go back to something simple like cut out sugar cookies.  These type of cookies are dad's favorite and make me think of Christmas because this is the only time we had these around the house when I was young.  My mom would always make these type of cookies in the shape of Christmas trees and decorate them with green icing.  My dad, as well as us kids would gobble these up in no time.

These type of cookies can be time consuming, but if you are not into cutting out the dough for these,  you can always shape into a log and slice them. This recipe makes about 7 dozen cookies.

White Velvet Cut Outs
adapted from Taste of Home

4 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups butter
8 oz cream cheese
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbs butter
1 tbs shortening
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbs milk
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
food coloring-optional

Using a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Then add the sugar and beat again until mixture becomes fluffy and light.  Add one egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds and then add the additional egg yolk and mix again for 30 seconds.  Use a wooden spoon to fold in the flour, working in 1/2 cup increments.  Once all is blended, transfer dough to a smaller bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 2 hours.

Once chilling time is over, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Also set out a cooling rack for the cookies.

Take dough out of fridge and remove about 1/3 of dough from bowl to work with and place the remainder back in the fridge.  Lightly dust a flat surface with flour and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shape (number of cookies are based on using a 3 inch cutter) and place each on prepared cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets at halfway point.  The cookies are done when the dough is set, not when browned.  I removed the cookies when they just started to get golden on the edges.

Let cookies rest on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to completely cool. Continue with the rolling baking and cooling process for the remainder of the dough.

To make the frosting, cream together butter, shortening, 3 tbs milk and vanilla extract.  Then place a sifter over the batter and sift 1 cup of powdered sugar into the bowl.  Beat batter until smooth.  Continue to sift in and beat remaining powdered sugar in increments.  The end result should be a light fluffy frosting.  Beat in the optional food coloring until completely distributed for even color.  For a lighter frosting, mix in some additional milk for desired consistency.

Frost cooled cookies and let frosting set before storing.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Almond Breakfast Scones**