Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Meringue Filled Coffee Cake

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 am not one to jump right into the challenge recipe at the beginning of the month. I usually like to read the challenge over a few times, let it ruminate in my brain, pondering technique and flavors. However, since our family is trying to limit our sugar intake I thought that I would combine the challenge with another special date this month . . . my husband’s birthday which happens to fall early in the month.

Since Christmas, he has been asking for me to make the cinnamon rolls I made Christmas morning. I had planned to make them for his birthday breakfast so I begged and pleaded with him to let me make this coffee cake instead since they sounded fairly similar. He reluctantly agreed, offering to make a deal that if they were not as good I would still make the cinnamon rolls sometime this month. In my counter offer I asked who was to be the judge of whether they were equal. He stated he would try to be as unbiased as possible. Yah right, unbiased, my foot!

There were a few steps to this challenge but not any more so than a cinnamon roll or another sweet yeast bread recipe. It involved making the dough, letting it rise, kneading the dough, spreading it with meringue and adding filling, rolling it up, letting it rise again, and then baking it. Of course, there is a bit more to it than that but those are the steps in a nutshell.

The dough recipe made two braided wreath coffee cakes and while I seriously debated just doing one I decided that I would make two because in the end I wanted one that had the same cinnamon roll filling (for equal comparison) and then one that had chocolate in it.

Of the many times I’ve made yeast breads this was the first time of ever melting the butter mixture, adding the yeast to the dry flour and then adding a somewhat cooled butter mixture to the dry flour and yeast. 


Have I ever mentioned before how much I love kneading dough? I love it! Nothing makes me feel like a baker more than kneading soft dough after it is warm and has risen a first time! This particular dough didn’t require a lot of work to get it to the smooth, elastic stage so it was really nice to work with.

I don’t work with meringue often. I have really only made it a handful of times so I was a little more anxious to have this turn out correctly. It seemed to turn out fine. Nice stiff peaks and easy to spread on the dough.

Besides the coffee cakes looking like molten lava when they came out of the oven they tasted great! I thought the cinnamon/sugar filling was going to be way too sweet but it wasn’t too over the top. I think I did prefer the chocolate filling though but that might be because I really like chocolate. The one thing I forgot to do on both, and I’m not sure why, was to brush the egg wash on after baking. It didn’t really matter in the end because I sprinkled powdered sugar or cocoa powder over the finished product.

As for the unbiased ruling from the judge, it really wasn’t unbiased. He enthusiastically enjoyed both coffee cakes and then pronounced that I would have to make the cinnamon rolls in the end so that he could make an accurate comparison. Hmmm, kind of thought that was going to happen. 

Meringue Filled Coffee Cake

Yeast Coffee Cake:
4 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 package active dried yeast
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup water
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature

3 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups 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.

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 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 and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased 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.

Prepare your filling:
In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling. 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 rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue.

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, make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch 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.

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.
Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter. The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pepperoni Bread

I saw this recipe and thought since it looked so easy it might be a nice, quick dinner. I guess quick is a relative term, especially since it takes about 5 hours or so to thaw the frozen bread dough. Once the dough was thawed it was relatively simple to put together. Just three easy ingredients: frozen bread dough, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.

I have to admit though, I was a bit disappointed. After having made stromboli a few months ago this was a bit boring in comparison. Easier, but not quite the variety. I think next time I would add some marinara and some other toppings with the pepperoni.

Pepperoni Bread
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

1 loaf frozen bread dough
Sliced pepperoni
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Thaw the frozen bread dough and allow to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the dough in half and roll out two rectangles. Layer the pepperoni on the dough, and then cover with mozzarella cheese. Roll up lengthwise and seal the ends and seam and place seam-side down on the baking sheet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Breakfast Pizza

My son requested breakfast pizza on a whim (mostly on a whim because he has never even had it nor seen one before) and it reminded me of a recipe that I happened to have in my cupboard. I would imagine that you know by now that I have a picky eater, so even though said son requested the breakfast pizza that didn't mean that he took more than a few cursory bites. Sigh. When will he become an adventurous eater?

This was delicious, a great change to plain old eggs and hashbrowns, and it was even great warmed up for lunch the next day. Enjoy!

*Note: This recipe does call for microwaving the eggs and I think you could get by with just scrambling them and cooking them in a pan like you normally would. If you shy away from microwaving food, this would definitely be an option. The only difference might be that the pieces are not quite as moist as if you microwaved them, but I think the difference would be pretty insignificant.

Breakfast Pizza
Source: Adapted from The Pampered Chef Stoneware Sensations

1 package (24 ounces) frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
1 egg, beaten
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Egg Topping
7 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup chopped ham (could use bacon or sausage)
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushroons
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover 15" round baking stone with parchment paper.

For crust, combine potatoes, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl; mix well. Spread potato mixture into a 14" circle on prepared stone; pat down with back of spoon. Bake 20 minutes; remove from oven.

For egg topping, whisk eggs and milk in bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Microwave on high 3 minutes; stir. Microwave an additional 3 minutes; stir. Spread cooked egg mixture evenly over potato crust; top with ham, mushrooms, and bell pepper. Sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven. Bake 10 minutes.

To serve, cut into wedges. Makes 10 servings.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip & Prezel Cookie Bars

Another good one from the Brown Eyed Baker! When looking for a sweet and salty treat for our Superbowl festivities I thought this one would fit the bill nicely. I love warm chocolate chip cookies, and having crushed pretzels drizzled with peanut butter and chocolate sounded like a yummy combination. I was actually going to make just half of this recipe, but then a friend was unexpectedly put on bed rest and I figured it wouldn't hurt to make the whole thing and take them half. Yah, I totally could have made the half batch and taken them a fourth and still had plenty. They are pretty rich so we found it was best to cut them into little squares. Enjoy! 

Chocolate Chip & Pretzel Cookie Bars
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12-ounce bag bittersweet (or semisweet, if you prefer) chocolate chips
1½ cups mini pretzel twists, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chocolate chips, for drizzling (optional)
¼ cup peanut butter, for drizzling (optional)
¼ cup pretzels, crumbled, for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. Using a mixer, beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan and press it down evenly with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely.

In separate sandwich size baggies, melt the chocolate chips and peanut butter. Cut off a small corner on each bag and drizzle the chocolate and peanut butter over the top of the bars. Sprinkle the extra crushed pretzels on top. Let set and then cut into squares.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Soft Prezels

I think this is a bit of an "ugly duckling" as far as soft pretzels are concerned, but what it lacks in looks it totally makes up for in taste! Soft pretzels have been on my top 100 list since the beginning and I can't believe I finally just got around to making them. They are awesome and so easy! Really, the recipe may look complicated but it really isn't. Whip up a batch of dough, let it rise, while the oven is preheating and the water is warming to a boil get the dough rolled out into 8 pretzels shapes, dunk in the baking soda bath, lay on tray, brush on egg wash, bake, and eat. It's that simple.

The baking soda bath is a must by they way. It's what gives the pretzel its chewy, boiled outside while the inside is soft and doughy. Yum, just thinking about them makes me want to make more. Enjoy! 

Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan (I used olive oil)
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese . . . who doesn't love stringy, melted, ooey, gooey cheese? How about stringy, melted cheese with some crunchy bread crumbs sprinkled on top? This is the second baked macaroni and cheese recipe I've made and I think I like it better than the first. I decided to use fairly mild cheeses this time (I think the pepper jack in the last one threw our son for a loop) and I loved the bread crumb topping that coated the entire dish. Of course, our son still barely touched this until the next day when it was heated up as leftovers. I have to agree with him though, macaroni and cheese just may be better the next day rather than the first. Enjoy!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

8 oz. elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup swiss cheese, divided
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and salt and stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in dry mustard. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 cup of the cheddar, 1/4 cup of the mozzarella, and 1/4 cup of the swiss. Mix cheese sauce and macaroni in a large bowl. Spoon into a 9 x 7 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar, mozzarella and swiss.

Melt remaining butter in saucepan over medium heat. Combine bread crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle on top of the cheese. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

100th Post!! Hubby's Birthday!! Chocolate Cherry Coke Cake!!

Well, what do you know, 100 posts! While I know that I cook and bake a lot, sometimes more than 3 meals a day, I am somewhat surprised that I have tried and written about 100 new recipes in just 13 months. And while not all of the recipes were new, I am happy to have shared all 100 of them with you!

While looking at my recipes that I have completed but have yet to post, I realized that I would be coming up on my 100th post right around the same time as my husband's birthday. I knew that I wanted something that looked super yummy and I've had this cake recipe sitting in my saved bookmarks for a little while. I happened to weasel an agreeable answer out of him when I asked him if I could have free reign over his birthday dessert, even if it was chocolate which he is not the biggest fan of. Ahhhh, everything is lining up right in my world.

It was a fun cake to make, and it tastes just as good as it looks! Enjoy!

**Side Note: My recipe makes 4 mini bundt cakes. Double my recipe to bake a full size cake.**

Chocolate Cherry Coke Cake
Source: Adapted from Maison Cupcake

100g plain flour
125g superfine sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 medium egg
62.5ml buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
62.5g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
87.5ml Cherry Coca-Cola 

15g unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons Cherry Coca-Cola
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
100g powdered sugar, sifted

chocolate “writing” icing
pitted cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake pans, baking tins, or molds by greasing with butter and then a light layer of flour.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract.

In a heavy based saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, cocoa powder and Cherry Coca-Cola. Pour the butter/cola mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the egg/buttermilk mixture and beat well until blended.

Pour into prepared baking tins or molds. Place cake pans on a baking sheet and bake in the oven, 40 minutes for one large cake and 20-25 minutes if you are doing smaller ones. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Leave the cake in the pans to cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Cool completely.

While cakes are cooling, make the icing. In a heavy based saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, Cherry Coca-Cola and cocoa powder until liquid. (Do not overheat as it burns easily.) Remove from heat and spoon in the powdered sugar a little at a time. Beat well until you have a runny glace style icing.

Spoon the icing over the cake (or cakes). If you are using mini cake molds, attempt to drizzle artfully down the sides and whilst also coating, but not entirely filling the center. Allow to set for a couple of minutes then zig zag your little tube of chocolate writing icing backwards and forwards from the centre to the outside of the cake going all the way around. Pour the pitted cherries over the cake (or in the center for a mini bundt cake style. Four cherries will be about right for a mini cake.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Coconut Macadamia Banana Bread

Yummy! Another version of the basic Bett.y Crocker banana bread recipe. Enjoy!

Coconut Macadamia Banana Bread
Makes 2 loaves or 4 mini loaves

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut (toasting it is optional)
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts (about 5 oz)

Place oven rack in lowest position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of loaf pans.

Mix sugar and margarine in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt just until moistened. Stir in coconut and chopped macadamia nuts.

Pour into pans. Bake about 60 to 75 minutes (about 25 minutes for mini loaves) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans. Cool completely before slicing.