Monday, March 28, 2011

A Little Bite of Heaven

In life there are defining moments, those ‘light bulb coming on’ times. For a food lover, you put something in your mouth and you have to stop, close your eyes and just be in the moment with that little piece of heaven that just hit your taste buds.
There are two types of people in the world. Those who eat to live and those, who are lucky enough, to live to eat.

There are so many people who through desire or circumstance eat whatever comes to hand just too keep their body ticking over. They are the ‘eat to live’ people. Nutrition and to some extent taste are not really an issue. They are often fussy eaters who will drop into the local chainstore junk food shop for a sugar/fat/chemical additive laden meal. They will either ignore their poor health or just complain about it and do nothing to change their lot. They will eat a slice of that horrible plasticised cheese on white bread spread with margarine teamed with a cup of cheap instant coffee or generic brand soft drink, chase it down with a cigarette and count themselves well feed.

As one of the other group, those who “Live to Eat” I think “WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM!!!!”

So why am I pondering this today. The introduction may not inspire the reader to wonder what has brought about this pondering. The recipe for this month’s Daring Kitchen Bakers Challenge is the answer. I had one of those defining moments when I put this wonderful bread in my mouth. I knew in my heart and stomach this was going to be wonderful, just the recipe had me salivating. I mixed the dough and then had to wait for it to rise. I wanted it to be ready. I didn’t want to wait. But I am getting ahead of myself.
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. Jamie found this recipe on a piece of yellowed paper in her dad’s collection of clipped out and hand-written recipes from the 1970’s, no source, no date, and she tried the recipe and it was brilliant!

For their versions of the challenge Jamie’s All-American versions featured cinnamon, chopped pecans and chocolate and Ria’s Indian-inspired version had saffron added to the sweet yeast bread dough and garam masala and cashews flavoring the filling.

Preparation time:
For the dough:
10 - 15 minutes preparation of the dough
8 – 10 minutes kneading
45 – 60 minutes first rise
10 – 15 minutes to prepare meringue, roll out, fill and shape dough
an additional 45 – 60 minutes for second rising.
Baking time: approximately 30 minutes
Equipment required:
Measuring cups for dry ingredients
Measuring cup for liquid
Measuring spoons
Cutting board and sharp knife for chopping nuts & chocolate if using
2 large mixing bowls
1 small mixing bowl
1 medium mixing bowl for beating egg whites, preferably plastic or metal
1 medium saucepan
Electric mixer or stand mixer
Wooden spoon
Rolling pin
Clean kitchen scissors or sharp knife
Plastic wrap & clean kitchen towel
Parchment paper
2 medium-sized baking trays (or 1 large if your oven is large enough)
Cooling racks
Serving platter
Vegetable oil to grease bowl
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
2 cups (300 g) flour
2 tablespoons (27 g) sugar
½ teaspoon (2 g) salt
2 teaspoons / 4 g) active dried yeast
1/3 cup (90 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (30 ml) water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
¼ cup (70 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg at room temperature

For the meringue: 2 large egg white at room temperature, ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon vanilla ½ cup (120 g) sugar
1 cup dried apricots diced
½ cup apricot jam
½ cup (50 g) chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Prepare the dough:
I used my mix master with the dough hook to make the dough. In the bowl, combine ½ 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 the rest of the flour and beat for 2 more minutes.
Process the dough until it is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic.
By using the mixer I don’t have to add anymore flour. If you don’t have a mixer then hold back some of the flour to put on your board for kneading.
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 and how warm the room is.
Prepare your filling. Chop the apricots, nuts and chocolate.

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 sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:
Line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread the jam and then the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle the filling of choice evenly over the meringue. I used cinnamon, apricots, almonds and 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.

After the roll has risen Use 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.

Cover the coffee cake with plastic wrap and allow it to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Brush the tops of the coffee cake 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 sheet onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cake from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cake off onto a cooling rack. 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.
The one I made I spread with apricot jam before I put on the meringue, chocolate, nuts and cinnamon. It was amazing, perhaps the nicest bread I have ever eaten in my life.
We ate all of it. It was best on the day I made it but it was still delicious the next day. By the third day it had started to dry out a bit so I made bread and butter custard with the last of it.

Bread and Butter Custard.
3 eggs
1 cup milk
300ml pure cream
¼ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 5cm-deep, 28cm baking dish.
Whisk eggs, milk, cream, caster sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a bowl.
Arrange half the sliced bread in rows in prepared dish.
Pour egg mixture over bread. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and just set. Serve.


Ruth Ellis said...

Yum - chocolate and apricot is such a good combination :o)

Renata said...

The huge slashes just made it look even better! You did an amazing job on he challenge!

shelley c. said...

I agree with you - how sad to merely eat to live and how much better the other way!! Your coffee cake looks amazing and your flavor combination sounds scrumptious. Excellent job!

Audax said...

What a lovely colour you got on the crust and the slashes are lovely and yes this is a slice of heaven. Well done on this challenge.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Anonymous said...

Looks great! Dried apricots - what a great idea! Also -- I know exactly what you mean about the "plasticised cheese on white bread with margarine" -- disgusting!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree! what is wrong with them?
I just joined the daring bakers but i have been hearing amazing stuff about this recipe..yours looks amazing...great job!