Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pecan and Currant Salt-Crusted Rye Bread

It seems a rite of passage for women to stress and fret over a thanksgiving meal. And while I cannot begin to explain the mystical voodoo that makes women want to impale themselves with the nearest turkey baster, I do know that if you have some easy recipes for simple homemade holiday treats, the rest falls into a place. But as ever candid, very comical friend Jean says, “Sheesh, it’s just dinner, it’s not like you don’t eat for the other 364 days of the year.” Tried and true recipes, loving family and friends, and grateful heart, seems to be all you need for a great Thanksgiving.

So speaking of tried and true, this recipe was a gift. Literally, my graduation from college present, and my first experience in fine dining was when a wonderful family of friends took me and my childhood buddy to the Inn at Little Washington. Due to a fortunate mishap of events, they lost our reservation and we were seated at the chef table. Little did I know, years later I would be taking culinary courses from the then Souse Chef Bonnie Moore. Nor did I realize the privilege of watching Chef Patrick O’Connel work. Nonetheless, if the spectacular meal, in the grandiose fire place kitchen with monastic hymns was not gift enough, we received an autographed copy of his recipes. In that book was this recipe for a salt-crusted Pecan and Currant Rye Bread. It is very easy and always delicious.
For the bread…
2 cups of warm water not hotter than body temperature
1 Tablespoon of dry yeast or a package is roughly equivalent
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
2 ½ cups of rye flour
3 cups of all purpose or bread flour
1 ½ Tablespoons of Caraway Seeds (plus more for crusting)
1 Tablespoon of table salt
1 cup of currants or raisins
1 cup of chopped pecans
In a mug pour together the warm water, sugar, and yeast allows proofing for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
In a separate bowl measure out all of your dry ingredients, don’t worry you will use it again. I pour it all in and use a whisk to mix up the seeds, salt, and flours.
Now into your mixer with the dough hook attached they all go mug o yeasty water and dry goods. After about two minutes and the dough forms a ball around the hook, add your pecans and currants. After another two minutes and the dough is a well incorporated ball, take a oil or cooking spray and grease the bowl you mixed all the dry ingredients. Place the dough in the greased bowl, cover with a warm damp tea towel, and allow to rest in a warm place. If you live where it is cold and your house is 60 F like mine, use this nifty trick. Take a mug, the same one you used before is fine, heat up a cup of water in the microwave. After a minute, push the mug to the back of the microwave and place in your dough. The mug and hot water will keep the microwave at about 80 F for an hour. Let your dough rise and rest for about an hour.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.
Shape your dough into three small loaves, and wet the top with tap water. Using your hands crust the top with more caraway seeds and your favorite salt. I used grey sal de mer, but kosher is plenty fine too.
Bake for 30 minutes on a greased cookie sheet.
There you have it delicious holiday treat with minimal effort. Serve it with any cheese, butter, or any jam or jelly you wish. I love it with cream cheese and pepper jelly.
Much love, many blessings, and happy baking and Thanksgiving! I hope you are having a blessed day of feeling full and grateful.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rasberry Cheese Cake Layered Coffee Cake

This is an easy holiday coffee cake. The recipe is wonderful for the many holiday mornings or bake-take to parties coming up. It is easy enough to be whipped up last minute, and fancy enough to be served with mimosas at brunch. Best of all the ingredients are inexpensive and usually in our pantry and fridge.
You know that as-seen-on-TV sandwich machine gadget that would heat up and toast both sides of the bread while making little pocket of melty goodness. When I was little my father used to make us hot sandwich pockets of jam and cream cheese. My sister loves these sandwiches to this day. And happy memories of this are the inspiration for this jam and cream cheese coffee cake. I took my classic sour cream coffee cake and added the always welcome accompaniments of jam and cream cheese. The streusel topping is my unabashed attempt at being luxurious around the holidays.

To make this tri-layer coffee cake:

A couple hours or the night before you make this cake take out the butter, eggs, and cream cheese so they have a chance to come up to room temperature.

When you start getting out the ingredients to make the cake and toppings, preheat your oven to 350 F. Choose what you are going to bake the cake in. I choose a 9-inc spring form pan and layered a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom. You could really use any thing you liked but this is a sticky batter so the more butter and protective layers the better.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

In your hand-dandy kitchenade mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. This is when I made my toppings. When light and fluffy, add the sourcream, egg, and vanilla. Sift together all the dry ingredients i.e. the cinnamon, flour, baking powder, and salt. (I know it doesn’t make sense but sugar is considered a wet ingredient. It is just one of those things you do because your mother said so. Kind of like how fish is considered not a meat by the Catholic Church. I just don’t get it; it’s an animal, its meat. Maybe that is just me. Ok back to the cake.) Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix for a few minutes. The batter will be very thick but creamy. Spread it in to a spring form pan, which is buttered and has a parchment paper bottom.

Streusel Cover

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar bowl sugar
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon or a good shaving of fresh nutmeg
¼ cup or ½ a stick of cold buttah (it’s like buttah)

Just throw everyone in the food processor and give it a bliz; just a couple of pulses and viola. Set aside until after the cake is ready.

Cream Cheese and Jam Topping

An 8oz package of cream cheese (softened because it was left out over night)
¼ cup sugar bowl sugar
1 large egg
A teaspoon of vanilla
½ cup of any jam (I used raspberry because that is what I had open)

Whip up all of these ingredients in your mixer of by hand. Then just pour over batter.

Bake the tri-layered confection for an hour (60 minutes) in a 350F oven. Let it cook and serve warm. In retrospect, I would have used fresh berries on top and made the streusel a little more crumbly with pecans. But according to my co-workers this is a fantastic coffee cake, so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy baking.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A taste of summer mid-November

This one comes to us courtesy of my good friend Andy who celebrated her third or fourth 21st Birthday last week. In her honor this strawberry angel food cake was born.

Angel Food Cake

1 ¾ cups pasteurized egg whites, room temperature (roughly equalt to 12 large egg whites)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of real vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, ½ cup fine sugar and salt; then sift it again, and again… until your patience runs out. Save the mixture for later use. In a very clean, dry bowl beat egg whites at medium-high speed until frothy and bubbly. When white but not yet forming stiff peaks add the vanilla and cream of tartar. Continue the beating on high until soft peaks form. The trick is to hold the beater upside down or just use a spoon as to not have to unhook and unplug your standing mixer. Once stiff, remove the bowl from the standing mixture.

Sift the flour mixture over egg whites and gently fold in with spatula. Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan. The ones with the false bottom and little ledge on top to turn the pan upside down are the best.

Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes. The top will look cracked and golden brown.

Turn the cake pan upside down on a cooling rack and allow coming to room temperature. When cool use a knife to loosen the sticky batter from the sides. Take out the false bottom and run the knife to loosen. Once you have rescued your cake and it is free decorate, ice, glaze, or simply just devour as desired.

For Andy’s cake I used a strawberry glaze, cream cheese frosting, and fresh strawberries to decorate.

I was always intimidated by angel food cake, don’t be just have the right pan and clean bowl to whip the egg whites.

As always, much love, many blessings and happy baking.