Showing posts with label Dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dessert. Show all posts

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake

At the end of the week, the posse (a group of my running friends so aptly named by the person who shall remain nameless) are going on getaway up to the north woods of Wisconsin. Months ago when the trip was first planned, a relaxing getaway emerged as its' theme. The most type A and type A+ members of the posse may have gotten a little carried away with making lists of what everyone should bring or what the ambitious list of itinerary options could be. Somehow the two Type A and Type A+ members of the posse either weren't paying attention or selectively not listening. But in the spirit of 'luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, who knows what semi-absolute necessities we might not be able to find once we get to up the 'wildnerness' (aka away from all of the conveniences of suburbia)! A weekend away would not be complete without some adult beverages, so it was probably one of those things that didn't need to make the list (because it was just a given). Although someone in the group is known to be a big fan of redundancy as well as having a tendency to skew a little to the high maintenance side.

So whether or not we make the yoga class, keep our spa appointments, get a hike and/or run in, go to a Friday night fish fry, or do a dive bar crawl in a town nearby, won't really matter in the end. Because being able to spend 'memorable moment' time together is what really matters most. Okay, maybe the dive bar crawl needs to really happen. Because, hey isn't sitting in a bar drinking beer from any one of Wisconsin's finest breweries one of the most relaxing things one could possibly do? Think I will surprise them all and make a couple of their favorite 'sweet' snacks for this trip. Had I known how incredibly delicious this Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake was going to be, I maybe should have waited to make it. Or just maybe we should take a side trip to one of the cranberry bogs in Wisconsin and pick up some fresh cranberries and make another one when we get back. Just teasing. Really, seriously, just teasing. About the trip to cranberry bog, not about making another bundt cake.

The photo of a Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake gracing the cover the holiday issue of Bake from Scratch was enough to convince me to (impulsively) buy the magazine. Browsing through the ingredient list for the cake, I was intrigued by the use of Chinese Five-Spice Powder.  Generally made up of at least five spices, this spice mixture is generally used more often in savory dishes than sweet confections. While there are many variations of Chinese Five-Spice Powder, the most common are star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, ginger, and fennel seeds. So I couldn't help but wonder how this spice, when combined with cinnamon and ground nutmeg, would taste in cake studded with tart cranberries. Would my palate be pleasantly surprised or deeply disappointed? Time would soon tell.

The Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake is made up of four easy to assemble components: the bundt cake batter, the streusel, the confectionary sugar icing, and the sugared cranberries. Note: The inspiration recipe used a homemade cranberry powder instead of sugared cranberries. 

When adding cranberries to a cake, my first instinct is always to cut some of them in half. For this cake, I cut about a of 1/3 cup of the cranberries in half (lengthwise) and kept the remaining 1 2/3 cups whole. Cutting the cranberries is just a personal preference and not a deal breaker. So feel free to skip a cutting step and add all of them in whole. Because it's cranberry season along with being guided by the adage 'fresh is best', the choice to use either fresh or frozen cranberries was easy. However, if I made this cake in the off season, then my only option would be to use frozen cranberries. 

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, batter for this bundt cake comes together beautifully and the assembly sequence is pretty straightforward. Other than reducing the amount of cranberries from 2 1/4 cups to 2 cups, I followed the recipe for the batter. In a ten cup capacity bundt pan, the batter and streusel are layered. One third of the batter is followed by half of the streusel, followed by another third of the batter, topped with the other half of the streusel and topped with the remaining third of the batter. The batter will almost completely fill a 10 cup capacity bundt pan. 

When it came to the making the streusel, I wasn't sure if I (and everyone else in my small circle not too familiar with taste of Chinese Five-Spice Powder) could handle this spice in both the batter and the streusel. After some 'what to do, what to do' deliberation, I oped to omit the Chinese Five-Spice Powder from the streusel and increase the brown sugar from 1 1/2 Tablespoons to 2 Tablespoons. I can't say for sure whether leaving out this spice from the streusel was a great idea or a bad decision as I have no basis of comparison for how the streusel (or cake) tastes without it being in both the cake and streusel. I can only tell you everyone loved the cake as I had made it. 

As a precaution, I place the bundt pan on a baking sheet before putting into a preheated 350 degree (F) or 180 degree (C) oven. The baking time on the cake will range from 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. My baking time was closer to the 1 hour and 20 minute mark. To test for doneness, insert a long skewer in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If you have ever made a bundt cake before, you know there is nothing worse than an underdone or overdone cake.

There are several things you should do to help ensure your bundt cake comes out cleanly. The first is making sure the pan is heavily buttered/sprayed and floured. Yes, even if you have a non-stick bundt pan. The second is allowing the cake to rest for 30 minutes before unmolding. Lastly, carefully inserting a sharp knife along the top edges of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the side of the pan. Next to under or overcooked bundt cake, one that comes out in pieces usually leads to my undoing.

While the Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake is cooling you can make the sugared cranberries. After bringing a simple syrup made up of 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar to boil, the cranberries are added for only a minute. This gives them enough time to take on the syrupy coating without popping. After removing the cranberries from the syrup with a slotted spoon, place on a wire rack. While they are still 'wet' roll them in granulated sugar until they are transformed into beautiful glistening balls. Once rolled in sugar, you can set them on a piece of parchment paper or on a clean cooling rack to dry. Note: They dry relatively quickly.

The original recipe called for the use of a Citrus Glaze (one made with fresh orange juice instead of vanilla). Although I had a fully zest orange ready to squeeze, I opted for a glaze made with vanilla (a clear vanilla to keep the icing as white as possible). Sifting the confectionary sugar before adding in the pinch of salt, milk, and vanilla will create a smooth, lump free, icing.

The Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake should come to room temperature (several hours wait time) before it's glazed with icing. If the icing is added while the cake is still to warm, it will melt into the cake.

If adding the sugared cranberries to the cake, they need to placed on the cake while the icing is still wet. If the icing hardens, these little beautiful balls of deliciousness will roll off the cake.

So how good was a Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake having Chinese Five-Spice Powder in the cake batter? Simply divine. Not only did it exceed all of my rather tentative expectations, my taste buds felt as if they had been given the keys to bundt cake nirvana. The tartness of the cranberries and orange zest, the sweetness of streusel and icing, and the spicy warmth of the cake itself were an incredible trifecta of flavors. 

To further sing the praises of this cake, it's texture was perfectly dense and moist. Making it the kind of cake you could serve for breakfast, brunch, tea, or dessert. And yes, even as a late night or post evening workout snack. As the holiday season approaches, this would be a great cake to wake up to the day after Thanksgiving or on Christmas morning. And if you are like me and want to get your fill of fresh cranberries before they go out of season, the Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake would make for a great New Year's Eve or Day dinner dessert. The versatility of this cake may be another one of its' best features.
Cranberry Streusel Bundt Cake (slight adaptation to TheBakeFeed's Cranberry Streusel Bundt as shared in the Holiday edition of Bake From Scratch, December 2017)

4 large eggs (200 g), room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (360 g) sour cream
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla
2 2/3 cups (333 g) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups (340 g) fresh cranberries

1/3 cup (42 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 Tablespoons (21 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder (optional) See note below.

1 1/2 cups (170 g) confectionary sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
3-4 Tablespoons whole milk

Sugared Cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (or frozen, but if using frozen do not thaw before adding to the batter)
Another 1/2 cup of granulated sugar for coating the cranberries

1. Preheat aoven to 350 degrees (F) or 180 degrees (C). Heavily butter and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan.
2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, five-spice powder, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy (approximately 4 minutes).
4. With mixer on low speed, add sour cream, oil, zest, and vanilla. Increase mixer to medium speed and beat until well combined.
5. Alternating flour and milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until combined after each addition (the flour had three additions, the milk had two additions).
6. Fold cranberries into the batter. Optional: Cut 1/3 cup of the cranberries in half lengthwise. Fold in the cut and whole cranberries into the batter.
7. Spoon 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the streusel mixture. Add another third of the batter. Sprinkle other half of the streusel mixture. Finish with final third of the batter. Tap batter on counter several times to release any air bubbles. Note: Pan will be very full.
8. Place bundt pan on baking sheet and place in oven. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted the near the center comes out clean. Baking time will range from 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes.
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes.
10. Invert pan onto a platter or cake stand. Let cool completely before drizzling glaze on the cake. Place sugared cranberries on cake before the glaze has firmed up.
11. Cut into slices and serve. Store cake covered at room temperature.

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and five-spice powder (if using).
2. Add butter. Using your fingers work butter into the flour mixture until it has the texture of dry sand.

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sifted confectionary sugar, vanilla, salt and milk until smooth. Note: Add milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

Notes: (1) I used this 10 cup capacity Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt pan. (2) If adding the Chinese Spice-Powder to the streusel mixture use up to 1 Tablespoon of the spice. (3) The cake continues to be delicious or 2-3 days after its' baked, if wrapped well in cellophone. Store at room temperature. (4) I used a pre-packaged Chinese Five-Spice Powder, however, there are several recipes available online for homemade versions. (5) Another one of my favorite cranberry desserts, Nantucket Cranberry Pie, was posted to the blog several years ago. If you haven't yet made it, you really should. (5) You can use the cranberry flavor infused leftover simple syrup for cocktails. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Sugared Cranberries

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Shortbread Cookies

The anticipation of seeing the predominately green landscape change to a richly vibrant tapestry of yellows, reds, and oranges is one of the many reasons why autumn remains my favorite season. Not unlike the enthusiasm expressed by children en route to some magical place ("Are we there yet?, Are we there yet?"), I have awaken each morning wondering"Have the leaves changed yet?, Have the leaves changed yet?".  Last week the trees here in my part of the Midwest showed barely a wisp of autumnal color. But this week, Mother Nature finally began to further reveal another layer of her much anticipated splendor. Against a contrasting gray sky, the colors of the leaves in the trees lining the streets in my neighborhood and in the park near the center of town seemed even more vibrant. While it felt as if it took forever, the changes to the fall landscape have thus far been well worth the wait.

With the visual arrival of autumn comes an even greater desire to bake. A posting of some almost too beautiful to eat shortbread cookies on Instagram was enough to inspire me to take another trip down the shortbread (aka shortcake) recipe road. While not looking to replace or abandon my cherished Irish Shortbread recipe, I wanted to find another one. But it had to be a shortbread having an equally delicious flavor, yet more amenable to being rolled out and cut into an infinite number of shapes. Additionally, I wanted this next shortbread recipe to be as 'authentic' as possible. In other words, one trying to stay true as possible to the somewhat traditional 3 parts flour, 2 parts (unsalted) butter and 1 part sugar ratios. 

After spending some time going down the shortbread cookie rabbit hole, I settled on the exact ingredient amounts for the butter, flour(s) and sugar. Additionally I made the decision to use the metric weight versus the measuring cup method. Mostly because every recipe I considered listed the ingredients in grams and partly because I am finding it easier and more precise to weigh versus measure ingredients. For those of you who don't own a scale, there are multiple, easy to use grams to cups conversion links available on the internet. 

When a cookie is made with very few ingredients, quality matters even more. In her book 'The Scots Kitchen", F. Marian McNeill (1974) wrote 'Only the best ingredients should be used. The flour should be dried and sieved. The butter, which is the only moistening and shortening agent, should be squeezed free of all water. The sugar should be fine castor. Two other things are essential for success-the careful blending of the ingredients and careful firing.' Because European style butters have less 'water' in them, they seemed to the best butter shortbread making option. Granulated sugar is more common than castor sugar here in the states, although castor sugar is becoming more readily available. Considering most Irish and Scottish shortbread is more than likely made with castor sugar, it seemed there wasn't any other option than to use it. So I did. With at least four different shortbread making flour options to choose from (all-purpose, rice, semolina and cornflour aka cornstarch), the decision making process became a little more complicated. After looking at a significant number of shortbread recipe variations, it appeared using at least two of these flours would be key to making a slightly richer cookie. Which flours I used or which flour I combined with all-purpose flour would significantly affect the texture of the shortbread. Rice and semolina flours would give an added crunch and cornflour/cornstarch would give it a more 'melt in your mouth' texture. Although any of those flour options would work, I decided to use an all-purpose/rice flour combination. Based on the cookie's taste and texture, it may take me awhile to consider any other option. 

Ordinarily I don't do more than one test of a recipe (gasp!). But that's true. If a recipe turns out I share it with you. If it doesn't, it's determined not to be immediately blog worthy. So this blog posting is a bit of a departure for me. Even though the first batch of cookies actually turned out to be as buttery, crunchy, and crisp as I hoped it would be. However, I struggled a bit to get the dough to roll out smoothly using the fork and hand method to assemble the dough. Note: The leaf shaped cookies reflect the results of the first run through of the recipe. Because I had a bit of difficulty forming the dough using the more traditional fork/hand shortbread assembly process, I didn't feel as if I could in good conscious post the recipe without possibly directly or indirectly discouraging you from making them. Cookies should be relatively easy to make, they shouldn't be complicated. 

So in a somewhat non-traditional and potentially texture risking move, I decided I would attempt assembling the shortbread dough in the food processor. It turned out all of my worries were for naught, as the dough in the food processor was not only much easier to roll out, the baked shortbread was as good as, maybe even slightly better,  even more visually perfect, than the more traditionally assembled fork/hand/bowl method. Yes, I know I may have just alienated everyone having even a trace of Irish and/or Scottish ancestry by even suggesting a great shortbread could be made in a food processor. Trust me when I say this is certainly not my intent. 

Because the butter softens up a bit in the assembling process (regardless of which method used), allowing the dough to rest in refrigerator a bit ensures the dough won't be overworked in the rolling/cutting/rerolling/cutting process. Fifteen minutes of rest/chill time is all this dough needs. Note: If you keep your dough in the refrigerator longer, you will have to let it set out a bit or it will crack when rolling.

Recommend baking temperatures for shortbread ranged from 300 degrees (F) to 350 degrees (F) or 140 degrees (C) to 180 degrees (C). Both batches of these shortbread cookies were baked at 350 degrees (F) for 15-20 minutes (cookies were rolled out to 1/4" thickness).  Baking time will vary slightly primarily due to the size and thickness of the cookies. If you want a thicker shortbread cookie, your baking time will increase. Your shortbread is done when the edges are lightly golden in color.

After allowing the baked cookies to rest on the baking pan for 5 minutes, transfer to a cooling rack. Once cooled to room temperature, they can be packaged in cellophane bags or placed in a tightly sealed tin. I am fairly certain these cookies get better with a bit of age. But honestly the ones I didn't give away didn't last more than two days here. And it's not simply because we love shortbread or cookies or sweets. They were just flaky, crispy, buttery, not overly sugary, addictively amazing. They were GREAT! Definitely a shortbread cookie I would put in the throw down worthy category.

Shortbread Cookies (inspired from multiple sources)

7.05 ounces (200 g) unsalted butter, cool but not chilled firm (Kerrygold is one of my favorites)
3 1/2 ounces (100 g) caster sugar
7 ounces (200 g) all-purpose flour
3 1/2 ounces (100 g) rice flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) or 180 degrees (C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift the all-purpose flour and rice flour. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter and caster sugar until combined.
4. Add the sifted flours until large clusters of dough forms. Be careful not to over process.
5. Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc or rectangle.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes to allow it to rest.
6. On a lightly floured surface, cut dough in half. Rewrap one half and return to the refrigerator. Roll out remaining dough half to 1/4" thickness. Cut into desired shapes.
7. Bake 15-20 minutes or until edges of the shortbread are lightly browned. Allow cookies to set on pan for 5 minutes. Remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Note: Baking time may vary based on the size of the shortbread cookies.
8. While cookies are baking, roll out other half of the dough. Cut into desired shapes. Bake accordingly.
9. When cool, serve immediately or store in a tightly sealed container. 

Notes: (1) If making this shortbread using the fork/hand/bowl method, begin by cutting the butter into small cubes. In a medium sized bowl, blend the butter and sifted flours together until them mixture is crumb-like. Stir the sugar into the mixture, then using your hands squeeze it all together to form a ball (it will seem a bit crumbly). Flatten the ball of dough to about 1 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, allow to chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees (F) or until the edges are lightly golden. (2) I didn't make the decorative fork indentations on the leaf cookies, but did when I made them into squares. (3) In the states, India Tree's Caster Sugar is my go-to.

Grazing dairy cows (October 2017)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Versunkener Apfelkuchen (Sunken Apple Cake)

After visiting an apple orchard last week I realized I need to learn how to make apple butter and/or apple sauce if I want to put a bushel of apples to good use. Because there are only so many apple confections I can make without sending the household into apple overload. Or if I am still bound and determined to experience the unexplainable joy that comes from wandering through the rows of apple trees and picking apples, I am going to need to take a friend or two with me so we can share in the orchards bounty. But finding an orchard giving me the flexibility of letting me decide how many apples I want to pick would be perfect for when I need to restock the apple eating and baking inventory.

The apple orchard I frequented near my farmhouse out east spoiled me. Even when it was 'closed', I could still walk up the steep hill to the orchard and meander through the trees until I found those perfect apples. Sometimes I picked only enough to eat for the week, other times I picked enough to give to friends. Whether it's a figment of my imagination or not, the taste of apples picked fresh from the trees don't seem compare to the ones store-bought. Not even the ones labeled as 'organic'. 

Some weeks back while browsing through the cookbook 'Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites from, Pfeffernusse to Stresuselkuchen' by Luisa Weiss I was immediately drawn to the recipe for Versunkener Apfelkuchen aka Sunken Apple Cake. A simple, yet delicious sounding cake, this German version of an apfelkucken reminded me a little of the Italian Torta di Mele. Although there was enough of a difference between them that I knew I needed the German version in my life.

While most kuchens are considered to be simple cakes, ones intended to be shared and enjoyed with friends over a cup of coffee, they are moist, buttery, slightly custardy, apple-y bites of deliciousness. The Versunkener Apfelkuchen is a cake where thinly sliced apples are carefully placed atop a thick luscious batter. When baked, the cake batter rises around the apples creating the effect of apples peeking through a golden brown crust. A dusting of confectionary sugar on top not only hides any of the cakes imperfections, it adds a beautiful aesthetic finish. Turning a seemingly ordinary every day cake into one worthy of being enjoyed at a celebration.

More than likely you have all of the ingredients for an Versunkener Apfelkuchen in your refrigerator or pantry. And no, it doesn't require a trip to the apple orchard! I used Granny Smith apples as I like them for their tartness and ability to hold their shape while baking, although there are a number of other apples you can use in this cake (see recipe below).

To further ensure the meticulously cut apples remained fresh and unblemished, I began this cake by making the batter first. There is no need to pull out a standing mixer as a hand mixer will actually work better. A lesson learned in the making of this cake. The zest from half a (medium sized) lemon, butter and sugar are beaten together until light and fluffy. At this point you can then either add the eggs whole or having divided your eggs, add only the egg yolks along with the vanilla. I opted for the divide the eggs (whipping the egg whites until stable peaks form and add later) approach for making this cake. A suggestion taken from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen. Once the eggs or yolks and vanilla are fully blended, the sifted flour is added in two additions along with the kosher salt. The juice from half of a lemon is mixed in before the whipped egg whites are folded in (in three additions) until no streaks remain. Scrape the lush, thick batter into prepared 9" springform pan. Smooth the top with an offset spatula and set aside. Note: I used self-rising flour for this cake, but you 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder can be used instead.

Some recipes for the Versunkener Apfelkuchen cut the apples only in half, not in quarters. Additionally, some will suggest cutting the apples only halfway through so the apples stay intact. If your apples are small, the cutting in half method may be your best option. If they are medium sized or larger, and you would like your cake covered in apples, then I would definitely recommend going in the cutting into quarters route. While my thin slices (approximately 1/8") weren't exactly up to German engineering standards, they baked up beautifully. 

I ended up cutting my apples all the way rather than halfway through. This may in part have contributed to their sinking down a little further than I would have wanted, although I think pushing down on them into the batter too hard was the real reason. However you cut them, keep them intact even as you squeeze fresh lemon juice over them and sprinkle them with sugar.

If you do a search for Versunkener Apfelkuchen, you will find a myriad of designs for placing the apples on top of the cake. Be as playful and artistic as you want as I honestly don't think there is one right way to arrange them. Sprinkle the top of the cake with a tablespoon or two of demerara sugar before putting into the oven.

In a preheated 350 degree (F) oven the cake bakes for 35-45 minutes. Or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (be careful not to test the doneness of the cake by inserting the toothpick into the apples). Place the baked cake on a cooling rack and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before removing the springform pan ring. 

As much as you will be tempted to cut into this cake, allow it come to room temperature before serving. 

While the dusting of confectionary sugar was my attempt at a cosmetic fix to a cake lovingly made, it added the perfect amount of sweetness. So whether or not my sunken apples display perfectly on top of the cake the next time it's made, I will still opt for the 'dusting of snow' confectionary sugar finish. 

Regardless of our cultural backgrounds and ethnicity, we all need this Versunkener Apfelkuchen in our lives. Having an almost perfect apple to cake ratio, you could probably justify eating this cake for breakfast. I know I could.

Versunkener Apfelkuchen  (Sunken Apple Cake) - (Several adaptations to the Versunkener Apfelkuchen recipe from Luisa Weiss's Classic German Baking cookbook along with some influence from Smitten Kitchen's Honey Apple Cake recipe)

3 medium-large apples (I used Granny Smith, but could also use Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Cortland, or Fuji Apples)
Zest from 1/2 of a medium sized lemon
Juice from a medium sized lemon, divided
9 1/2 Tablespoons (130 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (125 g) caster or granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature, separated (See notes)
1 1/2 cups (190 g) self-rising flour (or use 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and add 2 teaspoon baking powder)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 Tablespoons demerara sugar
Optional: Confectionary sugar for dusting top of the cake and/or lightly sweetened whipped cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) or 180 degrees (C). Line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter sides of pan and the parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Sift flour and set aside. (Note: If using all-purpose flour, sift the flour with the baking powder and set aside.)
3. In a medium to large bowl, combine lemon zest, butter, and sugar. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy (approximately 2-3 minutes).
4. Add in egg yolks and vanilla. Beat until yolks are fully incorporated.
5. Add kosher salt and half of the flour. Mix until the flour is incorporated. Add the remaining flour and mix until incorporated. Note: Batter will be thick at this point.
6. Mix in juice from half of the lemon.
7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until semi-stiff (peaks will form, but the mixture will not appear dry).
8. Fold in the whipped egg whites in 3 additions until no white streaks remain, but be careful to not over mix the batter at this point.
9. Scrape the silky cake batter into the prepared cake pan. Smooth top with an offset spatula.
10. Peel and core 3 apples. Cut apples into quarters. Thinly slice apple quarters (trying not to cut all the way through, but it's okay if you do, just keep the cut quarters intact). Place sections of the apples in a large bowl. Squeeze juice from the other half of the lemon over the sliced apple quarters (but do not stir). Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of caster (or granulated sugar).
11. Very gently arrange the sliced apple quarters (core side down) on top of the batter, leaving only a little space between the apples. Do not press down firmly or shift apples once they have been placed on top of the batter. Sprinkle top with 1-2 Tablespoons demerara sugar.
11. Bake in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the cake (not apples) comes out clean.
13. Place cake pan on a cooling rack for at least 5-10 minutes before removing springform pan ring from cake.
14. Allow cake to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a cake stand or platter and serve. 
15. Optional: Sprinkle top of the cake with sifted confectionary sugar.

Notes: (1) The suggestion for separating the eggs and blending in the egg whites separately came from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen. The Versunkener Apfelkuchen recipe from Luisa Weiss recommended adding the eggs whole. Either option will work. (2) Carefully lay apples on batter rather than pressing them in firmly if you want your cut apples to be fully exposed on the top of the cake. (3) The cake is best on the first day, but if well wrapped will keep for 2 days. (4) In lieu of a dusting of confectionary sugar to add some sweetness, can also serve the cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Autumn Bounty (October 2017)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

In spite of it being apple, pumpkin, and everything autumnally nice season, I decided to be an outlier and make this Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake instead. The plainest, most humble, least ambitious, most ordinary, deceivingly ho-hum, borderline old-fashioned dessert in Yotam Ottolenghi's and Helen Goh's newest cookbook "Sweet".  Brilliance, as you will discover in your first bite of this cake, doesn't need to come only from complexity. It can and does come from simplicity. And generally speaking, this Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake, made with simple ingredients could not be any easier to make. If there was ever a cake you will find yourself making again and again for either legitimate or just because reasons, this will be the one. It's the kind of cake you want to serve to overnight guests, to bring on a weekend trip, to bring as a hostess gift, to make as a welcoming gift, to make for someone who makes you happy, to bring to a meeting, to serve at your book club.....okay I think you get the idea of this cake's versatility and impressibility. And as an added bonus, it can be made year round as it doesn't rely on seasonal ingredients. 

Before any of your friends discover the recipe for this Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake, you need to make it. More specifically, when anyone in your circle of strangers and friends hear the words 'Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake", you want them to associate you with it. Of course, you will defer the accolades and all flattering remarks and give credit to Helen Goh because it's the right thing to do. Your graciousness will only further serve to forever link you to this cake. 

As I had shared in a prior blog post, I have the European version of the cookbook "Sweet" (although I am seriously considering getting the American version as converting metric amounts to the familiar American ones can at times be challenging). In the spirit of full disclosure, I made this Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake using the ingredient amounts least familiar to me. But not to worry if you don't have a metric scale or milliliter measuring cup as the recipe below provides you with the cup and tablespoon amounts as well. Not to digress to much here or be more than my unusually redundant self, having a metric scale is worth it's weight in gold. If you don't yet have one, find any excuse to buy one for yourself or find a reason for someone to buy it for you. I promise you (meaning all of my American friends) will find yourself unable to live without it. Okay, done (for the moment).

For those you who haven't yet discovered a Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake having an excessively puckering sweet and sugary lemony flavor, it is your lucky day.

I know I said the ingredients for this cake are readily accessible, but when you look at the ingredient list and see 'caster sugar' listed, you might think I don't understand the meaning of word 'accessible' (but I do, really I do). Caster sugar is becoming one of those ingredients you find regularly sitting on the shelves in some grocery stores and many cooking stores. But if you can't find it, you have a couple of options: (1) Order it online (Amazon is one source); (2) substitute it with superfine sugar; or (3) process your granulated sugar in a food processor until it has a very fine consistency. If you opt for option 3, measure and/or weigh it after it has a superfine consistency. 

Unlike most other loaf cakes where you begin with creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, this cake begins with whisking/beating together the eggs and caster sugar until frothy and pale in color. The whipping cream is added in next. The mixture is whisked/beaten until it becomes even more pale in color and slightly thickened. After a couple of minutes of beating, my mixture became ever so slightly thickened, although I don't think it achieved the consistency implied in the recipe. While it all seemed to work out in the end, I might consider whipping the cream to soft peaks first before adding to the egg/sugar mixture just to see if there is any discernible difference in either the texture or rise of the cake.

The dry ingredients are sifted together and folded into the egg/sugar/cream mixture until fully incorporated. But before you sift and/or add the flour/baking powder/salt, melt the butter, remove from the heat and stir in the poppy seeds and grated lemon zest. The poppy seeds should have some time to soften in the butter/lemon zest before they are added to the batter. Once everything is mixed together, the batter is poured into a prepared one pound loaf pan/tin (8 1/2" x 4 1/2") and baked for approximately 50 minutes in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven. Note: Set your loaf pan on a baking sheet before putting in the oven in the even there is any spillage.

While the Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake is baking, make the lemon glaze. To make it whisk together confectionary sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice until smooth.

Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, spoon over the lemon glaze evenly over the top. Continue spreading the glaze until it becomes transparent and no pools of glaze remain on the top of the cake. Note: Do not poke holes in the cake.

After topping the hot out of the oven cake with the lemon glaze, allow it to remain in the pan for 30-45 minutes. Then transfer to a platter and let it come to room temperature before serving.

This isn't the first poppy seed cake I have shared on the blog (Glazed Poppy Seed Cake), but it's the first lemon and poppy seed cake made in a loaf versus a bundt pan. While both cakes are delicious, they are very different from each other. In other words, you have room in your life for both of them. Particularly if you are fond of confections made with poppy seeds.

This soul and sweet tooth satisfying cake is tender, moist, and just the right amount of lemony. If you are looking to impress your family and friends without spending hours in the kitchen or shelling out a small fortune at the grocery store, make this Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake. Whether it makes an appearance at breakfast, at afternoon tea, for dessert, or as a night time snack, it's the kind of cake destined to be one your friends and family hope you bring or serve. Just make sure to put a piece away for yourself as its' not likely there will be any leftovers.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake (inspired by the Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake recipe from the cookbook "Sweet" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh)

3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup and 2 Tablespoons (225 g) caster (or superfine) sugar (I use India Tree's Caster Sugar)
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
5 1/2 Tablespoons (75 g) unsalted butter
1 generous Tablespoon (10 g) poppy seeds
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2-3 lemons)
1 1/3 cups (170 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7/8 cup (100 g) confectionary or icing sugar
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) or 180 degrees (C). Line a one pound loaf pan (8 1/2" x 4 1/2") with parchment paper. Lightly butter sides of pan and parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in poppy seeds and lemon zest. Set aside.
3. Sift together the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
4. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or in a medium sized bowl using a hand mixer), beat together the caster sugar and eggs at medium high speed until pale and frothy (approximately 2 minutes).
5. Add heavy cream and beat until the mixture has slightly thickened and mixture becomes even paler in color. Note: Alternately beat cream until soft peaks form, add to the egg/sugar mixture and continue beating until the batter has slightly thickened. 
6. Add the sifted dry ingredients and fold in using a spatula.
7. Fold in the butter/lemon zest/poppy seed mixture.
8. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
9. While the cake is baking, whisk together the confectionary/icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth to make the glaze.
10. When cake is removed from the oven, immediately spoon over the lemon glaze. Use the back of the spoon to spread the glaze evenly over the cake. Keep moving around the glaze until it has all been absorbed and no pools of glare remain.
11. Allow cake to cool for 30-45 minutes before removing from the pan. 
12. Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving. Cut into 1/2" slices when serving. Store cake covered at room temperature.

Harvest season in an Illinois cornfield.