Sunday, January 27, 2019

Penuche Coffee Cake

Outside of chocolate fudge, I believe the next favorite flavor of fudge is Penuche. Penuche is basically a brown sugar fudge. There are sometimes add ins like coconut and pecans, which makes this fudge even more irresistible.

This particular recipe for coffee cake incorporates the flavor of penuche as a filling. It also has the particular add in as mentioned above. The filling in the cake is not as thick as fudge, it more resembles the texture of the typical icing you find on a German chocolate cake. The base of the cake is a fluffy yeast bread that just takes a few hours to rise. Outside of this delicious combination, the crowning touches are lots of streusel and a white icing drizzle.

The amount of filling in this cake is more than the norm, which I consider a plus. This insures that you get some crunchy pecans and moist coconut in every bite. That factor is what makes this recipe extra special. The original information is below and there are tips and notes at the end to help your bake be successful.

Penuche Coffee Cake
adapted from this old hen website

Pastry Ingredients:
3/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg (room temp)
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/3 cup instant mashed potatoes (mixed with 1/3 cup warm water)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening, cut in small cubes
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour

Penuche Filling Ingredients:
3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
7 oz sweetened coconut
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg (room temp)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Streusel Ingredients:
2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
pinch of salt

Icing Drizzle Ingredients
2 tbs water
2 cups powdered sugar (sifted)

The bread base is the first component. Start by sprinkling the yeast over the surface of the warm water. Then stir a few times. The mixture will develop a foam on the surface after 10 minutes. At this stage, add mashed potato mixture, egg, shortening, milk, salt and sugar. Whisk together with a fork and use it to mash the shortening on the inside of the bowl so it is the size of peas.

Prepare a 9x13 inch rectangle pan or a 12 inch round pan by buttering the interior. If you have a 12 inch springform pan, that will work also. Set pan aside.

Using a wooden spoon, fold in 1 cup of the flour. When that is thoroughly blended, fold in the second cup and blend, then do the same with the last cup. Dust a flat surface with flour. Remove the ball of dough and knead for 5 minutes, kneading in the remaining 1/2 cup of the flour. Shape into a ball and cover dough lightly and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This should take about one hour.

During the rise time, prepare the filling. Place a saucepan over low heat and fill with the butter. Continue to cook until butter is completely melted. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and the egg. Pour in with the butter. Then add both types of sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir together and switch heat to medium high. Mixture will thicken as it cooks. For the right consistency, cook for about 12-15 minutes, watching and stirring ocassionally. Lastly, stir in pecans and coconut, making sure coconut clumps are broken up. Transfer mixture to a heat proof bowl and place in refrigerator until needed.

After the dough has doubled, dust the flat surface again with flour. Remove dough from bowl and punch down. Roll out to about 1 inch more than the interior of your prepared pan. Then lightly press it into the pan covering the bottom and the sides up to the top edge.

Cover lightly with a towel and let the dough rise in the pan for one hour or until doubled in size.

As it rises, prepare the streusel. Fill a food processor with all the ingredients and pulse until all is combined and mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.After the pan rise time is completed, press down dough in bottom and sides of pan. Empty bowl of filling into the pan. Using a spatula, smooth the filling out evenly,
covering the entire interior bottom and reaching to all corners of the dough. Then evenly sprinkle on the streusel clumps. Place cake pan on a baking sheet and put in preheated oven. Bake until edges of dough are golden, about 35-45 minutes.

Remove pans and place cake pan on a rack to cool completely. Once cool, prepare the icing by whisking together the water and sifted powdered sugar. If the cake was baked in round form, invert onto serving platter by inverting twice. The streusel should be face up. If baked in the 9X13 inch pan, cake can be served from pan. Drizzle or use a squirt bottle to ice the cake. Wait 30 minutes for icing to set.  

Tips and Notes:
1. I used parchment on the 9x13 inch pan so I could pull the cake out of the pan. It got too wet and tore, so it is best to leave it in the pan to serve.

2. The streusel was more dough than crumble, so I added 2/3 cup more flour to get it the right consistency.

3.The cake did not bubble over when baking, so the pan on the bottom was just a precaution.

4.The original recipe listed a egg for the filling ingredients yet instructed to add egg yolks but nowhere did it say to add egg. I used just an egg and it turned out fine.
                            **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Tequila Sundae** 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Gingerbread Bars

I like the winter spices, even in the summertime. Gingerbread may conjure up memories with grandma, however, the flavor is classic but very much part of today. It has been too long since I have indulged in some gingerbread.

Today's post is actually a combination of two elements. The first element of the ginger bars are a spicy blend in which has a moist texture that is teetering between a cookie and a cake. They are thin enough to use for sandwich cookies. Instead of a cookie cream filling, I opted to make ice cream sandwiches.

To go along with the spice theme, I chose to fill them with the apple spice ice cream that was made in a previous post.Winter spices in a cookie bar as well as in the ice cream...this combo makes for a wonderful dessert.

Gingerbread Bars
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine 2009

2 eggs, room temp.
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of butter (1 1/4 sticks), room temp.
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups flour

Prepare a baking sheet (10x15x1 inches) by buttering the interior. Lightly dust with flour and tap out excess. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Measure out the flour into a bowl and take out 2 tablespoons. Reserve the 2 tablespoons of flour for later use. Take the bowl of flour and the six ingredients listed before flour and sift together. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter, dark brown sugar and only 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Cream the ingredients together, running the mixer on medium high speed and stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the mixture is nice and fluffy, add one egg and blend for 30 seconds. Repeat with the second egg. Then stir in the molasses until evenly distributed.

Using a wooden spoon, fold the 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the egg/butter blend. Repeat with the next 2 additions of the sifted ingredients. Combine until no dry streaks remain.

Empty bowl of batter into prepared baking sheet. Using a spatula, spread and smooth the batter evenly, covering the interior of the pan.

Take the reserved 2 tablespoons of flour and dust over the surface of the batter using a sifter. Then sprinkle a second layer, this time with the remaining sugar (1 tablespoon and 1 1/2 tsp) over the top. Place pan in oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Remove and cool completely. Cut into desired size. If making ice cream sandwiches, let your ice cream soften a little (like soft serve) before putting between the 2 bars. Press together and smooth the edges with a spatula and freeze.

If you cut them 3 1/2 x 1 3/4,  you will have 24 bars or 12 ice cream sandwiches.

Tips and Notes:
1. The flour on the surface is still noticeable after baking, you can eliminate that step if you do not like the look.

2. Evenly smoothing the batter is key. Too thin and it will bake up as crust, too thick and it will be more cake like.

3. The bars can be made 2 days prior to sandwiching them together

                                          **LAST YEAR:Bear Claws**

Sunday, January 13, 2019

French Lemon Pound Cake

The things I like about pound cakes and bundt cakes are their velvety texture and the stand alone flavor. Most cakes in this category require no icing, even though some are glazed and iced. In regards to this particular recipe, glazing or icing would be a mistake.

For those that crave super lemon flavor, the french have you covered on this one. It takes 9 lemons to make this pound cake. There are lemon segments in the batter. In addition, you give the loaf a few squeezes to soak up a lemon syrup after baking. All that lemon creates a pop of tart flavor with every bite-especially when it includes a lemon segment.

Since this cake has such super flavor, I have discarded all other recipes for lemon pound cake.  This will be my "go to" recipe.

French Lemon Pound Cake
adapted from the New York Times

3/4 cup of heavy cream
6 eggs
9 lemons
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter plus 2 tablespoons; melted
1 1/2 cup of sugar
2 3/4 cup of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

remaining zest from creating cake
Juice from remaining 6 lemons from creating cake
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the cake, grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and line interior bottom and 2 long sides with parchment paper. Grease the surface of the parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take 4 of the lemons and grate the outer skin for lemon zest. Set zest aside.

Using 3 of the zested lemons, slice off the tops and bottoms. Then cut away the skin and white pith by standing on end and slicing downward. After that, the membrane and seeds will need to be removed. Use a paring knife and work over a bowl to capture the fruit and juices. Once finished, check the size of the lemon segments and cut any in half that exceed one inch. Set this aside, along with the 4th zested lemon.

Take out a medium size bowl and sift together baking powder and flour. Add the sugar and whisk until evenly distributed into the sifted ingredients. Empty into a bowl of a stand mixer and run mixer on low speed while slowly streaming in heavy cream. Once combined, turn mixer to medium speed and add one egg. Beat for 30 seconds to combine. Repeat the process with each egg. Then mix in the melted butter. Remove bowl from stand mixer.

Add 3/4 of the zest to the batter, along with lemon segments and juices. Mix with spatula or wooden spoon to combine. Set remaining zest aside. Empty batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove and make a slice about 1/2 inch deep lengthwise in the center of the loaf. Return loaf to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Once that baking session is over, reduce the oven temperature to 325. Bake loaf until tester comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

While the loaf is baking, create the syrup. Take and juice the remaining 6 lemons (this includes the one that was zested). Whisk in the rest of the zest.

Fill a saucepan with the water and both types of the sugar. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove and whisk in zest/juice blend. Let cool.

After loaf is baked, let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack. Remove parchment and invert again so loaf is face up. Let cool for 20 more minutes. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour cooled syrup into a large dish with ample room for the loaf. Invert loaf into syrup and lightly squeeze. Invert again and repeat the process. Place the loaf face up on the prepared baking sheet and put in oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool on rack completely before slicing and serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. Due to the syrup, loaf will somewhat damp on the outer edges. The extra 10 minutes baking after soaking does not dry it out. It may be damp but the syrup does bring a lot of flavor to the loaf.

2. Serving suggestion is to slice, toast and top with fruit compote.

3. After baking the loaf for 15 minutes, it still has a batter consistency. The lengthwise scoring or cut will show after completely baked.

4. Feel free to use Meyer lemons for less acidiity, they are still in season. When you get ready to cut, remember that their skin is thinner than regular lemons.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Salty Sweet Nut Bars** 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Brandied Eggnog Cookies

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. This post is a little late, but I am still reminiscing. I wanted to thank all the Google communities of wonderful bakers and cooks that inspire me. I now am in the job realm of baking, but I still continue with my passion on my own time with this blog.

To start this year, I bring you a recipe for a delectable sandwich cookie. The crunch of a sugar cookie sandwiched together by a brandy nutmeg filling. All the flavor of eggnog in a sweet gem of a treat. Next year try putting these cookies out for Santa-it will definitely insure that you are on his nice list!

Brandied Eggnog Cookies
adapted from the Good Cookie

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Ingredients/Cream Filling
1 cup plus 2 tbs confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs brandy
3 tbs butter (softened)

Coarse sugar
Grated nutmeg

For the cookies, fill the bowl of a stand mixer with butter and sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the vanilla,  nutmeg, egg yolk and salt. Pour into the butter/sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly blended.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in the flour, incorporating it into the batter in 1/2 cup intervals. Once combined, place a large piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Transfer the dough to the plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Completely cover dough and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour and maximum of 3 days.

When you are ready to form and bake cookies, lightly sprinkle a flat work surface with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. Place one half back in refrigerator and the other half on the work surface. Dust with flour and roll dough out in a mass about 1/8 of an inch thick. Using a cutter (I used linzer cookie cutter) about 1 1/2 inch square, cut dough into shapes. For the center hole, use a 1/2 inch round piping tip to form the window or hole. This step is to be completed on only half of the cookies, the top cookie will have the window and the bottom cookie will be solid.

Then transfer cut outs to a baking sheet, placing the solid cut outs together on one sheet and the cut outs with the window on another. The baking time for the cut outs with the window takes about one minute less than the others. Sprinkle each cookie with coarse sugar. Place cookies in the oven and bake each sheet separately, for about 9-11 minutes. Cookies should be be a light golden brown on the bottom, the tops should not change color. Once baked, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat the process of rolling the dough and cutting out shapes by re-using the scraps and the second piece of dough in the refrigerator. If the dough gets too sticky in the process, return it to the refrigerator to firm up. Once firm, you can start the rolling and cutting process again.

For the filling, fill a small bowl with the butter and beat until smooth and silky. Add 1/2 a cup of the confectioners's sugar and beat until no dry powder remains. Using another bowl, whisk together the brandy and vanilla extract. Add it to the butter/sugar mixture and blend until evenly distributed. Lastly, mix in the remaining confectioners' sugar until creamy. It should have a frosting consistency.

Spread about 3/4 of a teaspoon of filling onto each solid cookie. Then lightly press the cookie with the window on top. Grate or sprinkle the top with nutmeg.

Tips and Notes:
1. Another method for forming the cookies is to roll the dough on parchment paper, making sure the dough can fit into the baking sheet. Then cut out dough on parchment lined baking sheet and remove the outer scraps, leaving the cut outs on the baking sheet. This keeps you from having to transfer the cut out from the flat surface to the cookie sheet, so it insures the perfect shape. Also, if the dough gets too sticky or soft, it can be chilled quickly in the refrigerator on the baking sheet.

2. Feel free to use the liquor of your choice. I used gingerbread spiced whiskey.

3. The recipe states it makes 30 cookies, I ended up with about 24. My 1/8 of an inch thickness was not consistent, so I had less cookies.

4. The filling of 3/4 of a tsp may not seem much. Due to the strength of the brandy, not much filling is required to get a nice flavor pairing with the cookies.
                                       **LAST YEAR:Cocoa Almond Pound Cake**