Sunday, March 27, 2011

Orange, Toasted Almonds and Chocolate Meringue Filled Yeast Coffee Cake - Daring Bakers

I call this Coffee Cake my "Deal Breaker". Ever since the first of the year (over 3 months), I've been in a deal with myself and food. I've been eating in moderation, counting calories and exercising more, using the Weight Watcher's point system and monitoring to make sure I get plenty of water and NOT plenty of chocolate. Until now. Until this month's Daring Bakers Challenge. Until this...
... Orange, Toasted Almond and Chocolate
Meringue Filled Yeast Coffee Cake.

This spongy bread roll of sweet meringue, Belgium Chocolate, toasted almonds and orange zest is a ring of break-apart, pull-apart handfuls of chewable irresistible temptation. Not to mention, it's hard to type with melted chocolate on your fingers.

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.
See this plate with a sensible serving size of Coffee Cake sitting so pretty on it? That was not the problem. The problem was the pan in the background, the one with only HALF of the whole circle left because the rest of it is on my thighs!

Okay, back to reality tomorrow. I'll be giving the rest of this away. I can't even express how good this Coffee Cake is, but it's a heart breaking deal breaking yeast-beast. It can take an adult female down a chocolate-induced coma alley and make her literally eat off the serving platter because getting another plate would just take too long.
If you dare -- bake this. If you have people who can help you eat it before you eat it all -- bake this.

I'm not sorry I baked it. I'm not sorry I ate it. I will get back to sanity within 24 hours, and I will remember that the next time... the next time... I want to really go nuts on a sweet addictive Coffee Cake -- I will bake this, AGAIN!RECIPE: (as given to us by Daring Bakers)


Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter

[I cut this recipe in half and made one]

For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour 1
⁄4 cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
3⁄4 teaspoon (5 g / 1⁄4 oz.) salt
1 package (2 1⁄4 teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
3⁄4 cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
1⁄4 cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
1⁄2 cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

[I used half of the above ingredients and added 1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg, and zest of one orange]

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄2 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar
For the filling:

[I used 2 egg whites, pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 cup sugar]


1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

[I used toasted almonds, and belgium chocolate disks the cinnamon, sugar and a pinch of dried orange zest]


Prepare the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1⁄2 cups (230 g) of the flour [3/4 cup], 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 (150 g) flour [ 1/2 cup] 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 and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.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.

Prepare your filling. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. 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 1⁄2 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 [I used 1] with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time, roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 1⁄2 cm) rectangle. Spread meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle 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. [I used a mold to keep the center in a circle].Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 1⁄2 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 cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
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.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elderberry Syrup - Simple Saturday

When my child, or someone I love is sick - I would do/try/make/buy anything to help them feel better. Just listening to the coughs, and whimpers of sinus pain and not being able to make it disappear is a horrible, helpless feeling. Did you know that Elderberry can help? I'll show you how to make the syrup, then it's up to you if you put it in herbal tea for your loved ones or make it into a martini for you to celebrate after everything is back to normal.

Elderberry Syrup

My teenage son has been fighting a horrible cold/sore throat/sinus/head devil for almost two weeks. We went to the doctor only to have him give us a list of pharmaceuticals to battle the symptoms (not a fan) and a directive to rest and wait (big fan, but teenagers don't do this well.)

One night, kinda late, I sent out a red flag to my buddies on twitter for natural suggestions, any advice for soothing remedies that maybe grow on this planet. Jeanne of The Art of Gluten-free came to my rescue with a suggestion for Elderberry Syrup.
No, I didn't have Elderberry syrup just hanging out in my cupboard, but ironically I had dried Elderberries.

This is one of those weird things that happens to me now and then - I see something in a shop or a market and if I've never cooked with it, I buy a little bit so I can learn about it later.
A couple months ago, I literally wandered into this fantastic Spice Shop called...Spice Station in Santa Monica. I was lucky enough to find a parking spot when I was meeting a client, and there beside it was this little store with wall to wall jars of "something". I knew I'd be late for my meeting, but I had to go find out what kind of tea, spice, magical stems or seeds they were selling.It reminded me of one of my favorite shops during a visit to Munich. As you walk around, the air changes and teases you with grassy, then sweet, then peppery smells. I bought some sexy Vanilla Rooibos tea and a small bag of Elderberries (because I didn't know what you did with them.) Cut to: Elderberry Syrup. Turns out, elderberries have been cold and flu fighters for centuries. It was something that Jeanne knew, already. Check out her site for very honest talk, tried and true gluten-free baking recipes, and to learn about canning.

This elixir is so simple and I made a little jar of the dark, berry goodness and everyday I've been taking a tablespoon of it myself, I've added it to Breathe Deep Tea for my son, and I'm working on a few cocktail recipes for date nights with my husband. Get back to you on how that will "help what ails ya."


1 handful of dried Elderberries
2 cups water

* - Bring this to a boil and simmer until it reduces by half. Then, add to the saucepan:

1 cup honey
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
Pinch of fresh cracked pepper* - Bring this to a boil and simmer until it thickens into a syrup that coats the back of a spoon.

* - Strain this into a container to cool, then close and refrigerate (can be used for a couple weeks.)

I've been putting a couple Tbls into each pot of tea. I've also tried it in my coffee and as a simple syrup for cocktails. Everything I've used it in so far, I've loved. If you try it in baking, let me know. I'm thinking of using it in a Salad Vinaigrette for a Spinach and Strawberry salad. Does that sound good?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Olive & Smoked Gouda Gougere - Perfect Party Pal

Have you made Gougere lately (or at all)? I think they're the perfect little appetizer for a party, a family movie night, a tea, a bridal/baby/divorce shower, a light snack or as a little palate-pal to go with a glass of wine.
Olive & Smoked Gouda Gougere

Once you get the basics down, there is no end to how these puffy little morsels can be tweaked to meet your culinary needs. You can make them large, sweet and fill 'em up with ice cream or pastry cream then drizzle them with chocolate (Profiteroles) or you can add seasonings, or cheese (Gougere) and serve them crispy and melt-in-your-mouth light for a savory appetizer.

For a recent Wine Tasting, I added a collection of Lindsay California Black and Green Olives (chopped) and finely grated Smoked Gouda cheese to the Gougere batter. I topped them with an egg glaze and cooked them into golden balls of tangy/salty/cheesy addictive poppers.
One of the best things about these nibbles is how well they freeze for later. You can make these 2 weeks early, freeze them well, then bring out as many as you need and reheat them into crispy bites. That makes them the absolute perfect "have on hand" appetizers for me.


Choux paste is the batter that is used for Gougere, Profiteroles, Eclairs, Cream Puffs, etc. etc.
It will always have you melting butter into salted water, then adding flour. You'll need to cook the flour taste out, by stirring it for a few minutes as it balls up and gathers into a glossy batter. Then, you'll be beating eggs into the batter (one at a time, very important) until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
And, that's the process almost every time. The differences in this batter will be when and how much sugar to add, what kind of seasonings and savories to incorporate and the shape you use for what you want to serve (balls, long eclairs, mounds or strips.) A successful Profiterole, Gougere or Cream Puff will be crispy on the outside, hollow and mostly dry on the inside. If your additions hold moisture (like these olives or certain cheeses) there may be a little moisture or chew as a result of that, but it should be slight.RECIPE: Olive & Smoked Gouda Gougere

1 1/4 cup water

1/2 cup butter

1 1/4 cup flour

4 eggs (plus 1 for a glaze at the end)

2 oz. Chopped Olives (about 1/3 cup Lindsay Olives chopped)
4 oz. Finely grated Smoked Gouda (about 3/4 cup)

1) In a saucepan on Med., heat and stir the butter, water and salt until the butter melts.

2) Add the flour all at once and stir briskly for about 3 minutes (the batter will gather in a ball and leave the sides of the pan.)

3) Remove the batter and place in a mixing bowl, allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Then, beat (using the paddle attachment) to further cool the batter for a couple minutes.

[You can also do all the mixing by hand, just make sure to beat the eggs in well.]

4) Continue beating while adding the eggs one at a time, beating between each egg to incorporate.

5) Beat in the olives and the cheese just until blended.

6) Spoon the batter into a large pastry bag with a large hole tip and squeeze even sized dollops onto a parchment lined baking sheet (you can also spoon the batter onto the baking sheet by using a teaspoonful for each one). 7) For even cooking, use your fingertip or back of a spoon dipped in water and pat down any sharp tips that stand up. Then brush each dollop with a beaten egg glaze.

8) Bake in a 400F pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes. For extra care and crispy outside: turn the oven off at the end, open the door and leave the pan in the oven for 10 more minutes.

**TO FREEZE** Allow to cool on the baking pan, then place in freezer until individually frozen. Remove from pan and fill a zip-lock bag, label and return to freezer. To re-heat: cook at 325F for about 8 minutes.
Good nibbling...and sipping...and loving :D Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dandelion Bread Pudding with Sundried Tomatoes and Gruyere Cheese

Dandelions are my all time favorite plant - little miracles that are often misunderstood. Every part of the dandelion can be used for good:

1) The flowers can be fried, jellied, used for wine and salads.
2) The stems can be used for medicines, teas, coffees and juice.
3) The roots are used for teas and coffees, medicinal rubs and tonics.
4) The blossoms are used for decor, salads, and side dishes.
5) The leaves have more Vitamin C than lettuce, and more iron than spinach and can be boiled, steamed or eaten in a salad raw.

Dandelion Bread Pudding
Sundried Tomatoes and Gruyere Cheese

Dandelion (from the word Dente Lion) means tooth of the Lion; named because of the jagged shape of its leaves.
This is a plant that is independent and can grow with only the tiniest bit of light and space, even under rocks, and it can send it's seeds on the wind more than 5 miles away to carry on with life.
Centuries ago, folks pulled grass out of their property lands so that dandelions could grow. Now, people spend millions of dollars on poisonous pesticides to remove dandelions and have more uniform lawns, only to go to grocery stores and purchase "exotic" salads that contain organic dandelion greens. The "universe", surely, must have a sense of humor.

For a couple years, I've been holding "Dandelion Salons" in my home. It's a throw-back to the French Salons of hundreds of years ago when invited guests would gather to talk about art, politics, and ideas while eating and drinking (and eating and drinking) for hours. It has been a natural merging of my artistic careers with my culinary career and a built in group of "guinea pigs" for my recipe developing (shhhh.) The dandelion became my icon for the salon because of it's natural metaphor for encouraging ART and the strength it has to seek the light against all odds, even those that would vote/fight/teach or organize to suppress it.In the past, we've had script readings, interactive art therapy, singers and song writers, poetry, non-fiction personal journal readings, favorite passages, and film shorts shared along with a table full of food and drinks. The consistent food item is always something with...Dandelions!
The most recent Dandelion Salon was a reading of a television script written by Victor Rivers . A group of actors and guests read the script so Victor could get a feel for needed rewrites, what worked and what didn't. Victor and his wife, Mim Rivas, are both writers and understand how important it can be to hear your work out loud, outside of your head, before attempting another rewrite. Victor is also the National Spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. His life story is very moving and told in his Memoir, A Private Family Matter .
Some of the other Dandelion recipes have included: Dandelion Pasta w/Limoncello Sauce, Dandelion Salad w/Roasted Beets and Walnut Vinaigrette, and Toasted Oat Scones w/Dandelion Jelly, and of course, Dandelion Wine. This most recent Salon was a little earlier in the day and I wanted to develop a recipe for this week's Let's Lunch group (a global wide gathering of food bloggers that have virtual lunch together every month through our food blogs.) This month we are celebrating Spring and Small Bites. That's how this savory Dandelion Bread Pudding w/ Sundried Tomato and Gruyere came into my life.

RECIPE: Dandelion Bread Pudding w/Sundried Tomato and Gruyere Cheese

1 Bunch Dandelion Greens (washed, dried and chopped)
1 Onion (chopped small)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/4 cup Sundried Tomatoes (chopped if large)
1 Tsp. Dried Red Pepper Flakes
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Gruyere Cheese (grated or chopped fine)
3 cups Day-Old Bread (cubed) [if using fresh, cube and toast]

1) In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil and add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sundried tomatoes - cook on Med. until soft (about 5-8 mins).

2) Add the Dandelion greens, salt and pepper, stir and heat until wilted. Then hold to the side off the heat.

3) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and shredded cheese, then add the bread cubes to soak.

4) Add the Dandelion mixture into the bowl with the cream and bread, fold to incorporate.

5) Pour the contents into a 13x9inch baking dish, and bake in a preheated oven on 350F for about 45 mins - 1 hour or until set. Allow some of the bread cubes to stick out the top for a crunchy, crispy topping. **Optionally, sprinkle more cheese on top for a golden cheesy topping**
To serve: Cut into squares, or use biscuit cutters for making small plate servings.

For MORE Spring Small Plate ideas and recipes, check out these talented Let's Lunch Bloggers:

Chery's Popiah- Singaporean Spring Rolls at A Tiger In The Kitchen

Ellise‘s Bite-Size Black Pepper-Strawberry Scones at Cowgirl Chef

Emma‘s Radish Phyllo Cups at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

Karen‘s Sushi (with a video demonstration!) at Geofooding

Linda‘s Breakfast Cookies at Free Range Cookies

Here's more about Victor Rivers and NNEDV:

Victor Rivers National Spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence

When Victor speaks about the issue of domestic violence, he tells the heartbreaking story of a twelve year old boy who went to his local police department seeking help. There the boy disrobed for the officers and showed them the cuts, bruises, welts and burns that covered his body, telling how his father had been doing this to him, his siblings and even worse to his mother. Though the officers were horrified to hear about incidents of domestic violence that were on the level of torture, they told the boy there was little they could do. It was, they said, a private family matter. The year was 1967 and the boy was Victor himself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sweet Potato, Apple & Cider Pancakes

I'm a sucker for a bright Sweet Potato. Sometimes when I'm shopping I'll add a couple to my bag and assume I'll figure out what to make with them later. It's hard to go wrong with these terrific tubers.


Sweet Potatoes have tons of Vitamin A, and Fiber and are very low in calories. They are so naturally sweet, you don't need a lot of sugar, even when you use them in dessert recipes. I love adding them to pancakes as a way of increasing nutrients at breakfast and they freeze so easily. Make a stack of these, freeze them individually, then bag them and take out the amount you need when you need it - toast 'em, and you've got hot potato pancakes with chunks of apple. They even make a great snack for kids who love having them in little silver dollar size like the ones I made here. The butter on top makes a good picture (and let's face it, butter is fatty-fun-tastic), but these are so moist with the apples and sweet potato bits, the tang of buttermilk and the apple cider that you don't really even need butter or syrup.
RECIPE: Sweet Potato, Apple & Cider Pancakes

1 1/4 Cups Flour

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbls. Brown Sugar

1 Tbls. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

pinch of salt

1/2 cup Buttermilk

1 cup Apple Cider

2 eggs

1 Apple (peeled, cored, chopped small)

1 Med. Sweet Potato (Baked or Microwaved)

1) In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2) In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and apple cider 3) Stir together (the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients). Then fold in the apples and soft cooked insides of the sweet potato.
4) The batter should be thick, but loose. If too thick, add more cider or water.
5) Heat a griddle, or flat bottom non stick skillet on Med/High. Brush on a tiny bit of oil or butter if needed. Don't let the butter burn.
6) Ladle a small amount of batter onto the hot skillet and cook until the sides form tiny bubbles, flip and cook the other side of that pancake until set and cooked through.

** If freezing, allow the pancakes to cool completely - then freeze spread out on a sheet pan until firm, then bag for later and return to freezer.

To reheat - heat in toaster oven or oven for about 6 minutes on 300F.