This was the first month I participated in the Daring Bakers’ Challenge (brought to you by the lovely folk of The Daring Kitchen). Every month, they pose a challenge to bakers (or cooks, should you prefer savoury kitchen concoctions), recipes and instructions are given but you are encouraged to “run with it”. The March challenge was a Yeasted Meringue filled Coffee Cake hosted by Jamie of Life’s a Feast and Ria of Ria’s Collection.
The dough is a brioche-like, and while I am no stranger to yeast, I haven’t done much with more delicate sweet doughs. The dough for the coffee cake is however quite versatile, allowing for a variety of flavourings. Jamie and Ria both provide a variety of the coffee cake; Ria’s recipe infuses the milk with saffron and has a filling of cashews, garam masala, granulated sugar, and semisweet chocolate chips. Jamie’s recipe does not infuse the milk and has a filling of pecans/walnuts, ground cinnamon, granulated sugar, and semisweet chocolate.
The first time (yes, first) I made the recipe, I infused the milk with cloves and a touch of lemon zest. My filling was a smashed plum, brambleberry, and walnut compote.
It was delicious.
A beautiful, golden wreath it was not meant to be.
When my dough was shaped and on the final rise, it fell.
I put in on the shelf to do its business, walked away, and heard a gut-wrenching ‘BANG’ and my heart wept for the delicious compote the was surely smeared all over my floor.
Luckily, the baking gods decided I must have spilled/dropped enough things this week and guided it to topple directly over and I was able to scoop up the disaster by holding the tea towel over the baking tray. When I went to shape it, it made a right ol’ mess, a delicious right ol’ mess, and I won’t say I did but I won’t say I didn’t have a spoonful of plum and brambleberry compote/meringue mix.
The second time (two coffee cakes in one month, a hard knock life we live), I decided to try a more traditional coffee cake. For the dough I used chocolate milk (instead of white) which I infused with a few scoops of coffee. My filling was simple milk chocolate and cinnamon (I skipped the granulated sugar in the second round, purely because I forgot. It was plenty sweet, however).The result was as delicious as the first, albeit a tad prettier. Both times I could have gone for more filling, so when it tells you “Don’t skimp on the filling”, really just don’t skimp on the filling.-Al
(*Both times I was low on eggs, so I put the egg yolks into the dough and saved the whites for the meringue. Dough may have been a tad dryer, but adjust the flour and you have a wonderfully moist baked product)
FILLED MERINGUE COFFEE CAKE
Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake (**I halved the recipe both times, and it worked like a charm)
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ – 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar
For the filling:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate
1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store)
1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)
Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes
Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) 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. Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.
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 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 (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) 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 ½ 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 with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped 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.
Using 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.
Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.
Cover the 2 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.
Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. 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.