Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Little Sweet Interlude After A Prolonged Quietude

Hey.  I sorta rhymed.  “Interlude”…”quietude”.  Yeah, I know, keep my day job.

Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long.  Haven’t been feeling the blogging muse, although I have been cooking, and making some yummy stuff.  And I’ve been documenting it, so we have some nummies stashed away waiting hopefully for an influx of the enchanting prose you’ve come to expect from me (kafff, kafff, kafff…..).

Seriously, I know I’ve promised, publicly, that I’d keep this puppy going come Hell or high water, and I feel really, not guilty, I try not to do guilt, but “loser-ish” for dropping the ball for so long.  Pinkie swear I’ll try not to do that again.  And I really promise not to bore you all with any of the ultimately inconsequential reasons for my absence.  Let’s just say I missed all y’all, and hope you felt even an iota of the same.

All rightie then.  Keep calm and carry on.

OK, so now that we’ve cleared the air, sort of, let’s talk about sweet little nibbles that are nice to have around the house.  Desserts, mid-afternoon snackies, tea-time goodies, a little sweetness with that cuppa first thing in the morning.  All of them are pretty damned nice treats.  Lord knows, I have a sweet tooth a mile wide.  Several sweet teeth actually.  I do loves me my sweets.  Candy, cookies, cakes, fruit crisps and crumbles, icey creams, sweet scones and biscuits and buns, pastries, all those little delicacies, save pies.  Not a huge pie fan am I (there I go rhyming again….).  But don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat a nicely made pie in a New York minute.

That said.  I don’t cook a lot of sweet stuff.  My sweet temptations are usually purchased.  Why?  Good damn question, and one I’m working to correct, since home-made stuff’s sooooooooo, so very much better than MegaMart purchased, and has better ingredients.

Part of the issue is that, as we know, it’s a single-Homo sapien household.  While the little fuzzbombs would dearly love to take excess cupcakes or doughnuts off of Mazziedog’s hands, I don’t want either the veterinarian bills or the 300-pound dogs sharing my bed that would come with such garbage disposal duty.  So no sweets for them.

And I also don’t want the 300-pound Mazziedog either.  Given the proper sweet inputs, I’d blow off breakfast, lunch AND dinner, and just scarf the sugar plums.  Or…..I make something that serves 12, have half of it, and then it either gets too stale to eat, or I get tired of it (me and that leftover thing….).  So, I don’t cook sweets as often as I would like.

I’m trying to change that.

I’m trying to train myself to look at a sweet/dessert recipe and figure out if I can a) reduce the yield by cutting the recipe in half, b) cook a smaller amount in smaller vessels (a 6-inch pie pan instead of a 9-incher, one layer instead of two), or c) freeze some.

This recipe was a triumph of both the “A” and “B” models.  I cut the recipe in half, AND baked the cake in mini-Bundt pans rather than the traditional, larger model.

So, let’s make “Coffee and Donuts Cake”, shall we?  It was every bit as delightful as its name implies.

We’re gunna be a little scanty on the pictures, because, really, how exciting is it to see cake batter coming together?  Sort of like watching my nail polish dry (it’s currently a nice deep, glossy burgundy color, the first polish I’ve had on in months, thanksferaskin’).  Or watching an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dou…erm,  Dumps, erm, Dives”, yeah, dives, that’s it……

You’ll need room temperature butter, eggs and milk.  Pull them out about an hour or two before you want to start putting the batter together.

Butter.  The proper consistency thereof.  That’s the secret to better batters.  Know your butter for better batters, kinda catchy, huh?  Back in my snot-nosed neophyte days, I thought I was sooooo, so very smart.  I’d pull the butter out of the fridge the night before I wanted to make cake/cookies/stuff.  In theory, great idea.  In practice, in Southern California, yeah, not so much.  I’d end up with goopy butter.  Almost melted (sometimes closer to melted than not, depending upon the weather….).  Too soft to cream well.  Too greasy to integrate well into your batter/dough.  Just……not good.

What you want with butter is just soft enough that if you push your index finger into it, it will penetrate easily.  Or if you take the two ends of the stick in each hand, and bend it, the butter will bend, but not break nor deform too much.  It should hold its “stick” shape.  Depending upon the temperature in your kitchen, that could take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours.  But not overnight, she says having learned her lesson.  If you’ve got a sunny window, and it’s not 115° outside, set the wrapped stick(s) on the windowsill for a bit.  That’ll help speed along the process.

So, this requires a bit of planning ahead, and getting the butter, eggs and milk warmed up, and not stone-cold from the fridge.  *MENTAL NOTE*.

You’ll also need AP flour, baking soda and powder, salt, ground nutmeg, neutral vegetable oil, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

We’re gunna make a typical cake batter out of those ingredients.  You know the drill, whisk together the dry ingredients, cream the butter with the oil and both sugars, beat in the eggs, add in the flour alternating with the milk and then the vanilla.

Then, you’ll pour the batter into your pan.  Or your pans.

Here’s the little babies I used.

I’d say they hold about a cup and-a-half to two cups each.  They’re non-stick, but I zapped ‘em with some nonstick spray anyway.  I figured that was easier than mucking about with trying to butter them.

Here’s one with my hand for size perspective.  Well, that and I wanted to show off my spiffy, fresh manicure….

Cool color, huh?  I’m just so jazzed I have grown-up nails again…..yes, the edges are sloppy.  They’ll wear off when I wash my hair tomorrow.  Or not.  But I’ll get over it.

But I digress.

Toss the filled pan(s) into the oven and let ‘em bake away ‘till you get the expected result of the clean and dry cake tester.  Let cool on a rack, in the pan(s) for about 10 minutes.

Now, at this point, we’ve got a fairly standard coffee cake recipe, albeit a very tasty, rich one.  But here, here, and in the next step, is where the magic happens people !

So, the cake(s) have cooled a bit, we’re going to brush the top (which will soon become the bottom, stay with me) with some melted butter.  Because butter makes everything better.

Invert the cake(s) onto a cooling rack, and brush the tops (the previous bottoms) (the "ridgy" parts) with more melted butter.  Because butter makes everything better.  Then, while the butter is still moist, we’re gunna sprinkle cinnamon/nutmeg sugar all over the ridgy tops of the cakes.

Oh.  Yum.  Even at this point.

Pile that sugar mixture on, and use your beautifully manicured fingers to press the sugar mix down into the surface of the cakes.

Lay it on heavy, baby.  You’ll be happy you did.

At this point, the cake(s) can, and should, sit for an hour or two, to completely cool.

Then, then, oh man, then we’re totally going to gild the lily.  Or the coffee cake…..

And speaking of which, you’re prolly wondering where the “coffee” comes into the “Coffee and Donuts Cake”.  Wonder no more.

We’re going to make a sugar/coffee glaze to drizzle over the cinnamon sugary goodness.

Oh yeah.  I got you now, don’t I?

Milk, instant espresso/coffee powder, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and a hint of salt.  Mix that all together, and drizzle, sexily, over the top of the cake(s).

Sorta like this…..

Note that, at that point, I set the cooling rack of one of my Mr. Skanky baking pans to catch the overflow.  Which I then proceeded to scrape up with my beautifully manicured fingers and slurp into my mouth….

I believe that sighs and moans were emitted at that point.  But they didn’t match the sighs and moans that were emitted when I tasted the finished cake.  The cake itself is very moist, and very flavorful.  Not dry at all like some “coffee” cakes can be.  And the combination of the spiced sugar and the coffee glaze is dynamite.  Like a nice spiced latte.  Or….hey, coffee and donuts, who’da thought that?

I think the presentation of making the cakes in the little individual molds was really special.  It would be lovely for a brunch or even as a dessert for dinner.  The idea of giving everyone their own, special, personal little treat makes a good thing even gooder.  Uhhh, better.

Plus, if you do have to store them, they stay fresh, sealed well under plastic wrap, because they haven’t been cut into.  But certainly, a full-sized cake would be just as lovely and just as tasty.

I found I didn’t have to adjust the baking time at all for the little guys, but definitely check, check, check, and I’d start around 20 minutes for the minis.

Here’s the recipe.  Make this.  Soon.  I think it would be great for the Black Friday Breakfast or the brunch you have with the Thanksgiving guests over that long weekend.  The spices just speak to Fall.

Coffee And Donuts Cake
"Serious Eats" blog
Serves 10-12 (cuts easily in half, then bake in mini-Bundt pans)

For the cake
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2&1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1&1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease Bundt pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  Set aside.  In large bowl, beat remaining 4 tablespoons butter, oil and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl as needed with spatula.  Increase speed to medium, and beat until just combined, about 20-30 seconds.  Add vanilla and beat once more, about 10 seconds.

Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating cake halfway through baking, until cake tester comes out clean.  Transfer to cooling rack and let cool in pan 10 minutes.  Make spice sugar coating.

For the spice sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in small bowl.  While the cake is still in the pan, brush the top with some of the melted butter.  Once the 10 minutes have elapsed, invert cake onto cooling rack and brush all over with the rest of the melted butter.  Sprinkle with the spice sugar, using fingers to rub it into the top and sides.

Cool cake completely, 1 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the coffee glaze.

For the coffee glaze
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (if using instant coffee powder instead, blitz for a bit in a spice grinder or mini-processor to ensure it will dissolve completely)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk in espresso powder, sugar, salt and vanilla.  While warm, drizzle over cooled cake, set on rack over pan.

Slice and serve.

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