(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.)

Another month of yeast!  I’m getting pretty good with yeast breads now.  It’s been quite a while since I had one flop, so I make them more often, and practice makes me better.  It’s a delicious cycle.

This was a basic sweet dough – mix the dry ingredients, then melt a stick of butter in warm milk, add it to the dry ingredients, add some eggs, mix, and knead.  The recipe called for 10 minutes of kneading by hand, but I just used my stand mixer.

I found these great containers for letting bread rise:  6-Quart Round Food-Storage Container with Lid.  They come in a pack of two – I gave one to my sister for Christmas with a no-knead bread book, and kept the other. The marks on the side make it easy to tell when dough has doubled.  It went from this:

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

To this, in just over an hour:

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

I didn’t take any meringue pictures, but it was just a very basic meringue – beat (room-temperature) eggs until foamy, then slowly add sugar and beat until shiny, stiff peaks.  The dough is supposed to be rolled out into a rectangle, but I always fail at this, because my doughs never want to roll into rectangles.  Vaguely rectangular blobs, yes, but never rectangles.  I want my superpower to be the ability to point at a blob of dough and say “You!  20×10 rectangle!  Now!” and just have it happen.

Once I got the dough as rectangular as it was going to be, I spread the meringue on top.   There wasn’t enough to spread it very thick – it mostly just acted as glue to hold the rest of the filling.

This was the rest of the filling – a cup of pecans and a cup of good chocolate chips:

 Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

Yes, I was short some pecans and made up for it with some extra chocolate.

The dough gets rolled up, jelly-roll style, and formed into a round.  Mine isn’t even because my dough wasn’t perfectly rectangular, so I had more in the middle then I did on the ends.

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

Let it rise for another hour.  I left it on the counter and went out to dinner.  When it’s done, brush with an egg wash and, bake at 350 for half an hour.

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

Let cool.  Slice and eat, preferably with coffee.

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

It was good.  I didn’t think the meringue added much, but I loved the chocolate and the nuts.  It had just the right sweetness to go with coffee.  I’d probably make it again, maybe with a cinnamon filling and some cinnamon chips instead of the chocolate.

Overall, a fun recipe!  I look forward to next month.

( see the recipe )

For some reason, I seem to have an excessive amount of Nutella in my life.  There’s the big batch of homemade nutella in the fridge.  Then, we went to TechMunch a few weeks ago, where we each got a jar of the organic Whole Foods version in our goody bags.

And there is only so much toast one household can eat.  So I went out looking for recipes, and I found this one.  It’s a cake mix on the bottom, with a nutella cheesecake on the top.  I don’t usually buy cake mixes, and I was tempted to replace it with some sort of homemade cake, but I figured I’d make this once the way it was written.  I’m glad I did, because the cake mix doesn’t really mix up to be a cake – it’s just got barely enough liquid to come together.  If you don’t want to use a cake mix, I’d recommend a chocolate shortbread crust – there’s a good one at The Hungry Mouse.

The recipe calls for one egg and a stick of melted butter, mixed with one devil’s food cake mix.  It took a lot of mixing to get it to come together, and it ended up much like a shortbread dough.  Pat it into a (well-greased!) 13×9:

Nutella Brownies

The cheesecake topping is easy – just mix a cup of Nutella and a block of cream cheese until they’re creamy and completely combined.  Add some eggs, vanilla, another stick of melted butter, and powdered sugar.  The recipe calls for 16 ounces, and you should weigh it.  If you don’t have a scale, you can just buy a 16-ounce package at the store and use the whole thing. Be careful to add the sugar slowly, or it will end up all over your kitchen!

You’ll end up with a nice, thick cheesecake batter.  Mine’s got texture because my nutella had texture – if you use the store-bought version, it will come out smooth.  Yes, that is powdered sugar all over my kitchen, why do you ask?

Nutella Brownies

Pour the cheesecake over the crust, and bake for 45 minutes or so.  This is what you’ll end up with:

Nutella Brownies

They’re really good.  The crust is firm enough to give them structural stability, but the top is creamy and cheese-cake-y.

For an interesting variation, you could use plain, smooth peanut butter as a replacement for the nutella.  You’d get a peanut butter cheesecake over a chocolate crust.  You could make it in tiny tart pans, too, but you’d have to cut the cooking time significantly.

I’d make them again!

( see the recipe )

I’m not a huge hazelnut fan, so I’m not a huge Nutella fan either.  But Mike is, and so when I saw a recipe from David Lebovitz on making your own, I decided I had to try.

It’s an interesting recipe.  As written, it calls for hazelnuts and almonds, some milk and milk powder, a bit of honey, and two kinds of chocolate.  For the first batch, I made it exactly as the recipe suggested. 

Start by roasting the nuts.  Remember to keep a close eye on them – by the time they start to smell roasted, they’re probably starting to burn.  You can do them in the oven, and time them carefully, but I’ve also had good luck toasting nuts in a cast iron pan on the stovetop.

Once they’re toasted, knock off any of the skin that comes off easily.  The recipe suggests rolling them in a tea towel, but I didn’t have much luck getting that to work.  I just rubbed them between my fingers and got most of the skins off.

Toss them in the food processor:

Nutella

And grind them up as fine as your food processor will grind them.  I ran mine until it started to heat up, let it cool down, and ran it again.  I never did get it incredibly fine, but I have an old food processor. 

Nutella

Chop up the chocolate, and melt it. I used the microwave, 30 seconds at a time.  I actually own a double-boiler, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I used it.  Microwaves are so perfect for melting chocolate.

Nutella

Add the melted chocolate to the nut mixture and pulse to combine. 

Mix up the milk, the milk powder, and the honey, and warm it to a boil in a saucepan.  I couldn’t find whole milk powder, so I just used the nonfat milk powder I had in the pantry.  Add the warm milk to the food processor, and run it until everything is combined. 

I poured it into jars because it looks pretty.  I didn’t attempt to seal them or anything, I just put lids on them and put them in the fridge.

Nutella

So that’s the recipe as written.  What seems more interesting is all the things you could do with the basic recipe.  If you don’t like hazelnuts, it would be fantastic with peanuts or cashews.  You could make it darker with a greater percentage of dark chocolate, or lighter with less.  I think as long as you stick to 1 2/3 cups nuts and around 11 or 12 ounces of chocolate, it should work fine with any nut and any chocolate.  You could even do a white version with macadamia nuts and a white chocolate.  Then you could swirl it with a darker version…

The perfect recipes are the ones that give you a framework and then step back and give you space to make your own.

( see the recipe )