(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 )

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 )

Almond Butter Pie

Every Sunday, I clean out the fridge when I get home from the grocery store.  Usually, I just go through all the leftovers, dairy, and produce, toss what’s bad, and move the rest to the front so I don’t forget about it.

But this weekend I went though the condiment shelf, and realized there were 2 half-empty jars of smooth peanut butter and one half-empty jar of Trader Joe’s almond butter.  I like my peanut-butter-on-toast to be crunchy, so the peanut butter was most likely leftover from the peanut butter cups I made for Christmas.  The almond butter I brought back from a trip, but it ended up forgotten at the back of the shelf.

So, what to do with it?  I’m going to make cookies with the peanut butter, so I went looking for something else – and I found a peanut butter pie recipe.  I’ve had peanut butter pie, and I thought the almond butter would make a great variation on it.

I started with Paula Deen’s recipe, because you can’t go wrong with her Southern recipes.  I replaced the peanut butter with the almond butter, and the graham cracker crust with a standard pie crust, since I had one in the fridge.

The rest of it was trivial – whip the cream, then mix everything else together until smooth, then fold in the whipped cream.  I saved some of the whipped cream for a garnish.

It’s amazingly rich – you’ll probably want to serve very small slices.  The almond butter made it noticeably different then a standard peanut-butter pie.  If I’d thought ahead, I would have garnished it with some toasted almonds, but it really didn’t need them.

It’s not the most photogenic dessert ever, but it certainly makes up for it with taste!

( see the recipe )