Category Archives: Recipe

Cake of the Week: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

When people think of upside down cakes, the pineapple version is probably the one that comes to mind first.  Sadly, however, it has been too long associated with boxed cake mixes (not all of which are bad) and a sickly sweet pinapple topping with those bright red cherries. Maybe I am sentimental, but I have rather nice memories of this cake, though none of them are terribly specific.  There are vague notions of having slices at potluck type group meals, but I had never made one myself until a couple of weeks ago.

This is not a cake that has any kind of glamorous identity, but it does not have to be this way.  I think this is actually a great cake for the tail end of winter.  Fresh fruits are becoming sadder, even though the weather is getting warmer.  These are the days when canned fruit starts looking more appealing because it is at least reliable and, really, most are not terrible for you as long as they don’t have any ingredients you can’t pronounce, though they can be on the sweet side.

We prefer our cakes on the not too sweet side and I thought it would be fun to try to infuse some other tropical flavors in the cake since pineapple is a tropical fruit.  This recipe starts with a caramel sauce made with coconut oil, brown sugar, rum, and coconut milk, all made in a 10 inch cast iron pan.  If you don’t have this pan, you can use a high sided 10 inch sauté pan or make the caramel in a saucepan and use a 10 inch cake pan.

The cake bakes up nice and fluffy with a pineapple and coconut caramel topping that is not achingly sweet, but rather subtly sweet with a creaminess that only caramel can give you.  For the cherries, I used frozen ones because it was easier to just use 7-12 of those, but you can use canned ones and have lots leftover for a chocolate cherry almond cake.

This cake is a great remedy for the winter fruit blahs and remind yourself that warmer and sunnier weather is on its way.  If you don’t like or want to bother with the coconut aspect, you can replace those parts of the recipe with regular butter and milk, but I do think it adds a tropical flair.  Do try to put the rum in, though, because the combination of rum and pineapples is fantastic.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

makes one 10 inch cake to serve 8-10

for the topping:

1 Tablespoon (15g) unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons(30g) coconut oil

1/2 cup (100g) dark brown sugar

2 Tablespoons (30g) dark rum

1/4 cup (60g) coconut milk

1 20 ounce can of pineapple slices canned in juice

7-12 frozen or canned cherries, sweet or tart are fine

for the cake:

1 1/2 (220g) cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (110g) granulated sugar

8 Tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter

2 large eggs

1/2 cup (120g) coconut milk

2 Tablespoons pineapple juice from the can

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter and coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and stir until evenly moistened and bubbling.  Add the rum and coconut milk and stir until bubbly and smooth.  Remove from heat.
  3. Arrange the pineapple slices over the caramel sauce.  Extra rings can be cut in half and arranged propped up around the edge of the pan.  Add cherries to the center of each ring and in other gaps as desired.  Set aside and make the cake batter.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, pineapple juice, and vanilla.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time until thoroughly incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Mix in about one third of the flour mixture to the batter, then mix in half of the milk mixture.  Mix until thorooughly incorporated. Repeat this step once again.  Then, mix in the last of the flour.  Scrape the batter on top of the fruit in the pan and smooth it out carefully to cover all the fruit.
  7. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Have a platter with sides ready.  As soon as you take the cake out of the oven, turn the platter upside down over the top of the pan.  Turn everything upside down so that the cake comes out of the pan.  Don’t worry if some fruit sticks to the pan.  Just gently remove it and arrange it where it was supposed to go on the cake.  Cool until warm or room temoerature before serving.
  8. The cake is best the day it is made.  Leftovers are good heated up for 20-30 seconds in the microwave.  Enjoy!
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Bake of the Week: Honey Milk Bread

I’m taking a little break from cakes to post about this amazing bread that has been the talk of the bread baking world lately.  Ok, actually, I am a bit late to the party, but only on the act of actually baking this bread.

We have been eating this bread for years.  It’s common in Japan, where the bread originates, but here in the states, you mostly find it in Asian markets that have a bakery section.  It’s sort of a cross between white wonderbread and brioche, but softer, moister, and with a bit more structure..

The bread gets its texture from a cooked flour paste called Tangzhong.  Cooking a portion of the flour with liquid, usually water but sometimes milk, gives the bread the ability to hold more moisture and have a finer texture.

I kind of got a little obsessed with this bread and baked it several times in a row, mostly because I was trying to get the perfect texture.  The first try was ok, but nothing really to write home about.  Everyone else here loved it, but it was not quite right.

With the subsequent tries, I discovered a few more keys to getting the right texture of the bread (the first being the Tangzhong).  Firstly, the dough needs an autolyse, which is a rest period when the flour is allowed to hydrate without any salt or butter added.  Holding the salt back for the autolyse also helps the yeast to distribute more quickly throughout the dough as salt slows down yeast reproduction.  It’s like giving the dough a jump start in life.

The next secret is one that most recipes don’t mention, but anyone who has ever made brioche dough will know.  This bread dough needs a lot of mixing to create the long strands of gluten that give you the signature texture of Japanese Milk bread.  Brioche doughs have a similar texture and are generally mixed for almost 30 minutes.  I found that this dough benefits from the same treatment.

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You can see in this short video how cleanly the dough clears the bowl and if you look closely, you might even be able to see some long strands of dough that get separated and incorporated back into the main ball.  These are signs that your dough is properly kneaded.

It is important to knead the dough until it is really smooth and completely cleans the sides of the bowl.  I can’t imagine making this dough without a stand mixer because of the amount of kneading involved, so if you don’t have one, try to borrow one!  The butter gets  slowly added bit by bit after the dough’s first kneading and it takes almost as long to incorporate the butter as the first stage of kneading.

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Another secret to the texture of this bread is in the shaping.  To get those long strands of fluffy bread, the dough has to be rolled tightly into sausages before its final rise.  I include a video above of me doing this one handed which I hope gives you the general idea of how it should be done.  It is, of course, easier and more efficient to do with two hands, but there was no one else around to take the video, so this is what you get!  Note how I pull the dough gently toward me as I roll.  This helps to lengthen the strands of dough, give the final baked bread those long stretchy fibers that make it so yummy.

Unlike many recipes, my version uses honey for a sweetener, which I like because it gives a more flowery fragrance and sweetness.  Honey is also hygroscopic, which basically means it has the ability to hold moisture and keep it.  Sugar is not as hygroscopic and can also impede yeast reproduction.

The last bit of advice I am going to give you about making this bread is that if you have a pizza stone or baking stone, then use that to bake your bread on.  The stone holds heat and will transfer it more quickly than the air will to the dough, which will in turn give you a higher rise (oven spring) than just putting your breads on the oven rack.  It’s not a deal breaker.  You will still have great bread if you do not use one, but the bread will be higher if you use one.

Ok, enough about the mechanics of the bread.  After making this recipe several times, I was finally happy with the taste and texture of this bread.  It’s fluffy and soft and moist, but still has some structure to it.  I think of it as the perfect bread for toast in the morning and it is also awesome for sandwiches.

Some of you might notice that even though the bread is called milk bread, I actually use cream in the recipe.  You can make it with milk, but I find cream to be much better.  It gives the bread a little extra richness and adds to the texture.  Plain milk is just not the same, in my opinion, but it’s up to you.

Also, I have been making this bread on some of the coldest days of the year, so rising times are definitely affected.  In summer, I fully expect the dough to rise faster and would probably cut the yeast back a little to compensate.  This bread has become a family favorite now and I hope you will try it and let me know what you think.

HONEY MILK BREAD

This recipe yields enough dough for 2-3 loaves of bread, depending on how high you want them.  Two 8.5 by 4 inch loaf pans will give you breads that tower and spill over the sides.  I liked using one 14 by 4 inch pain de mie pan and a regular loaf pan to give me more reasonable slices that would fit in a sandwich bag.  You could also use three loaf pans for squatter loaves.  It’s up to you.  The shaping of little cylinders (four to a loaf pan) is the traditional method of shaping and will also get you the best texture as the edges of the dough push up against each other and encourage the formation of those long gluten strands.

For the Tangzhong:

2 ounces (55g) (6 1/2 Tablespoons) bread flour

8 ounces (225g) (1 cup) water

For the bread:

8.75 ounces (250g) (1 cup) heavy cream

5 ounces (150g) (1/2 cup) honey

1 ounce (30g) (1/3 cup) nonfat dry milk

2 large eggs

4 teaspoons (15g) instant yeast

24 ounces (650g) (4 3/4 cups) bread flour

1 Tablespoon (15g) kosher salt

4 ounces (115g) (8 Tablespoons or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened or at room temperature

Topping:

2 Tablespoons of heavy cream

some flaky sea salt

  1. To make the Tangzhong:  whisk together the flour and water in a small saucepan until no longer lumpy.  While whisking constantly, heat over medium low heat until the mixture thickens into a pudding like consistency.
  2. Begin making the bread dough:  Whisk the heavy cream, honey, and nonfat dry milk into the Tangzhong mixture.  There is no need to cool the Tangzhong before hand, but before proceding, test the Tangzhong, cream, and honey mixture to make sure it is no longer hot.  It should be slightly warm, but not hot.
  3. Transfer mixture to a large standing mixer bowl and whisk in the eggs and yeast.  Add the flour on top and, with a dough hook, mix in the flour until just combined, but still shaggy. This will take about a minute.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the salt to the dough and mix on medium until very smooth and the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.  This can take awhile, up to 10 or 15 minutes.
  5. Once the dough is smooth, add the butter, two tablespoons at a time.  After each addition, mix the dough until the butter is incorporated.  You may have to stop the mixer to scrape the butter back into the dough as it will tend to climb up the sides.  The whole process of adding the butter should also take 10-15 minutes.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic again and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. When the dough is almost doubled, place your baking stone in the oven in the bottom third and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray your pans with oil or coat with butter.
  8. Turn your dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide into pieces.  You should have four pieces for each regular sized loaf pan.  I used six pieces in my long 14 inch pain de mie pan.  Shape each piece into a ball and let rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.
  9. To shape each piece, flatten it into an oval about 3 inches wide by 6-8 inches long. I just use my hands for this instead of a rolling pin so that I don’t knock al the air out of it.  Starting at a short end, roll up the dough into a tight four inch wide cylinder and place in the pan.  Repeat this for all the remaining pieces of dough.
  10. Cover the pans and let rise until more than doubled.  Depending on how many loaves you decided to make and the shape of the loaves, the dough may or may not rise above the edges.  The pain de mie pan has 4 inch high sides and the dough just barely started rising up past the edge when I decided to bake.  The second rise will take about 60 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes.
  11. When the dough is done rising, brush each loaf with cream and sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top.  Bake for 30-35 minutes for standard loaf pans or until dark golden brown.  A large 14 inch pain de mie pan will take about 5-10 minutes longer.  They are done when they sound hollow when tapped or when a thermometer registers 200 degrees in the center of the loaf.
  12. Remove the bread from the pans and allow to cool completely on a rack.  It is normal for them to cave in on one side or two while cooling, especially if they are top heavy.  Enjoy!

 

Cake of the Week: Vanilla Nutella Swirl

The idea for this week’s cake came from two giant jars of Nutella that have been sitting in my pantry for a little while.  We love Nutella.  Well, maybe not all of us.  The same person who doesn’t love icing on cake also is fairly ambivalent about Nutella.  The rest of us love it.  I have to say, though, that we have trouble eating through an entire jar, especially the super sized ones from Costco.  This is partly because of my conscience.  Unless I am spreading it on some whole grain or multigrain bread, I have a hard time serving it for breakfast or lunch.  However, it is perfect for dessert, which is what I am talking about today.

My goal for this cake was threefold. First, I wanted the Nutella to be a star, but I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by it, so I thought that pairing it with a classic vanilla pound cake would be just right.

Secondly, I wanted it to be pretty.  Since I was pairing it with vanilla, a swirly look would be nice.  Your results may vary, but I was pretty happy with the results.

And lastly, but really most importantly, I wanted it to be easy.  This one is made easy by the fact that everything is just stirred together.  There is no creaming of butter and sugar and adding things in little increments.  Just, dump and stir, or more accurately, whisk.

Some things will need to be melted (butter and Nutella) and it does kind of make a mess in the kitchen.  I am usually a pretty tidy person in the kitchen because I hate to clean any more than I have to, but for some reason, throw Nutella into the mix and chaos comes with it.

There was Nutella on my clothes, in my hair, all over the counter, and my hands.  It’a all worth it in the end, but just be aware and keep a lookout!

These three requirements aside, this recipe would be not be here if it also did not pass another test: the taste test.

The boys approved and all the adults who helped me test it also approved.  This is not a light and fluffy cake.  It is dense, like a pound cake should be, but full of vanilla buttery flavor.  The Nutella portions are a little moister and melt ever so slightly in your mouth.  To help intensify the Nutella flavor, I glazed the cake with a simple Nutella glaze made with melted Nutella and milk.

If you don’t want to make a whole bundt cake, the recipe can be halved and baked in a standard 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan or make the whole recipe and split it between two loaf pans.  That way, you can have one now and freeze one for later.

Vanilla Nutella Swirl Cake

makes 1 large bundt cake or two loaf cakes

2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup heavy cream at room temperature

6 large eggs at room temperature

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

2 cups (14 ounces) sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1 cup (11 ounces) Nutella

for glaze:

1/4 cup (2.75 ounces) Nutella

2 Tablespoons whole milk

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a large bundt pan with a capacity of at least 12 cups.  A flour spray such as Baker’s Joy will work here as well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla until a foamy.  Add the cream and whisk until combined.
  4. Whisk the flour into the egg mixture.  Then, carefully, so that the butter does not splash everywhere, whisk in the melted butter.
  5. In another medium, microwavable bowl, heat the Nutella in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  You don’t want it to be super hot, just warm enough to loosen it up a bit.  This will help you incorporate the cake better more easily.
  6. Add 2 cups of the vanilla batter to the Nutella and whisk until smooth and combined.
  7. Now, you are going to layer your cake batter in the pan.  Spoon half of the vanilla batter into the cake pan, followed by half of the Nutella batter.  Then, spoon over the remainder of vanilla batter followed by the rest of the Nutella batter.  Swirl gently by passing a butter knife through the batter once or twice.
  8. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes.  Then, unmold over a rack to cool completely.
  9. When the cake is cool, make the glaze.  Heat the Nutella and milk together in a microwave for about 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth and loose.  If it is stiff, keep heating it in the microwave for 15 second intervals until you get a pourable glaze.  Pour the glaze evenly over the top of the cake and use a knife to spread it so that it gently runs over the sides of the cake.  As it cools, the glaze will set into a matte finish.
  10. Slice and enjoy!  Serves anywhere between 12-20 people, depending on the size of your slices.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Cake

This week’s cake of the week holds very special memories for me.  I first made this cake over ten years ago when I was expecting my second child.  It was the middle of summer.  It was hot and I was 7 and a half months pregnant.  I was already uncomfortable and I still had almost two months left before out little bundle of joy was expected to enter the world.  We had gone cherry picking and had some fresh cherries hanging around, so I made this cake.  I credit this cake for getting me through one week of that uncomfortable time.  My husband doesn’t remember the cake at all.  That could be because I ate practically the whole thing by myself.

Anyway, flash forward 10 and a half years later and we are in the middle of winter when fresh cherries are nowhere to be found.  I had a hankering for this cake, though (and no, there are no buns in the oven this time!), so I did some tweaking and the result is just as good if not better than my memory of the cake.

To make this cake in winter, you will need to find jarred or canned sour cherries in light syrup.  I had a jar of Morello cherries that I got from Trader Joe’s just before Christmas.  However, when I went last week, there were no cherries to be found.  I did see some at the grocery store that were tinned, though. Just be sure you are buying cherries in syrup and not cherry pie filling.  That won’t work here.  For this recipe, you’ll need 12 ounces of drained cherries and 1/2 cup of the juice.  The cherries from one 24.7 ounce jar from TJ’s measured two heaping cups of cherries.

You may find that if you have to use canned cherries that you will have some left over.  They are great in smoothies.  In fact, we kept the leftover syrup in the jar and drank it with soda water to make homemade cherry soda.  Do not be tempted to use more cherries in the recipe, though.  It will make the cake too wet and soggy.

I baked this on a snowy day.  We ate it warm and it was light and fluffy and heavenly.  It almost melted in our mouths.  After it cools to room temperature, it starts to get more fudgey, but it is still moist and delicious.  The cake keeps well for up to four days at room temperature if you can make it last that long.  We had it for breakfast and dessert.

It was fabulous and the best part is that you can bake it any time of year you want.  Though I did not do it, I think this cake would also be wonderful cut into heart shaped pieces and served for Valentine’s Day.  The baker gets to eat all the offcuts:)  To make it even more decadent, serve with a mug of Mexican Hot Chocolate.

CHOCOLATE CHERRY ALMOND CAKE

(adapted from Gourmet, July 2003)

1 cup boiling water

3/4 cup (2 1/4 oounces) unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup reserved cherry juice from the cherries below

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 cup (1 ounce) almond flour (this is optional, but nice if you have it)

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar

4 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

12 ounces (a little over two cups) drained sour cherries from a 24.7 jar (keep the juice!  You will need it)

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Confectioner’s sugar for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter and flour a 13 by 9 inch baking pan, preferably metal.
  2. Whisk the boiling water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth.  Then, whisk in the 1/2 cup of cherry juice, the vanilla extract, and the almond extract.  Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and almond flour (if using).
  4. In a bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very light, at least 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. The mixture might be a little curdled, but should also be fairly light and fluffy.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips, dried cherries, and drained cherries until evenly distributed.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level.  Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the batter.
  8. Bake 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Test carefully in several places!  The cherries can trap pockets of unbaked batter. Let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving with an optional dusting of confectioner’s sugar.   Makes 16-20 servings.

 

 

 

Cake of the Week: Apple Orange Marmalade Cake

Last week, I made some marmalade.  Making marmalade is one of my favorite things to do in the winter.  Citrus is at its peak at this time of the year and the fruits just brighten up these cold, darkish days.  As a bonus, making marmalade fills the house with a delightful scent and turns something we would normally throw away (citrus peels) into something deliciously edible.

For my batch, I used this recipe from Food52 as my guide.  I had 7 navel oranges, 3 lemons, and  2 limes.

After filling three pint jars, I had about a cup and a half leftover to store in the fridge.  Marmalade never goes to waste in our house, but I had a hankering for cake; an orange marmalade cake.

The recipe I found used all whole wheat flour, which I replaced partly with regular all purpose flour.  It still has the hearty taste of whole wheat, but is not overpowering or overly gritty.  Also, when the cake came out of the oven, it looked a little plain, so I dressed it up a bit with a marmalade glaze, which also helped to boost the citrus flavor of the cake.

I had a bit of a hard time thinking of a title for this cake.  It’s got apple, but not a lot of it and adding whole wheat to the title made it seem really long with the orange marmalade.  Just think of this as a great snacking cake.  The whole wheat and the apple together make for a healthy feeling cake, so we ate this cake for breakfast and for snacks.  It was not too sweet and great with a cup of tea or coffee, which I guess is kind of the theme for a lot of my cakes lately.

Orange Marmalade Cake

You will need a 9 inch springform pan, sprayed with oil

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar

6 Tablespoons orange marmalade

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups (7.5ounces) whole wheat flour

1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons salt

1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced

1/4 cup golden raisins

Glaze:

2 Tablespoons orange marmalade

1 Tablespoon water

2/3 cup powdered sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk together in a medium bowl, all the dry ingredients: flours, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  In my cold kitchen, this took over five minutes, so be patient.  Add the orange marmalade and mix until combined.
  4. Add the eggs to the butter one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl between each addition.  It will look curdled at times, but just keep mixing on medium speed until it smooths out.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix just until there are no dry bits.  Add in the apples and raisins and mix just until evenly distributed.
  6. Scrape into your pan and level the batter.  Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.
  7. When the cake is almost finished, microwave the marmalade and water for the glaze in a medium bowl until warm.  Stir until the marmalade is melted and then whisk in the powdered sugar.  It should be fairly runny, but not fluid.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and pour the glaze over top, spreading it so that it covers the entire top.  If it dribbles over the side of cake, that’s ok.  It will get absorbed by the cake.  Let cake cool in the pan for ten minutes.  Then, remove the sides and cool completely before serving.