Bakealong Berry Blitz Tort

Its a new month which means a new bakealong challenge. Need a refresher on what that means? Check out this post for more info.

I know I’m pretty late on getting this month’s challenge, but I did just get married, so I feel like that’s a pretty good excuse (there’ll be a whole other post about my wedding).

I ended up making use of it for an inpromptu Memorial Day BBQ we had. It’s a little involved, but it’s nothing crazy hard, and definitely worth the work. The basic elements are pastry cream, butter cake and meringue, but you end up with an impressive looking cake. The flavors are great, especially if you’re a sucker for berries and cream like me. This would be a great dessert for any kind of summer get together.

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Ingredients

PASTRY CREAM FILLING

  • 20 ounces whole milk
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/8 ounces cornstarch
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces heavy cream, whipped; optional
  • about 6 3/4 to 9 ounces fresh raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries
    *For a simple shortcut filling, see “tips,” below.

CAKE

  • 4 ounces butter
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks (save the whites for the topping)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 ounces milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 1/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

TOPPING

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 5 1/4 ounces Baker’s Special Sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 ounces sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
  • 1/2 ounce sugar*
    *Substitute prepared cinnamon-sugar, if desired.

Instructions

  1. To make the filling: In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.IMG_0398
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, egg yolks, and whole egg with the remaining 1/2 cup milk.IMG_0397IMG_0397
  3. Whisk some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks/cornstarch to temper the yolks. This keeps them from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk. If you’ve never had to make anything with a hot milk/egg mixture, this step is very important. IMG_0399
  4. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk, pouring it through a strainer to capture any bits of egg. Bring to a boil over medium heat (this may happen very quickly), stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly; the mixture will thicken significantly.IMG_0400IMG_0401
  5. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.
  6. Transfer the filling to a heatproof storage container, and top it with a piece of buttered plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the filling so it doesn’t develop a skin). Refrigerate until cool, or for up to several days. I strained my mixture to get out any chunky bits.IMG_0402IMG_0403
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ round cake pans. Or lightly grease the pans, line with parchment rounds, and lightly grease the parchment as well. I only had 9″ pans but it worked fine, for the most part. Also, if you bake cakes frequently enough, pick up some parchment rounds in the size of your pans. They save a lot of time and energy.IMG_0404
  8. To make the cake: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and egg yolks until well combined. Scrape the bowl, and beat briefly to incorporate any sticky residue.IMG_0405
  9. Beat in the vanilla, milk, baking powder, and flour; the batter will be stiff.
    Spread the batter in the prepared pans (it will barely cover the bottom of the pans; that’s OK).IMG_0406IMG_0407IMG_0410
  10. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy; gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and continue to beat until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and somewhat stiff (but not stiff enough to form rigid stand-up points).IMG_0408IMG_0411
  11. Spread the meringue on the cake batter. Sprinkle the almonds over the meringue. Mix the cinnamon with the sugar, and dust on top.IMG_0412
  12. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned. The cakes will puff up significantly; don’t worry, they’ll settle as they cool. If you used a 9″ pan like me, I would recommend checking them at 20 to 25 minutes. I pulled mine a minute early and the bottoms were a bit over done.IMG_0413
  13. Remove the cakes from the oven, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes. Carefully and thoroughly loosen the edge of each cake, and gently turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. The best way to do this is to place a flat object (a giant spatula, a small baking sheet) atop the pan, and to turn everything over.IMG_0414
  14. Lift the cake pan off the cake, then place a cooling rack against the bottom of the cake. Turn everything back over again, so the rack is on the bottom. Some of the almonds will fall off during this process; just sprinkle them back on top. I used a sheet pan to turn the cakes out then flipped the cakes back over to the cooling rack.IMG_0415
  15. When you’re ready to finish the cake, remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator. Stir it gently, just to loosen it up enough to spread; stirring too vigorously can break it down and turn it watery. It’ll probably have a few lumps; that’s OK. For slightly richer filling with greater volume, whip 1/2 cup heavy cream to stiff peaks, and gently fold it into the pastry cream. Again, don’t beat the pastry cream; it’ll be a bit lumpy, but that won’t affect the taste. Add the cream, it’s totally worth it.IMG_0416IMG_0417
  16. To assemble the cake: Place one of the cake layers, meringue side up, on a serving plate. Spread with the filling. Add a layer of fresh berries. Top with the second cake layer, meringue-side up. I spread half my filling on the first layer, spread out the berries, then spread out the second half on top of the berries to keep the berries in place and secure the top layer of cake.IMG_0419IMG_0420
  17. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving time.IMG_0422

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Bakealong Chocolate Babka

Its a new month which means a new bakealong challenge. Need a refresher on what that means? Check out this post for more info.

this month brings chocolate babka. If you’re unsure what babka is, it’s a sweet yeast dough filled and twisted before being topped with streusel. This one has a pretty common chocolate filling, with the addition of chocolate chips and chopped nuts. I’m not usually  fan of babka, but this one is so good, I couldn’t stop eating it.

Like last time, I’ll post the recipe with photos and my own notes in bold. You can check out the original recipe here. Also like last time, I recommend using the buttons at the top of the recipe to switch to ounces or grams for a more exact recipe.

Pay attention to the times in this recipe! I thought it would have 30 min to 1 hour rises like other doughs, but each rise is 1 1/2 to 2 hours and another hour to bake. I made the mistake of starting this after work and didn’t get to bed till late because of it.

DOUGH

  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast, SAF Red or SAF Gold instant yeast preferred the little packets in the baking aisle are fine, but if you plan on making bread often, invest in a large bag of good yeast.
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature*
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

FILLING

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, Triple Cocoa Blend, or the cocoa powder of your choice, Dutch-process or natural  I used Dutch processed 
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder I didn’t have this and honestly I don’t know if I would have liked it anyway
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips I used mini chips
  • 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, toasted if desired

GLAZE

  • 1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt until well-combined

TOPPING

  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with the lesser amount of water), mixing until everything is moistened. Add additional water if necessary to enable the dough to come together. If your dough looks like my picture add more water, my dough was too dry when I tried to kneed it.20170404_185240
  2. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then mix/knead it until it’s soft and smooth. I used the dough hook in my mixer.20170404_193218
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl. The dough is going to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it’s quite puffy.20170404_212825
  4. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it in half. Set the pieces aside, covered, while you make the filling.IMG_0310
  5. To make the filling: Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso or not. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will look grainy and slick; that’s OK.IMG_0311
  6. Shape each half of the dough into a 9″ x 18″, 1/4″-thick rectangle. Don’t be fussy about this; 19″ or 20″ is as good as 18″.
    Smear each piece of the dough with half the filling, coming to within an inch of the edges. I rolled mine a bit longer to get more, thinner layers. Also don’t just plop the filling in the middle and spread. It’s thick and can be hard to.spread thin, so I dropped small amounts all over the dough, then spread it all out to form anot even layer.
  7. Scatter half the chips and nuts over each piece. If desired, process the chips in a food processor first, to create smaller bits of chocolate and a less chunky filling. I just used mini chips instead.IMG_0312
  8. Starting with a short end, roll each piece gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends.IMG_0313
  9. Working with one log at a time, use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise (not crosswise) to make two pieces of dough about 10″ long each; cut carefully, to prevent too much filling from spilling out.IMG_0314
  10. With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with the other log.IMG_0315
  11. Place each log into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Don’t stress to much if this is a little messy, there’s a streusel that will help cover up any mess.IMG_0316
  12. Brush each loaf with the egg glaze. Mix together the topping ingredients until crumbly, and sprinkle half the topping over each loaf.IMG_0317
  13. Tent each pan with plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they’re very puffy and have crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.IMG_0318
  14. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 300°F.IMG_0319
  15. Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Tent lightly with foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes); the loaves should be a deep-golden brown. I swear to god the hardest part of this recipe was lightly tenting with tinfoil and NOT having it blow off before I could even close the oven. It’s not even a convection oven!IMG_0320
  16. To ensure the loaves are baked through, insert a digital thermometer into the center of one loaf. It should register at least 190°F.
  17. Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife. Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely. I just want to reiterate loosening the loves when they’re warm. I forgot to, and they were difficult to remove once they cooled.
  18. Slice the babka and serve it at room temperature; or rewarm individual slices briefly in a toaster, if desired. Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.IMG_0323

The dough is really the most important part of this recipe, which means you can play around with the filling to.use the flavors you want. I’m already thinking about making a cinnamon nut, or a nutella babka soon.

Bakealong Butterflake Herb Loaf

Back in August of last year, King Arthur flour started A fun challenge every month called the bakealong challenge. Each month is a new recipe that they invite everyone to bake along with them. When I started this blog I vowed to follow along every month.

This month’s recipe is a delicious butterflake herb loaf. Anytime you layer bread and butter, I’m always on board. I know yeast breads can seem intimidating, but as long as you follow the dir cations, don’t stray from the basics of the recipe it’s pretty easy.

I’m including the recipe as it is on the website, but with my own notes in bold.

One of my favorite things about the recipes and the King Arthur Flour website is that all their recipes can be changed from volume to weight (in ounces or grams) with a quick press of a button above the ingredients. I always prefer weight over volume so this keeps me coming back to their recipes.

DOUGH
8 ounces milk
2 ounces butter
1 1/4 ounces sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
17 to 18 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 ounce potato flour or instant potato flakes, optional, for increased moistness 
FILLING*
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated onion or chopped chives
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds or chopped fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
*See “tips,” below.

The filling in this recipe is a great place to tweak the taste to your liking. As long as the amount of butter stays the same, you can change the herbs and spice all you want. Like I learned I don’t like caraway seeds. Also next time I make this I want more garlic and to add thyme as well. Maybe you want it spicier with red pepper flakes. Or sweeter spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Have fun with this part.

Instructions

  1. Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl; or in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the butter melts. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm. I warmed everything up until most but not all of the butter was melted, which allowed the mixture to cool quicker.IMG_0247
  2. Transfer the milk mixture to a mixing bowl, and add the eggs, yeast, 4 cups of the flour, and the potato flour and mix to form a shaggy dough. Knead the dough — using your hands, a stand mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle — until it’s smooth. The dough will remain somewhat sticky, but should definitely form a ball. During the summer, or in a warm/humid climate, you’ll probably find you have to add the remaining 1/4 cup flour.
  3. Place the dough in a greased container, cover, and let it rise for about 90 minutes, until it’s puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk. I cheat and put this on my stove with the oven on, but not too close to the vent, or it will get too hot.
  4. While the dough is rising, place the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. See note above about changing the flavoring of the filling.IMG_0249
  5. After the dough has risen, deflate it and divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, place the dough on a lightly greased or lightly floured surface (your preference), and roll/pat it into a 12″ circle about 1/4″ thick. Cut 3 1/2″ to 4″ circles with a cutter, large canning jar lid, or English muffin ring; you should have about 10 circles. Make sure the dough is thin! You get more circles which means more layers. I also cheated and re-rolled my scraps. 

  6. Spread the butter-herb filling on half of each circle, fold in half, and place fold-side down in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough, filling another 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ bread pan. Or place all of the circles in a 12″ x 4″ x 2 1/2″ tea loaf pan. Shape any scraps into small rolls; or butter them, and pile them into the wells of a muffin tin. They won’t look pretty, but they’ll taste just fine. Divide out the butter before spreading so you know it’s divided evenly.IMG_0253
  7. Cover the pan(s) with greased plastic and let the dough rise for about 90 minutes, until it’s puffy and starting to fill the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.IMG_0254
  8. Uncover the loaves, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes. Bread baked in a ceramic pan will take 5 to 7 minutes longer to bake than in a metal one. Tent the loaves with foil if they look like they’re browning too quickly.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven; brush it with additional melted butter, if desired. Turn the loaves out of the pan, and serve warm. Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

    Processed with VSCO
    Finished and ready to inhale