Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coffee Crunch Cake

I have a giant list of things I want to make and it grows daily.  It sits in my e-mail inbox and on post-it notes pasted to a little notebook I keep alongside my recipe books. 

But this past weekend I had the hardest time trying to pick out something I felt like making from that list.  I had zero motivation to make any of it for some reason.  So again I turned to one of my cookbooks which saved me.  And my savior came in the form of a cake--a rolled cake to be precise.  It called out to me.  It said, "make me bitch."  And I complied.

I haven't made a ton of rolled cakes.  I am a little afraid of them because they can crack when you roll them--and I've had that happen to me.  And for someone who can be anal-retentive about his baked goods not turning out just so--it's a painful experience.

I've been known to throw them out in a fit of rage...  Well, maybe not rage, but extreme irritability.  However my new Vintage Cakes cookbook has a whole chapter dedicated to rolled cakes and I've made two of them so far.  The first was a vertically rolled cake.  I know, vertically rolled!!!??? What the F is that?   Well, think...tornado.

Inevitably I'll make it again and post--it was good.  It had alcohol in it.  And the second is documented above and below.  Both have come out close to perfect in that they haven't cracked when I rolled them.  Hooray...

Actually, not only did this one not crack, it was really easy to work with and really soft--like really soft.  All of these rolled cakes in this cookbook seem soft and light--that's the simplest way to describe them.  The one contrasting element was the "coffee crunch" which was basically just coffee candy.  It was easy to make but I think it was too much--like the amount.  You could probably do with half of it or three quarters.  But it really did provide a nice "crunch" which I guess was the point.  The filling was coffee flavored whipped cream--again another light touch...  Overall the cake was superb--

Recipe slightly adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson:

Crunch Topping

-2tsp baking soda
-1tbsp finely ground coffee beans (I didn't have any so I cracked open one of my K-cups and scooped out the ground coffee--seemed to work just fine)
-1 1/2c granulated sugar (10 1/2oz)
-1/4c light corn syrup
-1/4c dark coffee


-1c sifted cake flour (4oz)
-1tsp baking powder
-1/2tsp fine sea salt 
-1c granulated sugar (7oz)
-1/3c canola oil
-4 egg yolks at room temp.
-1/3c water
-1tsp vanilla extract
-6 egg whites at room temp.
-1/4 tsp cream of tartar


-1tbsp instant espresso (I used Sanka)
-2c heavy cream
-1/3c granulated sugar (2 1/2oz)
2 tbsps Kahlua or 2tsp of vanilla extract

For the crunch:

-Oil a large baking sheet very well and set it next to the stove.  
-Sift the baking soda and ground coffee together in a small bowl and set that near the stove as well
-In a medium, as tall as you have, heavy bottomed sauce pan mix the sugar, corn syrup and coffee and set over medium heat stirring often until the sugar dissolves
-Stop stirring and heat until the temperature reaches 290 F.  As the temperature gets closer to 275 F, give the pan a swirl to evenly distribute the mixture and to prevent any burning
-When the temperature reaches 290, remove from the heat and stir in the coffee/baking soda mixture.  It will foam up a lot but keep stirring until it is fully incorporated
-Once the ground coffee/baking soda is fully incorporated pour the mixture into the greased baking sheet but do not spread it out--let is set on its own
-Let the coffee crunch cool completely--about an hour--and then use a rolling pin or a hammer and break it up into tiny pieces and set it aside

For the cake:

-Grease a 12x16 inch jelly roll pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper and then grease the parchment paper as well
-Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 325 F
-In a large bowl sift and thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and 3/4 of the sugar
-In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks, oil, water and vanilla
-Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until the they are just fully combined--don't over-mix
-Next, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk whip the egg whites on medium speed until frothy
-Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed to high 
-Once soft peaks have formed decrease the speed to medium and slowly and steadily add the remaining 1/4c of sugar
-Increase the speed back to high and whip until firm shiny peaks have formed
-Then fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter until no more white streaks are visible
-Fold in the remaining egg whites gently until evenly combined and there aren't any white streaks
-Pour the batter in the jelly roll pan and smooth it out
-Bake for 16-18 minutes until the cake springs back when touched lightly
-Remove from the oven and let cool completely

Make the filling:

-Whisk the espresso powder (Sanka in my case) and 1/2c of the heavy cream together in a small bowl
-In a cold bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the remaining heavy cream and the espresso/cream mixture on medium-low gradually turning up to high
-When it looks like the whisk is leaving tracks into the whipped cream add the sugar in a steady stream while the mixer is still running
-Mix until soft peaks form and then add the Kahlua or vanilla and mix until just combined

For assembling the cake:

-Spread half of the filling on the cake leaving about 1/4" along the edges free of any whipped cream
-With the short side of the cake facing you, use the parchment paper that the cake is laying atop and slowly and carefully roll the cake away from you forming a roll
-Once rolled, lay the cake with the seam side down on whatever cake plate you are going to use
-Trim the ends
-Spread the rest of the filling on top of the cake and on the sides
-Finally, if you are going to serve the cake soon, spread the coffee crunch all over the cake.  If not, don't spread the coffee crunch over the cake because according to the cookbook the moisture from the whipped cream with make the coffee crunch chewy after a few hours.  Thus lightly wrap the cake in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve--then sprinkle it with coffee crunch.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Buttermilk Pie

Spring is slowly--and I stress the word slowly--making its way back into our lives.  This pleases me.  But at the same time I'm a little scared that due to our extreme arctic winter the rhubarb and asparagus are going to be a little late or absent from the party.  I guess there's always Whole Foods... 

Yet, I'm still a little bummed because I bought a couple of new cookbooks with some gift cards I received on Christmas.  By the way, I'm "into" cookbooks now--I wasn't really before.  Normally I scour the internet for recipes and I forget about the many cookbooks that I do have which I think is a misstep on my part.  Cookbooks usually have drool worthy photographs and make nice coffee table pieces.  But they also have some drool worthy recipes.

Anyway...I am a little upset because one of the new books has a chapter for each of the four seasons and although spring is technically here,  most of them are recipes that require spring fruits that aren't.  And I know I could go to the grocery store and buy anything I needed but I have been trying to do all of my produce shopping at the farmers market for the past few years because I think buying locally is a great way to support local farms and businesses.  I also like the idea of using seasonal ingredients as much as possible and shopping at the farmers market is a great way to do just that.  So I do my best to adhere to it.  Pretentious?  Maybe.

But since none of the produce specified in the 'Spring' chapter of this cookbooks is being sold at the farmers market, I did the next most sensible thing which was flipping ahead to the 'Fall' recipes and finding something that didn't require anything I didn't already have on hand.  And what I had on hand was a lot of buttermilk.  A lot of buttermilk that I did not foresee me using for anything else in the near future.  And so in the 'Fall' chapter is a recipe for Buttermilk Pie (why that is considered a Fall dessert is something I don't know but I'll go with it).  I'd never eaten a buttermilk pie and it had a pretty picture so I made it.

The recipe called for some lemon zest and egg yolks along with the buttermilk.  So it actually turned out to be more like a lemon chess pie.  I've never had a lemon chess pie but I've had a chess pie and I imagine that if I combined some lemon and a chess pie this is what it would taste like except the lemon flavor was much more subdued.  Yet, that is the best way to describe it.  It also had a pecan crust which I really hated rolling out but loved the taste.  It was sweet and tasted like a cookie.

This is my filterified night shot!

Pecan Crust:

1c all purpose flour
1/3c pecans
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4" cubes
1 large egg

-In a food processor, combine all of the dry ingredients until the pecans are finely ground
-Add the butter and the egg and pulse just until when pinched it will hold together but does not form a ball
-Drop the dough onto some plastic wrap, form it into a disc, wrap it up tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour
-Roll out the dough on a floured surface, place into a 9" pie plate and trim/fold/crimp excess dough to your liking at the rim of the pie plate.
-Refrigerate dough in pie plate for at least another hour
-After the hour is up, preheat the oven to 400 F
-Line the pie plate with parchment paper and then add some pie weights or dried beans to hold the dough down while blind baking 
-Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes and then remove the parchment paper and pie weights
-Place pie back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown
-Remove the pie crust from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 F

*A note about this pie dough:  It tastes great but I found it temperamental to work with/roll out particularly.  It was very sticky and kept coming apart on me so I had to do a little more patching than I would have liked.  So, I would recommend letting the pie crust chill for a lot longer than just 1 hour.  Also I was using my brand new marble rolling pin which may have had a part to play.  Nevertheless I seem to have trouble with pie crust recipes that include an egg anyway so that might have also had something to do with it.


1 1/4c granulated sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
3 large eggs
6 tbsp unsalted butter melted and cooled
1 1/3c buttermilk
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
pecans for garnish (optional)

-Using the food processor again, pulse the sugar and corn starch until combined
-Add everything else and process until well combined
-Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour until filling is set and slightly jiggly in the middle
-Remove from oven, let cool and garnish with powdered sugar, pecans or not 
-Serve at room temperature or chilled

*One final note about making the filling:  I used a 9" pie shell and the filling was too much so I couldn't have used all of it or else it would have over-flowed out of the shell.  Also, if you don't have a food processor you could have easily just whisked everything together in a large bowl.  I do have one and used it but it's a medium-sized one--I think-- (I don't know how big... :-/)  but it wasn't big enough so I ended up transferring it to a large bowl and just whisking until everything was well combined.