Friday, September 12, 2014

Brown Butter Banana & Chocolate Marble Cake


This is a back to basics kind of week.  Nothing very fancy or complicated, just simple ingredients you can find just about anywhere.  But since it’s also essential to have some fun in the kitchen, I mix things up just a little bit.

I start this pastry with a basic banana bread idea, which we all know and love.  Some banana breads are made with butter and some are made with oil.  Some have nuts and/or chocolate chips.  Some are hydrated with buttermilk and some just use a lot of bananas for more moisture.  

In this recipe I brown the butter to a nice nutty amber for additional flavor.  I add a pinch of spice and I use sour cream for moisture.  I’ve found that sour cream works best to really tenderize banana cake.  I use a mix of granulated & brown sugars for flavor and moisture.  I add bananas that are very ripe to make sure the right sugar levels are there.  And just to make matters more alluring, I portion a bit of the batter and flavor it with a cocoa & coffee mixture.  Then it's crowned with chopped nuts and into the oven it goes.

The resulting cake is tender with a soft crumb, not too heavy and perfect for an afternoon snack or morning brunch table when you feel like it's time for a little treat. 


Bench notes:
- Some tips for successful browned butter:
1) Use a stainless steel pan so you can best gauge the color of the butter as it starts to brown.  Have a small heatproof bowl near the stove so you can immediately pour off the butter when it's done.  I use a clear Pyrex custard cup so I can see the color.
2) Cut the butter into small uniform pieces so it melts consistently without spot scorching.
3) Use medium low heat and watch it carefully.  As the butter starts to melt and heat up, you'll notice small bubbles on the surface that get larger. You'll notice the milk solids starting to brown on the bottom of the pan very quickly.  Lift the pan and swirl for more control if it’s browning too fast or nearly done.  Keep your eye on it and keep swirling.  It will be done very quickly after you notice the first brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Once you begin to detect a nutty aroma, it's about done.  Stop when you think it's almost there.  It will continue to darken off the heat.  Pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.   Set aside to cool.
4) If you've gone too far, it will look very dark and taste bitter, so you'll have to start over again.  You’re looking for medium amber brown.
5) When adding the browned butter to the rest of the ingredients, include all the brown bits that have settled to the bottom of the bowl.
- I mashed the bananas fairly coarsely.  It's definitely not a puree.
- I tried this cake with melted chocolate rather than the cocoa mix and I prefer the flavor of the cocoa.


Brown Butter Banana Chocolate Marble Cake
Makes 1 loaf

4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup (3/4 oz) cocoa powder
1/4 cup (2 oz) hot coffee
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) brown sugar, packed
2 eggs @ room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (6 3/4 oz; about 2 medium) ripe banana, mashed
1/3 cup (75 grams) sour cream
1/3 cup (about 1 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2” loaf pan and line with a piece of parchment paper large enough to form an overhang along both sides of the length of the pan.

Brown the butter until it’s medium amber.  Immediately pour into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.

Combine the cocoa powder with hot coffee until smooth.  Set aside.

In a bowl large enough to hold all the batter ingredients, whisk together the cooled browned butter and both sugars.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.  

Add half of the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Blend in the sour cream and bananas and mix thoroughly.  Add the remaining flour mixture and mix just until there are no more flour streaks.  Remove 3/4 cup of the batter and combine with the cocoa/coffee mixture.

Pour half the banana batter into the prepared pan.  Dollop with half the chocolate batter and run a knife through in figure 8s to marble.  Repeat once again.  Press chopped nuts onto the top. 

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Place cake on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edges to loosen.  Using the parchment overhang to assist, lift the cake out and cool completely.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies


When you can’t decide between two different cookies, I think it’s only fair to compromise.  Make a little of both and simply twist them into an interesting Rohrschach Test collection.  And since chocolate and peanut butter are such good buddies, I co-mingle them here in this very-easy-except-for-the-dishwashing recipe. 

When you work in a professional pastry kitchen, one of your best buddies is always the dishwasher.  They are in charge of keeping all our bowls, sheet pans, utensils and tools squeaky clean and are usually cranking on full-speed to keep up with production.  They are the people who make everything possible.  Any kitchen worth its salt knows and recognizes the value of a good dishwasher.

This twist is basically two separate cookies that are melded together to form one delicious taste of both.  Although it requires a few bowls to get the job done, by all means, don’t let that hinder your progress.  These soft and chewy bites are the best of both worlds, a worthy compromise.

Bench notes:
- This is a recipe where you have to make sure to keep your mise en place separate for each dough.  That’s where all the bowls come in!
- This recipe makes a lot of cookies.  You can store well-wrapped logs in the freezer for later.  I’ve also halved the recipe.  To divide the egg, I scramble it and then split it in half using a scale.  Most large eggs are about 54 grams, so I use about 27 grams for each dough.  Sounds crazy but it works.
- When mixed, the doughs will be too soft to shape, so chill them both until they feel like they can withstand handling, about an hour or two.  Work quickly to form the logs then chill again when the logs are formed.  I usually leave the logs to chill overnight or a couple of days.
- I work with four pieces of 8” x 12” parchment to form and shape the dough into four 8” logs, use it to roll up the logs and then wrap with a layer of plastic to chill.  You can also divide each dough in half and form just two logs that are about 11 1/2” if that’s easier for you to handle. 
- When I’m done with a roll of paper towels, I take the cardboard cylander and use a box cutter or pair of scissors to cut it open. I slip the formed and wrapped cookie logs into the cardboard and then chill.  This helps to keep the round shape.
- Cookies will be soft to the touch when they are removed from the oven but firm up as they cool.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) flour                                     
3/4 teaspoon baking soda                                   
1/2 teaspoon baking powder                   
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature              
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar                                            
1 cup (9 oz) chunky peanut butter                                   
1 large egg @ room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla                                                              
1/2 cup (2 oz) roasted & salted peanuts, chopped (optional)                                   

Chocolate Cookie Dough

1 cup (5 oz) flour                                                                 
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
                                                  
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature 
                                    
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg @ room temperature
                                              
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla                                         
1/2 cup (3 oz) chocolate chips                                                     

For the peanut butter dough, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Cream butter and sugars until light, about 2 – 3 minutes. Add peanut butter and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Scrape down the bowl. Add the egg and mix until thoroughly blended. Add dry ingredients (and chopped peanuts, if using) and mix until there are no streaks of flour, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and chill until firm enough to handle, about 2 – 3 hours.

For the chocolate dough, sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until light, about 2 – 3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly blended.   Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips and mix until there are no streaks of flour, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and chill until firm enough to handle, about 2 – 3 hours.

When the dough has been chilled, divide each packet in four equal pieces.  Press each piece into a flattened log about 7” long.  Work with one piece of each cookie dough at a time, placing the remaining logs in the refrigerator to keep them chilled. 

Take one of each log and stack them together.  Gently twist them a few times until they are fairly marbled.  Roll into an 8” log.  Wrap tightly and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.  Repeat with remaining dough.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
Use a sharp knife to cut cookie log into 1/2” slices.  Place them about 2” apart on baking sheets.  Bake for 13 - 15 minutes.  Cool baking sheets on wire rack until cookies are firm enough to remove.   Store the cookies in an airtight container.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Oatmeal Plum Crumb Cake


We’re at that odd point in the season where summer is rapidly coming to a close but fall hasn’t quite arrived.  We treasure the days of sunshine but can almost detect a chill about to come and the scent of apples and spice baking in the oven.  There’ll be plenty of time for pears and chocolate and pumpkin in the months ahead, but for now, let’s take some time to cling to the next family about to leave town, the Plums.

I seem to be making a lot of cakes lately.  But this one is more of a brunch type pastry.  It’s made with a touch of oatmeal to please us oat lovers and to add a bit of chewy texture.  And since I’m on this fresh plum jag lately, I had to include some of those deliciously tart gems.  I’ve also topped the whole thing with a spiced oat crumb streusel for another layer of texture and to mediate the tartness of the plums.  I think the cake has just the right touch of the complementary flavors of cinnamon and almond extract to make it pop. 

Do grab a fork and pass the coffee.  It’s time to savor these warm days and cool nights.  The Plum Family is nearly on their way.


Bench notes:
- I prefer springform pans when there is a streusel or crumb topping to prevent disrupting it while removing the cake from the pan.
- After creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl half-way through.  You’re ready to add the second egg when it looks completely combined and there is no shiny egg sheen on the batter.  When you add the vanilla and almond extract, it may look a bit curdled but that will iron out when you add the dry ingredients.
- Plums should be ripe but firm.  If they’re overripe, they’ll mush up the cake.  Cut them into 1/2” slices so they bake to a nice texture by the time the cake is ready.
- When you test the cake for doneness, test it toward the center in an area that is cake, avoiding the plums. 


Oatmeal Plum Crumb Cake
Serves 8 to 10

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) flour
1/3 cup (1 oz) old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons (26 grams) dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons (26 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 oz (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon molasses

Cake
3 fresh plums (about 10 oz)                                                                     
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (5 3/4 oz) flour
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder                                                                   
1/4 teaspoon baking soda    
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature                       
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed                                                                
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
2 large eggs @ room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract                                                             
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup (2 oz) milk @ room temperature

powdered sugar, for dusting
           
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9” springform cake pan.

For the crumb topping, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and molasses and stir with a fork just until the mixture clumps together and is crumbly with large and small chunks. Chill until ready to use.

Cut the plums into 1/2” slices and set aside. 

For the cake, whisk together the flour, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.

Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 2 – 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and add vanilla and almond extracts.

Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with half the milk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.  Press the plum slices about 3/4 of the way into the batter.  Sprinkle the crumb topping over the entire cake.  

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 45 - 50 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Then run a thin knife around the edge of the cake and remove the springform cake pan ring.  Cool completely.  Sprinkle with a very light dusting of powdered sugar.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chocolate Almond Raspberry Cake


Whoa!  This week marks Pastry Studio’s 7th blog anniversary, so I’m going all in with a chocolate cake to celebrate.  As I look back over time, I’m super grateful for all I’ve learned about blogging and the art of pastry and desserts, a constant lesson.  What started out as a way to stay involved in a profession I loved as I returned to consulting in my previous career became an engaging and soul soothing pursuit of the senses.  Seven years of testing, writing, photographing, blogging and a labor-of-love cookbook later, I’m still as infatuated with the tools of the trade as ever.

My anniversary pastry is a conspiracy of cocoa, almonds, raspberries and chocolate, old friends assembled for a delicious reunion.  It's a simple oil cake mixed in a bowl to which I’ve added toasted ground almonds.  The filling is made with fresh raspberries macerated in sugar and lemon juice.  The cake is finished in a sumptuous chocolate glaze to bolster the sensation of chocolate and lend a silky high note to the chorus.

Thanks for all the wonderful emails and kindnesses from my readers over these last seven years.  It’s been such an incredible pleasure to be here.  Have a piece of cake and please make sure to enjoy all your endeavors in your kitchen.  Cheers!


Bench notes:
- Use an 8” square pan that has at least 2 1/4” sides.
- Mixing cocoa powder with hot water helps to “bloom” the flavor.  I prefer to use hot water rather than coffee in cakes made with cocoa powder because I think coffee tends to muddy the taste. 
- I like to use sliced almonds because they grind to a finer consistency in a food processor.
- To toast sliced almonds, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 350 F degree oven for about 5 – 7 mintues.  Watch them closely as they will burn quickly.
- The cinnamon helps enhance and round out the cocoa flavor.  
- I invert the baked cake onto a small removable tart bottom to make it easier to handle.  I also dust the metal disc very lightly with cocoa powder beforehand to prevent sticking.  Once the cake is glazed and trimmed, I use a large metal spatula to help transfer the cake off the metal bottom and onto a serving platter. 
- For the chocolate glaze, finely chopping the chocolate into very small bits ensures it will melt more evenly, quickly and lump free. When the hot cream is added, let it sit for about 1 minute so the chocolate can absorb the heat. Then stir gently and slowly, starting in the middle and working outward in concentric circles, to prevent it from cooling down too fast and creating air bubbles.  As soon as the glaze is blended, flood the center of the cake quickly and then move to the edges. 
- Square cakes are harder to glaze, so after pouring on the glaze, I grab the sides of the cake and shimmy and shake the whole thing vigorously so the glaze spreads out and covers the surface.  Messy but fun.
- I’ve chosen a square format but it can be baked as a round cake just as easily without the need for trimming.  Use a 9” x 2” round cake pan and check it at about 35 minutes.  Increase the glaze as follows to cover the entire cake: 5 oz semisweet chocolate, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla.  To glaze the cake, pour the glaze quickly in the center of the cake and then around the edges. Let it run for a few seconds and then gently jiggle and tap the baking sheet on the work surface to encourage the glaze to run down the sides of the cake. Just as it begins to dry, run a small flat spatula around the underside of the cardboard round to smooth the bottom edge and prevent “feet” from forming. Let the glaze firm up before serving.
- The use of corn syrup in the chocolate glaze adds to the viscosity, ease of pouring and shine. I rarely use corn syrup but in this preparation it is a fairly small amount. You can leave it out if you wish.


Chocolate Almond Raspberry Cake
Serves 8

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) flour
1/2 cup (2 oz) sliced almonds, toasted  
3/4 teasoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon                                           
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (53 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (5 oz) hot water
1/2 cup (4 oz) canola oil
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs @ room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk @ room temperature

12 oz fresh raspberries
2 – 3 tablespoons sugar, to taste                                               
1 teaspoon lemon juice, to taste

Chocolate Glaze
3 oz semisweet (56% - 62%) chocolate
1/2 cup (4 oz) heavy cream
2 teaspoons (1/2 oz) corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla                      
                                                                                               
Preheat your oven to 350ºF.  Lightly grease an 8” square cake pan and line with parchment with a slight overhang on two sides.  

Place the flour, sliced almonds, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a food processor.  Process until the almonds are finely ground.  Set aside. 

Whisk the cocoa and hot water together until thoroughly blended and smooth.

Whisk together the oil, both sugars and eggs and blend well.  Add the cocoa mixture and vanilla and almond extracts and mix thoroughly.  Stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with half the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix just until well blended.  Pour into the prepared pan and gently tap the bottom of the pan on the work surface to remove any air bubbles.

Bake until a toothpick tests with just a few small moist crumbs adhering, about 40 - 42 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes.  Run a thin bladed knife around the edges and lift out the cake using the parchment overhang to assist.  Cool completely on a wire rack. 

When ready to assemble, set aside a few raspberries for garnish and place the remainder with the sugar and lemon juice in a bowl.  Mash them coarsely with a fork.  Let them sit to macerate for about 10 minutes.

Set up a baking sheet with a piece of parchment or a silpat and place a wire rack on top.  Invert the cooled cake onto the rack and gently peel off the parchment.  Using a serrated knife, slice the cake in half horizontally and set the top half aside.  Spread the mashed raspberries evenly over the surface.  Replace the top half of the cake.

For the chocolate glaze, finely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and corn syrup on medium heat until it just begins to come to a boil.  Remove from heat, add vanilla and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute and then stir just until fully combined.

Pour the glaze quickly in the center of the cake and then move outward toward the edges.  Jiggle the cake to encourage the glaze to glide evenly across the surface.  Once the top is covered, let the cake sit for 15 - 20 minutes.  Using a serrated knife, trim the sides.  Garnish with reserved raspberries.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer Odds & Ends Cake


Does anybody know where the summer went?  It seems like only yesterday we were anticipating stone fruit pie, shortcake and fresh homemade ice cream and now we’re nearly heading into September. Though we still have some peaches, nectarines, plums, berries and now figs to savor, it feels like the summer is slipping away, once again.  Time does fly. 

This cake is a sort of lucky conspiracy of lots of odds and ends in my kitchen.  There was fruit left over from other projects that needed to be used.  I had egg whites and yogurt left over from ice cream experiments.  So I decided to set to work to find a way to use all these ingredients in one simple preparation.  As luck would have it, this cake turned out to be remarkably delicious.  What started out as a waste not/want not mission turned into quite a luscious and beautiful dessert.

The cake is a basic yogurt cake to which I’ve added some lemon and orange zest along with a dash of almond extract.  The fruit layer is tossed with a bit of sugar to elicit some wonderful juices.  I happened to have strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and a nectarine and that turned out to be a heavenly mix.  I decided to finish the cake with a lavish crown of meringue for not only a sumptuous look but for an element of texture as well. 

First, I prepared the meringue.  The best meringue starts with room temperature egg whites for maximum volume.  I add a pinch of salt and some cornstarch to prevent weeping.  A good ratio of sugar is required for the meringue’s structure and in order for it to set properly.  Once it was whipped, I went with large spoonfuls dolloped in concentric circles but you can make swirls or pipe something fancier if you so desire.  Then it went into the oven for a long and slow baking to dry it out and crisp it up. 

Once the meringue was ready, I baked the cake and then macerated the fruit.  And here you can use any fruit of your choosing, the juicier the better.  Then when you’re ready to assemble, simply whip up a gorgeous cloud of whipped cream and you’re all set.  Layer on the fruit and juices, dollop on the cream and crown with meringue.  Presto!

The finished cake does look very festive and a bit regal.  (I may have had a PBS show on the life of Marie Antoinette I’d watched the night before lingering somewhere in my mind.)  But really, it's just a super good way to use up the odds and ends of summer.  I hope you've all had a chance to enjoy the best pastries of the season.  Cheers!


Bench notes:
- I used extra virgin olive oil in the cake but canola oil is a good alternative if you want a more neutral taste.
- Raw egg whites can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator up to four days. Each egg white is 1 ounce, so weigh out 4 ounces for this recipe if you have a stash in your refrigerator.
- Egg whites will whip with greater volume if they are at room temperature.  Be absolutely sure your bowl has no trace of grease, egg yolk, butter, oil, nuts or chocolate present.  Begin the process by whipping the whites with a pinch of salt until they are foamy and opaque. For a stable meringue, slowly add the sugar a couple tablespoons at a time and then keep whipping until they are glossy and form a stiff peak. It should hold its peak without slumping over. If the meringue starts to look dry and grainy and begins to separate, you've gone too far.
- A pinch of salt helps to firm up the egg protein.  Cornstarch acts as a stabilizer and keeps it from weeping.
- The amount of sugar for the meringue does seem like a lot but its important for the structure.  The sugar draws moisture from the egg white and helps it set.  Superfine sugar works best because it dissolves more completely.  You can make your own by running granulated sugar in your food processor until very fine, about 1 minute.
- Once whipped, try not to handle the meringue excessively to avoid deflating it.  Once baked, meringue loses its structure and crispness and does not hold well in humidity, so best to prepare this when the air is dry. 
- To prevent the meringue from sticking to the parchment, very lightly dust the paper with cornstarch or a very light brush of oil.  If you have the time, turn off the oven and let it dry out for another 1/2 hour, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.  Be gentle when removing from the parchment to prevent cracking.  A long metal spatula can be a useful aid. 
- Use a sawing motion with a serrated knife to cut into the finished dessert.


Summer Odds & Ends Cake
Serves 8

4 (4 oz) egg whites @ room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder                                            
1/4 teaspoon salt                                                   
1/2 cup (4 oz)) extra virgin olive oil          
1 cup (7 oz) sugar                                      
2 eggs @ room temperature
1/2 cup (4 oz) plain yogurt 
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
zest of 1 small lemon
zest of half medium orange

2 – 3 cups fresh fruit
sugar, to taste

1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (13 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the meringue, preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Using the bottom of a 9” cake pan, trace one circle on a piece of parchment paper using a dark pencil.  Place the parchment pencil side down on a baking sheet. 

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on medium low speed.  When they're foamy, add cornstarch and a pinch of salt.  Increase speed to medium high and continue whisking until they have increased in volume and are opaque.  Slowly add sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time and continue whipping until meringue forms very stiff shiny peaks that hold their shape.

Starting in the center of the circle outline, drop spoonfuls of meringue onto the parchment.  Continue until the circle, using a light tough and letting it take its own cloud-like form.

Place in the oven and bake for about 2 hours or until meringue is dry and can be released from the parchment.

For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease 9” cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs and blend thoroughly.  Add the yogurt, vanilla and almond extracts and citrus zest.  Mix in the dry ingredients just until there are no streaks of flour, being careful not to overmix.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the bottom of the pan on a work surface a few times to release any air bubbles.  

Bake the cake until it's a light golden brown and springs back when touched or a tester comes out clean, about 25 - 26 minutes.  Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Invert the cake and gently remove the parchment.  Invert again and cool completely.  

Slice the fruit and place in a bowl.  Add sugar to taste and toss.  Set aside for 20 minutes to macerate, tossing a couple of times to distribute the juices.

To assemble, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla to soft peak.  Use a serrated knife to slice off the dome on the cake and to expose the interior so that it can soak up the juices of the fruit.  Place the fruit on top of the cake and dollop with whipped cream.  Gently remove the meringue from the parchment and place on top of the cake.  

 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Oatmeal Muffins with Fruit


This is a reliable recipe for oatmeal muffins, a great alternative for breakfast, brunch or a grab and go snack.  It’s a very simple and straightforward old-fashioned recipe mixed in a bowl and it couldn’t be any easier. 

Since my pastry table is abundant with fresh fruit of the season at the moment, I decided to add some slices of figs and fresh raspberries for a great variation.  You could use any fresh fruit in your favor and produce a wonderfully moist and fabulous muffin.  So grab what you have – slices of peach, nectarine, plum, banana or blueberries would be especially good - and add some beautiful color, texture and flavor to your morning ritual. 


Bench notes:
- I only soaked the oatmeal for 1/2 hour because I definitely wanted some chew to the texture.
- I used dark brown sugar instead of light.  I prefer the stronger caramel notes.
- Use ripe (not mushy) fruit for maximum flavor and texture.
- The muffins aren’t particularly sweet.  Since I was using raspberries, I sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar before baking.  Raw sugar would also be nice.
- The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup dried currants.
- Although the recipe baking time is 20 minutes, mine were done in 13 minutes, so keep your eye on them.
- These are best eaten the same day. 
- Another delicious muffin: Buttermilk Bran Muffins. 
- In addition to my Recipe Index, I've added a search box in the right hand column.  Many thanks to reader Kristen for the suggestion.   


Oatmeal Muffins
adapted from Gourmet
Makes 12 muffins
                                                                                               
1 cup (3 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats                           
1 cup (8 oz) buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) light brown sugar, packed                
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla   [my addition]
1 cup (5 oz) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon   [my addition]
1/4 teaspoon allspice    [my addition]
3 fresh figs
raspberries
1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar                                                                             

Combine oats and buttermilk in a bowl and let stand for 1 hour [I let it sit for 1/2 hour].

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly grease standard muffin tin.

Whisk together egg, sugar, melted butter and vanilla.  Add to oat mixture and stir together.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices and add to oat mixture.  Stir just until combined.

Portion the batter evenly in the prepared muffin tin.  Cut the figs into quarters and insert each one into the batter along with a couple of raspberries.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes [mine were done in 13 minutes].  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from the muffin tin.