Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring to do it: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

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.

This challenge was posted at the perfect time. I was in Florida visiting my family and was in the mood to make something special for dessert. I saw this recipe and was immediately drawn to it. I printed it up and showed it to my mother. She was intrigued, too. We made it on the first day. We then made it a second time before returning to PA. I then made it two more times, making a total of five different flavors for this one recipe! I don't think I have ever been drawn to a challenge recipe in this way. Sure, there are others that I have made a couple of times, and there are a few more which I plan to make again. But I made this one four times, with five different flavors...! All during the course of the challenge month! And I can't wait to make it again! I honestly think that the reason this is such a great recipe is that it is one which was found in a family collection. Jamie found it when going through her father's things - undated, uncredited... but SO good!
Having made bread before, I was not intimidated by the yeast dough. I was a little curious at the hosts' description of the dough as being "soft, smooth, sexy and elastic." Sexy? Bread dough? As odd as the word choice might have seemed, it was dead on. This dough was so smooth, so sexy, I loved working with it. Clearly!!
For the explanation of this recipe/the fun picture part, I'll show you the dough process from the first time, then I will just show you the variations I did, along with any changed I may have made. I was super thrilled with how easy it was to play with this recipe - different flours, varying amounts of sugar, different types of milks... All versions led to amazing cakes!
The dough starts with warmed milk and butter. For this first version I used rice milk and margarine. (That way the resulting cakes would be parve.)

Once risen, the dough is divided into two parts to make two different loaves. For this first time through I made a cinnamon and chocolate version. The dough is rolled out, then meringue is spread over it. I then sprinkled cinnamon-sugar over the meringue, then chocolate chips were generously added and the soon-to-be loaves were rolled up jelly roll style. The recipe calls for the rolled up dough to be formed into a wreath (like in the stollen challenge from a few months ago), which I did with one of the sections. For the other, though, I folded it into a loaf pan so it would be more like a babka. (If you don't know what a babka is, it is a yeasted and twisted filled cake. Love it!) The cakes rise again, and are then painted with egg wash and baked.
They came out of the over beautifully. We cut into the babka loaf that night, and were rewarded with an amazingly soft, light and chocolaty cake that was almost impossible to resist! I knew right then that I would be making this recipe again...
I just didn't know how many times!

And now for the variations:
I made a strawberries and meringue wreath with part whole wheat flour:
I made a savory spinach and cheese braid, mixing ricotta cheese in with the meringue, and filling with sauteed spinach, onion and garlic, and sprinkling with shredded cheese:
I made a chocolate peanut butter loaf version, using this recipe for peanut butter meringue and plenty of chocolate chips:
And I made a lemon meringue wreath version, adding lemon zest to the meringue and filling the cake with lemon curd:Thank you so much Jamie and Ria for hosting such an amazing challenge. And thank you, Jamie for sharing this recipe, which could have been a family secret, but you let us in. This has truly been one of the best challenges in in the year since I became a member.

I highly recommend that you look here to see the amazing creations made by my fellow Daring Bakers. But be sure you have a napkin ready to wipe up the drool!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daring to do it: Ceviche and Papas Rellenas

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

My curiosity was piqued the moment I saw this challenge go up. I love learning about foods from other cultures, and Peru is a place I know virtually nothing about. So this was going to be a learning experience. Which is always a good thing, if you ask me. Then there was the "hmmm...." moment. I knew what ceviche was. Fish, barely "cooked" in an acidic citrus marinade. Vegetarian households and fish don't generally go so well together. (And even if we weren't vegetarian, me being pregnant means that raw, or barely cooked, fish is a no-no anyway!) And I had never heard of papas rellenas, but the moment I heard they were potato based, I was in! Now, knowing that there were people with dietary restrictions, Kathlyn actually said that it would be fine to make only one of the challenge dishes - either the ceviche or the papas. But I knew that there had to be an alternative...
After looking around on the internet, I found that there are many alternatives to fish which can be used to make a vegetarian ceviche, or at least a ceviche style dish. Cooks can use tofu, hearts of palm, mozzarella cheese... I chose tofu, as it is an ingredient I really like, and I love trying new recipes with it. Based on a combination of the challenge recipe, my internet research, and the ingredients I had in the house I came up with a marinade that I thought sounded good. I used lemons and oranges for my fresh citrus juice, then added a combination of white vinegar and soy sauce to round out the amount of liquid. To this I added a variety of spices, including ground mustard, ground ginger, cumin and paprika. I meant to add some minced garlic, but I forgot about it... (I don't know how I could ever forget garlic, but it happened...!) This marinade was then poured over cubed tofu and the dish was set in the refrigerator to soak overnight.
The next day it was time to tackle the papas rellena, and to complete the tofu ceviche. Papas rellenas are, essentially (and in a very simplistic interpretation) mashed potatoes wrapped around a filling then breaded and fried. As a potato fan, I knew this would be a versitile technique for me...! I chose to make a broccoli and cheese filling for my papas, thinking that a familiar flavor combination would be a good way to approach such a new dish. (I had toyed with the idea of adding black beans, texturized vegetable protein, or both to the mix, but decided that might be too heavy served with the tofu.) I thin sliced onions, part to add to the ceviche tofu, and part to saute along with broccoli and garlic. To that mixture I added a lot of shredded cheese. Yum...!
For the potatoes, I decided to try something new. (Ok, new to me.) I have always made my mashed potatoes by boiling the potatoes before mashing them. This time I decided to bake them, both to see how it would taste and to try to reduce the amount of moisture in the resulting mash mix. Once roasted, I scooped the flesh from the potatoes, and did a sort of mashing/shredding combination to them. An egg was mixed in and I was ready to assemble the papas. This was a very messy process, so there are no pictures. (Sorry!) I took a handful of potatoes and flattened it into a disk in my hand. I then put a scoop of the broccoli mixture into the potatoes and closed it up - essentially making a potato shaped bundle. The sealed potato ball was then rolled in flour, dipped in egg and coated with home-made breadcrumbs. (I actually, on the recommendation of one of my fellow Daring Cooks, double breaded the papas - re-dipping in eggs and crumbs after the initial layer.) I got six papas from the amount of potatoes I had. It was finally time to fry...
This was the second month in a row where the Daring Cooks challenge involved deep frying. (Remember the tempura?) I don't deep fry that frequently, and I wasn't too keen to do it again so soon. I decided to do a shallow fry for these papas. I didn't realize, though, how quickly they would fry! My first batch burned on the bottom. Not too badly - they still tasted good, but they looked a little black... Oops... I was more vigilant with the second batch, and they came out nice and golden brown on the outside and melty on the inside.

Dinner that evening was a Peruvian feast! (Ok, it was a totally Americanized Peruvian feast...!) The tofu ceviche and broccoli and cheese papas were fabulous! It was the perfect combination of light yet satisfying. I am really looking forward to trying different variations on both of these dishes!
Thank you so much, Kathlyn, for openig my eyes to Peruvian cuisine! This was a wonderful challenge, and I am really thrilled to have been able to participate this month!
I highly recommend taking a look here to see the amazing Peruvian treats created by my fellow Daring Cooks!

Friday, March 11, 2011

A brief departure

I know this is usually a light-hearted, somewhat silly little blog.
But I just wanted to take a moment to send love and hope to everyone in Japan, and everyone who has friends and family there. I hope you are all safe, and that you remain so for a long time to come!