Category Archives: Brunch

Apple Custard Cake

sliced-cakeI have a recipe for an apple caramel cake that is outstanding. But some occasions (maybe breakfast if you’re my husband) call for a simpler cake. This cake is perfect for those times. This is a dense cake. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I mean dense in the best possible sense. This is yellow cake at it’s finest. Owing to butter, eggs, whole milk and sour cream it has a compact velvety texture.

My dad would have described this cake as plain. And he would have meant it as a great compliment. He liked subtle flavours, nothing too sweet, ornate or fancy. The inspiration for this cake comes from Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook. Sarabeth knows good breakfast!

The first tweak I made to the original recipe was to toast the sugar. Stella Parks over at Serious Eats convinced me to give it a try. The bottom line is that toasting sugar in the oven tames sugar’s sweetness and the longer you toast it, the more intense the caramel flavour will be. Check out her article if food science is your jam.

I toasted my sugar for about 2 1/2 hours. The toasted sugar is on the right. I tasted both, side by side and did find that the toasted sugar tasted less sweet. You can toast 4 pounds at one time and it will keep forever, just like white sugar. toasted-sugarStart with a 9 inch tube pan (also called an angel food cake pan). Butter and flour the pan very well.brushing-panI made this cake twice last week. The first time I made it, I found it too plain. (Sorry dad!). On the second go-round I added an additional layer of apples and coated the apple slices in cinnamon-sugar.

Half the batter goes into the pan. Smooth it out.smoothing-batterI used the first Honeycrisp apples of the fall season! Pink Lady or Granny Smith would also be great choices.slicing-applesTop batter with cinnamon apples.arranging-applesRepeat with a second layer of batter and cinnamon apples. Then drizzle with custard mixture.drizzling-custardResist the urge to turn the cake out of the pan until it has completely cooled. Your patience will be handsomely rewarded. 3-slicesThe ribbon of cinnamon coated apples that runs through the center of this cake is quite beautiful.one-slice-1

Click here to print recipe for Apple-Custard-Cake.

sliced-cake-2

Ricotta Peach and Honey Socca Pizza (Socca-Palooza: Chapter 2)

Ricotta peach pizza on blue plateWith perfect late summer peaches, this socca creation is fool proof! The combination of ripe peaches, creamy ricotta and a drizzle of honey is majestic. Fresh mint and a few flakes of fleur de sel take it to the next level of deliciousness.Ricotta Peach socca toppingsIf you have an extra 10 minutes, please make your own ricotta for this. It’s worth it, and really very simple. I love this recipe from epicurious.com. This socca would be perfect to serve for brunch, a light lunch or a not too sweet dessert.

Click here to print recipe for Ricotta, Peach and Honey Socca Pizzas.

Ricotta peach pizza have a slice

 

Cookie Butter Rugelach

If the title of this post has left you shaking your head, wondering what the heck I am writing about, let me enlighten you.coffee and rugelach 625 sqI wrote about cookie butter last year. It is also known as Speculoos or Biscoff spread. Basically, we are talking about ground up spicy gingerbread cookies, mixed with additional sugar and oil, to create, a somewhat addictive spread, in the vein of peanut butter and Nutella.

Rugelach is a small Jewish pastry, of Eastern European origin. Traditionally they are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. The origin of the name comes from the Polish word “Rog” which is the prefix for horn, (croissant shaped pastries kind of look like horns). “El” is used as a diminutive and the “Ach” ending indicates plural. So put together we have horn shaped little pastries –Rugelach.hazelnutsHow this little cookie came to be made in a crescent shape is an interesting story. I have read several versions, but this is my favourite. In the 16th Century, the Jews were living under the rule of the brutal Ottoman Empire. Life was not easy for them. A baker with a warped sense of humour, decided to create little pastries, shaped like the crescent that decorated the Ottoman war flags. With every bite of these delicious little noshes, the Jews imagined that they were “chewing out” their merciless oppressors.

Back in Europe, the dough for rugelach is light, airy and yeast raised. Somehow, when it arrived in North America, it transformed into a dense cream cheese based dough. This is the rugelach I grew up with and love. Rich and flaky, but not too sweet, the best rugelach let the dough be the star and the fillings play a supporting role.

Most often they are filled with jam, cinnamon-sugar, raisins and nuts. Often chocolate is thrown into the mix. Screwing with a 500 year old cookie could be a dangerous thing, but I like to live on the edge, so I played around with the traditional recipe and spread mine with Cookie Butter instead of jam.

The dough is simple to put together. I used the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for the dough, with the addition of some cinnamon and ground ginger to mimic the gingerbread flavour of the cookie butter. The butter and cream cheese must be very cold.dough ingredientsmaking dough 1Only process the dough until it resembles small curd cottage cheese. Don’t let the processor form the dough into a ball, or you will have tough rugelach. pulsed doughdivide dough into 48.5 inch circleI decided to make two varieties. The first, shaped in the traditional crescent, featured Cookie Butter and toasted chopped hazelnuts.spreading cookie butter on circlesprinkling hazelnutscutting into wedgesrolling crescentsbrushing with eggThese got treated to a shower of cinnamon sugar as soon as they came out of the oven. dust with cinnamon sugarFor the second variation I created little roulades. The dough was rolled into a rectangle, filled with cookie butter and chopped chocolate, and rolled and sliced, before baking. 11 x 7 inch rectanglespreading cookie butter on rectanglesprinkling chocolaterolling rouladeslicing roulades

brushing roulades with eggCB and chocolate roulades

Click here to print recipe for Cookie Butter and Hazelnut Rugelach.

3 rugelach

Click here to print recipe for Cookie Butter and Chocolate Rugelach Roulades.

Roulades

Battle Babka

Almond Joy Babka with a latte 2Who among us hasn’t wished for more hours in the day? Well consider me your little “time fairy.” I’m going to give you 24 extra hours! In case you’ve forgotten, 2016 is a leap year. February 29, is leap day. With all that extra time on your hands, let me suggest that you make babka.

For the uninitiated, babka is a brioche dough (yeast dough enriched with butter), spread with a sweet filling, rolled up and then baked in a loaf pan. Many consider chocolate to be the ultimate babka. In fact, if you were even to suggest a cinnamon babka to these chocolate lovers, they’d likely gasp and and utter, “another babka“? They theorize that a cinnamon babka is a “lesser babka”.

My daughter was visiting this weekend and she wanted to help me with my next post. As we considered what to blog about, my suggestion of blood orange curd filled donuts, eclairs or tart were met with a less than enthusiastic ” oh, that’s interesting.” When  I showed her the photo of Chocolate Krantz cake (aka Babka) in Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem, she got quite excited. She is enthusiastically in the chocolate camp, while my husband has both feet firmly planted in the cinnamon camp. Luckily, this recipe makes two babkas. And so Battle Babka was on.battle babkaThe dough for babka can not be rushed. It requires an overnight rest in the fridge. Then, divide it in half and roll out the first half into an 11 x 15 inch rectangle.rolling doughFor the chocolate babka, we were inspired by an Almond Joy chocolate bar. After spreading on the chocolate paste, we added chopped toasted almonds and unsweetened coconut. spreading chocolate fillingsprinkling almondssprinkling coconutHere’s where babka baking becomes fun. Roll up the dough into a tight roulade.rolling 2rolling 4Place roll on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for about 15 minutes, to firm up the dough. rolled and ready for chillingOnce the dough has firmed up, it’s time to cut it in half, length-wise. A serrated knife makes easy work of this.slicing in halfLook at those gorgeous striations. gorgeous striationsTo assemble, the two halves need to be twisted back together again .twisting 1twisting 2twisting 3We repeated the process all over again, to make the cinnamon babka. Brush dough with butter this time, instead of chocolate.brushing butter on cinnamon babkaA thick layer of brown sugar and cinnamon go down next.sprinkling sugar cinnamonToasted pecans and dried cherries complete this version.pecans ans cherriesThe babkas are placed in loaf pans and allowed to rise for about 90 minutes. Because of all the butter in the dough, they only grow by about 15%.ready to riseOnce baked, they get doused with a brushing of simple syrup. This keeps the babkas super moist.brushing with simple syrupAfter a tortuous cooling period, (with my husband calling from upstairs, every 10 minutes, “Is it time yet?“, we sliced into them and tasted. One vote for chocolate from my daughter, one vote for cinnamon, from my husband. The deciding vote was up to me. I declare that Cinnamon babka is most decidedly not a lesser babka. The tart dried cherries, combined with the crunchy pecans won me over. But don’t let me influence you. Decide for yourself. battle babka 2We discovered that babka tastes even better the second day. Sort of like stew, it needs time for all the flavours to develop. We loved it with a latte for breakfast.Cinnamon Babka with latte 2 625 sqIt was still stellar late that afternoon with a glass of milk.Cinnamon Babka with milkNot surprisingly, it disappeared quite quickly.take a slice 1take a slice 2hey, where did all the babka go

Click here to print recipe for Almond Joy Babka.

Click here to print recipe for Cinnamon Pecan Dried Cherry Babka.

 

Popovers

a bunch of popovers 2Just saying the word “Popover” makes me happy. These are so much fun to make. I turned on my oven light and watched them rise up and pop right over the rim of the pan. It’s like magic! (Do not ever open the oven door while they are baking!)gorgeous popoversI somehow managed to keep my popover virginity for the first 50 years of my life. I had my first  one a few years ago at my cottage.  My sister Bonnie came to visit and brought her popover pans with her. (Doesn’t everyone travel with popover pans?) I promptly ate two, right out of the oven, slathered with butter. Why had I waited so long?

I have been meaning to make them myself and blog about them, to share the popover love, but life got in the way, and I got sidetracked. A family holiday to Aruba, over the winter break, brought me right back on track again. We had dinner one night at the Aruba outpost of BLT Steak.

Our entire dinner was delicious, but it was the popovers that will keep me coming back again and again. I was thrilled to see that they arrived at the table with soft butter and a copy of the recipe!2 popoversPopover batter consists of nothing more than milk, eggs, flour and salt. I also added some cheese, because cheese makes everything better.what you'll need Making perfect popovers is not really all that magical or mysterious if you understand about the science behind them. The website, bite-sizedbiology does a brilliant job explaining this.   Popovers are like little balloons. An elastic network of egg, milk, and flour proteins (particularly gluten) forms as the popover batter is mixed. This rubbery network then “inflates” as air trapped inside the batter expands during baking. 

Beat your eggs well.whisking eggsWhisk in some warm (120°F) whole milk.adding warm milk Gradually add the flour and salt, stirring well after each addition. It is not critical to get it totally smooth. A few little lumps are ok.

Place your muffin or popover tins in the oven, on the lowest rack, while it is preheating to 400°F. A hot pan will assist in giving your popovers a head start in rising. While popovers can certainly be made in a muffin tin, they will not be nearly as tall and dramatic as ones made in a popover pan. The main difference between muffin and popover pans is the shape of the cups. Popover pans have tall narrow-straight sided cups, while muffin tins are squatter and narrower at the base. The taller straighter sides of the popover pan gives the batter more vertical room to expand and build a bigger steam pocket.filling hot pansEach popover got a generous topping of Gruyere cheese before heading into the oven. adding gruyereServe as soon as they come out of the oven, with butter, if that makes you happy. The top and sides are a deep mahogany colour. Pop off the crunchy cheesy top to reveal a hollow custardy cavity inside.2 popovers cropped close

Click here to print recipe for Popovers.

popover with butter 625 sqI’m thinking I need a mini popover pan now. Tiny ones would be so perfect to serve with cocktails!