June 20, 2016

Recipe: New World German Brown Bread -- "Squaw Bread"

I recall, as a child, going to The Chart House restaurant and looking forward to the basket of freshly baked breads.  My favorite was always the dark brown, slightly sweet bread that the servers called "Squaw Bread".  I've heard that a similar bread is served at The Cheesecake Factory.  The name has gone out of fashion, since "squaw" is a derogatory term for a Native American woman.  

The history of this bread can in fact trace its roots to Native American origins when German pioneers combined their traditional German Brown Bread recipe with ingredients available to them through trades with the native people during their westward travels.

No matter how you slice it, this New World German Brown Bread is easy to bake and so wonderfully delicious to eat.  

New World German Brown Bread

Makes 1 large loaf
Active time:  10 minutes
Rise time:  1 hour, 45 minutes
Bake time:  45 minutes

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
1/3 cup molasses
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/4-1/2 cup more
3/4 Whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Grease a large bowl and set aside.

Step 1:  In a small bowl, combine warm water, yeast and sugar.  Set aside to proof for 8 minutes.

Step 2:  In the bowl of a stand-mixer, add remaining ingredients.  Once yeast begins to bubble (about 8 minutes), add to the flour mixture.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until mixture comes together into a sticky dough.

Step 3:  Turn dough out on to a well floured surface (start with about 1/4 cup AP flour).  Knead gently.  Add more flour as necessary to form a very soft, but not sticky dough (just a minute or two).   Transfer dough to the greased bowl.  Flip over so that top of dough is now greased.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour.  Dough will double in size.

Step 4:  Transfer dough to a greased loaf pan (ceramic or glass is preferable since metal has a tendency to brown the high-sugar content dough too quickly).  Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Step 5:  Bake on the center rack of a 350°F for 35 minutes.  Remove from pan, then bake for 10 minutes more on the open rack or on a baking stone.  Remove and let cool for 30 minutes.  

I always have a hard time waiting for the bread to cool.  I want to dive in right away.  However, I've learned that the texture of the bread and even the flavor are much better once the bread has had a chance to cool and rest.  Enjoy with plenty of sweet cream butter!

June 15, 2016

Recipe: Blitzkuchen (German Almond Coffee Cake)

One of the perks of being a teacher is having a few weeks off in the summer.  The summer is all about family-time, but I always get some "me-time" in at night when I dive in to a good read.

Last week, I finished up The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski.  What a gem!  

 This review from Booklist sums it up nicely:
"Born in the aftermath of a searing family tragedy, Bonaventure Arrow “didn’t make a peep when he was born.” Never speaking a word, his silence enables him to listen to what no one else can hear. He is not only hyper-aware of the sounds of the natural world, but he is also in tune with the clamorous echoes of personal heartbreak and despair. Joining forces with Creole servant Trinidad Prefontaine, young Bonaventure undertakes a quest to unlock a series of family secrets to liberate himself, his dead father, and his inconsolable mother from the emotionally and spiritually paralyzing bonds of the past. This mystical fairy tail set in a 1950s-era Louisiana rife with religion, superstition, and tradition draws you in from the wondrous first page. Silence has never been so boundlessly eloquent."  --Margaret Flanaga

On page 222 in the chapter titled "In a Piece of Time Too Small for a Clock" I read, "On Saturuday afternoon, Bonaventure was in the kitchen with a Mrs. Silvey, who stood at the butcher-block table humming a song and rolling out dough.  She was making fresh-baked bread and cinnamon rolls, and putting together something called blitzkuchen that came from a recipe she knew by heart."

I immediately looked up blitzkuchen, and the next morning, I made a batch for breakfast.  Thank you Rita Leganski!  Thank you Bonaventure!

Blitzkuchen is also know as German Lightening Cake because it bakes up quickly, in less than 30 minutes.  It is a light snack-cake topped with candied slivered almonds that goes wonderfully with coffee or tea.  

I hope you'll try both the recipe and the book!


Blitzkuchen (German Lightning Cake)

Print-friendly recipe HERE

For the batter
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup, plus 1.5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
4 large eggs

For the almond topping:
12 Tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1/4 cup raw or organic sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the middle.

Line a 16 x 12 x 1 baking sheet with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment and sides of the pan.  Set aside.

Step 1:  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.    Set aside.

Step 2:  In a stand-mixer beat the eggs on high for 4 minutes.  Add sugar and mix to combine.

Step 3:  On low speed, add the flour and cream alternately in small batches, ending with the flour mixture.  Do not over mix.  

Step 4:  Transfer batter evenly on to the prepared baking sheet.  Smooth and level out with an offset spatula.  Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

Step 5:  While cake is baking, prepare the topping.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Then add the vanilla, granulated sugar, heavy cream and almonds.  Heat until the mixture over medium-high heat,  stirring constantly, till it comes to a boil and just begins to darken (about 4-5 minutes).  

Step 6:  After cake has baked for 15 minutes, remove from oven and gently spread the almond caramel evenly over the top with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle with raw, turbinado or organic sugar (something with large crystals).  This will give the cake sparkle and extra crunch. 

Step 7:  Reduce oven to 350 degrees F and bake cake for 15 minutes.  Let cake cool slightly, then slice into squares and serve.  It's delicious warm, but is also heavenly the next day!

May 3, 2016

Recipe: Light and Fluffy Lime Tres Leches Cake

Confession:  I don't love the soggy consistency of most Tres Leches cakes.   It's one of those cakes that people either love or hate, so I set out to create a newfangled Tres Leches to win over the haters, while still paying homage to the original.

This recipe uses much less of the Tres Leches (3 milks) mixture than most.  I replaced the evaporated milk with light coconut milk to lend a bit more body and flavor.  Lime zest and juice are featured throughout the recipe -- cake, leches, and frosting.  The cake is topped with toasted coconut and the sides get a coating of crushed graham cracker.  What results is a light and bright-tasting cake, reminiscent of key lime pie.  

Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Light and Fluffy Lime Tres Leches Cake

Yield:  One 10x10 single layer cake
Bake time:  25 minutes
Chill time:  1 hour

For the cake
1 box French Vanilla Cake Mix
4 large eggs
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups water
Zest of one lime

For the leches
4 oz. sweetened condensed milk
4 oz. light coconut milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

For the whipped cream and garnish
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup toasted coconut** (optional)
1 sleeve graham crackers, reduced to crumb (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease a 10x10 pan*, use a sheet of foil or parchment to create an overhanging sling to make the cake easy to remove.  Grease the sling.  

Step 1:  In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, water, and lime zest.  Mix on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for two minutes.  Pour batter into the baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cake should spring back to the touch, or a toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

Step 2:  Let cake cool for 5 minutes.  While cake is cooling, whisk together the three milks and lime juice in a bowl till smooth.  Poke holes in cake all over with a bamboo skewer or a fork.  Then, pour the mixture evenly and slowly over the top of the cake.  Use a rubber scraper or offset spatula to spread the milk mixture over the top and to give it an opportunity to seep into all of those holes.  Refrigerate the cake for a minimum of one hour.  

Step 3:  When cake is chilled, remove from refrigerator.  Use a thin spatula or butter knife to loosen the sides of the cake that touch the pan.  Lift both sides of sling to remove cake.  Transfer cake to a square cake board or plate.  Discard sling.

Step 4:  Whip chilled cream to medium peaks.  Then add powdered sugar, lime zest, and vanilla.  Use the whipped cream to frost the top and sides of the cake.  Chill until ready to serve or decorate.

Step 5 (optional):  Sprinkle toasted coconut on the top of the cake.  Gently pat crumbled graham cracker on the sides of the cake.  Chill until ready to serve.

*This cake can also be made in a 9" or 10" round pan.
**I toasted sweetened flaked coconut in a sauté pan over medium heat for a few minutes, then set it aside to cool.

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