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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Breads, Brunch, on August 27th, 2015.

cream_filled_coffeecake

Recently I was asked to bring a coffeecake to a meeting. My mind said, “why not make something different.” This was the result. It’s a yeast-raised cake which is really more like a bread, a sweet bread, but still it has the consistency of bread, not the fine crumb of a more traditional cake-type coffeecake.

It’s a sweet bread, using yeast, that has a topping on it that’s mostly brown sugar, and once baked and cooled, the whole thing is split horizontally and filled with a rather different kind of buttercream filling.

I’d read about this cake back in 2013 on the King Arthur baking blog. It had such an unusual story – I’m a sucker for a good, heartwarming story anytime – especially old-fashioned kinds of recipes, and this is one.

It seems there was this nice lady named Doris Knutson, from Wisconsin, who was quite famous in her local circles for this very special coffeecake. And no, she absolutely did not, would not give the recipe to anyone. So the story goes, upon her death, her children made a photocopy of what they had and it was distributed at her funeral. Everything was there, but when some folks tried it, it wasn’t working real well. One of Doris’ friends sent the recipe and an plea to the test kitchen at King Arthur, along with a detailed explanation and in came King Arthur to the rescue.

King Arthur went to work on the recipe, trying to figure out exactly how she used the different ingredients (there’s a batter, a topping and a filling) to make this really unusual coffeecake. The folks at King Arthur believe they cracked the code and this coffeecake is the result.

flour_milk_gravy

There at left is the filling – I call it a “gravy,” (see down 2 paragraphs for a full explanation).

If you decide to make this, I recommend you read the recipe all the way through once. Then take a breath and read it again all the way through before you actually begin making it. There are lots of steps (not difficult) but there is a procedure. King Arthur updated it so you can do some of the work in your bread machine (I did). It also rises a couple of times, and mine took longer than the recipe indicated. you’ll read all the failures they had before they finally got it to work. Some people use two  8-inch round cake pans – that might be a good thought – especially if you don’t have a 10-inch springform. Mine is about 9 3/4 inches so I assumed it would work (it did).

The filling is very unusual – if you go to the entire article at King Arthur, you can read down through all the comments (which are interesting in themselves, including one from Doris’ daughter). Anyway, the filling is a roux – but not a browned roux with fat. This roux contains flour and milk and it’s cooked to a consistency more like a gravy (to me anyway). Then you add a fluffed up mixture of butter and powdered sugar. Very different, though when you’re done it has the consistency of frosting.

The dough is made first, and as I explained, because King Arthur suggested it, I made it in my bread machine. First I set it on the dough cycle, let it sit 30 minutes, then I re-started the dough cycle, adding in the additional flour, so then it went for 1 1/2 hours until it had about doubled in bulk. I rolled it out of the bread machine and kneaded it a little bit (it was quite sticky), so I actually just held it in my hands and pushed and mushed to get all the air bubbles out.cream_filled_coffeecake_ready_to_bake

At that point the dough is placed in a 10-inch springform pan (greased). Some people add the topping part way through this next   rising – I added it at the end and had to kind of stick the pieces onto the dough. It might be a good idea to put on a egg wash and then the topping would stick pretty well, I think.

This rising took longer than the recipe indicated – they said 1 1/2 hours, but mine took about 2 hours – to get the dough to rise about an inch above the pan. It’s a good thing I started making this at about 2pm, otherwise I’d have been up half the night! As it was it finished baking at about 8pm and I just let it sit in the springform pan overnight. I baked it per the recipe, 45 minutes, and my Thermapen registered 198°.

The next morning I sliced the cake/bread in half horizontally and made the filling. Do read the instructions carefully about this – be sure the gravy or roux cools before you add the butter and powdered sugar as you don’t want any melting butter! The filling is spread on the bottom half, then the top is placed back on the bread and it’s supposed to be chilled for 30 minutes or more. I don’t coffeecake_slicereally know what that does for it, but I did comply.

Do use a serrated knife to cut it. My bread knife doesn’t have a pointed end, so it didn’t work well trying to cut wedges. I finally used a shorter serrated knife to cut a round plug-shaped size in the middle, then the wedges were easier to slice since they weren’t as deep.

MY SUGGESTION: I think this bread needs more filling, so if I were to make it again I would probably triple the filling (there isn’t all that much of it anyway) and cut 2 horizontal slices and slather the filling on both. That way you’d have enough of the filling with each slice.

The bread, by itself, isn’t dry exactly, but it’s like eating a slice of bread, so usually we have butter, or jam or something to go on it. The same is true here, so the top half was a little lacking in enough to wash it down. You’d have to be very careful slicing it if you used 2 layers of filling. But I’d still try it anyway.

What’s GOOD: the cake/bread is very tasty. It’s a traditional sweet bread yeast recipe. What makes this different is the filling (1) and the topping (2). And baking it in a springform pan is different too. Don’t expect this to taste like a cake dessert cuz it isn’t! But it’s very good. Different. I liked that part. I can’t say that I had all that any of my lady friends come to me begging for the recipe, though. This morning I put a bit of butter on one of the left over slices (there were only 2 pieces left) and had that with my breakfast.

What’s NOT: do remember it’s a yeast bread and requires 3 rising times – it takes 5+ hours to make.

printer friendly PDF – and – Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cream-Filled Yeast Coffeecake

Recipe By: Bakers Banter 2013 (King Arthur Flour)
Serving Size: 20

DOUGH:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter — soft
2 tablespoons cold water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — maybe using another 1/4 cup
TOPPING:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter — soft
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
FILLING (my advice: triple the filling):
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter — (8 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar — sifted

TIPS from King Arthur bakers: (1) If you’d like to have two smaller coffeecakes (one to give, or one to freeze), leave the dough recipe as is; multiply the topping and filling ingredients by 1 1/2, and divide the dough between two 8″ round pans. The baking time will be about 5 minutes shorter. (2) Be careful combining the two parts of the filling. Whisk together gently, just until they’re mixed. Whipping vigorously at this point will make the filling appear curdled. It will still taste great, it’ll just be a little raggedy-looking. (3) This coffeecake freezes very well with no fuss. Finish the recipe all the way, including filling the cake, then put it in a cake carrier and freeze for up to 2 weeks.
1. DOUGH: In a large bowl or the pan of your bread machine, combine the sugar and salt. Heat the milk and butter together until the butter is melted, and pour over the sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the water, eggs, and vanilla, stirring to combine. Let the mixture rest until it cools to lukewarm. Stir in the yeast and the 2 1/2 cups flour. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
2. Add the additional 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups flour; start with the smaller amount and see how the dough behaves, adding 1/4 cup more if it’s still very sticky. Mix and knead for 6 to 8 minutes at slow to medium speed with your mixer; or use the dough cycle on your bread machine.
3. The dough will be soft, smooth, and silky; perhaps just slightly sticky to the touch. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, until puffy-looking and almost doubled. Or let your bread machine finish its cycle.
4. TOPPING: Combine the brown sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, and flour, mixing with a fork or your fingers until crumbs form. Set aside.
5. To shape and bake the cake: Deflate the dough, round it into a ball, and place it into a greased 10″ springform pan. Cover with greased plastic or a large inverted bowl until the dough domes an inch above the rim of the pan, about 45 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the dough is ready, sprinkle it with the topping (some will slide down). Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool it in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before tilting it out of the pan and returning it to the rack to cool completely.
6. FILLING: Because this is a bread (not a sweet cake-type coffeecake) it needs more moisture – I recommend tripling the amount of filling, cutting it into 3 layers and using, then, more filling in between the 2 layers.) While the cake cools, put the flour in a small saucepan. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring to make a smooth mixture. Use a wire whisk to make sure you don’t have lumps, and keep using it when you’re cooking it. It takes very little time to get to a thick gravy-consistency.
7. Cook the flour and milk over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and cool. In a small mixing bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then whisk into the flour/milk mixture.
8. To assemble: Split the cooled cake horizontally, and spread the filling on the bottom layer. Replace the top and refrigerate the cake until 30 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 263 Calories; 11g Fat (36.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on August 31st, 2015:

    When I was newly married in 1973, my American sister-in-law gave me a Betty Crocker cook book, in which I found a recipe for a Coffee Cake. I was most perplexed though because it contained no coffee, unlike British recipes. It took me years to find out that it was simply eaten with a cup of coffee!

    Isn’t that funny, though? In Brit-speak, is there a word for those kinds of cakes to serve with tea or coffee? Oh, well, you have “tea breads,” which don’t contain any tea. So, see, American English isn’t all that unusual. . . carolyn t

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