It’s been a year since I’ve posted a Daring Baker challenge, and I’m hanging my head over it. Actually, I’ve just crawled out from under the rock where I’ve been hiding. Last March, the delicious Citrus Tian Dessert made with blood oranges and California Cuties marked the start of an extended absence from the once a month fun I’d enjoyed with the Daring Bakers for several years. Five months went by before I tackled another challenge — the Baked Alaska last August for one of my son’s birthdays — but that less than counts since I never posted it. I kept saying I would, but didn’t. Pathetic.
But I’m back. At least I think I am, and wanting to make sure I don’t miss out on any more. In fact, I just might join in on the Daring Kitchen challenges since I find myself with no excuse not to join in on that fun as well. I know I’ve missed out on some good recipes, but it’s more the sense of community generated by each of the monthly events I crave. I miss the easy, relaxing camaraderie. I miss it a lot.
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. Maybe that’s why it was go easy to get back in the saddle this month. Coffee cake is something everyone seems to enjoy. When I co-hosted the Daring Bakers in July of 2008, I chose a Danish Braid which is made with yeasted, laminated dough. If shape counts, this Pastry Ring with Chocolate and Cardamom is made of a yeasted dough, also in layers, and is remarkably similar in appearance to this month’s challenge.
But this coffee cake dough feels like bread dough to me. It looks like bread dough, smells like bread dough when it is baking, and looks like bread after it’s sliced. I’m thinking it’s somewhat like a cinnamon bread dough, only filled with meringue. Ah, that would be what intrigued me about this challenge most. The meringue.
I had fun deciding exactly what I’d put in the filling — give it a shot since it doesn’t involve all the turning and rolling involved in the Danish Braid and Pastry Ring, and you will too.
Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake with Apricots and Pistachios
Makes 1 round coffee cake, approximately 10 inches in diameter
(half of the original recipe — for original quantities, please refer to the hosts’ links above)
For the coffee cake dough:
2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1-1/8 teaspoons active dried yeast
3 fl. oz. whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg at room temperature
10 strands saffron
For the meringue:
2 large egg whites at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/4 cup sugar
For the filling:
1/2 cup salted, roasted pistachios
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup sliced dried apricots
Wash: 1-2 T whole milk
Powdered sugar for dusting
Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.
With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the egg and another 1/2 cup of the flour and beat for 2 more minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining 1/2 cup flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.
Prepare your filling:
In the bowl of a food processor or spice grinder, combine the pistachios, cardamom, coconut, lemon zest and sugar and pulse a few times until the ingredients are evenly chopped.
Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the 1/4 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form. Add the orange blossom water last and blend in.
Assemble the Coffee Cake:
Line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch rectangle. Spread the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Sprinkle the ground nut mixture over the meringue, then sprinkle the dried apricots over.
Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to the lined cookie sheet, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.
Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.
Cover the coffee cake with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Brush the tops of the coffee cake with milk. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.
Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheet onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cake from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cake off onto cooling rack. Allow to cool.
Just before serving, dust the top of the coffee cake with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. It is best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.
- The best thing about this recipe is the versatility. You can have fun with the ingredients like I did. If you would like to try a more traditional coffee cake, check out Jamie’s chocolate-walnut version. She includes a yummy apple version in the same post. Or check out Ria’s Indian spiced version for something completely different and quite exotic sounding. I’d love to try that mix of spices in something baked!
- On the dough: It’s a wet, sticky dough that rose very slowly for me (2 hours), and when it did couldn’t muster up much energy. There was barely a glimmer of needing a good punching down. I didn’t use my proofer, but swear each time this happens that I have one, so why NOT use it 100% of the time. To be fair, I have had great results without the proofer, so like to keep it real when ever possible. This means running around with the dough from window to sunny window. Crazy.
- On the saffron in the dough: When I saw that I’d be adding the saffron to liquid that hadn’t been heated very long, I wondered. And I immediately saw the result. Maybe I didn’t heat it quite long enough. The saffron was very slow to spread its fragrance and lovely color. I usually add saffron to water (or liquid) just boiled and left to steep. An intense color is almost immediately visible. My dough ended up with a token strand of saffron, which by the end of the second rise was showing evidence of some stubborn spreading of color. Reminds me of getting 1/2 cherry in a can of fruit cocktail when I was a kid. Hilarious!
- The mixture of nuts, spice, and fruit I chose was heavenly right from the grinder. I’m thinking the same mixture is definitely going into a muffin very soon. But in the finished coffee cake, the flavors lost their individuality. Maybe more cardamom was needed, but I didn’t want to overwhelm the other flavors.
- On the second rise: There’s something a bit strange about dough filled with meringue sitting at room temperature for another rise. Hmmm…Mine began to leak as it broke down and I’m wondering whether cream of tartar would have changed that. Or whipped the meringue even longer than I did.
- The coffee cake cooks fairly quickly, and mine continued to lose even more of the merinque during baking. Would this be a legitimate Daring Baker challenge without all these little problems? Heck no!
- The resulting “cake” was slightly sweet — which I like — scented with citrus, and rich with the flavor of apricots. I love apricots, so this was perfect. The crumb was quite firm — even dry to us. Too dry. I’m thinking it would make great toast or French toast.
- All in all, a recipe to have fun with another time switching up the fillings, but the jury is still out on that meringue. Interesting. Maybe I just screwed it up!
- There are even more Daring Bakers now — so many on the I’m having trouble finding names I remember, but take the time to check out the blogroll for a few of their yeasted coffee cakes if you have some time!