Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gevulde Speculaas

It's Daring Bakers' reveal day!

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough!

The only speculaas I ever had is a crisp, buttery cookie made with spices including cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg and shaped like a windmill. We were challenged by Francijn to make a stuffed speculaas, which is more like a pastry than a cookie, including the spice mix, the dough and the almond paste.

I hurried to make this before going back to work in early January, and luck was on my side, as I had all the ingredients needed.

As Francijn told us that the different components get more flavorful as they sit before they get assembled, I made them two days before baking the pastry.

For the spice mixture, I used cinnamon, cloves, ginger, white pepper, cardamom and nutmeg, basically, the spices I had on hand. I know that mace is a must, but I couldn't find it in stores.

The dough quickly comes together, basically blending room temperature butter into flour, sugar (I used dark brown sugar), baking powder, salt and the spice mixture. It seemed pretty dry to me, but I formed it into a cylinder using plastic wrap to keep everything together.

The almond paste is quickly made in the food processor. I used almond meal, an egg, sugar and lemon zest, and let that sit for a couple of days. 

I used a 8-3/4 inch springform pan to bake my pastry in, using the removable bottom to cut out two rounds of dough that I had flattened with a rolling pin. 

Our host instructed to roll out the almond paste before layering it between two layers of dough, but mine was soft enough to be spread on top of the dough. The three layers were held together with some beaten egg, that I didn't beat enough, as I could see little bits of cooked egg between my layers.

With my dough scraps, I quickly cut out a small windmill to decorate the top of my pastry, brushed it with more beaten egg, and baked the whole thing for 40 minutes.

I also made some royal icing decorations to pretty it up some. At first, I was only going to use the windmill blades on the cake, to hint at the Dutch origin of the pastry, but the result was not quite what I had in mind. I had some icing leftover, so quickly piped a windmill, not really planning on using it. But when I looked at my work table a little while after, one of my daughters had put the blades on top of the windmill, and together, it looked pretty good! 

The resulting pastry is a lot more like cake like than I would have imagined, and quite delicious. The texture is very addicting, and the spices give a wonderful flavor. It smelled amazing while baking, and I couldn't wait to cut into it while I was taking pictures.

Gevulde Speculaas
Slightly adapted from a Dutch traditional recipe provided by Francijn

Spice mix
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon white pepper 
½ teaspoon cardamom 
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 ½ tsp cinnamon

Combine all spices together and store in an airtight container.

Almond paste
1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest

Add the ground almonds and the sugar to the bowl of a food processor, and grind for one or two minutes. It must be very fine. Add the egg and lemon zest and let the food processor combine it until a paste forms.

Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.

Speculaas Dough
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) unsalted butter

Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Dice the butter and add to the dry ingredients.
Mix until smooth.
Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.

You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor.

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas

1 recipe speculaas dough
1 recipe almond paste
1 large egg

Grease a 9 inch springform pan
Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4
Divide the dough into two portions.
Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.
Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan.
Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

For the complete challenge and to see how the rest of the Daring Bakers liked this recipe, please visit The Daring Kitchen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

spiced apple coffee cake

This is one of my favorite breakfast cakes. Yes, there is such a thing.

It's super easy to make, extra moist, and full of apple flavor and goodness. Seriously, the best texture ever! This cake is almost creamy.

The only thing is, it takes forever to bake. I bake my cake in a 8 by 8 glass pan, and it takes about 85 minutes to fully bake. The resulting cake puffs up over high over the edge of the pan, but then settles and cracks a bit to accept the yummy glaze.

Spiced Apple Coffee Cake
recipe slightly adapted from Williams Sonoma

For the apple cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 small Granny Smith Apples, 1 lb. total, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. apple juice
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

For the vanilla glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round springform pan or square baking pan or baking dish.

To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, toss the apples with the juice. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cardamom and cinnamon. Add to the apples and toss to coat. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in 2 or 3 additions and beat well until smooth. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the apples just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar, the 2 tbsp milk and the vanilla until smooth and pourable. Adjust the consistency of the glaze by adding more milk, a few drops at a time, if needed.

Remove the sides of the springform pan, if using, and place the cake on a wire rack set over a piece of waxed paper to catch any drips. While the cake is warm, drizzle with the glaze. Let the cake cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges or squares to serve. Makes one 9-inch cake.

Note: If using a glass baking dish, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

banana fritters

So I had bananas ripening on the counter and was debating making banana muffins from the Bouchon Bakery book (awesome recipe, awesome book by the way), and these Banana Foster Fritters because they were on the Baked Sunday Mornings recipe schedule. Upon consultation with my husband, we decided to try something new, and went with the fritters.

Banana Fritters do not photograph very well. Or, I cannot photograph Banana Fritters very well. In my defense, I made them after dinner one night, when there was absolutely no natural light available. And I might have had the oil too high, and they might have looked a bit burnt on the outside. I even tried covering them with powdered sugar... yeah. Not pretty!

But they were easy. A simple matter of mixing wet ingredients with dry ingredients, and setting the mixture aside in the fridge while heating up oil. Or in my case, while going to the store to get oil, and getting it up to temperature.

There was a rum dipping sauce recipe to go along these fritters, but I went with a simple powdered sugar glaze instead. And I still don't have rum, so I didn't include it in the recipe. So the Banana Foster Fritters suddenly became simple glazed Banana Fritters.

Reviews were mixed. I enjoyed them still warm from the oil, but the next day, not so much. My husband did not like the banana flavor/texture, but would like me to try the same recipe with apples next time, as the donut texture was good. Another taster texted me that they were real (expletive) good after tasting them an hour or so after them being fried. So if you like banana flavored baked goods, I suggest trying this one. I mean, it's fried dough... hard not to like!

For the recipe and to see how the other bakers enjoyed these, visit the Baked Sunday Mornings blog!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

malted milk chocolate pots de crème

Not big fans of malt in this house. When we have Baked recipes on the Baked Sunday Mornings recipe schedule that call for it, I usually try to get the fam to eat them, without telling them there's malt in there. Sometimes it works (malted waffles and vanilla bean malt cake come to mind) sometimes it doesn't. This time, it didn't.

I thought the pots de crème would be a nice fancy dessert for the nice fancy meal I was planning for New Year's eve (planning would be the operative word here... we ended up eating pizza). I made the pots de crème early in the day so that I could photograph them while there was still natural light coming in the house.

They are not hard to make... Easier than pudding in fact. Egg yolks, sugar and salt get whipped together while the cream and malted milk that will melt the chocolate heats up. All the ingredients then get combined. I did chose to strain the mixutre before baking in in a water bath to ensure that the pots de crème would be absolutely creamy. And they were.

Although we didn't enjoy the flavor of these, the texture was absolutely wonderful. I topped them with whipped cream, but it wasn't needed at all. In fact, I preferred this dessert without, and without the crushed malted milk balls as well, as to not distract from the texture of the pots de crème.

For the recipe, and to see how the other bakers enjoyed this dessert, please visit the Baked Sunday Mornings blog.

I'm also submitting this post to Domestic Sluttery for their baking club Just Desserts. The most recent theme is Fighting for Custardy, so I thought these pots de crème were absolutely fitting!