Thursday, August 31, 2006

Orange Poppy Seed Cake

When I came across this recipe in Nick Malgieri's Perfect Cakes, I thought that it was a perfect opportunity to utilize my leftover sour cream (from the Sour Cream Ganache Cake I made earlier and have not posted yet.) Halfway into preparation, I noticed that my small bottle of poppy seeds was almost empty. As stopping was not an option at that point, this instance of the orange poppy seed cake ended up having less than half the amount of poppy seeds the recipe indicated. Surprisingly though, it was still perfect -- so much so that I immediately replenished my stocks of poppy seeds just to make it again. I couldn't yet but when I do, I'll be sure to use the right amount of poppy seeds to maximize the crunch at every moist orangey bite.

  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 8 oz softened butter
  • 1 3/4 c sugar (divided)
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/2 c poppy seeds
  • 2 tbs orange zest
  • 3/4 c orange juice
Grease a 9" springform pan. Line the bottom with greased wax paper cut to size. Preheat your oven to 350F.

Combine and mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda, set aside. Beat the butter and 1 c of the sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to beat the batter until it is smooth after each addition. Decrease mixer speed to low and add half the flour mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides with a spatula. Now add the sour cream followed by the rest of the flour mixture. Beat until smooth. Fold in the poppy seeds. Scrape the batter into prepared pan and bake for about an hour or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

To prepare the syrup, combine orange juice, zest and 3/4 c sugar in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Strain the zest (I didn't) and pour into a measuring cup.

After the cake is baked, place it on a jelly-roll pan. Poke about 20 holes into the cake with a skewer. Gradually pour or spoon the syrup over the top of the cake until it is absorbed. Collect the leaking syrup (if any) and spoon back over the cake. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool it. Remove the sides of the springform pan, transfer the cake to a serving plate and remove the wax paper underneath.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chocolate and Hazelnut Babka

I do not bake much with yeast. This does not reflect a culinary preference on my part, but has more to do more with my impatient nature. Even reading about all those rising and resting periods is enough to steer me away from an otherwise appealing recipe. Our Patisserie's yeast deficiency became apparent while I was working on an archive for my Turkish blog, and as a remedy I took the time to bake this delicious bread. The original recipe (from California Culinary Academy's Bread cookbook) had walnuts, but I substituted hazelnuts with great success. If you'd like to intensify the chocolate flavor, you can mix in some miniature chocolate chips or grated chocolate to the cocoa filling.
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • 1/6 c sugar
  • 1/3 c warm milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tbs softened butter
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbs melted butter
  • 1/2 c coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/6 c cocoa
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 tbs softened butter
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/6 c sugar
  • 1/8 c flour
Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon (of the 1/6 c) sugar and warm water in your mixer's bowl. Let stand until the mixture is frothy.

Add the remaining sugar, milk, salt, vanilla and softened butter. Stir to mix. Add about 1 to 1 1/4 c of flour. First mix at low speed, then increase speed to medium and beat until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Separate one of the eggs, reserve the white for glazing. Add the yolk to the mixer bowl, beat to combine. Add the second egg and beat again. Stir in about 3/4 to 1 c of flour to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured table. Knead for about 10 minutes or until very smooth and elastic. While you do so, you can add flour in small quantities to prevent the dough from becoming sticky. Place it into a greased bowl; cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Meanwhile prepare the filling by simply mixing the ingredients. Make the topping by beating the streusel ingredients until crumbly. Set both aside. Grease a 8"x4" loaf pan generously and preheat the oven to 350F.

Punch the dough down; knead briefly in the bowl. Turn it onto the table, cover with the inverted bowl and let rest for another 10 minutes. At the end of the resting period, roll the dough to a 10"x20" rectangle. Brush the rolled dough with the melted butter to within 1/2" of the sides. Sprinkle it evenly with the cocoa filling and the chopped hazelnuts. Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a tight roll and pinch edges.

Zigzag the roll to fit into the loaf pan. Let rise for another 35 to 45 minutes (Arghh!) until doubled. Beat the reserved egg white with 1 tbs water and brush over the loaf. Sprinkle the loaf with the streusel. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until well browned. Cool a little bit, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.