Tag Archives: cake

Recipe post: Melon pan

Melon pan is both a delicious Japanese treat and a bilingual loan word and you don’t get that sort of quality linguistic experience every day. These are little dessert buns made with cookie dough rolled out and wrapped around a nugget of bread dough. The “pan” is Portuguese for bread and the “melon” is for how the little globes bake into a furrowed skin that looks like melon rind. They are sometimes made with butterscotch or green macha cookie dough to point up the resemblance even further.

melon pan finished

Any type of bread and cookie dough is fair game in any combination. For my first attempt I made plain white bread with maple sugar cookies. The buns had more lumps and ridges than the Wikipedia illustrations (more closely resembling pumpkins than melons) but they were delicious.

I started with a batch of classic white sandwich bread dough from King Arthur Flour. I also chose King Arthur Flour’s recipe for the maple cookie layer, but it was very soft and difficult to roll out without a great deal of flour and mess. Next time I’ll use a butter cookie dough that is firm enough to roll out easily. My tiny kitchen covered in flour:

flour mess

Take the bread dough recipe through to the second rise, and at that point make a roll and cut it into about 25 pieces. Roll the pieces into balls using the heel of your hand on an unfloured surface. Space the balls on two greased cookie sheets (or use parchment or a Silpat), cover, and allow to rise again while you make the cookie layer.

covered bread balls

Follow your cookie recipe and spread the finished dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form into a roll – or make two rolls if that fits better into your fridge – and chill for 20 minutes. Remove from fridge, unwrap, and slice the roll into about 25 discs. In a nice example of synchronicity, these two recipes made almost exactly the same amount of dough – very easy to divide equally.

On a floured surface, roll out each disc just enough to fold around a lump of bread dough. Don’t try to wrap it tightly, just lay the cookie dough circle down on top and curve your hand around it gently to tuck the edges over. This part is difficult to explain but there are multiple videos out there highlighting various techniques. I found that the cookie dough spread across the bottom of the melon pan into a continuous layer during baking without me trying to fold it underneath.

Cover the buns again and allow to rise for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven. They won’t become appreciably larger but the cookie layer “settles” around the bread dough.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes at 375 F, until the cookie dough has browned lightly and the inner bread layer has cooked through. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the bun and the cookie dough you’ve selected. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack right away. When completely cool you might consider piping in some filling. I used creme Anglais but found we really didn’t need it;  S. and I enjoyed some this morning with spicy ginger jam and that was even better.

Combinations that come to mind: dark rye bread with a molasses cookie layer and piped with raspberry preserves; raisin challah with butter cookies; ginger pumpkin bread with lemon shortbread cookie dough and lemon curd; or cranberry orange brioche with chocolate sugar cookies.

 

Maine Fruit Cake

Berry season is here and you need an easy and delicious way to use a whole quart of them at once, right? This cake is your new best friend. It requires a lot of fruit but isn’t picky about what variety: huge Honeyoe strawberries or the tiny Alpine ones; red, yellow, and purple raspberries, big high-bush blueberries or their tiny low-bush cousins. The recipe also holds up well to juicy stone fruit like peaches and plums when cut into small pieces. Conversely, I don’t like it when made with raisins, apples, and other “dry” fruit because the flour combination becomes a little too stiff and heavy without that high liquid content.

For this recipe you’ll need ployes mix, available in your local (Maine) grocery store or from www.ployes.com . Ployes is pancake mix of buckwheat flour, wheat flour, and baking powder that is extremely popular in northern Maine (especially the Madawaska region) and Canada. You can substitute plain buckwheat flour for the ployes mix in this recipe but I’ve never done it – you may want to experiment with adding a little more baking powder. The ployes mix adds enough body to support all those berries without becoming soggy. It also imparts a subtle flavor, reminiscent of nutmeg, without adding any spices.

Maine Fruit Cake

8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for pan (or use Crisco)

3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup Ployes

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I’d use 2 tsps if using plain buckwheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar (the 1/4 cup is for sprinkling on top)

1 large egg

1/2 cup  milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved. You may have to quarter the really huge ones.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8 x 11 cake pan, a 10″ pie pan, or a 10″ springform or cake pan. The pie plate works fine, but I like to use the rectangular pan for bake sales and office parties because it’s easier to make serving pieces.

Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until light. You can use an electric mixer but it’s not necessary. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Strawberry Cake in progress

Pour the batter into prepared pan. Arrange berries on top of batter as closely as possible in a single layer. Don’t worry about being too precise – most of the berries are going to sink – but you want them distributed as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup sugar on top.

Strawberries galore

Bake cake for about 45 minutes until golden brown and the surface springs back. A cake tester isn’t much use here because the strawberries will have transformed into goey, delicious jam all through the cake.  Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into pieces and serve with lightly whipped cream or powdered sugar if you wish. It’s also delightful just plain (especially for breakfast) and sturdy enough for bake sales and lunch boxes.

Maine Fruit Cake, yum

Variations: Add cinnamon to the topping when using blueberries; almond extract instead of vanilla and some lemon shavings to the topping for peaches.

Poppyseed Cake

Ziar breadseed poppyseeds

This year I planted Ziar Breadseed poppies. They were easy to grow, made a beautiful display, and now we get to eat them! Collecting enough seeds for this recipe was far easier than I thought it would be – each seed head contained several teaspoonsful and this variety is bred to eliminate the vents that would normally drop the seed all over as you picked it.

Aunt Beatrice’s Lemon Poppyseed Cake

2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 to 3/4 cup poppy seeds

Glaze

2 C confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 half and half, 1 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325°F Butter and flour an 8-inch fluted Bundt pan* (I use baking spray).  Butter the dull side of a 10-inch piece of foil.

Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl. You can go the whole route with a stand mixer and beat for 8 minutes until bright yellow and fluffy, but I never have the time and the cake (while possibly a little bit more dense) is just fine. And delicious. Beat in the lemon zest. Dump the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and fold in along with the  salt, then mix  in the butter and the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with the buttered foil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the foil and let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. When fully cool mix glaze ingredients together and drizzle over cake.

lemon poppyseed cake

*You can also make this into a loaf or layer cake, but it doesn’t make good muffins. I think that’s because it really needs that top layer of foil, and that’s hard to manage with a muffin tin.

How to mail a birthday cake.

The Boy turns 21 next week and we won’t be there to help celebrate – what to do? One of us (I can’t remember who to blame) said, “We should mail him his birthday cake!”. This isn’t just any old cake – in our family you get a checkerboard cake with your choice of any three colors or dealer’s (mother’s) choice if you can’t make up your mind. We did really UPS the cake to Providence this afternoon, so I dug out a 15 year-old photo from birthday #6 to show the finished effect.

Colorful, no?

This year’s version is YELLOW/red/blue and yes, I did mean to put that in all caps. Wow, the yellow.  I’ve adapted the recipe from the back of the Chicago Metallic Cake Pan Set because really, Einstein himself couldn’t divide this batter into thirds precisely enough to make the original work out to three even layers. The original proportions are in parenthesis if you feel up to the challenge.

Checkerboard Cake

Preheat oven to 340 (325) degrees and grease and flour the three 9″ pans. The instructions imply that the pans are nonstick but um, no. I use cooking spray, and I also spray the divider.

Mix 5 (4) C flour, 4 (3) tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a small pan or the microwave melt 1 1/4 C butter which is 2.5 sticks  (1 C or 2 sticks) and cool.

In a VERY large bowl, cream the butter with 2 1/2 (2) C sugar. Add 5 (4) eggs, one at at time, beating after each addition. Add 1 Tbs vanilla.

Add 2 C milk (1 1/2) at room temperature alternately with the flour mixture, beat until batter is smooth. (I use the lazy baker’s method: add half the flour and beat in, add ALL the milk and beat until smooth, add the remaining flour and beat 30 seconds. There! All done while still obeying the ancient law passed down by mothers everywhere to “Start with dry and end with dry”.)

Divide the batter in thirds and add food coloring. If you want to make one ring chocolate you might add 3 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate to one bowl.  Work fast, because the batter sets up fairly quickly and doesn’t “flow” as nicely after a while in a warm kitchen.

wow, yellow

Put the divider in the pan and press down to snap in place. Fill each ring about half-way up with each color, alternating the color choices in each pan. There are very good directions on the box for this step although they say to wash and dry the divider between pans and yikes, that’s a lot of work. I lift it carefully and vertically out of the batter and go on to the next pan  because I’m a bad person but really, the cake will be fine.

Insanity cake

The box emphatically tells you DO NOT PUT DIVIDER IN THE OVEN, so don’t do that.

The directions say to bake for 25 minutes but with the slightly thicker layers I check at 30 minutes. If you can, rotate the pans halfway through to keep the layers even. Remove when cake springs back to the touch or a tester comes out clean. The colors will probably darken on the surface but they will still be hallucination-bright when you cut a slice. Cool on racks for about 10 minutes, remove from pans. Happy crazy clean-up!

Too pretty to clean

I use a chocolate ganache frosting spread very thinly between the layers to allow the checkerboard to really show off, and then much spread it much thicker on the  top and sides to hide the colors until the cake is cut. We’ll have to wait for The Boy to send pics to see that.

I put the unfrosted layers on cardboard cake discs, sealed each one in a gallon Ziplock bag and stacked them in a 12″ x 12″ x 8″ box with a box of birthday candles and assorted decorations, 2 sealed and bagged plastic containers of frosting, a card, and a lot of air-pillow-packing. The nice ladies at the UPS Store slapped fragile stickers all over it (thanks Victoria!) and sent it off with loving care. Happy Birthday, Boy!

New horizons

Our local college campus has a community garden plot just down the road from my mother’s new digs.

COA garden

I applied for a plot in the depths of January and got the call to come down to work day and claim my space just last week.  Fifteen of us had a wonderful Saturday morning hauling old logs up the hill to the new vineyard site and cutting turf in under cloudy, windless skies.

COA gardeners

The site has some of the problems common to community gardens: a bad case of clubroot and invasive populations of comfrey, sowthistle,  bindweed, and witchgrass. Clubroot spreads easily on tools and shoes, especially in the damp spring weather, and rototilling has contributed to the spread of invasive perrenials, but current management has good protocols in place to keep these problems from spreading. Shoes and tools are rinsed in a bleach solution upon leaving the plot. I prefer to cut comfrey down to the ground because the leaves make an excellent mulch, but if you’re in the mood to pull them out each type of weed has a dedicated disposal area (the sowthistle has its own glass-topped “coffin”). The good news is that the soil is rich, deep and organic, and supplemented with abundant compost from the college cafeteria.

compost bins

Here’s what my 10′ x 10′ plot looks like now – I’ll be posting updates as the season progresses. Today the soil was too wet to start work without damaging its structure.

my plot

And here’s a photo of the raisin sour cream coffee cake I brought with me. You should always show up at work-day with high quality fuel.

Aunt Loris's coffee cake

Aunt Loris’s Raisin Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt

Filling and Topping
2 cups raisins
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with Pam.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a separate bowl. Mix in sour cream and then dry ingredients alternately into butter mixture until both are used up and the batter is smooth and very thick. Mix in 1 1/2 raisins, reserving 1/2 C of the raisins as a topping.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs whites until stiff, then fold into batter.

In a small dish, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for filling and/or topping.

Spread half the cake batter in the bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Dollop remaining cake batter over filling in spoonfuls. Use a rubber or offset spatula to gently spread it over the filling and smooth the top. Sprinkle batter with remaining cinnamon-sugar and remaining raisins.

Feel free to ignore this step and just sprinkle the entire portion of cinnamon and sugar on top of the cake with the remaining raisins. It will still be totally delicious.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, and it’s even better the next day.

 

 

 

Astier, 12 Avril 2012

One more post about Paris, and then on to what’s happening in the Maine garden these days. Right now there’s a pounding Nor’easter in the garden so it’s more pleasant to blog about dinner in Paris, but soon. . .

We went to a traditional French restaurant for our wedding anniversary on April 12. Restaurant Astier is tiny, friendly, and thirty feet from the apartment we were renting. Did  I mention tiny? The waiters had to back down the stairs to the wine cellar – I don’t think there was enough room to turn around down there.

Astier

We chose the prix fixe menu and split the dishes between us. The first course was one dish of thin slices of duck breast on a circle of mirepoix, and the other a bright green cold soup with a “dumpling” of lightly smoked haddock.

first course

Second course: a circle of lamb in dark gravy topped with eggplant tomato puree; grilled pork chop on a plate of white beans.

second course

Third course is The Famous Cheese Platter – renowned in song and story. Fifteen pounds of cheese folks, representing every shape, flavor and region. The waiter brings this huge platter of cheese to your table – on a metal stand because it’s much too big to actually fit on that tiny surface with your plate and the accompanying bread basket – and hands off a couple of sharp knives. That’s it – for this course it’s you against the cheese.

amazing cheese

Last course, dessert! R. had creme brulee covered in diced strawberries. Delicate and delicious, very sorry the photo was taken moments too late to see its lovely presentation. I had Baba au rhum traditionnel. Now baba au rhum in my experience is a nicely glazed brioche sort-of-thing. At Astier our waiter brought me a cylinder of yellow pound cake in a soup plate, a sharp knife, and a soup spoon. I was puzzled. He took the knife back from me and cut the pound cake into quarters, produced a dark green decanter and poured a cup of rum into the soup plate, then handed me a drinking glass full of whipped cream and wished us “Bon appetite”.

BABA

It was a wonderful meal, we had fantastic (and very friendly) service, delightful people-watching, and it was also fortunate that our apartment was two doors down the street after wine with dinner and rum with dessert.

And evidently wedding anniversary #26 is the French restaurant anniversary. If I could, I’d make reservations for #27 right now.

Every recipe in the world

I’ve decided to experiment with encaustic painting. Encaustic is an ancient method of combining beeswax, damar resin, and pigment. It requires some equipment: a heat source to melt the wax (in this case an electric griddle), another to fuse the layers on the painted surface (I’m using a heat gun but a blow torch works too), and some space to lay out paints, boards, brushes and pots near an electrical outlet. One of the realities of living in a 20′ x 30′ house is that a project like this will require moving something else out of the way first.

The space I’m clearing is chock ablock full of computers, CD’s, video games, books, and one of my mother’s metal recipe boxes.  I think I have six of them scattered around the house (time to pass some on to the nieces) and this one probably should not have been stored precariously on an upper shelf as a head wound waiting to happen. I levered it down and started to go through the cards and now I’m making a blog post rather than continuing to clear out new studio space. There was just no resisting categories like Dream Cakes, Not-Bad Fudge, and Risin – which turned out to be cakes made with yeast, not misspelled raisins. Or neuro-toxins.

I need snack food for a meeting on Monday, so tonight I’m starting the Connecticut Raised Loaf Cake, below. It is neatly typed on onion skin paper and the folds have worn thin but there’s very little spatter. There was a similar recipe on the next card attributed to Elsie Dresser Barnard but it makes 5 loaves and requires a fifth of brandy so I’ll wait to try that another time. Not that there’s anything wrong with adding 4 C of alcohol to a cake recipe, not at all.CT raised loaf cakeI can already tell that I’ll have to publish a post with all the changes I’ve made to this recipe. I added the shortening – where I used unsalted butter and my mother would have used Crisco – to the scalded milk, both to cool it quickly to a good temperature for the yeast and to avoid having to melt it separately later in the process. I plan to double the mace and nutmeg but then I find myself increasing the spice amounts with every old recipe. Were my grandmother’s flavorings that much more potent? Or her taste buds less spoiled by extremes? I imagine it’s the latter, in the days before candy bars came in flavors like dark-chocolate-pasilla chili-cayenne-cinnamon.

This recipe for “Caraque Cookies” is next in line. Three and a half sticks of butter, 6 egg yolks, filling AND icing – perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Caraque cookies - whatever that means.

 

Waiting fruit

You’re not going to be able to make this recipe right away. First, you’ll have to buy three or four persimmons at the grocery store. They will be pale and hard. You should put them in a glass bowl on the table where you eat (we call this the “dining room table” but we don’t have a dining “room” any more than we have a kitchen “room”). Commercially available persimmons take about three weeks to ripen fully, so they should be somewhere you can keep an eye on them. Turn the fruit every few days so it doesn’t bruise. Their color should deepen to a lumenescent sunset orange and the calyx dry out to a pale green. They don’t really give off an aroma. Once the fruit is soft and yields easy to a fingertip, you’re ready for cake.

Persimmon pulp

  • 3 very ripe (very soft) persimmons (1 1/4 lb total)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon mace (or ground cloves)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup loosely packed dried pitted dates (5 oz), finely chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans (3 1/2 oz), finely chopped
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 15- by 10-inch shallow cookie sheet/baking pan (1 inch deep).

If you have time, toast the nuts and then chop small in a food processor. Dump them out into a small bowl and chop the dates (you don’t have to clean the food processor between any of these steps) add to the nuts. Discard dried green or brown calyx (stem and leaves) from each persimmon, and scoop out the pulp into the food processor. Process until smooth. I’ve been making this recipe for a while and before I had a food processor I had to force the pulp through a sieve into a bowl, using a rubber spatula – which you can do but it’s a lot more work. Not to mention chopping walnuts and dates all day long. Transfer 1 to 1 1/2 cup purée to a small bowl and stir in lemon juice and baking soda. (The cake doesn’t change much with the varied amount of fruit.) The mixture will become foamy, then jell slightly.

Sift together flour, salt, and spices in another small bowl.

Whisk together egg, sugar, and oil in a large bowl until just combined. Add flour mixture and persimmon pulp stirring until just combined. Stir in nuts and dates.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Stir together all glaze ingredients until smooth, then spread over top of cooled cake.

Vitamin C!Totally worth the wait. . .

Serious cookies

Today I took off from work – somehow a day off is even better when it’s a really bad idea – and made cookies. I did errands, cleaned the house, visited my mother, cleaned the house some more, put up the tree, and made cookies. That last item is the important part, because these are serious cookies – you need the whole day.

I lived in Philadelphia in the 70’s and had a wide selection of part time jobs while I went to art school. Around Christmas-time I worked evenings at an Italian bakery that had plaster models of fantastical wedding cakes in the windows and specialized in traditional, labor-intensive treats for the holidays. We made anise biscotti and weird sponge cakes filled with lemon cream, almond crescents, white fruit cakes studded with golden raisins and sprinkled with gold leaf, but mostly we made seven-layer-cookies. Pink, white and green almond cake layers with apricot filling and a chocolate frosting on both sides, we made them in huge sheet pans, sold them all to happy housewives the next day and spent the night making more. I know all about how to make them in a bakery , with a walk-in freezer and professional ovens, but I’d never thought of making them at home until I read this post at SmittenKitchen.

I love this site and I’ve found that I can completely trust her work. So – hop right over there and read the recipe, study the comments, and then take tomorrow off to make cookies! Let me know how it goes.

One hint that’s not on SK’s list – at the bakery we added a 1/2 tsp of baking powder to the batter, and were free to add a Tbs (or more, if the ovens were blasting heat) of cream to the colored divisions right before laying them out in the pan. Both additions made the batter easier to spread in a thin, even layer. As a bonus, here’s a pic of the pink layer (colored with Ameri-Color Super Red gel paste) cooling on the table. Doesn’t that look like a fun way to spend an afternoon?

OMG PINK

PS Because I just posted this and someone is already asking, the other cookies on the plate (equally delicious and a lot easier) are Excalibur cookies from Food from the Field’s blog. Great stuff!

Carrot cake

Last night I made our family’s favorite carrot cake recipe and shared it with the neighbors. It was a big hit with folks who aren’t used to pistachios and cardamon mixing it up with staid New England carrots from the root cellar, so I’m posting the recipe by their request. I dust the top with confectioners sugar in lieu of cream cheese frosting, which I don’t care for because I don’t make it very well. I’m sure it will be wonderful if you have the knack.

The original recipe was in Madhur Jaffrey’s book, “World of the East Vegetarian Cooking”, but it has undergone a few changes since.

Oil and flour a 9″ square pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk two eggs, 1 C sugar, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cardamon, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 C softened ghee (or butter) in a large bowl. Add 1 C flour, 1 tsp baking soda and mix just until incorporated. Add 1/4 C chopped pistachios, 1/4 C currants and 1 1/2 C grated carrots firmly packed, and mix well.

Spread the mixture in the pan and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until the cake springs back in the center. Dust the top with confectioners sugar when cool.