Sunday, March 27, 2011

{DBC} yeasted meringue coffee cake with date and nut filling

Unlike my procrastination of epic proportions when it comes to baking these challenges [i.e. a day before the post date], I baked this month's DBC over a week ago! The timing was perfect, actually: since I've given up sugar, I knew I had to get rid of it ASAP, so I decided to bake it to take to a friend's birthday get-together.

I much prefer baking for others in any case. Particularly if it will keep the sugar away from my thighs.

This month's challenge was yeasted meringue coffee cake. Now, I love coffee cake. But one with meringue baked into the center? Have never conceived of such a cake. Nor have I ever baked with yeast. Needless to say, I was nervous.

[Baker's yeast, by the way, is a strain of yeast used as a leavening agent in baked goods by converting the dough's fermentable sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol. Active dried yeast is a type of baker's yeast that consists of live yeast cells encased in a jacket of dry, 'dead' cells. When in contact with liquid, the yeast rehydrates and thus allows the baked good to rise during the baking process.]

But I had Matt and Nayaab in the kitchen to help out, and we managed pretty well. The party I was going to be attending was Arabic-themed, and I really wanted to put my own twist on this month's recipe, so I opted for a date and nut filling, and infused the egg wash with a bit of rose water [which was actually Nayaab and Matt's idea]. Bringin' a little bit of the motherland into a classic coffee cake, ya know how it is.

...and even if you don't, you can still appreciate this recipe. The challenge recipe yielded two 10-inch cakes, but I halved the recipe to make one. Consequently, the recipe I'll give you below yields one cake, about 10 inches in diameter.

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake
Adapted from the Daring Baker's March Challenge

For the coffee cake, you'll need:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 package [about 1 1/8 tsp] active dried yeast
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 stick [4 tbsp] butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg, at room temperature

For the meringue, you'll need:
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For the filling, you'll need:
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

For the egg wash, you'll need:
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 drop rose water, beaten into the egg

To prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 1/2 cup of the flour.

In a saucepan, combine milk, water, and butter over medium-low flame and heat until warm. Butter should be just melted.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid into the dry ingredients. Beat until well-blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and an additional 1/2 cup of flour, and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour for the dough to come together. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic. Keep the work surface floured and add extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl [i.e. with canola oil or vegetable oil], turning it to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and allow it to rise to double its volume, 30-45 minutes. Rising time will depend on the type of yeast used.

To prepare the filling:

In a small bowl, combine sugar, ground cardamom, chopped walnuts, and chocolate chips. Chop dates, but don't add to the rest of the filling [it will be easier to sprinkle the dates over top of the filling rather than mix it directly into the filling].

Once dough has doubled, prepare the meringue:

In a clean, dry mixing bowl [not glass], beat the egg whites with the salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Add the rose, and begin adding sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.

To assemble and bake the coffee cake:

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a separate lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 20 x 10-inch rectangle. Spread meringue evenly over the dough to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the meringue, and the chopped dates evenly over the streusel.

Roll the dough carefully, jelly-roll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Carefully transfer the log onto the lined baking sheet, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around together to form a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching down to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, make cuts along the outside edge of the ring, at 1-inch intervals. Make them as shallow or deep as desired, and don't be afraid to cut deep into the ring. Cover the coffee cake with plastic wrap and allow it to rise again, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once coffee cakes have risen, brush the tops with egg wash [though, do not brush egg wash over exposed meringue]. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until risen and golden brown. The cake should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove cake from the oven and gently slide it off the parchment paper. Allow cake to cool on a wire rack before slicing. Keep cake covered at room temperature until serving. Before serving, dust confectioner's sugar on top of the cake, if desired. Cake is best eaten within 2 days of baking.

Yes, the recipe was time-consuming, but thankfully not difficult. And while waiting for the dough to rise, Matt, Nayaab, and I prepared [chicken jalfrezi for] dinner, so it worked out swimmingly. Plus, it was a big hit at the party the next day [and was absolutely perfect alongside henna and tea], so I was very pleased. Though I didn't taste it, I was told it was pretty dece.

If the flavors aren't to your liking, though [I know cardamom and dates don't exactly sit well on everyone's palette], you can easily eliminate the rosewater and use a classic cinnamon and nut combo for the filling. I've even seen a few savory variations with cheeses, herbs, or meats, and they look absolutely divine. It's really your prerogative.

So, it would seem as though March is almost over.

A quarter of 2011 is almost over.

...excuse me, what?

Feels somewhat surreal.

Not to mention I've spent far too much time this month alternating between Panera Bread and Starbucks for hours-long study sessions. Midterms, papers, more midterms, more papers, too much caffeine, too little money left in my bank account, and too few hours in a day for me to do all the nothing that I want.

Well, I suppose that's life.

...I need more money.


  1. So talented, and such DELICIOUS coffee cake. :)

  2. Looks good!! Can't believe another challenge has come and gone!

  3. It was SO SO good, thank you so much for bringing it to the party! (I am hogging the leftovers to myself!)

  4. ok now this is my kind of cake.I have always dreamed of baking yeast cakes but in reality have never even tried one.I think it will be to hard to handle the dough.You HAVE to make it when you come home.

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