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.
Even though it's called a coffee cake it does not contain any coffee (unless you want to use coffee as a flavoring then it would be a coffee coffee cake). It's also less of a cake than it is a bread. But if a bread contains enough butter, eggs, milk or sugar, I guess it can be called a cake. Regardless of its name, you can call it delicious.
The yeasted dough was a breeze to handle. After kneading, it was smooth and not at all sticky. After it had risen and was ready to be filled, the dough offered no resistance to the rolling pin. In fact, I didn’t even use a rolling pin for the second half of my dough. I just patted it out into a rectangle.
At first the meringue seemed like an unusual addition, but the meringue acted like a neutral binding layer between the dough and the ingredients in the filling. Upon baking, the meringue had melted and soaked into the bread leaving behind a hint of sweetness and allowed the filling to shine through. I filled mine with five spice powder, walnuts and chocolate chips.
The only tricky part was to roll it up jelly roll style and then into a ring without squeezing out any of the filling and meringue. I also needed to be sure the seams were well pinched so all the filling and meringue stayed inside.
For my first ring I cut slits in the shaped dough after the dough's second rise, but the cutting seemed to deflate it a bit. So for my second ring, I cut the slits immediately after I had filled and shaped it and let it do its second rise already cut. No deflation here.
As much as I like the sweet filled bread, after tasting it I knew that this dough would be equally good in a savory application. After my office's weight loss challenge ends next month and I can allow myself to indulge a bit every once in a while, I am definitely going to use this dough with ingredients like cheese or pork.
From the feedback I received, it seemed that this cake had a nostalgic quality to it. Quite a few tasters mentioned that it reminded them of something their grandmothers baked. That's the best compliment that I could receive.
Thanks to Jamie and Ria for a lovely and versatile recipe. Please check out what the other Daring Bakers created by heading over to our kitchen.
FILLED MERINGUE COFFEE CAKE
(Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter. The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake.)
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar
For the filling:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped walnuts or pecans
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used five spice powder)
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate
Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes
Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) 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. 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 eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) 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 (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 to 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.
Prepare your filling:
In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.
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 ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.
Assemble the Coffee Cakes
Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).
Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, 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 (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.
Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.
Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. 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 sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.
Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.