Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rum A Tum Tum

The Little Drummer Boy would probably have turned up his nose at my Rum Cakes because of the good dose of rum, but they are delicious, even though I made them over a week ago. I decided to go with smaller cakes instead of the large Bundt that the recipe called for, and they are so cute!

Why Rum Cakes? Because this is the December Cake Slice Bakers choice I made. We had some really great choices from The Southern Cake Book, including little fig cakes, a decadent carrot cake, and a cheesecake that includes baklava as an ingredient, but I liked the simplicity of the Rum Cake.

These little cakes are very rich (three sticks of butter!), but they were easy to make. Butter and sugar are beaten together, eggs are beaten in along with some citrus zest and vanilla. The dry ingredients go in alternately with the wet, which is a classic way to make cake batter. I skipped the banana flavors and went with straight rum.

To fancy some of them up I put a pattern with pecan halves and a cherry in the middle on the bottom of the little square pans, then added the batter. That way when you turn them out you see the pattern on the top. I also doused them with some straight rum instead of a syrup, then let them age in the fridge for a few weeks.

I'm quite late in posting this, but was gone during the regular posting time due to a death in the family. Quite a few Cake Slice Bakers did post and their cakes look amazing! Do check them out.

Amy - Spin the Meal  made the same Rum Cake
Rachel - A Sweet Muddle made the darling little Fig Cakes
Anabel  - Oven Delights made the darling little Fig Cakes, too
Punetta - As Long As There's Cake made the darling little Fig Cakes, but with a different glaze
Kim - The Ninja Baker made cute cupcakes from the Carrot Cake recipe
Maria - Box of Stolen Socks made Baklava Cheesecake
Diana - The Domestic Goddess Wannabe made the Rum Cake and added Mixed Fruit for a seasonal treat
Emily - Emily's Cooking Foray made the Baklava Cheesecake in a smaller size

Rum Cake
from The Southern Cake Book by Southern Living Magazine

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulates sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3/4 cup dark rum
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream
shortening or butter for greasing the pan(s)

optional: pecan halves and cherry halves to decorate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease (shortening or butter) a large 12 -cup Bundt pan or smaller pans which will hold the full amount of batter. Set the pans aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together for about two minutes. Mixture will be light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping bowl as needed, letting the egg incorporate into the batter before adding the next. Last, add the egg yolk and mix to blend. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and rum. Beat to mix well.

Sift the dry ingredients together. Make sure the whipping cream is at room temperature. With mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions and the whipping cream in two additions, alternating between dry and wet and incorporating that ingredient before adding the next. Scrape bowl and beater(s) as needed.

Scrape batter into prepared pan(s). Batter will be thick. Use a spatula to even the top and rap the pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles that are trapped.

Bake in the preheated oven 55-60 minutes for the large Bundt pan and for a shorter period for smaller pans. Cake is cooked when a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool pan(s) on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out and let cool completely. Serve at once garnished with a sifting of confectioner's sugar or store in a covered container.

Optional: If desired, make a syrup of 10 tablespoons butter mixed with 3/4 cup sugar & 1/2 cup rum, and cooked , stirring often for 10-12 minutes until thickened. Pierce the cake(s) with a skewer and pour on the syrup evenly over the cake(s) while they are still in the pan(s). Let stand 45 minutes before removing from the pan(s).

Optional: After pan is prepared, put a pattern of pecan halves and cherry halves on the bottom. When batter is ready, cover the pattern with the batter. Serve with the pattern side up.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Snowflake

We toasted Mom at the viewing with Irish Mist, revisited clouds of incense at the funeral Mass, ate and drank and hugged and cried and talked endlessly. It was all good. Came home in time to make a wonderful sweet yeast bread for Christmas morning. Posting quite late, but better late, right?

This delightful brioche bread, which is almost (almost but really not quite) too pretty to eat is brought to you in part by Cathy of Bread Experience, our Bread Baking Babe Kitchen of the Month. It is very impressive to look at and delicious to eat, but not as difficult to make as you might think. Thanks Cathy for choose the perfect December recipe.

The brioche dough goes together easily, especially if you have a stand mixer to do some of the heavy work. If not, just remember that kneading bread is very contemplative and relaxing. It is an easy dough to handle, too, and rolled out easily.

The requested filling is Nutella, but I'm not a fan of chocolate and yeast bread, plus I don't enjoy hazelnuts, so I made a filling of very thinly spread cream cheese, sprinkled with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. Sure made the house smell like Christmas!

The shaping looks difficult, but is in fact child's play. I took the cap of a spice jar and indented a small circle in the middle of the stacked, filled layers of dough. That helped me to keep the cuts more even in the center. Turning the pairs of dough a few times outward to create the stripes  was easy and then I just stuck the ends together and turned them under.

Since I made the snowflake to this point on Christmas Eve, I covered it with oiled plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge overnight. In the morning the dough rose while the oven preheated, so it was ready to eat by the time the fruit bowl was prepared and bacon cooked. Sweetie even made his signature scrambled eggs. What a feast!

Wishing you, dear reader, a joyful holiday season, no matter where you are.

If you wish to be a Buddy you still have time. Bake the bread, take a photo or two, send Cathy an e-mail telling of your experience making the bread and do it by December 29th.

Please visit the other Babes sites to see their versions. Bet you will be inspired to make this yummy bread yourself.

The original version:

Nutella Brioche Flower

Makes: 1 large Nutella Brioche Flower


For the sponge:

1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) bread flour or all-purpose (I used Bob's Red Mill AP)
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 ounces) whole milk, lukewarm (90 to 100 degrees F.)

For the dough:

3 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups (13.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1-2 teaspoons milk, if necessary to form a smooth dough

For the filling and glaze:
Nutella or similar hazelnut chocolate paste for the filling
1 tablespoon milk plus 1 tablespoon water for glaze
Icing (confectioner's) sugar

To make the sponge, stir together the flour and yeast in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer). Pour in the milk and whisk the ingredients together until all of the flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the sponge rises and falls when you tap the bowl.

To make the dough, add the eggs to the sponge and whisk (or beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment) until smooth.  In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add this mixture to the sponge and eggs and stir (or continue mixing with the paddle on low speed for about 2 minutes) until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to begin to develop the gluten.  Then mix in the melted butter by hand, using a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk or with the mixer on medium speed using the dough hook. Add in a couple of teaspoons of milk if the dough is too dry. 

Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead for about 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.  It shouldn't be too sticky too handle.

Form the dough into a ball and place it in a clean bowl.  It doesn't need to be oiled.  The butter should keep the dough from sticking to the bowl.  Let the dough bulk ferment in a warm place (70- 75 degrees F.) for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, cut out a circle of baking or greaseproof paper about 30 cm (12″) in diameter. Place the paper on a baking sheet.

To shape the flower, once risen, turn the dough out onto a surface, knock it back knead for 3-4 minutes. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each piece into a ball.

Roll a ball of dough out into a circle measuring about 25 cm (10″) in diameter. The dough should be about 3-4 mm (1/8″) thick.

Place the dough onto the baking paper and spread on a layer of Nutella, leaving a small gap at the edge. Don’t make the layer too thick but be sure to evenly cover the dough.

Roll out a second ball of dough, place it on the first layer and spread with Nutella. Repeat with the third and fourth balls of dough but do NOT spread Nutella on the final layer.

Cut the brioche into 16 segments but leave a small (3 cm/1½”) area in the centre of the dough uncut.

Take a pair of adjacent segments. Lift and twist them away from each other through 180°. Lift and twist through 180° again, then twist through 90° so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process for all pairs of segments.

Place the brioche in a large plastic bag or cover with lightly oiled film. Leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours to prove.

Brush with the glaze then bake at 160°C/320°F fan oven, 180°C/360°F conventional oven for 20-25 minutes.  I baked it at 375 degrees F. for 15 minutes, then turned it down to 350 and baked it another 5 minutes or so.

Place the bread on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, dust lightly with icing sugar.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sad News

A vibrant, classy, smart and loving woman, my Mom, died this morning. She will be missed by many, especially her large family. She was blessed with a long and wonderful life and slipped out quietly in her sleep. Rest in peace, Mom.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Bread Without the Sesame Seeds

The last time I made this bread I made it as rolls and it was a fun one where the bread snakes were rolled in sesame seeds. It's a King Arthur Flour recipe and a very good one. 

Since I'm no longer supposed to eat sesame seeds I decided that I would make this bread without. It's been a while since I've made baguettes, so that's the shape I chose for these. I'm really happy with the way they held their shape. I used the Julia Child shaping method and it worked well. It didn't hurt that this was a relatively firm bread. I let it sit in the fridge overnight, too, so it had just a touch of sourdough flavor. Delicious!

Look at the wonderful texture:

Three Baguettes
Based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup cool water, enough to make a stiff ball of dough
pinch of instant yeast


all of the starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup while whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Baker's Special dry milk or nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil


1) To make the starter: Mix the starter ingredients together, cover, and let rest at room temperature two - three hours. Note: This is a dry, stiff starter. If it's too dry to come together, dribble in sufficient water to make the dough come together, and proceed with the recipe as directed.

2) To make the dough: Combine the starter with the remaining dough ingredients, and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough. You may need slightly more or less than 2 cups flour.

3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measure; cover, and let it rise for about 90 minutes, till it's just about doubled in bulk.  Punch down in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight in the fridge.

4) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough log, and let the logs rest, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. This gives the gluten in the dough a chance to relax, which in turn will make the logs easier to roll.

5) Working on a lightly greased surface, roll each piece into a rope about 12" long.

6) Working with one rope at a time, start at one end of the rope and pull the dough around the rope. (I imagined one side of the rope to be the 'back' and pulled the dough toward the back, working my way down the rope. This stretches the 'skin' of the dough around the inner dough to help the baguettes keep their shape.)

7) Place each shaped baguette on a parchment lined baking sheet, When all three are shaped and on the baking sheet, cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap and then a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.The resulting loaves will be about 14" long

8) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and brush the loaves with egg white. Score on the diagonal three or four places on each of the loaves with a very sharp knife or a lame.

9 Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when the back is tapped. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Yield: 3 baguettes