Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Babes Bake Hungarian

The Bread Baking Babes group has been baking for so many years now that it is something of a challenge just to find breads we haven't baked yet. This month I'm Kitchen of the Month for the Babes, but I've had the recipe ready for months. It's similar to last month's challenge, Povitica, in that it requires a thin, rich dough. It also has a filling using nuts, but this filling is very different. The shaping method is also different, so I do hope that if you like to bake bread that you'll try this one. I'm sorry that this wasn't posted this morning, but we were having work done on the house and my computer was covered with dust cloths until just a little while ago.

I found the recipe for this month's bread during the pandemic, when I was throwing out old magazines. It's from Sunset Magazine from 2001. I used to have a subscription but it's been a while since I had a subscription to any magazine. When I first came to California from the east coast, Sunset was a great resource for living the west coast lifestyle. This recipe isn't Californian, or even west coast, because it's a recipe for a nut roll from Hungary. 

One of the reasons I chose it is because, once baked, it keeps for a week, meaning there is a treat waiting at tea time for that long without heating up the oven again, especially since it is a 2-pound loaf. Another reason is that I was fascinated by the idea of a filling made with cooked milk and almonds. 

The dough is basically a brioche dough, so don't expect a big rise out of it. It is rich tasting and goes really well with the almond and dried fruit filling. I used dried cherries which I soaked for an hour in Kirsch. I'm not sure that you can tell that they were soaked in a liqueur, but they are nice and soft.

I did have some trouble with rolling the dough using a cloth. I used a linen couche and thought that I had it well floured, but it stuck quite a bit as I rolled it. Still, once baked you couldn't really tell. Will probably try this again with an actual tablecloth.

The filling is really fun. You start with a slurry of milk, almonds and dried fruit but with enough heat, it turns into an almost creamy filling with great flavor and fragrance. I did add a few drops of almond extract along with the vanilla because almond flavor really goes well with cherries.

Do try this yourself. If you'd like to be a Buddy, bake it and then email me by June 29th to be included in the round-up. I'd love a photo and a short description of your experience with this bake. Plachman -at-sonic-dot-net.

Also, be sure to visit the other Babes blogs to see what they have done with this tea time treat!

Gigi's Hungarian Almond Roll

 Makes one 2-pound loaf

From Sunset Magazine, Dec 2001

1 package active dry yeast
6 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks (divided)
About 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Almond Filling (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon milk or water

 Have all ingredients at room temperature except warm water, which should be about 108-110 degrees F.

 In a bowl, sprinkle yeast over the 6 tablespoons warm (about 110 degrees F) water; let stand until soft, about 5 minutes. Add sugar, 1 egg yolk, 6 tablespoons butter pieces, and 1 1/2 cups flour; stir until evenly moistened.

 To knead with a dough hook, beat at medium speed until dough pulls cleanly from bowl, about 5 minutes. To knead by hand, scrape dough onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes, adding flour (as little as possible) if necessary to prevent sticking; return to bowl.

 Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until it's puffy enough to hold an impression when pressed with a finger (dough won't double in volume), about 1 hour.

 With dough hook or your hands, punch air out of dough; lift dough from bowl and shape into a smooth ball. Set on the center of a floured pastry cloth or clean, smooth-textured dish towel. Pat dough flat; with a rolling pin, roll into a 14-inch to 15-inch square.


Spread or evenly dot Almond Filling over dough to within 1-inch of edges. Lift cloth from one side to roll dough into a compact loaf. Gently lift loaf and lay, seam side down, on a buttered 12-inch x 17-inch baking sheet. Pinch ends to seal, then fold under.


Cover loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until dough is slightly puffy, about 45 minutes.


In a small bowl, mix remaining egg yolk with milk. Brush loaf with yolk mixture; discard any remaining.


Bake loaf on the center rack in a 325 degree F regular or convection oven until rich golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool at least 1 hour. Serve at room temperature. Cut cross-wise into 1/4-inch thick slices.


Almond Filling: In a food processor, whirl 1 cup un-blanched almonds to fine meal. Ina a 10-12-inch nonstick frying pan, combine almonds, 3/4 cup raisins, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup milk, and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Stir over high heat until mixture is thick enough to hold a clean trail for a few seconds when you draw a spoon across pan bottom. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Let cool at least 30 minutes.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Garden This Year

 Much as I love fresh from the vine ripe tomatoes and lots of glorious squash, we are in a severe drought here in No. CA and so my veg garden this year is tiny...some beans (which the deer are snacking on, so hard to say if I'll ever get any actual beans to eat), two tomatoes and two planters with zucchini...dark green and yellow. That's it.

I do have some plants that will need water like my rose bushes and perennials, but I'm helping with that by keeping a small bucket by each of my sinks and the shower to catch the water that runs as the wash water heats up. They are small enough that I can easily tote them up and down stairs as needed. I still need a bit of additional watering, but not much.

The berries have started coming into ripeness by the road as you can see from the top photo. These are the berries that come in first and I was planning on turning them, plus some local strawberries and a few non-local blueberries into some pies to take to a birthday party on Sunday, but came down with the stomach flu instead. Will probably bake a pie tomorrow or Wednesday to use up the berries...I'll post a photo when I do, and a recipe. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the garden.

The walnut tree has great looking immature nuts this year.

One of the tomato plants has its first flower.

Finally getting some morning glories, too.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Since it's late spring, you can count on posts about the nascent garden and others about using the berries and other fruits of the season. I feel so fortunate to live where we can get locally grown, amazing, juicy, ripe, fresh strawberries, lovely, sweet dark cherries from California, and other spring fruits.


Today's post is about a simple but delicious upside down cake made with fresh strawberries and rhubarb. I just love that combination of fruits! The fruit pieces are topped for baking with a tender sponge cake which soaks up the juices that the fruits release as they bake. I made mine in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, so the cake was fairly thin, but if you make it in a cake pan (especially an 8-inch pan, the cake will be thicker, but there will be a bit less fruit. The baking time is fairly short (20-25 minutes), too, so you can put it together and bake it in about an hour or a little less.

Before I baked this treat, I looked at a lot of upside down cake recipes and didn't really see one that looked like what I wanted, so I then looked at recipes for Victoria Sponge, a British favorite. I was interested to see that many of them used self-rising flour. If you do that, you can make a very straight forward cake using equal weights of soft butter (or margarine), granulated sugar, and self-rising flour, plus eggs. Vanilla can be added, too, or citrus peel if you like, but this time I went with just those four ingredients for the sponge part. I ended up using half of the recipe for Victoria Sponge Cake in a wonderful blog, The Baking Explorer. It really gives the history of the classic Victoria Sponge Cake with jam and cream, topped with a sprinkle of icing sugar (confectioners sugar), plus answers lots of questions you may have and gives variations. Do check it out! HERE Kat writes a really good baking blog.

For the fruit part I used one long stalk of rhubarb plus about a half-pint of strawberries. For the topping (which goes into the pan first), I decided on 4 oz. of margarine, (but use butter if you can), 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup, plus the fresh fruit.

This made a wonderful cake! The cake had a nice crumb and was tender and moist. The fruit juices soaked into the cake along with the butter/sugar topping and it looked pretty since I arranged the fruit pieces in a pattern. With a small scoop of vanilla soy 'ice cream' it made the perfect finish to a lovely lunch with friends. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

recipe by Elle - sponge recipe from The Baking Explorer

Serves 8


4 oz. butter or margarine, melted 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 long stalk fresh rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut into 1-2-inch pieces
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in half (or sliced if very large)


8 tablespoons or 107 oz. butter or margarine, soft 
107 oz. (about 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
107 oz. (about 1 cup) self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease a 8 or 9-inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment and butter it lightly OR use a seasoned cast iron skillet as is.

Place the melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup in the bottom of the pan and stir gently to combine. Place the cut fruit pieces in a nice arrangement on top of the butter mixture. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. This can be done by hand, with a hand held or stand electric mixer or in a food processor. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated. Scrape beaters (or spoon) and bowl often. Add the flour (and vanilla if using) and beat gently/on low, just until incorporated. If you beat too much you might make the cake tough.

Dollop the batter over the arranged fruit in the pan and use a small offset spatula or the back of a large spoon to smooth the batter into an even layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning 1/4 turn about half way through the baking time, until golden brown. Center will spring back if lightly depressed with a finger. Sides of cake may be starting to pull away from the pan. As you can see in the photo below, because I used a wide skillet, the batter barely covered the fruit in some places.

Let sit about 2-3 minutes on a wire rack, then cover pan with serving plate and, carefully, turn plate side down. Let the pan sit over the plate a minute, then remove the pan. If any of the fruit stuck to the pan, use a small spatula to scrape it off the pan and return it to the fruit pattern. Serve warm or let cool to room temperature to serve.