Wednesday, May 8, 2013

THB: Marionberry-Hazelnut Cake

I can't believe that this is my first blog post in a really long while but hopefully, my hosting The Home Baker's Marionberry-Hazelnut Cake from the book "Coffee Cakes" by Lou Seibert Pappas will push me to start writing on my blog again which I have regretfully ignored because of other matters.  This cake, as you can see above, didn't turn quite as lovely as the picture in the book because the toppings sunk to the bottom.  Somehow, my long baking rut made me forget that this is a usual occurrence with butter cakes and therefore, I should've added the toppings midway through the baking instead.  I don't know where in the world you can find marionberries but when I chose this recipe, I knew that I would be using blackberries instead of marionberries and that I would be substituting almonds for the hazelnuts.  I'm not really a fan of hazelnuts in anything except the ubiquitous Nutella which we all know is mixed with chocolate and all the hazelnuts I can get here are the un-peeled ones which would make it even more of a hassle as it means that I would be going through the blanching process and all just to peel them.

What's interesting about this cake is that it has more almond meal in it than flour so I didn't know what to expect in terms of how it'll rise or how tender the crumb would be.  The cake turned out pretty moist actually and I credit that to the blackberries, the juices of which kept the crumb soft and moist.  One thing that was off in the recipe at least for me though was the baking time.  It took way longer than the time stated by the author -- it actually took more than an hour to bake.  Even after 40 minutes the batter was nowhere near being set and I think this is because I used frozen and unthawed blackberries which I think released so much juices which affected the temperature of the batter and all that.  I noticed that the frozen blackberries that I used had some ice crystals in them so the water content of the berries definitely affected the cake's baking time.  I wonder if I would get the same results If I had used fresh berries instead.  I hope some of you did so I would get some feedback with regards to the baking time.

Overall, this was an excellent coffee cake and I think a mixture of berries like raspberries, strawberries and blueberries would even add more flavor to the cake.  I kind of found the cinnamon to be a bit overpowering so I would omit adding it to the batter next time and just rely on the toppings for the cinnamon flavor.

Marionberry-Hazelnut Cake
From the book "Coffee Cakes" by Lou Seibert Pappas

1 1/4 cups ground hazelnut meal or almond meal
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups fresh or frozen marionberries, or mixed blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries
2 tablespoons demerara or turbinado sugar
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, or chopped or sliced or slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.  Scatter the nut meal on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Let cool.  Increase the oven temperature to 350 F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and almond extract and beat until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine the toasted nut meal, flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Stir to blend.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat until smooth.  Spread the better evenly in the prepared pan.  Scatter the berries evenly over the top.  Toss the remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon with the Demerara or turbinado sugar and nuts and sprinkle over the top.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is set when pressed lightly and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the pan sides.  Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Makes one 9-inch cake; serves 10 to 12

NOTE: Hazelnut and almond meal, or flour, is available in specialty food stores, or you can grind the nuts finely in a food processor (hazelnuts should be toasted and skinned first).

Friday, December 28, 2012

Please Help Save SFBI!

I recently took an 8-week professional bread baking course at the San Francisco Baking Institute where I learned a lot of invaluable things about the bread baking industry.  There's no school that I've ever been to that was so generous in sharing their knowledge about baking and that made me feel like I was part of a family.  This school is truly world class -- never have I seen such modern equipment being utilized for the students and never have I experienced a school that was super generous in providing the students high-quality ingredients, reading materials, and even food.

It saddens me to find out that the state of California is shutting down this institution while they are in the process of reviewing SFBI's license as a post-secondary institution -- a process that could take months -- which would in turn, impose a huge financial strain on SFBI that could even lead them to close their doors permanently.  I am urging you to help SFBI remain open by signing their petition through this link:

The link also provides a letter template that you could sign and send directly to the Bureau of Private Post-Secondary Education.  

Please help save SFBI!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

ABC: Honey Oatmeal Bread

It's time for another ABC post and this October's bake is The Weekend Baker's Honey Oatmeal Bread which I really, really loved!  This has got to be the best tasting honey oatmeal bread I've ever tried and I especially loved the pronounced honey flavor and sweetness in the bread given the generous 1/3 cup that's in it.  I've encountered many recipes that claim to be honey breads but I always get puzzled why they would even put "honey" in the title when all they make you add is 2 tablespoons of honey at the most.  I'm glad that this recipe didn't skimp on it and it was so easy to make as well.  It's super delicious on its own that I never even ate it with anything else but I bet this would make excellent French toast.  What I also liked about this bread is that it stayed really moist and soft throughout the 2 days it took us to finish it. I think the reason for this was the use of milk to hydrate the flour instead of water.  The next time I make this I'm turning it into dinner rolls and top the surface with oatmeal flakes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tartine Desserts

October is going to be an exciting month for me as it is the month that I officially begin my 2-month long culinary adventure in San Francisco.  I'm taking an 8-week bread and viennoiserie course at the San Francisco Baking Institute (which I'm surely going to blog about) and part of my itinerary during my stay in this wonderful city is to explore San Francisco's famous culinary establishments and numerous farmer's markets.  One of the bakeries that I'm looking forward to visiting is the renowned Tartine Bakery which is fortunately, just a few blocks from where I am to live in San Francisco.  I own both their books "Tartine" and "Tartine Bread," and all of the recipes that I've made from each were really delicious and most were very easy to make as well.  During the past month, I've been on a baking frenzy and have made quite a few luscious desserts from "Tartine" namely the Banana Cream Pie with Caramel and Chocolate, Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread, Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake and the Lemon Cream Tart which I topped generously with slices of strawberries.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Versailles: My Birthday Cake!

I just celebrated my birthday yesterday and once again, I decided to challenge myself and bake another special cake from the book "Extraordinary Cakes" by Karen Krasne.  I chose this elegant and stunning cake called Versailles for my birthday cake because it contains a huge quantity of a particular flavor I'm obsessed with at the moment -- salted caramel -- YUM!  Ever since I made salted caramel ice cream a few weeks ago I've been craving for it non-stop and this cake definitely satisfies any caramel lover's appetite as you can taste it in almost every layer of the cake -- the creamy layers that top each slice of almond joconde sponge is a salted caramel mousse wherein salted caramel, in its most basic, ooey gooey form is folded into a plain mousse which already creates a fabulous dessert on its own.  Then during assembly, more salted caramel is drizzled on top of these mousse layers giving you a much more concentrated caramel flavor along with each bite of the cake.  And if that's not caramel-ly enough for you, the rest of the salted caramel, which is about 3 or so cups, is spread generously all over this wonderful cake providing a sticky exterior for the crunchy ground pistachio-almond praline to cling on.  For a touch of elegance, the book suggests to encircle the cake with French caramel macarons and a thin ribbon which I did but since I was unable to find caramel ones, I just settled for store-bought butterscotch which was just the right color for this cake as well.