Saturday, March 10, 2012

Let them eat cake !

Ah, the weekend . Time to rest, have a little fun, maybe even party. Yeah, right! In our house, weekends mean errands, singing commitments, quests for needful things and more. Seems that holds true for most other folks as well. Between chauffeuring the kiddos to their commitments, grocery shopping, laundry and  home improvement projects , I think most of us work harder on the weekends than through the whole of the work week. And yet, there is something about the weekend that make us think of a little something special. For me it has been breakfast that  requests something different on the weekends. I blame my father for my attitude here. As a kid , on many weekend mornings , he would claim the kitchen and make oatmeal or something he called birch bark, canoes and eagle eyes ( bacon, potato slices and eggs sunny side up). My dad was a pretty decent cook, and we loved to eat his grub. Something about those memories just make serving cold cereal on the weekends so wrong. My husband is an egg hater, so it limits the choices that I have the ambition and brain cell capacity to make in the mornings.

The other day it dawned on me- why don't I bake coffee cakes for the weekend mornings ? Special, tasty, make ahead and will not weigh you down so much that you choose to pass over lunch. Good thing is that these can be made sweet ( fruit, fruit and cheese, nuts) or savory  as you desire. They look very impressive as well as tasting great.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid
Makes 2 braids
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup warm milk
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
Blueberry Filling
2 cups blueberries( fresh or frozen),1/4 cup sugar,1/4 cup cornstarch,1/2 cup water,2tablespoons lemon juice
Egg Glaze
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
Cream Cheese Filling
3/4 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon egg glaze
For the sponge: mix the sugar, yeast, and flour together in bowl. Pour in the warm milk. Beat until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1/2 hour.
Then place the sponge in a mixer and add the eggs, salt, sugar, and one cup of the flour . Beat until smooth. Then add the butter in small chunks and beat well. Add the remaining flour a handful at a time and mix in until a soft but kneadable dough is achieved and the butter thoroughly incorporated. You want something that feels like old lady skin or a baby's butt.Knead about 5 minutes, transfer to a greased bowl, cover and let rise till double in bulk.
Meanwhile, make the following :
Blueberry Filling: combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool.
Egg Glaze: combine the egg and milk in a bowl and beat until combined.
Cream Cheese Filling: combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined

Once your dough has risen, turn out onto a greased surface ( baking spray or a silpat is better than a floured surface as it does not make your dough dry)
here is my dough, ready to go. Divide the dough into 2 balls, return one to the bowl and roll the other into a rectangle sort of shape. It does not have to be perfect- just an oblong sort of form about the thickness of a pizza crust. Then take a knife or a dough cutter and slash lines about every inch that are diagonal and covering 1/3rd of the width of the dough
Marvel at my choice of grey tee shirt and blue apron which hides stains so well ! Having slashed the one side, turn and do the same to the other
Once you have completed the slashing, add the cream cheese filling and then blueberries

Kind of smear the fillings to the edges of the cuts. My son volunteered to snap thee pictures , and he managed to catch my hand moving. I look like The Flash in motion as a result ! And now comes the fun part- turn the work in progress so that you are facing a narrow end and begin to fold the flaps in towards the center, one side and then the other, all the way up and tuck the ends in so the filling does not leak.
This creates a really fancy, impressive looking coffee cake that gives the impression that you can actually do something in the kitchen beyond burning toast and water . It's very good to create illusions !

Repeat with the second ball of dough and let them rise for about an hour. Meanwhile, as you wait, contemplate the universe, read a book or read a goose a collection of poetry. Whatever trips your fancy.
In about an hour the dough will rise and plump. Turn your oven to 350 and give th cakes an egg wash with a pastry brush. Or as I call them my cooking carpentry tools
Bake for 40 minutes- give or take. Use your nose- when it smells don, give it a check. If it looks golden brown, it is done. Remove and cook at least 1 hr before slicing. You can drizzle this with a glaze ( confectioners sugar with some water and lemon juice till it is the consistency you like) , or a simple sprinkle of powdered sugar. I left mine plain because my husband is not crazy about glaze or frosting.It seems almost unnatural, but everyone has their preferences. The fillings and dough make this coffee cake just slightly sweet, and it can stand alone.

After a breakfast like this, trips to the home improvement store or the little league practice seem a little brighter.

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