2 weeks after little X was born, my extended family made the trip up to the boonies to meet him. My mom cooked dinner but asked me to make dessert. I was more than happy to do it because it gave me an excuse to make my March Daring Baker challenge and not have to eat the whole thing myself. I have baby-weight to lose, after all.
My first look at this challenge worried me. I didn’t read it. I only looked at the picture and it looked disturbingly similar to December’s challenge, a Christmas Stollen, which I did not like. I did not enjoy making it or eating it. But then I read it. It was a coffee cake! I like coffee cake. Damn me and my recipe racism (recipism?), judging baked goods without getting to know them first.
The challenge mentioned letting “your own national cuisine inspire you.” Since I was to be making this cake for my big Italian family, I went with Italian flavors. I had some hazelnuts sitting about the house from some previous experiments. This led me to send Chef Hubby to the liquor store for some Frangelico hazelnut liquor so I could make a chocolate-hazelnut-booze coffee cake.
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ teaspoons active dried yeast
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup water (I took out 1 tbsp water and replaced it with Frangelico)
½ cup 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 Frangelico (or more to taste… I think I used 2 tsps or so.)
½ cup sugar
For the filling: **you may want to double this if, like me, you like a lot of ooey gooey filling**
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate (I used a mix of dark chocolate chips and chopped up Hershey Kisses I got in a New Mommy mug gift.)
Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, water (and Frangelico!) 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 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. (Honestly, I kneaded the dough mostly in my stand mixer with the bread hook… I am far to lazy for kneading.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased (Pam is my bestest friend) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes.
Prepare your filling: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using.
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.
I was soooo excited when my merinque actually came together. The last time I tried to do it I never got any stiff peaks. I got little weak wussy peaks and when I continued to beat them they only wilted away into nothingness.
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. As I rolled, I brushed on a little more Frangelico (My name is Cwupcake and I am an Alcoholic.) Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. **Here was where I should have formed it into a ring, but I didn’t really care for the wreath look, so I left it in log form.
Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the log 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 log.
Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with a drunken egg wash (1 beaten egg + a splash of more Frangelico). 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 cinnamon sugar. I sliced mine up for easy serving.
My family seemed to really like the coffee cake, although it took a lot of convincing to get them to believe that I made it and that I did not use Nutella for the filling. It only took one uncle asking if it was Nutella (and me denying it) to get every person in the house to bite into it and ask if it was Nutella just to push my buttons. 2 uncles, 2 aunts, 1 cousin, 2 siblings, 2 parents, and a grandmother. Actually there may have been 2 cousins- one was on ooVoo with my sister at the time and she might have joined in all the way from SUNY Oswego.
Wise-cracking family or not, both logs completely went, even though there was also super yummy pastries from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. My Aunt brought some home with her to give my cousins and my mom kept the little bit that was left.