The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.
Yeast is a fabulous medium to work with. It's active, it smells good and it's scientific. Think of yeast in its envelope or jar as in a state of sleep. In order for it to work as a rising agent, it must be "woken up" or activated. This is done by adding sugar to feed it and/or a warm liquid to excite it. The best temperature for activating yeast is liquid around 100°F to 115°F. If the liquid is too cool, the yeast will not activate (the reason why yeast is sometimes stored in the freezer, it becomes dormant there), but too hot and the yeast will be killed! The best way to judge the temp of the liquid is to put your finger or hand in it and if you don't feel it or it feels only slightly warm, it's about right. Keep in mind that the normal body temperature is 98.6, so 100 degree water is right around there.
This recipes makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake. I did decide to halve the recipe, since Todd and I just got back from eating and drinking our waistlines away in Mexico last week. The last thing I need right now is 2 large coffee cakes hanging around in my kitchen tempting me!
4 c flour
1/4 c sugar
3/4 t salt
2 1/4 t active dried yeast
3/4 c whole milk (room temp)
1/4 c water
1/2 c unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 c sugar
For the filling:
1 c chopped pecans or walnuts
2 T granulated sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1 c chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate
To make the dough, combine 1.5 c of the flour with the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl.) In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.
With the 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 1.5 cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed. This is my favorite part. Don't forget to make sure you get out any aggressions on the dough ball. It'll be better for it, and so will you!
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in size, 45 – 60 minutes.
While the dough is rising, make your filling by combining the cinnamon and sugar.
Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue, by beating the egg whites in a clean metal bowl with the salt. Beat until foamy, then add vanilla followed by the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until stiff, glossy peaks form.
To assemble the coffee cakes, line 2 baking 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 rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling evenly over the meringue. I had a helper with this part, that is when he wasn't reading the newspaper!
Now, roll up the dough starting from the long side. Pinch the seam to seal. Carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal. Using kitchen shears to make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch intervals. Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings. Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
At this stage in the game (about 11 am), I left the house with Todd and Josh to go over to Todd's mom's house for what I thought would be lunch and then back home. I left the coffee cake proofing in the warming drawer of the oven. We didn't get home until after 3:00 and by then my coffee cake had over proofed, some of the outer portions of the dough were droopy, instead of tight and springy like they should be. This is what happens when you let yeast go wild for too long. I preheated the oven and baked it anyway. It looks great and will taste just fine I'm sure.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and brush the top of the cakes with beaten egg. 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 allow to cool on a rack. Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.
And, this is another one of those things that goes GREAT with a cup of coffee. Enjoy!