Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lemon Coconut Cake

What a lovely way to finish an Easter Brunch- Lemon Coconut Cake with Fresh Fruit. It's got it all going on, vanilla genoise, lemon curd, meringue buttercream and of course a spectacular fruit topping that beats any decoration you can think of.

And not too difficult to pull off, If you give yourself a few days in advance to do each component. I started with the lemon curd on Thursday because that has a long shelf life. Friday I made the genoise. Saturday I made the buttercream and assembled the cake. And early Sunday morning I finished it with fresh fruit. Voila, easy peasy, lemon curd squeezy. The end product is something spectacular that your guests will go on and on about and oh, yea, it tastes as good as it looks.

Let's get started, shell we...

lemon curd

10 yolks (save the whites for buttercream)
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
rind of two lemons
1 & 1/3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

In a medium heat-proof bowl (metal works best) combine yolks, sugar, lemon juice and rind and put on top of medium pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally until mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon when it's ready. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Pour into a clean container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 


4 ounces butter
9 eggs
1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper secured with a few small smears of butter and set aside. Melt butter and transfer to a medium bowl. Warm eggs in a water bath (no hotter than the temperature of bath water) for 5 minutes. 

Sift together flour and cornstarch and keep the sifter handy. Drain and dry off eggs and crack them into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Beat eggs on medium high and slowly add sugar. Once all the sugar is in add vanilla extract. Beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy and pale lemon-yellow in color, about 3-5 minutes. Don't over beat!

Sift the flour and cornstarch in 3 or 4 additions into egg mixture, gently folding in each addition before adding the next. This may seem tedious but it's the only way to insure you don't get nasty lumps of flour in the cake. 

Once all the flour has been added pour about 1/3 of the mixture into the bowl with the melted butter and gently whisk together. Next gently fold the butter mixture back into the main mixture. 

The key things to remember are to be gentle but also fast. The only leavening in genoise is the air you've beaten into the eggs and you don't want to lose that by deflating it with a heavy hand or taking to long to get the cakes in the oven!

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool the pans on racks and when cool enough to handle run a knife or decorating spatula around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn out the cakes and remove the parchment paper. (If you are making this ahead of time you can turn out the cakes, wrap them and refrigerate until ready to assemble.)

meringue buttercream

5 egg whites*
1 cup white sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, cut up, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the egg whites and sugar in a medium bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until all the sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm.

Carefully remove bowl from pot, watch out for the steam! Transfer to a stand mixer with a whisk. Whip on high until soft peaks form. Turn the speed to medium and slowly add the butter bit by bit.  The mixture may start to look curdled before it comes together. Add vanilla extract.

*Please refer to the USDA guidelines on consuming uncooked egg products. 

simple syrup

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 water

Combine ingredients in a small pot and heat to a boil. Remove from heat and cool before using.

lemon curd
simple syrup
shredded coconut
fresh fruit
warm raspberry jam (seedless) optional
confectioners' sugar
Cut each cake in half and trim if necessary. Place the first layer on a cake circle or serving dish. Brush with simple syrup and top with 1/3 of the lemon curd.

Repeat with the rest of the layers. Bush the top of the last layer with simple syrup. Give the side of the cake a skim coat of frosting making sure not to get any crumbs in the buttercream. Once the first coat of frosting has set put a thick layer of frosting on the side of the cake only. While the frosting is still soft pat the shredded coconut on the side of the cake. Using a pastry bag and star tip pipe a decorative border around the outside of the top of the cake. 

Fill the top of the cake with fresh fruit such as berries, melon and pineapple. Brush with a thin coat of warm seedless raspberry jam if desired and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar just before serving. 10-12 slices. Keeps for 2 days refrigerated. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Because They Said So Sourdough Apple Coconut Cake

Not that anyone needs an excuse to make cake, we're all free to do as we please. But in reality you need to set some boundaries, and yes, you sort of do need a reason to make cake. Even if it's something like, I knew you were coming so I baked a cake. But more often it's somebody's birthday or graduation, anniversary, retirement, wedding; holiday or bake sale, whatever. Or how 'bout the first day of Spring, that's a good one, right? Orrrrrrrr maybe because Sourdough Surprises said so.  

I hope you're tuning in to Sourdough Surprises each month because if not you really are missing out on some outstanding recipes and ideas. Not to mention you get to make cake because they said this month is all about Cakes!! Can you feel my excitement?! When I read it, I felt like they had announced it was my birthday or something. Like everyday in March was going to be my birthday and I could have cake everyday! You can bet as soon as I read it I was making this cake!

I know, I'm trying to get some help.

But in the mean time, cake. 

I went with an apple coconut cake because I've been having a hankering for that combo for a while now. Back in the day we made an apple coconut muffin that I was quite fond of so I know it would make a great cake. But I didn't know it would be this good! So moist and tender and satisfying it didn't even need frosting and you know how much I love to coat everything with glaze.

Most of the recipes I researched like this and this, used oil but I went with a butter base and I never looked back. And I added extra cinnamon 'cause not only does it go with apples but I love it with coconut. Apples, coconut and cinnamon, do I have to spell it out for you!

sourdough apple coconut cake

1 & 1/4 cups butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration)
1/4 cup orange juice 
2 medium apples, finely chopped
1 cup flaked coconut 

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9 inch tube or bundt pan and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, set aside. 

In a stand mixer, cream butter and add sugar. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, scraping down the beater and bowl as necessary. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

Add 1/3 of flour mixture and the starter and beat on medium to blend, scraping down as necessary. Add  another 3rd of the flour and the orange juice and beat to blend. Add the rest of the flour and beat until everything is well mixed. 

By hand fold in apples and coconut making sure everything is well blended. Scrap the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blueberry Tea Biscuits

In case you haven't heard the news, Spring is arriving next week. However, I will not go out and clean the pond, prune the rhododendron or get rid of the mums from last fall, at least not this weekend. I see the daffodils poking out of the ground and the old house around the corner where the entire lawn is covered with pale crocus, but dang if it doesn't still feel like February.  

The local St. Patty's Day parade went off today even with the intermittent  rain, snow, hail and high winds but I was not there to see it. I celebrated in my own way with a big pot of strong tea and a couple of Blueberry Tea Biscuits; yet another recipe to use up sourdough starter.

This recipe was my inspiration, just swapped out a portion of the flour and milk for starter, subbed blueberries for raisins and cut out some of the butter. I used a 1 and 1/2 inch cutter and the biscuits expanded to about 3 inches due to the extra moisture from the starter. They were wonderfully tender and tasty with bursts of blueberry in every bite. Perfect with some butter and jam and thoughts of warmer days ahead.

blueberry tea biscuits

1 & 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur's)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut up
3/4 cup sourdough starter
1 egg (save some for brushing on top)
1/2-3/4 cup fresh organic blueberries
sugar for the top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and sugar.  Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add blueberries and toss gently to distribute.

Add the starter and most of the egg (I saved about a tablespoon to brush on top of the biscuits) and mix gingerly with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Try to handle the dough as little as possible; turn it out onto  a lightly floured surface and roll to about 1 inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter (keep it clean and dip it in flour before each cut) or a small glass and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush the biscuits with the remaining egg and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until biscuits are lightly browned around the edges. Makes 12 medium biscuits. For maximum enjoyment serve warm with butter and jam and a big pot of tea.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cara Cara Orange Currant Scones

Not being Irish I always sort of felt left out on St. Patrick's day. Unfortunately it's no secret that what started out as a celebration of liberation has turned into a revelation in inebriation. But now I can join in in my own sweet way and for me that means scones.

It wouldn't be St. Patty's day without scones. And one of my all time favorite scone combinations is orange currant. Currants seem so traditional and the orange just brings a freshness to the flavor.  I used cara cara oranges this time since that's what I've been buying lately. They're sweet and juicy with a dark orange skin and a gorgeous pink red interior. 

I must say the scones turned out fantastic! Tender and moist- a real melt-in-your-mouth experience. We were pretty much powerless over them and my husband eat 3 in a row without even blinking.

I've adapted this recipe to use up some sourdough starter. If you don't have any laying around just bump the flour up to 1 and 3/4 cups and the ricotta up to 1/2 cup. This recipe is fairly fool proof, so please feel free to experiment. Originally it called for heavy cream but I had ricotta on hand so there you go. Or should I say there you erin go bragh.

orange currant scones

1/4 cup currants
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon orange rind

for the glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange rind

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine orange juice and currants and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl and cut in the cold butter until mixture is crumbly. In a medium bowl whisk together starter, ricotta cheese, and egg. 

Add currants and orange rind to flour mixture and stir just to distribute. Add ricotta cheese mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a even circle roughly 8 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch high.

With a floured 2 inch cutter cut out scones and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

When scones are cool, combine confectioners' sugar and orange juice and spread evenly over tops of scones. Makes about 12 medium scones. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Irish Potatoes, Now with Real Potatoes

I'm all about eating my vegetables, like carrot cake, zucchini bread and, this time of year, Irish potatoes. No, seriously, I do love vegetables and I eat my share but you know I love my sweets. Admittedly these Irish Potatoes are more candy then vegetable but I somehow feel less guilty eating them when I know they have actual potatoes in them. (And they're lower in fat then the ones that are made with cream cheese or peanut butter.) Not that you can tell, the potatoes just lend a good starchy base and a wonderful toothy texture to this cinnamon and coconut bonbon. And they don't need to be refrigerated, whereas the cream cheese versions tend to get mushy at room temperature.

I'm not sure about the rest of the country but Irish potatoes are a tradition around these parts. You start seeing them in stores at the beginning of March. Don't get me wrong, the store bought ones are good, but I like making my own because I can use a bit less sugar and of course the real potato. I've also used this same recipe for chocolate dipped eggs for Easter (egg shaped, of course). Seeing as Easter is so early this year I just might be doing that! 

Although I've given amounts here I must say for the record, there are a couple of variables in this recipe. For instance the size and variety of potato and the brand of coconut. Therefore I encourage you to use your best judgement and adjust the proportions if you need to.

Irish potatoes 

1 medium potato (the starchier the better)
4 cups confectioners' sugar (more or less)
2 1/2 cups shredded coconut (more or less)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cinnamon for rolling

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the potato. Lower the heat and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the spud is fork tender. 

When cool enough to handle (but still warm), peel the potato and mash along with coconut oil, making sure to get it as smooth as possible. Stir in the sugar, coconut and vanilla extract until everything is evenly distributed and well combined. Mixture will be soft, but at this point it should be able to hold it's shape, if not add a bit more coconut and/or sugar. Using a small scoop or tablespoon, portion the mixture into balls and let them chill for about an hour.

Once the candies are firm, pour about 1/4 cup of cinnamon into a medium bowl. Form the chilled balls into potato-like shapes and roll each in cinnamon, adding more cinnamon to the bowl if necessary. Place in mini cupcake papers. Serve immediately or store well wrapped at room temperature. Makes about 24-30 bon bons.