Wednesday. Day Three.
Mind you, I know you are getting this blog on a Monday but it was last Wednesday when I baked up the following treats. I tend toward German treats because my daughter is half German though ironically, I’ve yet to figure out how to make most of them gluten free.
Since it’s Wednesday and I was missing Europe and all that it has to offer, I decided to bake European treats today again, using up what I have in my pantry. Go emergency runs to the grocery store for this frugal baker.
Armed with the overnight sponge I set about baking an Austrian/German treat called a Kugelhopf. Crammed with the whiskey-soaked dried cranberries, the bunt pan was lined with butter and slivered almonds. The other bread I tackled with a cardamom-infused Swedish bread studded with lovely dried apricots I found in my baking supplies. This took care of the European leg of my baking journey.
I should mention that one of the motivating ingredients for this foray into five days of baking was a large plastic container of frozen milk. We had a gallon of milk that was a bit past its prime so I froze it for use in baking. Once defrosted, I found it useful in some of the breads I tackled.
By baking all week I am able to use up nearly all the past-its-prime milk. The rest I refroze for use at a later time. Past it’s prime milk is a great frugal ingredient. I never toss old milk, I always freeze it for use in baked goods or even making my signature cheese sauce.
Kugelhopf German Baked Coffee Cake
Sponge: 2/3 cup bread flour (I’ve used all-purpose in a pinch) mixed with a teaspoon of active dry yeast and 6 tablespoons room temperature milk (past its prime milk works fine here). Mix well and place in the fridge overnight.
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (dates, apricots, raisons, currents, cranberries, etc.) soaked in 1/4 rum, whisky, brandy or other hard liquor. Let soak at room temperature overnight.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 to 8 tablespoons sugar (depends if you used regular or sour milk, use more sugar if you use soured milk)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 and 1/2 tablespoons instant, dry yeast
1 cup cold milk (soured is fine)
5 large eggs, cold
8 ounces cold butter
For the mold: 2 tablespoons very soft butter and 1/2 cup sliced nuts (I use almonds but walnuts or pecans would work equally well)
The night before: Make the sponge and the filling (see above). The day of, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, milk, eggs and sponge in a large bowl. A kitchen stand mixer works best for this hefty dough. Using a dough hook (or your muscle and determination) mix slowly for a couple of minutes and then faster for another five or so until the dough comes together. If mixing by hand, use a large wooden spoon and your resolve. Once the dough is coming together, add in the butter in a couple of chunks, mixing well to incorporate. Add the boozy dried fruit, mixing well.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for at least an hour, longer if the temperature is cool the day you bake this treat.
To bake, smear the really soft butter into a bunt pan and sprinkle with the nuts. Once the dough is doubled in size, carefully turn the dough onto a floured board and shape into a rough log. Place the dough in the bunt pan and cover with more plastic. Allow the dough to rise another two hours or so, until the dough just starts to peek over the rim of the bunt pan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 375-deg F for about 35 minutes, until a thin knife is inserted into the bread and comes out clean. Turn off the oven and allow to sit in the oven another five to ten minutes. Wait until completely cool until unmolding onto a cooling rack or decorative platter. Nuts will scatter everywhere so just stick them back on the loaf and enjoy.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Swedish Cardamom Bread
Note: This bread was inspired by an old recipe I found in my treasured vintage Betty Crocker cookbook series. I updated it with apricots but you could use easily use another spice such as cinnamon and a variety of dried fruit. Again, use what you have.
2 tablespoons active, dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk (sour is fine here again but increase the sugar by a couple of tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 sticks, 24 ounces, butter
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping tablespoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup finely diced apricots or other dried fruit
1 egg white, beaten
Whisk the warm water and yeast together and still until dissolved. Add the warmed milk with 1/2 cup sugar, salt and butter. Mix well and let cool until room temperature. Place mixture in a stand mixer using a dough hook (or use a wooden spoon and even more determination), add 3 cups of the flour, eggs, spices and fruit. Beat until smooth, adding in one cup of flour at time until the dough is smooth and easily shaped into a ball. Place in greased bowl and smooth top with shortening. Let rise until doubled in bulk (cover with damp towel), 90 minutes to 2 hours. Punch dough down, remove from the bowl. Place on a floured surface and roll into a log shape. Twist that place on greased cookie sheet. Allow to rise once more until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes. Brush with egg white (and sugar if desired) and bake in a preheated (350-deg F) oven for about 35 minute until a thin knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.
This bread is ideal sliced with your afternoon tea. Above all, we could use a little civility these days, no?