Sunday, November 13, 2011
Food Craft: Candy Cane Coffee Cakes
This is a great breakfast dish for Christmas morning. The best part: you can make it ahead of time and just pop it in the oven to bake while presents are being opened. Another great thing: it looks pretty fancy but is actually quite easy to achieve! My mom used to make a coffee cake similar to this when I was younger, I have no idea where she got the recipe but it was pretty tasty, so here is my version. :)
To make this "candy cane" coffee cake you will need:
For the filling:
2 cups cherries, drained (I used Dark Morello cherries from Trader Joe's. My mom used to use maraschino cherries. Both will do just fine)
3/4 cup dried apricots
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
Drain you cherries well and check for pits, remove any you may find. Place cherries into your food processor along with your dried apricots (I tend to use a kitchen shears to cut my apricots up a little first) and your spices. Pulse together until well combined. It should still have some fruit chunks, not look like jelly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the dough:
1 cup warm milk
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), room temperature (you can microwave to soften, it's ok if some is melted)
4 cups flour (plus a little extra for your counter tops when kneading)
Start by warming your milk. This can be done in a microwave or in a small saucepan on your stove top. It should be around 108-110 degrees, too hot and it will kill your yeast (not a yummy thing). Put your milk, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl (or stand mixer) and mix it together a little bit, let stand for about 5 minutes.
Next, add in your butter and egg, plus one cup of your flour. Mix this together until your egg and any butter lumps are worked into the dough (sometimes I just melt all of my butter to avoid the lumps altogether). Then add in the rest of your flour and mix until it has come together. Remove onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a couple minutes, if your dough is too sticky you can add a bit more flour.
Place dough into a greased bowl and cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size. Punch down, and allow to rise another 30 minutes before rolling.
Separate your dough into 2 pieces (this makes 2 coffee cakes, you can make one larger one, but it is easier to move them on and off pans, etc. if you make 2 smaller cakes). On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into a rectangle (or close to it, mine are always just long ovals) about 1/2" to 1/4" thick. Then, using a clean kitchen shears, cut strips into each side about 1/3 of the way into the dough. You will want to make sure each side has the same number of strips. Your dough will look a bit like this:
You will spoon half of your cherry/apricot filling onto the center of each coffee cake and spread evenly. Now, "braid" your dough closed. Start at one end and fold one strip over the filling, followed by a strip from the opposite side over the center and continue until you have your braided "log" of dough. Then, to make the candy cane shape, arrange your coffee cake on a sheet pan and gently pull and turn the dough to curve one end. You will have something like this:
You may now cover well and refrigerate until baking Christmas morning, or preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.
I typically rub a little butter over the top of my coffee cakes as soon as they come out of the oven, but it is not needed.
Then, mix up a simple glaze of confectioner's sugar and water (about 1/2 cup powdered sugar to 1 Tablespoon water) and drizzle this over the top of your warm cakes. Serve warm or cold, this makes a great breakfast or afternoon snack :)