You know one quarter of the year is gone when the flyer packet hanging on the door is blocked with lawn furniture, picnic coolers and grillers’ specials.
The way the wind’s been whistling this past week I’m not exactly ready to stretch out on a chaise on the back deck, but sweet breads and fluffy cakes are definitely on my mind.
Braided Citrus Honey Bread
Warm up any weekend morning from the inside out with this traditional spring recipe. If yeast is your nemesis this is the one that will make you a master — relatively easy but chockfull of flavour. All you really need is patience.
This beautiful loaf will easily make eight servings, but is the absolute bomb for making bread pudding.
1/2 cup warm water
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. salt
grated zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon
5-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (maybe a little more)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. cold water
1 tbsp. honey
Whisk together water and sugar until sugar is dissolved, then stir in the yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes, until it is thick and frothy.
Combine milk, honey, butter, salt, orange and lemon zest and microwave on high until steaming hot and butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm.
Whisk together eggs, yeast mixture and milk mixture. Sift together flour and baking powder and add slowly to the wet ingredients, stirring all the time, until a soft dough forms — you aren’t looking for a smooth or satiny product at this step. Place in a large greased bowl and cover tightly.
Allow to rise in a warm place for two hours.
Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for seven or eight minutes — now you want smooth, lump-free and satiny. You may need to add a little flour, but don’t be tempted to dump in a pile — work the dough with your hands gently and the stickiness will start to disappear. If it doesn’t you need a little more flour. Let dough rest for 15 minutes.
Divide into three equal portions and roll each into an 18-inch length.
Pinch the ends together and braid as you would hair but not too tightly. Fold under both ends and push them beneath the braid. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and coat fairly liberally with non-stick cooking spray. You could brush it with oil if you prefer, of course. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
For the egg wash, whisk together egg yolk, water and honey. Brush braid thoroughly. Bake at 375 F until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving.
Mocha Chiffon Cake
Chiffon cakes are traditionally served with fresh berries and whipped cream, but just because the berries aren’t ready yet doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the airy freshness of this springy cake. Slice into eight really generous or 12 more reasonable dessert servings.
6 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cold strong coffee
1 tbsp. good-quality vanilla
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 oz. (baking squares) grated semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cocoa
2 tsp. good quality vanilla
Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. When you lift out the beater and the peak stays upright without flopping over, the egg whites are ready.
If you go too far the mixture will crack on the surface and start to look dry. If that happens you can’t come back — starting again is your only option, I’m afraid.
In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and oil until thickened and lighter yellow in colour — about five minutes.
Stir in coffee and vanilla.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and add a little of the dry ingredients at a time to egg yolk mixture, stirring until just combined.
Fold in the egg whites and grated chocolate. Work the batter only until there are no streaks of white — don’t overmix or it will deflate and the cake won’t be as light.
Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan and bake at 325 F 60 for minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Remove pan and allow to cool upside down on a rack until it is at room temperature.
Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge, flexing the blade towards the pan rather than the cake. Push the knife gently against the tube and slide it around in the same way.
Lift out the cake and slide the knife underneath it, gently moving back and forth all the way around until it releases from the pan.
For the topping, stir together all ingredients until just mixed and refrigerate at least an hour.
Chilling the beaters will also help here. Beat on high until soft peaks form and mixture is stiff enough to spread.
Cover the cake with whipped mixture or serve on top in dollops. Decorate — although it really doesn’t need any help in this regard — with more grated chocolate if you like.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s,
NL, A1E 4N1.