Gusto's Pasta con le Sarde
Regina Schrambling's Edamame and Rice Salad with Fines Herbes Vinaigrette

Donna Deane's Overnight Coffeecake

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Today in reader-tested recipes, we have Sara, who conquers her fear of yeast! And comes away blessed with not one, but two 10-inch-round horseshoe-shaped, meringue-filled coffeecakes. (Donna Deane says they freeze well, thank heaven.)

"I had no idea what to expect with this recipe. For one thing, I have to admit to being a bit of a novice with yeast - I was discouraged once many years ago and have been slightly afraid of going back to it. I'm happy to report, though, that it seems to have worked out this time. The dough is sweet and a bit flaky, moist and not too doughy.

The cake's filling is unadulterated meringue, which is popping out of the cake's slits. It very much looks like meringue on the top of the cake, but on the inside, all those egg whites were absorbed into the dough and left the rolled layers very moist and lined with cinnamon and chopped hazelnuts. The hazelnuts add a nice flavor and crunch to the soft cake, and balance the sweetness well.

Two general notes: First, this dough doesn't rise the way bread dough does (at least it didn't for me); the recipe says it should double in size after it's rolled up, but I found that the shaped dough just became more schlumpy as it sat. Also, even after letting the refrigerated dough sit for a while, it was pretty tough to pry out of its bowl. It softened up easily and nicely (and rolled out evenly), but was definitely stubborn at first. Second, I think I overfilled these cakes a bit. Even though I didn't think there would be enough meringue to go around, there was possibly a bit too much, so don't be afraid to be conservative with the filling."

Could you, I wonder, turn that leftover meringue into drop cookies? Or a nutty pavlova? Oh, the possibilities.

Overnight Coffeecake
Serves 20 (8 to 10 per cake)

1 cup milk, divided
2 (1/4 ounce each) envelopes dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, cut up
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg yolk, divided
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted hazelnuts, divided
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon dark rum (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a small saucepan, heat three-fourths cup milk to scalding. Remove from the heat and let cool to warm.

2. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, one-fourth cup sugar and the salt. Work the butter in by hand or with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

4. Combine 3 lightly beaten egg yolks, the warm milk and the yeast mixture. Add to the flour mixture and beat at medium speed until completely blended and a soft dough forms, about one minute.

5. Divide the dough into two parts and shape each into a ball. Put each into a lightly buttered bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator; let it stand 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

7. While the dough is standing, beat the egg whites until light and foamy. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat in 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. Fold in 1 cup of the chopped toasted hazelnuts.

8. Take one of the dough balls, shape it into an oval and, on a lightly floured board, roll it out to form a 10- by 18-inch rectangle.

9. Spread half of the meringue mixture onto the rolled-out dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll up the dough lengthwise jellyroll style. Pinch the ends of the roll to seal.

10. Gently lift the roll onto a greased large baking sheet, seam side down, and form it into a horseshoe shape. Cut slashes halfway through dough at 2-inch intervals.

11. Repeat the process with the remaining half of the dough.

12. Invert a large bowl over each of the coffeecakes. Set aside to rise about 45 minutes or until doubled.

13. Lightly beat 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons milk. Brush each of the coffeecakes with egg wash, brushing the entire surface of the dough, but do not brush the meringue filling that shows.

14. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown, turning the baking sheet halfway through. Cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before glazing.

15. For the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, the remaining 2 tablespoons milk, the rum, if using, and the vanilla. Drizzle it over the coffeecakes. Sprinkle the cakes with the remaining one-half cup of chopped nuts.

Variations:

Orange:
Follow the master recipe, stirring 2 teaspoons grated orange peel into the filling. Replace 1 cup of the hazelnuts with toasted slivered almonds. For the glaze, substitute 2 tablespoons orange juice for the milk and stir in 1 teaspoon grated orange peel. After glazing, warm the coffeecakes and sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel over the top of each. Omit the nuts on top.

Pecan:
Follow the master recipe, replacing hazelnuts with toasted pecans in the filling. For the glaze, heat one-fourth cup butter over low heat until nut-brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Combine three-fourths cup powdered sugar, one-fourth cup firmly packed light brown sugar, the browned butter, 2 tablespoons milk, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and one-fourth teaspoon vanilla. Drizzle the glaze over warm coffeecakes, warming it in the microwave if necessary to maintain drizzling consistency. Sprinkle
with one-fourth cup toasted pecan pieces.

Chocolate:
Follow the master recipe, stirring one-fourth cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate into the filling along with chopped hazelnuts. Omit cinnamon. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts and one-fourth cup chopped chocolate over the warm glazed coffeecakes.

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