Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD -- Beatrice, I love you!!

After a couple of recent failures, I was ready for a success. When I saw the recipe for the week was a Beatrice Ojakangas bread, I knew I was on solid ground. I am a big Beatrice fan! I own two of her whole grain bread books and use them constantly. I have come to trust Beatrice on every recipe. She has never lead me astray. Three smaller sizes of this same bread are in her book "Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand," a book a heartily recommend.

I was really ready to try her Finnish Pulla, since I grew up with Finnish descendants in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and knew they baked somewhat differently that those of us of German descent. I recognized from reading the recipe that cardamon was going to make this coffee bread distinctive, and I wasn't wrong.

The braid with raisins
Half the dough before adding sugar mixture
The recipe looked like it would make a big ring, so I decided to make two breads. After researching Finnish Pulla on the Internet, I saw that some people added cinnamon and sugar, others raisins. So I did both. To  half of the dough, I added plumped raisins, then braided the dough into one long loaf. Following Beatrice's suggestion, I used the egg wash, almonds and sparkling sugar.

I rolled out the other half of the dough, slattered butter on a 12 by 18 inch rectangle, then rolled up the dough, and cut it into 12 cinnamon rolls. I kept the filling rather tame not wanting to overpower the cardamon. I used a Christmas tree shaped pan, and after baking the rolls, used a simple confectioners' sugar glaze and some Christmas sprinkles to decorate the tree. The tree will go in the freezer for Christmas morning.
The cinnamon roll tree ready for freezing
The baked braid with almonds and sugar

I waited a day before sampling the first pulla, and wish I hadn't. Beatrice is right in that the loaf goes stale rather quickly. But with some butter on the bread and after warming it a wee bit in the toaster, the taste was delicious. I will make this again!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TWD -- The good, the bad and the ugly

As you can see by the headline, I didn't have a great experience with the Gingerbread Baby Cakes. Not owning the appropriate pans (neither the small cake pans nor the 10-inch pan) and, after reading the pre-deadline comments, I decided to try a Bundt pan instead. Big mistake. I will be curious to see if others were successful using a Bundt pan.

First, the good. The gingerbread had a wonderful taste. All those flavors mixed together (the pepper, the espresso, the ginger, the molasses, the chocolate). The combination of all these was nothing short of wonderful.

Next, the bad. The cake tested done after 50 minutes. There wasn't a crumb left on the straw that I inserted in the cake. Just for good measure, I gave the cake another five minutes. After letting the cake cool, I wrapped it in foil and froze it, intending to take it to a dinner party four days later. On the day of the party, I removed the cake from the freezer, gave it plenty of time to thaw, then decided to slice into it, just to make sure all was well.

Alarm bells went off when it took real muscle to slice through the cake. It was hard as a rock in the upper portion of the cake. Soldiering on, I kept sawing away until I got to the bottom third of the cake, and then I felt real disaster striking. The lower part of the cake was squishy and fudgy, a sure sign the cake didn't get done all the way through. I sliced off a piece just so I could taste it, and as mentioned above, the cake tasted wonderful. But, there was no way I could take it to a party. Luckily I had some cookies in the freezer I could thaw.

Notice the undercooked darker portion, noticeable on left
Now, the ugly. The worst part of the disaster was about one-fourth of the cake stuck to the pan, even though I had scrupulously greased and floured it. I was able to stick the piece back on the cake, but the appearance wasn't the best.

There is a happy ending to this story, however. After letting the cake age two days tightly wrapped in foil, the top part of the cake softened considerably and my husband and I will be able to eat it, after cutting off the undercooked bottom portion.