Sunday, January 10, 2010

breakfast cakes and breads

This post is perhaps ill-timed. After all, these items were made in the spirit of holidays, back when cakes and leftover pumpkin pie qualified as acceptable breakfast fare, when it felt perfectly natural—indeed, necessary—to bake things on a whim. Come January, the international month of culinary penitence, it can all seem so foolish. And yet, je ne regrette rien.

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Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Dates and Walnuts

Adapted almost beyond recognition from Bon Appétit

This was my answer to the leftover can of Libby's pumpkin (not to mention the 3 pounds of Medjool dates) sitting in our pantry. If you wanted to push it further into the dessert category, you could add cream-cheese frosting or sweetened whipped cream.

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (you can also roll the pieces into small balls)
Confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour one 10-cup bundt pan or two 9" x 5" loaf pans.

Beat sugars and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Add walnuts and chopped dates.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of pan(s). Turn out onto racks and cool completely.

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Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake
Adapted from Gourmet

I am not going to lie to you: this was a pain to make. The dough is thick and gummy [read: impossible to spread], and at one point I lost all hope of a coherent cranberry ribbon. But all was forgiven in the end. The cake made for beautiful and appropriately festive Christmas morning fare, with a surprising citrusy bite from the cranberries. I loved the method for incorporating the vanilla bean (instant vanilla sugar!) and will be borrowing it for future recipes.

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Position baking rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife. Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.

Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not puree).

Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.

Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining batter and smooth top.

Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up. Coffeecake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

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Persimmon Cake
Adapted from Room for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

Alas, this was more bread than cake, on account of minor overbaking. (We were too busy with Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque sledding antics to heed the oven timer.) But the flavor—and, for M and A, an extra pat of butter—compensated for any dryness. Ultimately, I think I prefer my persimmons in pudding form (specifically, Ana Sortun's persimmon pudding cake with maple sugar crème brûlée), but this is still an excellent way to make use of spare Hachiyas.

1 cup persimmon puree, from about 2 to 3 medium Hachiya persimmons
1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup dried currants, soaked in 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy (optional)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Sweetened whipped cream

Position baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar and spices until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. add the vanilla and bean it the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.

Stir half the persimmon puree into the creamed butter mixture, then thoroughly mix in the dry ingredients. stir in the remaining puree. fold in the walnuts and the currants with their liquor. pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the pan. dust with powdered sugar and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

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