Orange Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake

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This is exactly the kind of one layer cake that is simple enough to make on a Monday night and pack in your lunch bag, yet refined enough to bring to someone on their birthday. The cake itself is pulled straight from the Cake Bible, and Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipes never disappoint. The batter is rich with butter and thick with sour cream, while the flavourful additions of orange zest and poppy seed make it a bright and refreshing winter treat. A quick icing sugar frosting tempered with sour cream makes a superb topping, but a classic glaze or even a dollop of whipping cream would also make delectable accompaniments.

 Orange Poppy Seed Cake
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum, “Sour Cream Butter Cake”, The Cake Bible

Ingredients:

2 cups sifted cake and pastry flour (200g)
1 cup granulated white sugar (200g)
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup full fat sour cream (5.5 oz)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (6 oz)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest (from 1 large orange)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Method: 

A few hours before you are ready to bake, remove the sour cream and the eggs from the fridge and allow them to warm to room temperature. Just before you begin, pull the butter from the fridge, cut it into small pieces, and let it sit at room temperature until it has softened and become pliable.

As the butter begins to soften, preheat the oven to 350° F.

Butter a 9 inch spring form pan with a removable bottom. Cut a 9 inch circle of parchment paper, then place it in the bottom of the pan and butter the top of the parchment as well.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and 1/4 of the sour cream.

To the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients, add the softened butter and the remaining sour cream. Stir on the lowest setting until the ingredients are moistened, approximately 30-60 seconds. When there are no streaks of flour remaining, increase the speed to medium (speed 3-4 on a Kitchen Aid mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to create sufficient structure and incorporate air. Be careful not to over beat the batter – this will result in a tough cake with a tight crumb. Stop and scrape the bowl well. Add the egg mixture in three batches, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.  Scrape the bowl at each addition to ensure that all the ingredients are properly combined. Add the orange zest and poppy seeds, and stir on the lowest setting just until the ingredients are well combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top evenly with the back of a spoon. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 32-36 minutes or until the middle of the cake springs back when gently touched, or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake should only begin to pull away from the sides of the pan upon removal from the oven. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool and after ten minutes, remove the outside ring. Let the cake cool completely to room temperature before inverting, carefully removing the bottom of the pan and peeling away the remaining parchment paper.

Store the cake at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Quick n’ Creamy Orange Frosting

Note: This recipe will make about twice as much icing as needed for this cake, the remaining half may be refrigerated for up to one week. If you would like to reduce the recipe by half, you can make it using a hand beater and a small bowl, but the final product may not be as smooth.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (4oz)
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
Pinch of salt
4 cups sifted icing sugar (500g)
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest (from 1 large orange)

Method:

Beat together the softened butter, sour cream, salt and vanilla extract on medium-high speed for several minutes until well blended. The mixture will smooth out further with the addition of sugar.

Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating for 30-60 seconds on medium-high speed after each addition. When all the sugar has been added, beat the frosting for 1-2 minutes more until it is very smooth and slightly fluffy. The more patience you have incorporating the sugar gradually and beating it well, the smoother your icing will be. Lastly, mix in the orange zest on low speed until it is evenly distributed.

Use the frosting immediately or refrigerate it for up to one week. Bring to room temperature and stir or beat briefly before using from the fridge.

100% Kamut Shortbread Cookies

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100% Kamut (Khorasan) Shortbread Cookies

What better way to experience the marvelously rich, buttery aroma of organic Kamut flour than in a classic shortbread cookie. Kamut flour is an ancient ancestor of our modern wheat, containing 20-40% more protein and a heck of a lot more flavour. After experimenting with both spelt and Kamut flour, I found that it is necessary to adjust the classic ratio of butter and flour when using high absorption flours to make shortbread. An additional quarter cup of flour per cup is sufficient to provide structure without yielding a dry cookie. The final result is a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread with an entirely new flavour and texture to savour.

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 cups sifted Kamut flour (10.5oz)
1 cup unsalted butter, preferably cultured (8oz)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar (100g)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method: 

Remove the butter from the fridge and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Let the cubes warm at room temperature until they are pliable but still cool to the touch.

Butter a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Use a whisk to ‘fluff’ or slightly aerate the flour.

Place the butter in the bottom of a medium mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat the butter for approximately 1 minute on medium speed until it is smooth and slightly fluffy. Scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl to ensure that all the sugar is incorporated.

Dump the flour into the bowl with the butter. Using a large wooden spoon or a stiff spatula, gently stir the ingredients until no streaks of flour or butter remain. The dough will be crumbly, and will gather in clumps rather than form a ball of dough.

Carefully turn out the clumps into the center of the prepared tart pan. Spread the dough so that it is evenly dispersed and press it down with your fingertips, gently but firmly. Use a piece of plastic wrap to prevent the dough from sticking to your finger tips.

Place the pan on a small baking tray, and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the fridge and use a small knife to cut the dough into 12 wedges. Return the tray to the fridge for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Remove the tray from the fridge. Sprinkle a thin layer of granulated sugar over top the chilled dough.

Bake the pan on the tray in the preheated oven for 60-65 minutes, or until the top of the dough is golden brown with darker brown edges.

After the tray is removed from the oven, wait at least 15 minutes for the pan to cool slightly then carefully cut along the lines that separate the cookies with a sharp knife. Lift the pan off the tray and let the cookies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

The cookies will be delicate, so handle and store with care. They will keep for one week in an airtight container.

Mastering the Basics: Let’s Get Ready to Crumble

Humble crumble, one of the baker’s quickest and most versatile toppings for many different kinds of muffins, cakes, and pies. Yet like anything else in the baking world, sometimes the simplest steps can go disappointingly awry. A buttery crumb topping can easily melt into a cake when it hits the heat of an oven, and instead of a crunchy top layer the result is a compromised or soggy texture in the final product. The solution is to freeze the crumble, and use it right from the freezer, so that the crumbs have time to bake and form structure before the butter melts. It is the same concept that helps sugar cookies and pie crusts hold their shape during baking: freeze that butter.

Basic crumble is a simple combination of flour, sugar, salt, and butter. To keep it interesting, spices may be added, most often cinnamon because of its versatility, as well as ground nuts or oats.

There are various means of incorporating the butter into the flour/sugar blend when making crumble. Some methods include working in cold cubed butter, stirring in melted butter, and even creaming the butter and sugar together first before adding a measure of flour. In our experience, the quickest and crunchiest crumb results from melted butter and the help of a freezer. Plus, you have the choice of browning the butter beforehand for additional flavour and bonus chef points.

Follow this recipe for perfect, crunchy crumble every time.

Baker’s Note: If you decide use brown butter you will need to begin with at least 5 ½ ounces, as the butter will reduce by roughly 25% during the browning process. Measure out 1/2 cup of the liquid brown butter and continue with the recipe as directed.

1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour (188g)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Use your fingers to break up any large chunks of brown sugar.
  2. Melt the butter, whisk in the vanilla extract and let cool slightly.
  3. Stir the butter into the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time to disperse evenly. Pour the butter over dry spots in the bowl and use a fork to toss, until all the liquid is absorbed and you have a nice blend of large and small clumps.
  4. Spread out on a large tray to avoid clumping, and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Spoon the frozen crumble into a large plastic freezer bag and store until ready to use.

This recipe makes enough topping to easily cover a dozen muffins or a large pie, with some left over for another use. We scattered the crumble atop a giant butternut squash coffee cake, which was fudgy, flavourful, and almost ready to be unveiled.