Monday, January 16, 2012

Blackberry Sage Coffee Cake

You know what the perfect accompaniment to a super cold Boston day is?  A good friend, a hot cup of tea, and a piece of this coffee cake.  Particularly if you've spent the afternoon baking it together.

I love the smell and flavor of sage.  It's one of those herbs I never really ate before, for some reason.  It wasn't until I tried Republic of Tea's Blackberry Sage tea that I even knew what it tasted like.  And after that?  I was hooked.

I think sage is a lovely complement to blackberries, and so when my friend Kate showed up at my door with a bag of fresh blackberries, ready for an adventure in gluten-free baking, we decided we'd try our hand at inventing a blackberry coffee cake.  And all it took for her was one whiff of my jar of ground sage to convince her that it needed to be part of our recipe. 

So we pulled out my trusted copy of Ruhlman's Ratio and got to work using the ratio for sponge cake. 1:1:1:1 (fat : egg : flour : sugar).  "Should we substitute applesauce for part of the fat?" I asked Kate, holding a stick of butter.  "Yes," she said, nodding.  "Then we can eat more of it and not feel guilty."

Great minds think alike.

Trust me, you'll be glad you built in a guilt-free way to eat more of this cake.  It is heavenly!  The only thing I might change is to chop the blackberries or add more of them so they were more evenly dispersed throughout the cake.  But the flavor was still wonderful, the soft of sage spreading across my tongue - but not overpowering it - and the blackberries melting in my mouth.

Divine.  You won't be sorry, trust me. (Unless you hate sage. Then you might be sorry.)

Blackberry Sage Coffee Cake
Makes a 9x13 coffee cake

For cake:
4 oz. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
4 oz. smooth applesauce
8 oz. white sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2.5 oz. sorghum flour
2.5 oz. brown rice flour
3 oz. tapioca starch
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
2 - 3 tsp. ground sage (depending on how strong you want the flavor to be)
1 cup blackberries, chopped into small pieces if desired

For topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup brown rice flour
2 tbsp. melted Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp. ground sage

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray a cake pan with cooking spray.

Cream together the butter, applesauce, and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate, then the vanilla and lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.  Add bit by bit to the wet ingredients, mixing well.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth with a spatula.  Press the blackberries into the dough, spacing evenly.  You can leave them whole, or cut them into smaller pieces for more even consistency.

Place in the oven.  Assemble the crumble topping.  After 20 minutes of baking, as quickly as you can, open the oven and sprinkle the crumble topping over the cake as evenly as possible. Continue to bake for anohter 15 - 30 minutes, or just until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool completely before serving.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cream Cheese Stollen

You probably didn't think this was possible. Gluten- and dairy-free cream cheese stollen. But, friends. It is.

My mom has made this (well, a glutenful version) every Hannukah for as long as I can remember. And up until 4 years ago, I joined the rest of my family in stuffing myself to the point of immobility with it the night of our Hannukah party. There was certainly enough of it to be had - I remember one year, she made something like 16 of them. In one day. And that was the same morning that she made about a dozen loaves of challah bread. The woman is a machine.

This year, I was lucky enough to be home for our Hannukah party (I've missed it a few times over the last several years because I was either out of the country or at least out of St. Louis when Hannukah fell). The house smelled heavenly. It smelled heavenly because of a bunch of food I couldn't eat. It was torturous to watch everyone slather jam or butter onto thick slices of soft challah, and to watch everyone wander into the kitchen to cut themselves piece after piece of cream cheese stollen. I never, ever cheat and eat gluten. But I have to be honest -- my mom's challah and cream cheese stollen are two of the things that tempt me the most.

The funny thing is, my mom is gluten-free, too - although she isn't quite as sensitive as I am to it. Yet she still makes these treats for the Hannukah party the way she always has, with wheat flour. I asked her at the party if she had ever tried to make a gluten-free version of the cream cheese stollen. She said she hadn't. And I vowed in that moment that someday very soon, a gluten-free version would exist.

And now it does, and it rocks. I'm actually a little surprised myself at how well this turned out. Even the chef has doubts sometimes - I mean, it is dairy-free cream cheese and gluten-free dough that I couldn't knead like the original recipe calls for. How close could it really get to the original? But it turned out beautifully - the dough wasn't difficult to work with at all, and it all baked up into a wonderfully soft and flaky-on-top pastry. The smooth cream cheese filling is the complement to the slightly sweet and yeasty bread, and the end product is a delightful dessert that is sweet (but not too sweet) and melts in your mouth.

Granted, it's been many years since I tasted my mom's cream cheese stollen. But this is seriously delicious. I brought it to work, and my co-workers proclaimed it to be "out-of-this-world good." And I'd have to agree.

Cream Cheese Stollen
Makes 1 Stollen
*You can double this recipe very easily. 

For the dough:
1/4 cup margarine or butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. vanilla coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 egg
1/4 cup warm water
2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup brown rice flour (plus another 1/4 - 1/2 cup for when you roll it out later)
1/2 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato or arrowroot starch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. xanthan gum

For the cream cheese filling:
12 oz. gluten-free and vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
dash salt

For the glaze:
1.5 tsp. boiling water
3/4 - 1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp. lemon juice

Melt margarine or butter.  Add sugar, salt and coconut milk.  Continue heating until lukewarm. 

In a separate bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water until foamy.  Stir in milk mixture, egg and half of the flour, beat until smooth.  Stir in remaining batter to make a stiff batter. Stir well, put into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in warm place for about a half an hour or until roughly doubled in size. 

In the meantime, make the cream cheese filling by beating together all of the ingredients until it is very smooth. Set aside.

Punch down dough, then turn out onto a greased piece of parchment paper (make it easy on yourself and do this step on the surface you're actually going to bake the stollen on - it's hard to transfer to a new surface without breaking it once it's formed!). Sprinkle liberally with brown rice flour, and then use your hands to form the dough into a rectangular shape (about 9” by 13”).  Brush with beaten egg, spread on the cream cheese filling, and roll in from each side, meeting in the center. (Tip: take a thin cutting board and use it to roll each side in - it will help keep it from falling apart.). If you didn't do this on a grease baking sheet, transfer it now to one, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then cut diagonal slits along the sides, brush with egg, and let rise for another half an hour.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until browned. If you have the instant read thermometer, you can again test it for doneness, by poking it into a non cheesy section to see if the temperature is anywhere between 190 degrees and 210 degrees.

Allow the stollen to cool slightly on a cooling rack, and then spoon on the glaze.  After glaze has set and stollen is completely cool, you can wrap tightly in saran wrap. If you store in the fridge, be sure to warm it up for 10 - 15 seconds in the microwave before serving.

To make glaze: Add boiling water and lemon juice slowly to confectioner’s sugar and mix thoroughly.  If you don’t use this mixture pretty quickly, it will thicken too much, so use within 5 minutes of making it.