Monday, February 24, 2014

The 'We knead to bake' project 2014 - Breton Butter Cake


Its the 24th of the month again, which means that its time for the 'We knead to bake' post. Aparna had given the group the choice to bake whatever we chose to and I turned to Food52 for inspiration. Zeroed in on a Hazelnut and cherry bread and ordered a banetton and some other things I'd been saving up for, from their Provisions store. (I love their curated set of products. Its like all the goodies you want in one spot without having to sift through hundreds of other similar products.).


Provisions adds these gorgeous stamped postcards for sending to friends. the only problem is that
they're so gorgeous, that I tend to collect & HOARD them!

I can't tell you how much I've learned from Food52. Recipes are just one part of it. The amount of information and details about various cuisines, techniques & ingredients, its a gold mine. Getting back to the topic on hand, the copy of Amanda Hesser's book 'Cooking for Mr. Latte' that I ordered came with this photocopied sheet of paper attached (with a new & improved version of a recipe in the book). And on the other side of the sheet of paper.. there it was, The perfect recipe for what I had been seeking all along - a recipe for Breton Butter cake. (& yes, there were bells chiming & little cherubs sprinkling rose petals and all that,  in my head).


Breton Butter cake, also known as Kouign - Amann, (the name is derived from the Breton words for cake (Kouign) & butter (amann)) is a flaky, crusty puff pastry like dessert. A specialty from the Brittany region in Western France, Its simple and elegant and  requires no dressing up whatsoever, just a hot cup of coffee. Dessert is just a suggestion here. It makes for a fabulous decadent breakfast with your first cup of coffee in the morning as well. Take my word for it, I've been doing that for the past couple of days!

I made 3 of these over the past week, and they're all gone. I goofed up TWICE,  got so engrossed in rolling out the buttered dough that I realized that I completely forgot to add the sugar between the layers. Rolling out a couple more layers to incorporate the sugar resulted in the layers (esp. in the center of the cake) not puffing up well. I finally got it right the third time. The cakes still retain that rich yeasty flavor, so none of them went waste.

This recipe is by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton and is published in  The Essential New York times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser.



Breton Butter Cake (From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, Page 777)

You need:

1 1/8 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon orange flower water, more for sprinkling
1 1/3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (~ 185 gms.)
2 tablespoons cake flour
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, preferably French, more for buttering bowl (I used the regular organic variety)
3/4 cup sugar, more for plate and top of cake
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter.

Add the yeast to  2/3 cup of water and a pinch of sugar. Allow the yeast to bloom and bubble up.
Combine the flours, salt and the yeast mixture in a large bowl. Stir to combine and knead into a smooth ball. Transfer on to a bowl coated well with butter, Cover with a plastic wrap and allow to rise to double the initial volume (~ 40 min - 1 hour). Place the dough in the refrigerator to firm up.

Cut up and pound the chilled butter into a 5 inch square. You can either do this on a lightly floured surface or simply place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Allow the sheet of butter to come up to almost room temperature (it should have the consistency of icing)

 Remove the dough from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface roll it out into a 10 inch disk. Place the slab of butter in the center of the dough and fold over the edges to cover the butter like an envelope.


Quickly roll out the dough into a 24 inch by 12 inch sheet.  brush off any excess flour and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar over the dough and fold the dough into thirds (as if folding a business letter)

I had an enthusiastic volunteer to help me sprinkle the sugar - my 4 yr. old!

Turn around 90 degrees, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar and roll out the rectangle into a 24 x 12 sheet again. Fold into thirds and repeat the process twice more. If the dough sticks to the surface, scrape it off and continue. You do not want to add any more flour.

 Cut out a parchment paper to fit around a 9 inch pie tin. Lightly grease the pie tin so that the parchment paper sticks to the bottom. Butter the parchment paper evenly on the bottom and the sides of the pan. Sprinkle sugar to evenly coat over the butter. (The original recipe calls for a glass pie pan in which case the parchment paper is not required, just the butter & sugar). Place the dough in the pie plate tucking in the corners underneath. Allow to rise until puffy (~ 60 - 90 minutes).


Preheat the oven to 425 F. Combine the melted butter with about a teaspoon of the orange blossom water. Brush evenly over the risen dough. Sprinkle generously with sugar. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the top turns a golden brown. Remove from the oven,  allow to cool slightly. Serve warm with a cup of coffee. (~8 servings)



Bon Appetit!
This post is being Yeast spotted.


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