Monday, November 2, 2009



One thing I truly miss living where I live is getting together with friends for cake and coffee on a lazy afternoon, or picnics out in green fields under sunny skies, dog racing happily around us in circles, or a Sunday brunch, table groaning under plates of muffins, cinnamon-scented coffee cakes, fresh-from-the-bakery croissants and pains aux chocolat. The French are always so busy on Saturdays and Sundays, joining family for lunch or dashing off to the beach, le weekend, never time for a casual, impromptu get-together with friends, always organized weeks in advance. Pencil us in for 3 weeks from now and hope nothing else comes up.

I love weekends, lazy, slow weekends. What shall we do this weekend to improve our Modern Lifestyle, JP asks à la Wallace of Wallace & Gromit? A little marketing and a great meal? Home improvements like buying lightbulbs (finally), sewing on missing buttons or repotting the plants? A trip to the hardware store after the market then off to buy books, maybe a wine-buying trip out at the vignobles or grab Marty, jump in the car and off for a forest adventure? We never plan anything in advance, preferring to wait to see what the weather and the mood will be like, yet we would never consider a quick phone call to friends. No one would be free. Picnics and hikes and brunches or lunches are scheduled ahead of time, squeezed in between those family visits or trips to the country house. We are truly the Odd Couple (le couple bizarre?): no family, no plans, no skiing holidays or trips to the beach, no golfing afternoon with the buddies, weekends at La Baule or boating with the brother-in-law. Just us two, alone together, waking up on weekend mornings with no plans, free as the wind, pottering around the garage (his Lambretta) or the kitchen (cookies today or a cake?), a rugby match on tv, strolling through town hand-in-hand, planting basil and thyme and mint on the balcony outside the kitchen, pizza and a movie. Not so very French after all.

Weekends of my childhood left us completely free. No plans, nothing organized, no family outings or picnics, no jumping in the car to lunch at Grandma’s (too far). Tv, kickball in the street or biking around the block with the other kids or pile in the car to head up to the high school swimming pool, all very last minute. Barbies and Matchbox cars, throwing hoops in the driveway or board games inside, we were left to our own devices, our time was our own. And our weekends, except for the occasional Lox and Bagel Sunday, were grab-what-you-want breakfasts, Pop Tarts or sweet cereal, glasses of chocolate milk, waffles popped into the toaster. Maybe Andrew and I would duck out of the house and clothespin an old sheet to the hedges edging the yard and eat sandwiches huddled in our makeshift tent. Or switch on the tv and watch cartoons or Mr. Ed or The 3 Stooges…

Brunch only existed in my childhood at family celebrations and events: After the Bar or Bat Mitzvah service at the synagogue we would find ourselves confronted by a long, seemingly endless table of cold salads, tuna and whitefish and egg, platters of lox, trays piled high with bagels of every flavor, rye bread and bialys. And the ever-present dessert buffet where we would pile our plates high with each and every sinfully rich, creamy, fattening treat even before we started on the savories for fear of missing out on something good. Wedding weekends would end with a family brunch at the hotel where everyone was staying, all of us straggling downstairs wiping sleep from our eyes, blue-jeaned and sneakered, our bags packed and ready to be rolled downstairs to check out. Morty and Howard the clowns of the family, one’s jokes punctuated by chuckles, the other’s stories ending in loud gaffaws, bringing everyone down with them. The bagels and lox served up with laughter and memories, coffee poured (weak hotel coffee, alas!) but quickly getting cold as we wandered from table to table, grabbing bites of this or that in between the catching up, the wonderment of watching new generations arriving and taking our place at “the kids’ table”.

These days, no fancy brunch for us Sunday mornings. Just coffee and cake, whatever I’ve baked the day before. If we are lucky, we sleep like logs, a heavenly sleep, and wake up late, well rested, and stretch and yawn our way into the kitchen, letting Marty out of his cage to join us. Often we pop awake much too early, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and the routine is the same, only the satisfied stretching replaced by slouching and grumbling our way into the kitchen. But once fortified with coffee and sweets, we return to bed for “la grasse matinée”, slow, long, lazy morning in bed, reading, snuggling, chatting, Marty scurrying in and out, doing his morning dance around our bed, inviting us, urging us to get up and come and play with him.

This month, though, I’m invited to Brunch. Everyone is invited and asked to bring something along to share. Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey? is hosting Brunch, this month’s theme for her Monthly Mingle. Count on Meeta to surprise us with an invitation to Brunch! What’s not to love about that? I want to bring something wonderful, something sweet, something special. I have been spending an inordinate amount of time lately thumbing through my folders of recipes that I’ve been clipping from magazines for the last 30 years; I guess my trip home brought about its usual bout of nostalgia when I pull out all of mom’s old cookbooks and those promotional pamphlets that were pumped out in the 60s and 70s filled with recipes, Favorite Florida Seafood Recipes or Famous Florida Chef’s Favorite Citrus Recipes or Crisco’s Best Recipes, or mom’s collection of old Church, Synagogue or Women’s Club self-published cookbooks filled to brimming with the family tried-and-true. And all of those clippings of recipes from Family Circle, Redbook and Women’s Home Journal, all snipped out during my high school and college days and carefully tucked away for a rainy day.

I came across this recipe, no date or magazine title left in the margin, and was intrigued to say the least: Chocolate Meringue Coffee Cake. Sounded scrumptious, but I truly had no idea what to expect and feared that it may turn out too sweet for my family, but what the heck, I say, coffee cake is our favorite and how can chocolate or meringue in the filling go wrong?

I will be bringing the Chocolate Meringue Coffee Cakes to Meeta’s Monthly Mingle brunch and sharing with our friends.

I also want to send this cake to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting that I have so neglected since my trip to Florida!

And as this is truly the first recipe that I can remember making that comes straight from a magazine, one of my endless quantity of clippings, I have also decided to send it over to Ivonne’s Magazine Mondays on her lovely, scrumptious blog Cream Puffs in Venice.

I want to throw in a personal word here to all who wend their way over to my blog and are reading this: as a foodie and a food blogger, I want to thank all of those food bloggers like Meeta, Susan and Ivonne (and others) who think of, create and organize these food blogger events and challenges. Sometimes it is hard to organize them all into my calendar, but I love them all as they push me to cook and bake beyond my safety limits, learn and create wonderful new things and meet so many wonderful people in food blog-land.

Makes 2 round coffee cakes

For the dough:

4 cups (600 g) flour
¼ cup (50 g) sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 package ( 2 ¼ tsps, 7 g) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml) milk
¼ cup (75 ml) water
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

For the filling:

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tbs sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup (150 g) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

For the meringue:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup(100 g) sugar

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg, optional
Cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

Prepare the dough:
In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm the butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes.

Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 4 cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover (I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel) and let rise until double in bulk, 30 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixer bowl – I use a plastic bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the eggs whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Make the Coffee Cakes:
Line 2 cooking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time, roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar evenly over the meringue followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate.

Now, roll up the dough jelly-roll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring (I tucked one end into the other and pinched to seal).

Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. I made them rather shallow and realized that the next time I can make the cuts much deeper.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 30 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash if desired. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Baked without an egg wash.

Baked with an egg wash.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with both cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Results: one of the best coffee cakes I have ever eaten! Beautiful to put together and gorgeous out of the oven, the cake was brioche-like without being sweet and the meringue miraculously melted into the dough leaving behind just a hint of sweetness. Don’t scrimp on either the chopped nuts or chocolate as the crunch and the flavors are the focal point of this tender, moist, outrageously delicious coffee cake.


Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

This is one of the best coffee cakes I have ever seen Jamie. You post anymore stuff like this, and I'll be camping in a corner of your kitchen! Love it...the meringue, the chcolate & the beautiful cuts in the dough! Another beautifully written post my dear.You are charming in the way you write & very steeped in history (there I think I said it). Great entry for so many events...3 birds with 1 stone. xoxo

Murasaki Shikibu said...

"The French are always so busy on Saturdays and Sundays, joining family for lunch or dashing off to the beach, le weekend, never time for a casual, impromptu get-together with friends, always organized weeks in advance. Pencil us in for 3 weeks from now and hope nothing else comes up."

Spain is like this too. I gave-up on going out with locals.

The cake looks really fantastic I love the meringue inside it peeking out. It must be absolutely gorgeous. :)

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

What an incredible structure! This cake looks really impressive. I wouldn't normally like coffee cakes but I would definitely try this. And I love the picture of the old ladies with the pointy hats! I picked one of those up when I was in your neck of the woods and posted it to my grandma.

Hilda said...

My God Jamie, I have to agree with Deeba, that has to be the best-looking coffee cake I've ever seen. I want to bite that cross-piece through the screen.
As for the French, that's mostly true, but then there are those rare birds that do some of both, including one of my very oldest friends, on whom I can drop in most weekends (if I were in Paris), but a it's very astute observation on your part.

Happy cook said...

Here too especially sundays are kept to visit family, and wee too wait to see what the weather is going to be before we plan something for the weekend.
Love love the coffee cake, Looks perfect and delicous.
you can always ask me if you want to do a brunch :-)

Nicisme said...

That looks amazing, I'm definitely going to try this one!

Asha @ FSK said...

Haha.. Your weekends sound just like ours :).. unless someone else initiates calls and book us for a slot, we are too lazy to plan ahead for weekend.. even hikes are planned on the morning of or Friday at most :).. and the coffee cake.. looks as gorgeous as I am sure it was!!!

so my point of this comment is that I am always free for brunch anytime with you Jamie!! :)))) btw I love a sweet brunch! always have French toast here :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love brunches! Unfortunately, since my American friends moved away, I get to go to none...

That coffee cake looks fantastic! What a great filling!



La Table De Nana said...

As soon as I saw was love at first sight!

I would gladly come to brunch:)

You are so laid back! I've never gone back to bed..good job..this isn't a rehearsal:)

One day I will look back and think ..what was the big deal? Enjoy...I do love reading your posts..
I have A lovely piece of music here.. listening to it and reading your post..Just restful:)

Deborah Mele said...

Wow, that is my kind of coffee cake. Great photos too Jamie. Geesh, another sweet I have to bookmark and make. I am going to turn into a baker yet!

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Jamie that looks divine! I can just imagine the taste and textures - yum! Plus I love brunch. Can't wait to try this, I might actually make it when you come over... not long now, yay! xxx

Glenda said...

I miss the old late 50's get togethers with the glass plates and matching cups, while my mother and neighbors sat and had lunches. What fun times women must of had then? I had great times in the 70's with my friends, but as time went on so did the little lunches or tea parties. Now everyone is too busy to visit. Your cakes look great! Another recipe to try.

The Cooking Ninja said...

oooh... that looks super delicious. I'm be camping in the corner of your kitchen together with Deeba. :) Going to make this for hubs. :)

Barbara Bakes said...

Your weekends sound as lovely as your coffeecake! Although I wouldn't mind scheduling some time in France!

the ungourmet said...

I love your weekend memories!

Have a nice time at your virtual brunch. The coffee cake is divine!

Jenn said...

I'm all for a lazy weekend! Also, my close friends and I LOVE to get together for brunch. That coffee cake looks great. I love the way it's shaped.

sunita said...

Our weekend are like that too; totally unplanned.

And that coffee cake; oh my, how gorgeous is that?

Katy ~ said...

OUTSTANDING!!! This is beautiful!!

Frenchie said...

This is a very risque coffee cake, boy do I like that. Even though I don't always have the best luck with yeast breads, I think I am going to have to get over my fear and make this cake as soon as possible.

The Bewildered Brit said...

What an innovative idea for a coffee cake!

And I really want a print of that lovely 60's photo called "The Coffee House" you have there. Wonderful!

kate said...

You had to have heard that super loud "BONK" as I hit the floor in a dead faint over the sight of those cakes. Really....even across the ocean, it had to have been THAT loud.

Oh my......oh my oh my oh my!! Jamie! C'est tres magnifique!

5 Star Foodie said...

What a scrumptious & beautiful coffee cake! I would love it for brunch!

Madame Sucre said...

pretty new idea to me.. meringue in a coffee cake i mean.
I kinda understand what you feel , when I lived in the states for school , I wanted to bake and celebrate everyday.. but I had no family there so everything was waiting for later when I went back home.. now we do get together once a week , the family I mean of my Inlaws and once a week with my parents .. I bake , make salads , dressings , chicken , food for kids and everyone else..
its a feast we dont even feel.. a very casual feast ..

now where you are , you already are surrounded by all the ppl that matter. your family. so everday is a feast too :)

have a great day and wish all your weekends are fun filled and joyful :)

Jamie said...

@Madame Sucre: Merci et tu as raison!

@Deborah Mele: I'll turn you into a baker and you'll be turning me into a cook! An Italian Cook!

@Frenchie: If you've never baked with yeast, a sweet dough like this is so much easier to work with and get great results than bread dough, so go for it!

@Deeba, Hilda, Barbara, Sunita, Cooking Ninja: I'm waiting. And I'll make double batch of coffee cakes!

@Mowie: I KNOW!!!

MeetaK said...

oh my goodness this looks grand! jamie i am so happy to have you over with this cake. it looks divine. the french are very much like the germans they too spend part of the weekend visiting family and planned excursions. i am glad that in my groups of friends i have brought that spontaneous streak and we do manage great get-togethers. wish you lived closer - we'd always be getting together!

Junglefrog said...

hat a gorgeous, gorgeous coffee cake Jamie! Love it... In Holland the weekends are not much different from the French. Tom and I are with the two of us as well and yes, most friends are completely occupied in the weekends! We do love to do a lazy breakfast/brunch in bed too, a bit of reading, a bit of eating... :)Love that!

Bellini Valli said...

This reminds me of our own childhood where Sundays were spent with the family and all life stopped to have a leisurely brunch..mind you we did not know it was called brunch:D

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What a gorgeous coffee cake!
I want to be the toothless witch at the side of the picture.

ABowlOfMush said...

This looks gorgeously delicious! One of the best coffee cakes I've seen! Yum!

I love family brunches :)

Jamie said...

@Natashya KitchenPuppies: ROTFL! Ok, you can be her and I'll be the second from the left witch with the cute grin! Coffee's on!

Half Baked said...

What an amazing looking coffeecake! I definitely want to try this one!

Muneeba said...

That looks like the most amazing coffee cake ... the most impressive one I've ever seen, lemme tell ya!

Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ said...

What a delicious coffee cake! I'd wake up early on a Sunday for this. The meringue is so unique. I love the slits in the side letting that scrumptious filling peek out!

lisaiscooking said...

It's a beautiful coffee cake, and the meringue filling sounds fantastic! Speaking of those great, little promotional cookbooks from the 60s-70s, I have my Grandma's Hamilton Beach blender pamphlet. Love it.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Wow, this is an absolute beauty. I would so love to eat this!

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

It is a beautiful cake Jamie! Do you deliver??? :)Perfect entry for all the events!

Baking Monster said...

My stomach is growling now, this looks terrific! I miss sunday brunches too.

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, I will be your love slave forever if you just cook this for me once.

P.S. Your storytelling is as strong as ever. You are a true inspiration.

doggybloggy said...

I have been hypnotized by your meringue - its stunning and so is this cake!

Miriam said...

OMG, this looks stunning! I have to try it. And my weekends are also the laziest possible... no plans at all.

Chef Jeena said...

This is so decadent Jamie! I love recipes like this, the filling, the dough and meringue too!!! Gorgeous just gorgeous and I would happily eat the lot.

LoveFeast Table said...

Wow! A lovely story and a coffee cake that is amazing to go with it! I would take a coffee break at your house any day!! Hopefully some day we's on the dream list! -Chris Ann

Kitchen Butterfly said... lovely. The cake looks AMAZING. I love the dated cartoons

Donna-FFW said...

What a unique coffee cake. I LOVE it. I bet it was just perfect.

Sarah said...

What a unique combonation, it looks really yummy! As for the french always having planned ahead, what a shame. The best plans are impromptu!!!

Lisa said...

Jamie, what a gorgeous coffee cake, and your post is fantastic! I need to peruse through your blog a little more!!

On another note - I would LOVE to take part in the mac-athon! How do I go about joining? :)

Natalie said...

Yes, you are right... totally AMAZING

Yael said...

Hi! First time visiting your blog. Your explanations are fantastic and pictures are wonderful- a big help. This coffee cake sounds out of this world. I HAVE to give it a try! Thanks so much!

MC said...

First time on your blog too! The recipe looks fantastic and the tutorial is excellent. Thank you!

Mimi said...

What a clever idea for coffee cake. I would never have thought to put merengue inside of a cake. It looks scrumptious!

coffeegrounded said...

Beautiful, beautiful, coffeecake! I must add this to my list of items for the holidays. Thanks so much for your thorough instructions, too.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Beauty....on a plate. I think of some dulche de leche and pecans...and maybe a pinch of sea salt. It looks so good

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Jamie,

I always thought of the French as more relaxed than us. I guess I was wrong!

This coffee cake. Ohh this coffee cake. I am keeping this recipe forever.


Laura said...

My grandmother made a coffee cake like this. I made a babka a while back with this filling, except I think I also added coffee powder to the meringue filling. And coffee flavored chips.

creampuff said...

Wow, Jamie! This post clearly touched a nerve and deservedly so. I love your view on what weekends should be ... I wish! And this cake ... proof that a classic is always a classic. Love it!

Nina said...

Jamie, what a fantastic post! Inspiring. Love all the photos you used. Joy to read. Can't wait to make this coffee cake, it looks amazingly delish. Love the slits on the sides. Cheers!

Pauligirl said...

I think I just died and went to heaven just looking and dreaming what this would taste like!
Omg - heavenly looking...
thanks for posting it - sure brighten a rather gloomy day here in Toronto.

tasteofbeirut said...

What a great idea for a coffee cake! Very elegant and so tasty.

Aimée @ Food: Je t'Aimée said...

Jamie! I can't believe this. I opened up an old laptop today and went sorting through even older online bookmarks in search of a recipe. What did I find? THIS recipe, bookmarked back in 2009. How did it take me until 2011 to 'meet' you? Amazing - and so glad I finally did! Maybe I'll finally try this coffee cake... two years later :) xo

Meilleur broker forex said...

Wow .. wow.. wow... i will surely make it at my home. it look yummy .. and thanks for explaining .. i just read and the way you explained it is awesome.


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