OK, I’m tired today – too much partying! Awww, isn’t that sad? This really is not my usual routine, at all. Which is probably why I’m so tired! Last night’s neighborhood women’s association meeting was as fun as always. Hosted in the beautiful home of my neighbor Marie, everything was lovely. Great food, wine, and seriously cool women. I walked over with one of those cool women, my neighbor Kasey – Marie lives on our block, so we walked instead of driving. Usually Kasey backs her car down her driveway and straight up mine, and off we drive, not more than just a few blocks, because I’m sorry, it’s too damn COLD and difficult to walk in heels while carrying a tray of appetizers or dessert or a bottle of wine for more than a block. And there are always plenty of other cars there too, which makes me feel less guilty. But last night we walked. And I of course got rained on, during the walk home, freezing cold rain, no jacket, it really sucked. (I hope it quit raining before Kasey walked home!) So other than the getting rained on part, I had a blast. And even made it home in time to get to bed by 11:00. Ahhh, I love my bed, especially when I’m that tired. Good, soft sheets. Great pillows. Definitely one of life’s little (major) pleasures…
And I needed that sleep, because I was up and at ’em this morning, baking for my cousin’s fiancee Amanda’s shower tomorrow. A few of us are bringing coffee cakes, so I baked two, both my mom’s recipes. I think they’re both my sister Stacey’s top two favorite foods in the whole world, and I love them too. One is the classic cinnamon streusel coffee cake (top picture). Baked in a Bundt pan (I love that word, Bundt). The other is basically almond-flavored cream puff (choux) pastry on a crisp crust, with icing (pictured above and below). It is decadent and fab-u-lous. Mmmm… (Both recipes posted in comments, below).
I’m staying with my aunt Marge tonight, in Willmar, I’ll see if she’ll let me take her picture for a post. Marge is THE BEST, hands down, baker that I know, but she doesn’t look like it, not one bit. She’s thin, buff, and totally healthy. It would be nauseating if she weren’t so awesome. I’ll try to remember to get one of her recipes as well, they’re all yummy.
So! I’m off to walk off some of the calories I’m sure I consumed with a little taste here and there as I prepared the coffee cakes. And then a drive out to the sticks…nah, not really. Willmar has a McDonald’s. That’s a little inside joke, I used to think any town with a McDonald’s was BIG. I clearly lived in a town that was NOT.
Mom’s Almond Puff Pastry
Makes two pastries, 8 slices each
Crisp, buttery crust, topped with almond puff pastry and creamy icing. Great for a holiday brunch.
1 c. flour
1/2 c. cold butter, sliced into ½-inch slices
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cold water
1 c. flour
1 c. water
½ c. butter
1 tsp. almond extract
2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. soft butter
¼ c. cream (perhaps a bit more)
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
½ c. sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour, cold butter, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Pulse briefly several times until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cold water, and pulse a few more times until dough forms into a ball. Do not over-blend. Divide dough in half. Press each half into a 3x12-inch oblong on an ungreased baking sheet (line with parchment paper if you like; prevents sticking and makes for easy clean up). Set aside.
Place flour in the bowl of a mixer. In a small saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in almond extract, and with the mixer running on low, pour the water all at once over the flour. When the flour and water are combined, turn the mixer up to medium speed and with it still running, beat in each egg, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Spread batter equally over the two pastry crusts on the baking sheet. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until lightly puffed and golden. Cool for 10 minutes before icing. (The puffs will collapse a bit upon cooling; that’s fine.)
To make icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, butter, cream, and extracts, and blend until smooth (add extra cream, a small amount at a time, if icing is too stiff). Spread over warm, not hot, pastry. Top with sliced almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made one day ahead.
Mom’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Perfect for Christmas morning!
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. granulated sugar
½ lb. butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 c. sour cream (I’ve used reduced fat sour cream with great results; hey, it helps a little)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
Icing (optional; I don’t think it really needs it, it’s a very moist and sweet cake already)
1 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp. milk
Halved maraschino cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a nonstick tube or bundt pan with cooking spray. Stir streusel ingredients together in a small bowl, set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, on med-hi speed, cream granulated sugar and butter; add eggs and blend. In a second bowl, stir together sour cream and vanilla. In a third bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. With mixer running on low speed, add sour cream (stop mixture and scrape down the bowl) and then flour mixture (stopping once to scrape down the bowl) to sugar/egg mixture until all are just incorporated. Do not over-mix.
Add ½ batter, top with ½ of streusel mixture, then remaining batter, and end with remaining streusel. Cut through the batter with a butter knife to marble (don’t completely mix the batter and streusel). Bake for approximately 50 minutes, until cake is done half-way between hole in the cake pan and the outside edge (that’s where it cooks most slowly). Cool in pan for 10 minutes, invert onto a plate. Optional: stir together confectioner’s sugar and milk (adjust sugar or milk to make a smooth icing). Drizzle warm (not hot) cake with icing. If desired, garnish with whole pecans and maraschino cherry halves. Serve warm or at room temperature.