Homemade Mocha Cupcakes for a friend! I love how piped Swiss Meringue looks, don’t you?
I was watching Martha Stewart’s new TV show recently (no surprise; I worship at her altar). It’s a cool structure, with a focus on one dish or ingredient done many ways, with techniques and cooking science worked in. Clearly, her producers have been watching Alton Brown.
Anyway, the “eggs” episode of “Martha’s Cooking School” was on at my parents’ house about a month ago, and I got sucked in. The final egg dish she made was a meringue dessert called “Ile Flottante“. It looked AMAZING, and I knew it’d be the next challenge I picked for catsandcommas.
Hannah took the world’s fastest vacation out to Oregon this last weekend to stay with Nora and visit with our fabulous collegiate social circle. Naturally, it was time to bake together! Nora suggested that we make Kolache, a Czech pastry with fruit filling. Both of us have Czech heritage, and have made delicious Kolache before, but we had an excellent reason to revisit this fabulous baked good: our lovely friends Martin and Nicole are moving away from Portland to Bozeman, MT. Martin is a first-generation American born to Czech parents, and he often teaches Hannah and Nora things about the Czech Republic. A batch of freshly baked Kolache seemed like a nice treat for Martin and Nicole’s last weekend in Oregon.
This is a badly back-lit photo of Martin and Nicole, the night we ate the Kolache! (Nice hat, Martin.)
Kolache are relatively simple to make. Nora had a little flipbook of recipes called Cherished Czech Recipes, so that was our source for the recipe. Actually, Martin and Nicole got that book for Nora! (Talk about self-gifting, amirite?)
Kolache are mostly sweet yeast bread, with little thumbprint wells on top, filled with (a usually sweet) filling of some kind. The recipe book had so many filling options, both sweet (honey poppyseed, cherry, butter rum…) and savory (cabbage, of course!). We settled on 1/2 cherry filling (which was basically just cherry pie filling) and 1/2 lemon curd.
Here’s Nora, shopping for cherries to use to make the cherry filling.
Oregon cherries, of course!
At home, we whipped up our yeasty beasties:
Then came warm milk and melted butter, and finally our flour/sugar/egg mix. Hannah used Nora’s beautiful red stand mixer to do this part:
Nora kneaded the dough just a little bit:
…then left it to rise for about an hour. An hour we filled by watching “The West Wing“!
Then we divided the dough, rolled it into little balls, brushed them with melted butter, and let them rise again on the baking sheets.
Meanwhile, Nora made the cherry filling (basically, cherries/their juice and sugar, thickened in a pan over low heat with corn starch).
Hannah made the “crumble topping”, which was basically strudel. Flour, sugar, and cinnamon cut together with butter using a pastry cutter.
Once the little balls had risen again, we punched the wells in and filled them up! Hannah’s disembodied hand making wells:
Nora’s disembodied spoon in the background, adding cherry filling:
Crumb topping added!
…And a blurry, self-taken phone picture of the bakers!
As I’ve probably shared before, every couple months I head to the library for some culinary inspiration. This time around, I found “EatingWell in Season,” which features fabulous ways to use your farmers market finds.
It also has a surprising number of baked goods (healthy of course) for each season. The summer section has a recipe for “Berry-almond quick bread,” which I decided to make into muffins.
Using half whole-wheat flour and half white flour, plus brown sugar, gives the bread a caramel, nutty flavor and a thicker texture than your average muffin. Definitely recommended for potlucks and for sharing at work.