neapolitan pound loaf … actually it’s a cake.

Another week … another

baking crew challenge.

The theme: loaves.

I tend to think of a loaf as a *somewhat* healthy baked treat … chalk full of mashed bananas, grated zucchini, or even pumpkin purée, with an above average sprinkling of chocolate chips … a little sweetness in the belly.

Oh how I heart a good slice of *fresh out of the oven*, warm, gooey banana/zucchini/pumpkin loaf.

That’s why I was so excited about this challenge. Not only would I bake one of my favourite things … but I would also get to try a new recipe.

A neapolitan pound cake recipe to be exact.

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First off. I’m going to be honest. I decided to bake this because it looked good. And if something can look that good … it’s got to stand a chance of TASTING good right?

Well … it lived up to my pre-judgement.

Except.

This is no loaf. Nope. Don’t confuse this for a slightly savoury loaf: something warm and comforting to accompany your tea or coffee. It’s not the kind of thing you bake as your afternoon snack … or as a *quick,easy, and healthy* breakfast option.

Nope.

This is a committment. You must commit yourself to this intensely decadent and absolutely delightful dessert.

It’s based on neapolitan ice cream right … so vanilla, chocolate and strawberry all swirled together to create a party in your mouth.

It’s true. All those flavours are good things.

I decided to change it up a little. Rather than stick to the traditional strawberry flavour, I opted for a strawberry-rhubarb flavour. I actually couldn’t decide on cherry or raspberry … but then I spotted the strawberry-rhubarb jam on the shelf, I couldn’t resist adding a splash of tart rhubarb to the mix. Could you?

I didn’t think so.

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The richness in this cake comes from the 5 ounces of mascarpone cheese … added to another 2 ounces of cream cheese … plus 1 cup of butter … and 6 eggs.

Mother of pearl. You just know that this is going to be one rich and delicious slice of cake!

So while I was busy whipping mini loaf and bundt cake versions of this recipe … my friends were busy baking their own loaves. Tom & Aimée baked a beautiful cardamom loaf, Meredith brought a tangy lemon blueberry loaf, and Cory baked a family favourite, walnut sour cream loaf.

I’m going to say … each and every one of the loaves were delicious … but so completely different.

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The cardamom loaf was beautiful … an exquisite crumb and shape … and then when you bit into it, the pungent flavour of the cardamom perefectly accompanied a cup of coffee. It was a spicy addition to the challenge.

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The walnut sour cream loaf is one of Cory’s favourite family holiday treats. Who can fault a loaf that’s chalk full of walnuts and then topped with a brown sugar crumble? Although Cory’s recipe was a tad oily (even after Cory adjusted his mother’s original recipe – and he agreed with us) … I still gladly took a mini loaf home with me … and very happily devoured it.

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We all know that I heart lemons … so it probably won’t come as a surprise that I’m going to annouce that Meredith’s lemon blueberry loaf was my favourite. I loved how light it was. I loved the fresh blueberries. I loved the tang of the lemons. It’s the perfect afternoon tea snack. You don’t actually need to drink tea … you can just grab a slice of this loaf and savour it … that’s what I did.

Compared to the cardamom loaf, walnut sour cream loaf, and lemon blueberry loaf, my neapolitan pound loaf really stuck out as a cake. It was denser and sweeter and richer and more of a dessert. I’m not saying it wasn’t good … but it certainly shouldn’t quality as a loaf. Needless to say … if you’re looking to make something that will wow your friends, family, neighbours, co-workers … maybe you want to give this recipe a try. It certainly put a smile on many a face and satisfied many a craving for a treat in the middle of the day.

neapolitan pound loaf cake

ingredients:

3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

5 oz, mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 ½ c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

6 eggs

2 c. sugar

1 c. powdered sugar

3 c. cake flour

pinch of salt

flavours

6 tbsp strawberry-rhubarb jam

3 tbsp cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp pink food colouring (I use Wilton’s colour gels … less is more – I went a little overboard!)

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Number one rule … don’t preheat your oven.

Time to get started.

In a medium bowl sift together the granulated and powdered sugars. Set aside.

Cream together the mascapone, cream cheese and butter together in your stand-mixer: medium-high speed using your paddle attachment for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for a further 30 seconds.

This batter isn’t a simple “add dry ingredients to wet ingredients” batter … there are steps to follow. But they are TOTALLY worth it.

Ok .. here goes.

  • Add two of the eggs to the cheese / butter mixture.
  • Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add 1 cup of the sugar mixture.
  • Beat at medium speed until combined.
  • Add 1 cup flour plus the pinch of salt.
  • Beat until combined.
  • Repeat until all of the eggs, sugars, and flour are used.

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Divide the batter equally between three bowls.

In one bowl combine the batter with the strawberry-rhubarb jam. Add the food colouring gel.

In another bowl combine the batter with the cocoa powder.

And the vanilla to the remaining batter. Stir to combine.

Time to bake.

You have some options here. You can bake a regular sized loaf… or a regular bundt cake. You can go the mini loaf / mini bundt option. I decided that since I wanted to bake these quickly, the mini loaf and mini bundt cakes were the way to go. Whichever option you pick, spray the pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

I scooped a spoonful of each flavour of batter into each mini loaf tin and bundt cake (I dozen of each). Then I took a toothpick and swirled the different flavours into one another.

Place the loaf / bundt cake tin in oven.

Turn oven on to 300F.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes for the mini loaves / mini bundts. Obviously longer for a regular sized loaf or bundt cake. The original recipe recommended 2 hours … I would probably check it out after 75 minutes.

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Serve with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of hot fudge sauce.

Go big or go home right?

apologies & the muffin challenge

I’d first like to start off this post with an apology.

I’m sorry.  I feel like I’ve abandoned my blog … but I haven’t.  I PROMISE!

I’ve just been ridiculously … insanely … exhaustingly … busy.

In the last month and a half I have …

must love food

  • celebrated my grandfather’s 90th birthday (extra-amazing & super special).

grandpa

snippets of the party

  • moved in with the manfriend (happy dance).
  • packed and unpacked boxes and boxes of books, kitchen equipment, clothing, shoes … books. More books. So many … hardcover books (aka über heavy to carry).
  • Oh! And I baked for these pretty awesome pop-ups in Magpie’s three Ottawa locations … you not only got to look at some stellar jewellery … and clothing (from Victoire) BUT you also got to nibble on some mini lemon and mini chocolate tarts.

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A-MAZ-ING?!

Holy heck ya! But also super tiring … especially when you add my regular 40 hour a week job into the mix.

I’m pretty darn exhausted.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been baking, taking pictures, editing them and then working on a post. It just means … it takes me a while to get it all done.

I think sharing my banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffin recipe might make it all ok though.

I mean … think about it. Bananas. Chocolate chips. Peanut butter chips. Tossed together and lovingly baked. A total winner … plus perhaps one of my favourite things.

banana chocolate - peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins

These muffins rock it something fierce.  I’m so glad that I decided to give this recipe a go for last month’s baking crew challenge.  When Tom & Aimée, Cory, Meredith and I decided to bake muffins for our March gathering … I think we all kinda thought “muffins!?  seriously.  how exciting” (insert sarcastic voice).

But I’m actually really glad that’s what we baked.

First off … I got to make something new … and something that I think will remain a staple in my baking roster … because frankly … these are divine.

Secondly … Meredith made these perfectly delightful rhubarb & ginger muffins (originally Jamie Oliver’s mother’s day muffin recipe).

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She sourced out some fresh rhubarb and the result was a muffin packed full of rhubarb and a generous amount of ginger.  I loved it.  I actually meant to make a batch of these for my grandfather’s party … (I ran out of time!).  Huge winner.  It’d be great with some strawberry curd stuck in the centre … maybe I’m just getting a little too fancy though?

Tom & Aimée decided to make one of my personal favourite recipes (and it was actually from my blog!) – pumpkin chocolate chip loaf became muffins.

tom & aimee's pumpkin chocolate chip muffin

This is a classic recipe for a number of reasons:

1.  It’s good.  It packs a punch of pumpkin.  Which really means it tastes like the absolute best thing in the world.

2.  Because you add chocolate chips to the mix … it doesn’t taste too healthy.  Or boring.  Nope.  These muffins are good.

3.  Pumpkin chocolate chip loaf is still the most popular recipe on my blog.  There’s a reason for it.

4.  It was the first thing I baked for the manfriend and I after our move.  New kitchen = must test the oven = pumpking chocolate chip muffins.

All in all, this was a successful, and super tasty baking crew challenge.  Everyone gets into a muffin making rut, and by challenging ourselves, we were able to present some tried and true classic recipes … but also added a few new ones to the mix.

I’d like to think that my banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins are one of those new classics.

I’m also tempted to change it up a little the next time I make them.  I was thinking of drizzling caramel sauce in the centres and then only using the coffee cake topping for the top of the muffin (rather than layering it in the centre as well).  Thoughts?  Am I going too far?

Oh … one important note to make … don’t eat too many of these all at once.  You’ll probably want to.  The first one will taste so good that you’ll think … what the heck! why not?  Well … it just might make you feel a little ill … they are jam-packed with bananas (I used 7 in the recipe) … they also have a handful of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.  And cinnamon-brown sugar.  These are intense.

banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins

ingredients:

3 c. flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 c. butter, room temp

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

2 1/2 c. mashed fully ripe bananas (6 or 7)

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. sour cream

coffee cake topping:

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Heat your oven to 350 F.  Spray your muffin pans with non-stick spray.  I don’t use liners for muffins … I don’t know why … it’s just not something I do.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  About 5 minutes at medium speed.  Scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat everything until incorporated.

Add the bananas and vanilla, mixing well.

Add the flour mixture and the sour cream to the batter: alternating between each addition, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix well.

Fill each muffin tin with a tablespoon of batter.  Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the coffee cake topping.  Cover with more batter.  Sprinkle with the rest of the coffee cake topping.

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Bake for 22 minutes … or until the top of the muffins bounce back when gently touched / or your toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to sit in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Then remove and allow them to cool completely.  Or seriously … just dig right it.  These are too good to wait.  PLUS this recipe is a winner because you get over 3 dozen regular sized muffins AND 1 dozen large muffins.  Think of the amount of mini muffins you could get?!

Oh … and on another note.  Although Cory didn’t participate in the baking crew muffin challenge … we did have another guest.

Tom & Aimée recently got FENTON the cutest little fella ever … and so after eating muffins, we all sat down and hung out with him.

Isn’t he adorable?

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choux pastry challenge

I love making choux pastry. It’s the kind of recipe that is so ridiculously simple to make; but it packs such a punch – impressing the socks off of your friends and family.

That’s why we decided it would be the perfect baking crew challenge.

Simple recipe with jaw-dropping results. Win – Win.

I’ve been making choux pastry for the past several months; but I’ve only made eclairs: choux pastry filled with pastry cream (or eggnog pastry cream during the holidays) … so I decided that I wanted to make profiteroles. Little balls of doughy goodness filled with both whipped cream and chocolate chantilly (whipped chocolate).

Doesn’t that sound perfectly delightful?

I thought so.

Until I arrived for our baking crew gathering.

table of choux

Mother of pearl … was I ever impressed!

Tom & Aimee had decided on making swans. That’s right. Perfect little chocolate choux swans filled with chocolate chantilly.

showstoppers

A showstopper? Heck ya.

Meredith decided to up the ante a little by making a gateau st. honore. This decadent cake is made up of a base layer of puff pastry, ringed with choux pastry piped on the outer edge. The centre is filled with pastry cream, and then more cream puffs are baked and filled with whipped cream, dipped in caramelized sugar and then placed, side by side, on top of the choux pastry ring. A layer of piped whipped cream finishes it off.

Not only did Meredith make the choux pastry. She also went ahead and made the puff pastry.

So impressive.

I loved it.

slice of meredith's choux

Cory either couldn’t decide on what he wanted to make … or he really wanted to impress the heck out of all of us. Either way … the result was a plethora of absolutely delicious pastries.corys choux

Whipped dijon potatoes with rare beef and chives sandwiched between a little choux pastry bun.

Chocolate caramel variation of a Paris-Brest (a cream puff ring filled with flavoured cream): whipped cream, chocolate, caramel. I’d just like to mention that the caramel was perfectly bitter.

Caramel drizzled profiteroles filled with whipped cream.

Braided strawberry choux wheel with creme patisserie and creme chiboust. Another showstopper.

Ridiculous right?

Why I thought my little chocolate chantilly, whipped cream filled profiteroles were going to impress my friends … I do not know!

People keep asking what we do once we all sit down and start to eat our baked treats. Well … this challenge was a perfect example of the baking crew at its best.

A great choux pastry is light and airy on the inside (it puffs up as it bakes), but has a crust on the outside. Make sense?

Since we all used different recipes, we were able to compare the different results.assortment of choux

Tom & Aimee used the Thomas Keller recipe – which called for them to rest the choux pastry overnight, as well as bake it for 75 minutes … we all agreed they could have used a little longer in the oven. It wasn’t quite crispy enough. But in impressive factor … they knocked it out of the park.  They made chocolate swans!  Who doesn’t love a chocolate swan?

Cory had a similar issue with all his choux. I thought his was the best flavour, but it didn’t puff up quite as much as he would have liked. Since we had so many to choose from … I’d have to say that the braided strawberry choux wheel was addictively delightful. Think of it as an updated strawberry shortcake … only 100 million times better. It was THAT good.

Meredith’s gateau st. honore had a great texture and flavour: add to that rich pastry cream and perfectly flakey puff pastry … you’ve got yourself a real winner.

I’d tell you more about my profiteroles … but really … they were a little ho hum. I found after tasting the others choux that mine was a little too eggy. I can claim to having the best exterior crunch and puffy interior … as proclaimed by the baking crew, not my own huge ego ;0)