Merks Coffee Cake

Posted on 2010-12-21 By

When my parents got married, my mom told my dad that she wanted to be in charge of holidays and traditions.  This was no bluff on her part, her family had many traditions, and are how we still celebrate the holidays.

Since my mom was little, the Fellner family had the same breakfast every Christmas morning.  Orange juice, a halved grapefruit, breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs and Merks Coffeecake.  This is the Christmas breakfast I grew up with, and one I hope to always eat on the morning of December 25th.  In a family that never eats breakfast sausage, this was perhaps the only time I ever ate this salty delicacy at home.  I savored my two links every Christmas morning after creating sugar mountains on top of my grapefruit and drinking the sugar juice that remained.

Coffee Cake

Merks was a family secret, the coffeecake that all revered.  I didnt like it as a kid, and now I wonder where my sanity had gone.  I came to like it not at Christmas-time, but during the summer of 2003.  As a summer job, I started a small baking company, Loulous Baked Goods.  I had a stand at the local Farmers Market, between a produce stand and a wild-fish purveyor.  We squeezed in at 6 in the morning every week, hoping to sell all the brownies, banana bread loaves, peanut butter cookies and slices of Merks, on my moms suggestion.  My packaging wasnt pretty, I hadnt learned anything about that, yet, but the Merks sold faster than any other treat.

My 15-year-old wisdom told me that if more than just my family members loved Merks, then I might too.  I tried a slice.  It was heaven: sweet butter cake swirled with brown sugar and more butter, studded with toasted walnuts, and topped with more streusel.  After those two years of weekly summer batches of Merks, Ive relegated this coffeecake to Christmas again.  Its too decadent for year-round enjoyment. (Although if I didnt top it with butter, it would be significantly less so.)

According to my mom, my grandmother cut this recipe out of a Bay Area paper when they lived in Palo Alto in the 1950s.  No amount of internet-sleuthing has revealed its origins, but most importantly, I love that my family has been eating this for Christmas breakfast for 50 years.

Merks Coffee Cake

10-12 cup Bundt Pan, I use this Nordic Ware pan.

For the Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

For the Streusel:

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Make the Merks:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with cooking spray, or grease with butter and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and shortening until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and mix to combine.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each.  Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the streusel until well mixed.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into the bundt pan.  Top with 1/2 the streusel mixture, then pour the remaining batter and top with remaining streusel.

Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown.  You can also test by inserting a cake tester halfway between the center and outside of the pan, but keep in mind that the streusel could stick to the skewer and make the cake seem unready.

Cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, invert onto a serving plate, and serve.

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Cranberry Noels Christmas Cookies

Posted on 2010-12-02 By

Christmas time is here! Deck the Halls! Good King Wenceslas! The Holly and the Ivy!

I admit to turning on carols first thing yesterday morning.  I dont love Christmas for religious reasons, but all the trimmings and cheer of the season.   I look froward to the trees, lights, cookies, and time with family all year.

To jump head first into the season, I baked my first batch of Christmas cookies yesterday.  These Cranberry Noels are butter through and through. Complementary flavors of tart cranberry and toasted pecans stud the cookies for a perfect savory/sweet balance.

As for toasting the pecans: I beseech you, do not skip this step.  Although not specified in the original recipe, it was worth the five minutes in the toaster oven that took my humble pecans from chalky and soft to crisp and buttery.  In earlier years of baking, I thought toasting nuts was ludicrous, but I know the difference now: melt in your mouth cookies.

Christmas Cookies

Make these cookies a holiday gift:

Wrap one log tightly in parchment paper and store overnight in the refrigerator or up to three weeks in the freezer.  Tie the ends with ribbon and give the gift of a homemade cookie dough log so your giftee has not only cookies but the heavenly scent of fresh baked cookies. (As good a gift as any!)  Or, slice the cookies yourself, bake, and pack nicely in a box or tin.

Make your own!

(Recipe from MarthaStewart.com)

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans (toasted first)

Directions

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add milk and vanilla.  Beat until just combined.  With mixer on low, gradually add flour, salt, cranberries, and pecans; continue beating until fully combined.

2. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface, and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into an 8-inch log, about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap logs in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. (Lindsays note: Wrap one log tightly and place it in a freezer safe bag and freeze for the next time you have guests or for a thoughtful gift of homemade cookie dough.)

3.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake until edges are golden, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through.  Remove from oven, and transfer cookie to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lindsay Life     , , , , , , , ,


Pecan Pie Recipe

Posted on 2010-11-22 By

I have strong opinions about my Thanksgiving pecan pie.  It has whole, toasted pecans and is encased in a flaky, homemade pie crust.  It has no chocolate.  And most of all, it is delectable.

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I tried two versions: one close to the Karo version I grew up with, and one using Lyles golden syrup, brown sugar, and brown butter.

I invited my friends over to taste test the two versions.  Everyone was very nice, (probably because they had two slices of high-sugar pie in front of them,) but the winner was the Karo one!

Pecan Pie Recipe

In theory, the brown butter should have elevated this pie from classic to celestial, but in reality, the pie had a whiff of fake maple syrup and tasted savory and saccharine and the same time.  This might have been from the combination of brown butter with British Golden Syrup.  I guess thats what I get for putting an English ingredient into my Thanksgiving pie!

In the end, both were delicious.  My version even had some votes.  Both recipes follow the jump.

Karo Syrup Pecan Pie (Ever so slightly tweaked.)

Ingredients:

1 recipe Flaky Pie Crust

1 cup Karo Light Corn Syrup

3 eggs

2/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon Vanilla

2 cups pecans

Make the pie:

1. Roll the pie dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and trim the edges, creating decorative border of your choice.

2. Chill the unbaked pie crust covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (I recommend placing the pie crust in the freezer for about 30 minutes before you fill and bake the pie)

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Combine corn syrup, eggs, sugars, melted butter and vanilla in a large bowl.  Stir in Pecans.

5. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 6o to 70 minutes.  The center should spring back when tapped lightly, or until the center of the pie has reached 200 degrees F.

6. Let the pie cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

My Pecan Pie Version

Ingredients:

1 recipe Flaky Pie Crust

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter

1/2 cup Lyles Golden Syrup (found at specialty food shops or online)

1/4 cup Karo light corn syrup

1 cup light brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups pecans

Make the pie:

1. Roll the pie dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and trim the edges, creating decorative border of your choice.

2. Chill the unbaked pie crust covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (I recommend placing the pie crust in the freezer for about 30 minutes before you fill and bake the pie)

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Make the brown butter: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Swirl the saucepan as the butter melts, until dark golden brown in color.  The foam will reside and the butter will have a nutty smell after about 4 to 5 minutes.  Scrape butter from the pan into a heat-resistant measuring cup or ramekin and set aside.  Make sure to get all the toasted milk solids at the bottom of the pan, because those have all the flavor!

5. Combine the golden syrup, corn syrup, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Add in the brown butter and stir until combined.  Add the eggs.

6. Stir in the pecans and pour into the chilled, unbaked pie crust.

5. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 6o to 70 minutes.  The center should spring back when tapped lightly, or until the center of the pie has reached 200 degrees F.

6. Let the pie cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

Lindsay Life     , , , , , , , , , , ,