Clearly I’m digressing this week from veggie and whole grain recipes and the science of healthy living to the aroma of baked cakes. Well, I do make desserts, and am very much into indulgent ones. I don’t serve dessert every day but I’ll conclude every festive weekend meal with one, and I’ll always leave room for dessert when we eat out.
So for those of you who’ve asked what’s in my pantry besides the obvious healthy foods—I always have butter, heavy cream and the best baking chocolate I can find. I don’t replace the classic ingredients with anything else and never have. I believe that a reasonably small portion of a heavenly dessert will satisfy without breaking your calorie budget and is well worth its saturated fat.
Walnut yeast “roses” cake is just that type of creation.
This isn’t a difficult recipe, but I want to start with a note on yeast dough.
Yeast dough actually is easy to work with; the only real challenge is mastering the patience.
In fact, yeast dough teaches an important life lesson: Sometimes, all you need to do is let a little time pass.
You don’t need to wait passively; the dough won’t rise when you’re watching it. The patience of yeast dough is of the “let go, and things will happen” type. Leave your dough alone and go about your day. You’ll later find the yeast were hard at work for you and doubled your dough. Waiting for the yeast has been a good lesson for me—I tend to be a whirlwind of activity, and learning to wait has served me well as a parent, friend and doctor.
Working with yeast has also deepened my understanding that real food is part of the natural world around us. As such, there’s lots of variability, and each kitchen adventure won’t be exactly the same. I always manage to make reasonably good yeast dough, but even with the apparently same ingredients I find there are good dough days, and days when the dough is more of a challenge. Humidity, temperature, the physical action of kneading the dough and the yeast’s liveliness all affect the final outcome.
So here goes.
For basic sweet yeast dough:
• 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour (I use King Arthur’s bread flour. All-purpose is fine too. Bread flour is a high-gluten flour called for in many bread and pizza crust recipes where you want the loftiness or chewiness that the extra gluten provides. All-purpose flour is made from a blend of high- and low-gluten wheats, and has a bit less protein than bread flour.)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
• 2 yolks
• 1 envelope rapid-rise yeast
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the walnut filling:
• 2 cups walnuts, finely chopped (in the food processor or blender)
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2/3 cup milk
To make the dough:
If you happen to own a bread machine, put all the ingredients in the mixing bowl and use the dough setting.
If kneading by hand: Put all the dough ingredients in a bowl, combine to make dough, and knead for about five minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic and not sticky at all. (Add a bit of extra flour or milk if you haven’t reached a really workable dough within five minutes, but that rarely happens with this recipe.)
Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and let sit for an hour and a half in a warm place, until the dough doubles its volume.
To make the filling:
Combine milk, sugar and butter in a small pot and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
Add the nuts, and continue stirring on low heat for a minute or two.
Remove from heat and let chill completely. (The filling may seem too watery for handling when warm. Don’t worry. Its consistency will improve as it cools down.)
Putting it all together:
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle, about 25 by 20 inches. Don’t be lazy! If you fail to roll it big enough the cake will have fewer leaves and too much dough between the nut layers. Rolling to a thin sheet is really important!
Spread the walnut filling on the dough and roll the dough.
Cut the roll crosswise into 2 inch pieces and place on a greased 10-inch spring pan, cut side up (will make 12-15 rolls).
Let rise again for about one hour.
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let chill on rack.
The cake can be cut to slices (my preference) or separated into its rolls by hand.
This cake pairs very nicely with apple sauce, fresh berries or more simply, a steaming cup of herbal tea.
By the way, the “roses” part of this cake’s name comes from the delicate shapes formed on the individual cakes.
Reposted as part of Food Renegate's Fight Back Fridays--go join the food fight!