Courgette Cake with Hazelnuts

Three years ago, for my mother’s 70th birthday, I brought my mother to Ireland. It was my third time visiting so I knew some places we had to visit together and Killruddery House, just outside of Dublin, was a must see. You may recognize Killruddery house from movies and television. It was a location for filming The Tudors, Excalibur, Ella Enchanted, My Left Foot, and even a new Netflix series, Fate; The Winx Saga. It really is a spectacular home. Built in 1618 it is still home to the same family. The grounds and gardens are beautiful. I walked and snapped photos for hours. Wouldn’t you love to have a huge soirée here? They host functions in the Orangery, the domed area of the house in my picture below.

This gate!

Once 3:00 rolls around it’s tea time. Naturally, they have a Tea Room with freshly baked goods for sale. It’s a beautiful building, too, with an octagonal roof and encircled with robin’s egg blue painted iron trellises. From inside, the stained glass windows radiate a warm glow and creates a homey, cozy feeling as you’re looking over all their lovely treats.

The Tea Room
The Tea Room
The Tea Room
My slice of Killruddery’s Courgette Cake with Hazelnuts

I so enjoyed that cake, savoring each and every bite sitting peacefully beside the lavender and roses. The cake had a perfectly moist crumb, a sweet and creamy cream cheese frosting studded with hazelnuts. This was not your typical zucchini cake. This was light and scrumptious. I tried to get the Killruddery recipe but that didn’t work out so I decided I could recreate it myself at home. After some experimenting I think I nailed it. Below are two pictures of my latest rendition. I had a little fun with my piping bag. You don’t need to frost it that way. I was having fun using a biscuit cutter to cut the cake into individual cakelets.

My courgette cake

Courgette Cake with Hazelnuts
Makes one 9×13 cake

Cake Ingredients:
3C flour
2 1/2C grated yellow courgette (about 2 small yellow zucchini) squeezed dry
1 1/2C sugar
1C blanched and peeled hazelnuts, rough chopped
1/2C unsalted butter
1/2C buttermilk
1/4C orange juice
3 eggs
2T orange zest
2t vanilla paste or extract
1t baking soda 1/4t baking powder

Cake Directions:
Have all ingredients at room temp before starting.
Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare a 9×13” baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and use Baker’s Joy spray or butter and flour the inside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter until doubled in volume and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the eggs on at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. It will look separated. Don’t worry. Add in the orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the grated yellow zucchini and cup of chopped hazelnuts. Pour into the pan and smooth out the top. Give it a few tamps on the counter, too. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely and frost with orange cream cheese frosting. Top with more hazelnuts and freshly grated orange zest.

Frosting and Topping Ingredients:
8 oz soft cream cheese
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
2T orange juice, strained of pulp
3/4C – 1C blanched and peeled hazelnuts for topping
2-3T orange zest for topping

Frosting Directions:
Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, zest, and orange juice. If it’s too thick, add more juice. Too thin? Add more sugar.

Notes:

Toasting the hazelnuts will change the flavor focus. I don’t toast them for this recipe. Remove the skins; the skins are bitter. You can usually rub them off between your fingers using a dishtowel.

Top the cake with the fresh orange zest at serving.

When baking, always bring ingredients to room temp before starting.

Do not over-beat cake batter. Only mix long enough to combine ingredients. A few lumps are fine.

Coconut Rum Banana Bread

I’m not a fan of ripe bananas. If it a banana has even a HINT of a brown spot it’s inedible to me. Dead to me. I won’t eat it. I know, I know. It’s a quirk, but hey, I’m OK with it. The bananas I use for a quick bread are ripe but don’t have lots of spots. I prefer the less sweet taste and firmer texture of a yellow banana. If you like brown bananas go for it! It will be sweeter and probably taste more familiar. Not many people use yellow bananas for banana bread. That’s my special banana weirdness.

I recommend only lightly mashing the bananas. You will get some more tasty chunks of banana in the bread. If you prefer brown bananas you may end up with more of a liquid after mashing. It will still come out great, it’s more a matter of texture and what you prefer.

Note: With quick breads the standard is creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time and then alternating the dry and liquid ingredients, being mindful of not over-mixing. This recipe follows the same pattern. Measure out all ingredients before starting. I learned this lesson many years ago: mise en place, everything in its place. Read the recipe first, collect and measure ingredients, and THEN start your process.

Coconut Rum Banana Bread

Makes 1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2C pastry flour
  • 1C sugar
  • 1 1/2C gently mashed bananas, about 3 medium-sized
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2C shredded, sweetened coconut + 2T for topping
  • 1/4C unsalted butter, room temp (4T)
  • 1/4C plain full-fat yogurt
  • 3T spiced rum
  • 3/4t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1t vanilla extract

Optional Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/2C confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2T freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions:

If you are making one 9 x 5″ loaf, preheat oven to 350°.

If you are making the smaller loaves, preheat to 325°.

Prepare your loaf pans with Baker’s Joy spray or butter and flour them. Set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the flour, 1/2C coconut, baking soda, and salt. Give a quick stir to combine.

In a small bowl, combine bananas, yogurt, rum, and vanilla. Stir to combine.

In the large bowl of a mixer (or deep bowl good for hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar until light and airy. Use a rubber scraper to scrape down the sides if the sides are not mixing well. Add the eggs one at a time and continue creaming them together until combined and light in texture.

Alternate adding the dry and liquid ingredients to the creamed butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Do not over beat.

Spoon the batter into your loaf pan or mini loaf pans (filling 3/4 full). Sprinkle the top with the 2T of shredded coconut that was set aside earlier.

Bake one large loaf for 60 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Bake the mini loaves for 30 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let sit in the loaf pan for 5-10 minutes until inverting onto a cooling rack. Once completely cool, make a glaze with the sugar and lime juice and drizzle over the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkin Coconut Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

PUmpkinBread

This is so perfect for fall. That’s all I can say about my recipe.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Coconut Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

3C all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup gluten-free flour)

2C organic natural sugar

2C organic canned pumpkin

1½C semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (soy-free)

1C melted organic cultured unsalted butter, allowed to cool a bit

½C melted organic, extra virgin coconut oil, allowed to cool a bit

¼C organic shredded coconut

4 large eggs (I used 5 small-medium eggs from my chickens)

2t cinnamon

1t sea salt

1t baking soda

1t vanilla

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare the loaf pans by greasing with butter or using a Coconut Spray oil. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cinnamon, sea salt, baking soda, and chocolate chips. Give it a quick stir

In a small bowl combine the wet ingredients: pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to combine and then add the warm, but not hot, butter and coconut oil. Stir until all ingredients are combined.

Slowly add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir gently and only to combine; do not over-mix or you will create gluten and it will make your bread tough. We’re going for a tender loaf.

Pour batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans. Tamp on the counter to get the batter to settle and use spoon to even out the top. Sprinkle both loaves with the shredded coconut.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10-15 minutes. Remove from loaf pan to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy. It’s so good.

Note: I use organic ingredients as much as possible and do not always write ‘organic’ into my recipes. All my organic ingredients are found at local farm stands,  farmer’s markets, Market Basket, Whole Foods, Vitacost.com, or Amazon.com.

Coconut Brioche French Toast

Coconut French Toast.

I love baking bread. There’s something so wholesome and Zen about making your own dough and watching it rise. And then there’s the anticipation of that first warm slice. When my daughters were young, I took a baking course at Newbury College. Every class of the 12 week semester, my class started off with knot rolls. Did I say every class started out with rolls? Every – single – class. The first class was devoted to learning the basics of yeast dough, and every class thereafter we were expected to get fifteen dozen rolls in the proof box in half an hour. After a while, I was dreaming of knot rolls in my sleep. I didn’t complain – I loved the challenge of getting those rolls done quickly and with their knots all coiled perfectly. Thankfully, the class progressed to making croissants and Danish! Seven hours on a Saturday making Danish is not a bad way to spend a day.

Three years ago, I visited Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. The first morning I ordered coconut brioche French toast. Amazing. I have been dreaming of it ever since. And so, last week, after sailing around the British Virgin Islands we couldn’t resist stopping there to have breakfast. Yay! The coconut French toast is just the same as ever. I loved it. I devoured it. I may have stabbed my husband a time or two with my fork when he reached to take some.

Since I can’t have the Peter Island French toast whenever I crave it, I created a recipe that comes pretty close. Brioche makes a perfect French toast. It’s similar to Challah, Russian Easter bread, and Portuguese sweet bread; a dense, sweet loaf. The key when baking bread is to make sure it gets a full two rises. For this recipe, I used my 10” loaf pan so I could get even slices, but you can use a traditional brioche mold and cut your slices to suit your style. A traditional brioche mold is round and fluted. The best brioche has an overnight refrigerated rest, but you don’t have to do that to get a nice loaf.

Toasting coconut is very simple, but you have to keep an eye on it. There’s a very fine line between toasting coconut and burning it. To toast coconut start with unsweetened, shredded coconut. I like the large coconut chips that I can get from Bob’s Red Mill. The larger shreds have more coconut flavor. If I want a smaller shredded coconut, I simply put it in my food processor and process for a few pulses. Preheat your oven to 300°. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet in a fairly thin layer. Bake for about 20 minutes until just toasted. Check on the coconut frequently and give it a stir because it burns very quickly. Toasted coconut is great with Greek yogurt, sprinkled on ice cream, tossed into salads, and snacking. You can also toast coconut on the stovetop.

Brioche Loaf

Brioche
Makes one loaf
Ingredients:

  • ⅓C warm whole milk, 110°F
  • 1 package yeast, NOT rapid rise
  • 4T sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 5T butter, room temp and soft
  • 2¼C flour
  • ¼t salt

Egg Wash
Ingredients:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1t milk

Directions: Put the dough hook on your heavy-duty mixer. In the bowl of the mixer, pour in the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Stir to combine, and let it sit for about 10 minutes to wake up the yeast. It should bubble a bit. If it doesn’t, the yeast is probably dead. If that happens, get a new packet and start over.

Turn the mixer to medium-low and slowly add the eggs. Use a rubber scraper to scrape down the sides. Beat until combined, about 5 minutes on low. Add the flour and salt in small increments, and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Once all the butter is added, turn the mixer to high and beat the dough for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should feel springy to the touch. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit of flour and beat another 5 minutes.

Butter a large stainless steel bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, loosely cover it with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area of your kitchen to rise for up to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough. Remove it from the bowl, and rolling it with both hands, work the dough into a loaf.

Butter a 10” loaf pan. Place the dough into the loaf pan. Loosely cover the dough again with the plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1½ – 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Prepare the egg wash by using a fork to blend the egg yolk and milk. Brush the egg wash over the top of your loaf and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. The loaf should sound hollow if you tap it on the bottom. Let the bread cool for a couple minutes, then remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to continue cooling.

Egg Wash Brioche Loaf
Coconut Brioche French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 2C coconut, toasted
  • 8 eggs
  • ½C low-fat coconut milk
  • 1C whole milk
  • 1T vanilla or dark rum
  • 1T superfine sugar
  • 1 day old (stale works best) loaf of brioche, sliced into generous 1“ slices
  • 4T+ butter
  • 4T+ coconut oil

For serving:
real maple syrup
fresh berries, bananas, or other fruit of choice

Directions: In a shallow bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, whole milk, vanilla, and sugar until combined. The coconut milk will be lump. Whisk it hard. Dip the bread slices into the mixture and let the bread soak for at least a minute each side.

Press each side of the bread into the toasted coconut. You may have to turn them a couple times to make sure that the coconut sticks to the sides.

Brioche in Coconut

Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add the butter and coconut oil in equal amounts. Cook the bread until it’s golden on all sides. Watch out, that coconut crust can burn! Add more butter and coconut oil as needed to cook the French toast (this is not the time to skimp on the fat). Transfer to a platter and keep warm in the oven tented with foil until all slices are ready.

Serve with fresh fruit and real maple syrup.