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Monday, June 8, 2009

You've got to roll with the walnuts

Apparently there was much gnashing of teeth and grumbling of tummies at the fortnightly meeting of my research group that happened whilst I was in Melbourne. I can only hope that my scientific expertise and sparkling wit were missed as much as my baking, but not wanting to test this too far I thought I'd better whip up something nice for the next meeting.

There were quite a few recipes I was itching to try, but due to an oven 'situation' I had to narrow my recipe search down a little. Flipping through my Canadian baking cookbook (Baking - Simple to Sensational) that I had enjoyed much success with, with the Almond and Black Pepper Biscotti and Onion and Walnut 'biscuits' that I made for our last bookclub meeting, I came across something interesting that didn't call for too much baking time. You see, my fantastic new apartment has a very temperamental oven that gets a bit too hot and bothered once it's been on for a while, and switches itself off to have a little rest. No amount of coaxing or threats of Mr Muscle will get it to turn back on. So, even though I've been dying to bust out a tray of baklava, I think my heart would have broken if the oven turned off half way through and left me with a tray of inedible goopiness. I decided not to gamble with the baking gods, and chose a recipe that required only 15-20 minutes baking time - "Cream Cheese Tea Ring". The cake is described in the book as "light and fluffy biscuit dough with a soft cream cheese and fruit filling. Fabulous!", plus it required cutting.. with scissors! I had to give it a try.

Snippety Snip Cake
(AKA Cream Cheese Tea Ring from Company's Coming: Baking - Simple to Sensational by Jean Paré)


Cream Cheese Filling

250 g cream cheese, softened (I used light Philly)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used caster sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Fruit Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tb granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cut up

Approximately 3/4 cup milk

Fruit Filling

1/3 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds (I used walnuts)
1/3 cup chopped raisins (I used sultanas)
1/3 cup chopped glace cherries

Almond (or in my case, Vanilla) Glaze
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp almond flavouring (I used vanilla extract as I find almond flavouring very overpowering and not terribly pleasant as a rule)
Approximately 1 Tb milk

1 Tb chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds, toasted (I used walnuts)

1. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

Fruit Bread
2. Combine first four ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3. Stir, adding enough milk until soft dough forms.
4. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Roll out to 10 x 14 inch (25 x 35 cm) rectangle. Spread with cream cheese mixture, leaving 3/4 inch (2 cm) edge.

5. Sprinkle pecans (walnuts), raisins (sultanas) and cherries over cream cheese mixture (I confess I added a little bit more than the recipe said to. I wanted to make sure everyone got a good amount of nuts and fruit).

Rolling and Cutting!
6. Roll up, jelly roll-style, from long side. Press seam against roll to seal. Shape into ring. Place, seam-side down, on greased baking sheet. Pinch ends together to seal.
7. Cut ring 14 times from outside edge to within 1 inch (2.5 cm) of centre using scissors (luckily we had just been to IKEA so we had fresh kitchen scissors! And a carload of other things, but I digress..).
8. Turn each cut wedge on its side, all in the same direction, allowing them to overlap.

9. Bake in 220 C oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Let stand on baking sheet on wire rack for about 30 minutes until cool.

Almond (Vanilla) Glaze
10. Combine icing sugar and almond flavouring (vanilla extract) in small bowl. Stir, adding enough milk until smooth, barely pourable consistency. Makes about 1/4 cup glaze. Drizzle or pipe over tea ring. Sprinkle with the toasted nuts.

(FYI, it cuts into 14 pieces, each with 254 calories, 12.1 g total fat (4.1 g mono, 0.9 g poly, 6.4 g sat), 30 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrate, 1 g fibre, 4 g protein, 330 mg sodium)

This recipe was a real success! The "fruit bread" was lovely and soft and not very sweet, the cream cheese spread was nice and sweet and gave the cake an element of rich gooeyness, whilst the fruit and walnuts added another level of texture. The vanilla glaze worked really well, again due to the fruit bread not being very sweet on its own. I enjoyed making and eating this, and will be experimenting with some different fillings in the future. It was also actually pretty straightforward to make, despite the whole rolling and cutting factor, and of course it looks pretty cool too! The only downside to it is that the section of the cake that contained the part where the two ends joined together was a little lacking in filling, but I took one for the team and made sure that I ate this piece. I may possibly have also eaten some of the other pieces, but my memory is a little hazy. In any case, next time I think I'll be sure to put the spread and filling up to the very end of one side to try and prevent this little section from missing out on the fruity nutty goodness so much.


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