Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Today, most Bienenstich cakes are filled, either with whipped cream or vanilla pudding. Why anyone would want to mess with perfection is beyond me. This cake disappears, and I mean **poof**, in an afternoon. Keep your cream filling, stuff your whipped cream, but pass me another piece or four of this cake...I'll take the post-WWII version any day.
I realize my photo is a bit minimalist. Austerity cake = austerity photo. What's remarkable is that there was actually a piece - one last piece - to photograph at all. First person up the next morning gets it. (That would be me - sorry Eric!) The early bird gets the cake in our house, so to speak.
I still remember my mom making this cake and giving me the pot to lick clean. To this day, the sugar, butter and almond topping makes my heart skip a beat. While the cake is slowly browning in the oven, I can usually be found, looking wistfully as it bakes, pot in one hand and spatula in the other, cleaning out the pot. Life is very, very good.
Bienenstich means "bee-sting" in German. Apparently bees like it, too:
Yeast Dough Base:
1 package active-dry yeast (or 2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 tsp sugar
250 mL milk, lukewarm
500 g flour
100 g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbs oil
bitter almond flavouring (I use Dr. Oetker essence from a local import deli. It's worth hunting down.)
Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in 250 mL warm milk. Add yeast and mix, and let rise 10 minutes.
Mix approximately 300 g of flour with sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set remaining 200 g flour aside to mix in while kneading.
Stir yeast/milk mixture with oil and bitter almond flavouring. (If you have the Dr. Oetker essence, use about 1/2 of the vial. If you're using regular bottled essence, use maybe a 1/4 tsp.)
Add yeast/milk/oil mixture to flour and sugar in mixing bowl.
Gradually add remaining flour until dough comes together and can be kneaded.
Knead for approximately 10 minutes, adding as much flour as is necessary to obtain a smooth dough. Dough should not be sticky. Place in a large greased bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 1-1/2 hours.
100 g butter
200 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs milk
200 g chopped blanched almonds
Blanch almonds if you have only natural almonds with their skin on. I like this tutorial.
Chop almonds, either with a chopping knife, or in a food processor. (Don't make powder; you need little pieces.)
Melt butter and sugar in a pot over low heat on stove-top. Add almonds, vanilla and milk, ensuring sugar has melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Lightly grease a 10" x 15" roasting pan with oil or non-stick spray. (I like to use a roasting pan with high sides as opposed to a jelly-roll pan to prevent the topping from overflowing, as the yeast dough will rise to about an 1-1/4" in height.)
Spread topping evenly on yeast dough. (If topping has hardened, put it back on the stove, add a bit of milk, and let it warm slightly).
Bake in a 350F oven for 20-25 minutes, until topping is golden-brown.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, I loosen the sides from the pan with a butter-knife. If you let the cake topping harden, you'll have a hard time getting it out of the pan.
If you only have instant rise yeast, follow the instructions on the yeast package. This generally means warming all liquid ingredients, and adding them to your yeast and flour mixture, adding as much flour as is necessary to knead dough.
I use my KitchenAid mixer for all steps of the dough, but finish kneading by hand. Sweet yeast dough has a different feel than, say, bread dough or pizza dough. It's a bit tougher and kneading it by hand warms the dough and gives me a better idea if I need to add more flour or not.
I hope you'll try this cake, and enjoy it as much as I do. This cake transcends all boundaries, and I've never met someone who could eat just one piece.