My mom used to make Bienenstich for special occasions when I was growing up. I never really liked it because it never seemed sweet enough. It’s cake, for sure. But it uses yeast as the leavening agent, rather than just eggs or baking powder or baking soda. I’m really not sure why I got to thinking about it again - maybe just the holiday season. But I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website and tried it. I think it came out really well and was very easy to do. My adult palette likes it much better than my childhood palette, to be sure!
2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (2 ounces) water
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick, 3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) honey
2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (4 3/4 ounces) sliced almonds
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (about 2/3 of a packet, or 3 to 4 sheets)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) water
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream, whipped to very soft peaks
3-ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all of the dough ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stirring till the mixture becomes cohesive. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled or lightly floured work surface, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes, till it’s smooth. Or knead it in an electric mixer, using the dough hook, for 4 to 7 minutes at medium speed. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, cover the bowl with a proof cover or plastic wrap, and let it rise for 60 minutes, till it’s puffy.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, fold it over to expel any excess gas, and then divide it in half. Roll each piece into a ball, then pat and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle. Place the circles into two lightly greased 8-inch cake pans; don’t worry if the dough shrinks away from the edges of the pans. Allow it to rise/rest for 30 minutes-the gluten will relax, making the dough easier to work with-then gently stretch and pat it to reach the edge. Make the topping while the dough is rising.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the sugar, honey and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil it for 3 to 5 minutes, until it’s taken on a very light gold color. Stir in the almonds, let cool slightly, then spread over the dough in the pans.
Bake the Bienenstich in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 28 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the topping is bubbling. Remove it from the oven, and cool in the pan for 30 minutes, to allow the topping to firm up. Run a knife around the edges of the pans to loosen any stuck-on dough, and flip each cake over onto a plate, then flip back onto a rack so the almond topping is up. Cool completely before filling.
Carefully split each of the cakes in half horizontally, so that you have four thin, round cakes. This is best done using a serrated knife; cut slowly and check as you go to make sure you’re staying on a straight line. Set the cakes aside.
Soften the gelatin in the 2 tablespoons water, then heat the mixture (in a microwave set on low, or over low heat in a saucepan) until the gelatin has melted and the mixture is clear. Let it cool slightly.
Fold a bit of the whipped cream into the gelatin, then fold that back into the remaining whipped cream.
Mix the instant pudding with the milk and vanilla, stirring for 2 minutes as the box directs. Immediately fold the whipped cream/gelatin mixture into the pudding (the pudding will begin to set up, so work quickly). Use this faux pastry cream to fill the cakes. Serve immediately, or refrigerate till you’re ready to serve.
Yield: 2 cakes, 16 servings.
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