The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ITJB Honey Cake - Take II

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

ITJB Honey Cake - Take II

This is Take II because I actually baked this formula twice this week.  The first time I used dark rye instead of white rye flour by mistake.   The second time I got the flour right, but I may have done something else wrong.  Both bakes are very tasty.  Almost addictive to a giant sweet tooth like myself.  Even though I baked it for what seemed like forever though, it still came out not quite done.  Or, it came out something else I don't recognize.  Here is the picture that explains it.

There is that dark and heavy, almost gummy edge that runs all the way around the loaf, thicker on top, and hardly present on the bottom.  I baked two of these together on the same shelf, about 8 inches apart, and both came out the same.  They were baked at 225F for 2 hours 45 minutes.  A skewer in the middle came out a bit wet and with gummy crumbs on it at 2 hours 20 minutes, so I gave them more time.  At the next check the skewer came out clean.  The book does not specify how to tell if these are done, so I followed my limited knowledge of "the basics"...  I asked my wife.

There was one other difference between the book instructions and my kitchen that I also do not know the impact of.  That is:  No KitchenAide mixer or any other "paddle attachment" mixer.  I made these in the old Hamilton Beach Mixmaster.  It is one of those double-beater mixers.  I used slow and not-quite-so-slow speeds to mix, and used the prescribed times as a guide, roughly.  When the batter achieved that "loose, stringy and very, very sticky" point I quit.  It seemed like the batter might be more highly aerated than a paddle mixer might have made it, but I've never worked with a paddle so I don't know.  If that were the case though, and the batter was a little "foamy" as a result, could that account for this appearance?  Or is it just under baked as I surmise?  Or, is it just fine, and I'm being too picky again?

I ask if I'm being too picky because back in November of 2008 nbicomputers (Norman Berg) posted his own bake of this formula, and in that post he says it was baked for 2 hours at 225F.  His photo shows slight evidence of  the same, so I don't think my results are too far off.  I imagine he used a Kitchenaide, or something like it, so I'm curious about the impact that might have.

Aside from that, this is a wonderful cake.  The aroma while it bakes is intoxicating, and the taste is addictive.  I have to stop baking it, and give some away, or I fear my "stock" will be going up undesirably.  I will probably bake this again at some point, and I think I will probably go back to the dark rye flour when I do.  The crumb and texture with the dark rye flour were more coarse than with the white rye, and the sweetness seemed a bit less sharp to us than with the white rye, but we like it very much.  We both thought that was a very good tasting mistake, and worth repeating.

Thanks for stopping by.
OldWoodenSpoon

Comments

linder's picture
linder

Hi OWS,

I noticed in Norm's version there seemed to be some parchment paper around the the cake.  Did you line the pan with parchment paper or did you grease the pan?  Just trying to see if maybe a greased pan may have contributed to the gooey edges.

Linda

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

In the book the instructions are for parchment or a well greased pan.  I saw that parchment paper in Norm's post too, so although I used non-stick (almost brand new) pans, I also used a strip of parchment paper covering the ends and the bottom of the pan, but not the sides.  I did not grease the sides, and the parchment paper stuck on at least one end of each loaf.  The sides of the loaves look a little scarred up due to the spatula I ran down the sides to loosen them before inverting them to un-pan them. 

Thanks!
OldWoodenSpoon

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

A narrower pan might make all the difference!  

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

are what is directed, and it looks like the same size Norm used back in 2008 although it is not really possible to tell.  Also, the batter filled the pans enough for the domed loaves to peek over the rim of the pan about 1/2", so at least the volume seems right. 

I don't have any narrower pans at this volume, so I think I'm going to get another test thermometer for my oven and recheck that as a next step.  I've not actually checked it at as low a temperature as 225F.  If the temperature proves true I'll try another 5 degrees hotter next time, because it just seemed like it took forever to get this far.  Maybe I'll get some new pans for Christmas to try your idea as well?

Thanks for taking time to comment Mini!  I always appreciate your advice.
OldWoodenSpoon

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi OWS, I was wondering about the appearence of the top crust. I had the same.

Last night I baked my second batch of honey cake and covered one of the loaf tins with tin foil.

The top skin remained dark.

Juergen.

 

 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

I have wondered if anyone else has seen this.  Did your dark top come out roughly as thick as mine did?

Thanks for reporting on the test with the foil.  I now know that excessive top heat is not the problem.  I assume you baked at the prescribed temperature (225F / ~108 C).  How long did you bake yours for?  Also, how did you mix your batter?

I still suspect that, despite my several tests, my oven is slightly cool.  I have had some other indications that this might be the case despite checking it from time to time.  I do not have a "certified" thermometer, so there are no guarantees against it being wrong and the oven wrong too.

Thanks Juergen
OldWoodenSpoon

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi OWS,

a few things were different in my take.

I used medium rye, the whole loaf turned out a bit darker.

And when I did the comparative bake I was on the short side - especially for the covered loaf.

I used a slightly higher temperature (125C) because I had a bad experience with Black Bread baked at 104C/225F (measured) before . Still could have baked longer (than 2.5 hours). But that might just be my setup.

For mixing i used a hand mixer.

The skin on the covered oloaf is very thin - not really a crust, whereas the other loaves - baked at the same time - have a crunchy crust which is lighter in color. It is interesting to note that the cracks are darker.

I tried to take some pictures, but the color differences don't show properly.

I have a theory that the exposed dough dries out / the sugar crystallises before the rye can gelatinise. C|ompletely unfounded, of course.

Anyway, this is a very interesting thing happening to a very delicious cake.

Juergen

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Thanks for the additional information.  I think we may have something different going on in our respective bakes here.  You report the crust is crunchy, and lighter in color.  Mine was thicker, more like gummy, and darker than the rest of the loaf.  The entire loaf was soft, and not crunchy anywhere.  You may be right about the cause, especially since you said you baked it at a slightly higher temperature.  I plan to do the same next bake.  Perhaps I'll get some additional insight on that.

None of that, however, interferes at all with the excellent taste.  I took a loaf of this to a church group meeting last week as a snack and it was a huge success.  I had cut it into nearly two dozen pieces in all, and it all disappeared with only about 14 or 15 people present!  There was not a bad report from the entire group, so it was a success, regardless of the appearance.

Thanks
OldWoodenSpoon

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi,

I am not so sure we look at different issues.

Of course, I am using much darker flour.

I put together a few photos  to illustrate what happened in my case:

This is a detail of the cracks of the uncovered loaf:

The crack is clearly darker than the surrounding area. The lighter colored bits surrounding the crack were slightly crunchy when fresh.This leads me to the conclusion that the effect occurs at the beginning of the bake.

My loaf might have cracked because I added the baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) with the last lot of flour. to delay the chemical leavening as long as possible.

Next there is a comparison between covered and uncovered loaf:

The skin of the covered loaf is quite thin and even, except for the middle where it touched the tin foil.

Here is the crumb of the covered loaf, slightly undercooked:

Clearly this doesn't display the gummy zone just below the crust.

When I tried this recipe first I baked late in the evening, when I was tired. I misread the temperatures to be in Celsius. After 10 minutes I realised I was baking at 225C instead of 225F! And I had overfilled the tins.

As an effect the dough nearly exploded: the loafs expanded high above the tin and the light colored crust appeared within minutes.

Interesting that this bake exhibited the gummy layer near all the surfaces with air contact.  The yellow arrow in the following picture shows the position of the loaf tin edge:

I like to think of the dark area as kind of a compaction zone created by the still expanding "bread core" being restricted by the harder, inelastic, light coloured zone.

Here a detail from the other side of this loaf where there was a major blowout. The gummy area went along the surface, including the blowout. I had cut off the blowout before taking the photograph, but the two arrows should make it clear.

The blowout was a nice piece of cake in itself - with three distinct textures. Gives me some ideas --

I hope you didn't mind me putting all these pictures into your thread. I find this fascinating.

Cheers,

Juergen

 

 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

far more than any number of words.  I see much more clearly now, and I have to agree:  we see the same results, only different in degree and detail. 

Some observations:
- My original bake was with dark rye flour, and the texture in that bake was very similar to yours, but the color was even darker.  I used golden honey since it was what I had on hand, but the darkness of the dark rye flour still was apparent.  We liked it a lot really.  I think I would be very pleased with your result in that aspect as well.
-  You got an amazing rise out of that cake!  Mine only barely reached above the tops of the pans, and they were nearly flat across the top.  Your strategy of holding back the baking soda to the last minute paid off very well I'd say.  I think that gives you a lighter texture overall as well.  The pictures show that mine was much more like a pound cake in texture:  dense and moist, but heavy, not in a bad way.  This difference may account for the fact that I had no significant surface cracks on the tops of any of my loaves.
- I think it odd that your case clearly only exhibited that gummy zone where there was air contact.  In my own the gummy layer extended almost all the way down the sides of the loaf to just short of the bottom itself.  It was less pronounced as it went deeper into the pan, but was clearly present nonetheless.  I must confess to having no real experience with cake in most of it's forms so I don't know what this might mean, but I do wonder if the difference between our results in this respect might be the result of your slightly hotter bake than mine?  The hotter oven is a strategy I plan to test at some point.  Perhaps I'll be able to tell when I do so.
-  Your covered vs uncovered comparison makes me wonder what this cake would do if baked longer (say 3 hours or so)  in a pullman pan with the lid on...  Any thoughts on how much batter would properly fill a 4" x 4" x 9" Pullman pan?

I think it was a very good idea to add your pictures to this discussion Juergen and I am glad that you did.  It has already helped me, and it will allow others coming later to see the entire story in one place without the need to bounce between our respective blogs.  I find this an intriguing exploration too, especially in view of my all too recent and quite similar (in appearance at least) difficulties with the Vienna Bread from ITJB.  It seems to me that there are possibly some parallels between the causes.

Thanks
OldWoodenSpoon

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

 

Hi OldWoodenSpoon,

I am sorry for the very late reply.

Since Christmas I didn't do very much baking or research.

This honey cake really has the most intriguing physical qualities. Is it evaporation or rather sublimation, this process of a sudden disappearance?

My honey loaves touch the cover when I fill the loaf pan just over half full.

I have some more ideas about the bread structure, but need time to think them through.

Thanks,

Juergen

varda's picture
varda

I had a few loaves of this in the oven yesterday, and then I remembered that someone had posted about it recently, so I came back and read this post,  and then ran into the kitchen and covered my  loaves with foil.   I think I was just in time.   They had already baked for an hour by the time I covered them, and were done after another 1.5 hours.   It came out well - at least I think so.   I gave two of the loaves away, and got one small slice of the third, and then it disappeared.   Not sure what happened to it.    Thanks for the pointer Juergen and for the post and warning, OWS.   -Varda

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

how this cake just seems to dissappear, isn't it Varda?  It is so excellent.  Sweet, but not cloyingly so.  Dense and moist yet not "heavy"; not about weight though because it is heavy that way.  Just not, well...  You've tried it, so I think you probably get it.

 

Glad to hear that you tried it and enjoyed it!
OldWoodenSpoon

Elagins's picture
Elagins

it's supposed to be thick and sticky, almost pure honey caramel, and it gets moister and thicker with time (assuming the cake lasts that long). Norm told me that in the bakeries it was a firing offense for the bakers -- and usually it was the young ones -- to raid the honey cakes and pick off that thick, gooey top crust. They did it anyway and no one ever got fired, but they did have to pay for the cakes they despoiled.

Stan

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Since it is supposed to come out that way I'll quit worrying about how to fix it! I've already figured out how enjoyable it is, but I don't expect to ever get a chance to taste it after any length of time. Somehow this cake just evaporates. Thanks for the word Stan.

OldWoodenSpoon

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I tried my hand day before yesterday and did get that thick gooey layer under a thin, crisp crust; loved it.

I am concerned, though, about the amount of mixing in the second phase. Instructions read ~10 minutes with the KA. I have a DLX, and have found the roller/scraper to be more efficient than the KA from what I infer from instructions. Is the time element important, or are the stringiness and stickiness the key measures? By 4 or 5 minutes, I'm getting strings laid across the bowl and a very sticky, thick batter (if I may call it that). Would a smidgeon more water or egg, to thin the batter, be detrimental?

I never did achieve a clean matchstick (due to the top layer of honey?), even though final internal temp reached 204℉, the sides pulled slightly away from the sides of the pan, and the top was firm and very slightly springy. Is one or more of these indicators sufficient to say, "I'm done"?

The cake was like gingerbread without the ginger. Some thin pats of butter on a slice, with morning coffee is a fantastic taste treat. Thanks, OWS, for talking me into trying it; even if that was not your intent. :)

cheers,

gary

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

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