You know how there are always some recipes that jumped straight at you the moment you first encounter it.
When I got my hands on Jerusalem: A Cookbook, I was very excitedly flipping through its pages just like how I would with all my new cookbooks. The first recipe that jumped straight at me is the Chocolate krantz cake and it is also the first recipe that I added a mental post-it to my growing “to try recipe” list.
While I have tried several recipes from this cookbook which is becoming one of my current favourites, it took me half a year to get to this recipe.
I can’t quite believe it took me this long to bake this because it was love at the first bite.It is kind of hard to place this loaf into a single category for it is not quite a cake yet not a bread. It has a dense yet tender crumb. You might think that it is a copious amount of sugar syrup that is going into the loaf but you would be surprised that the krantz cake is not overly sweet. In fact, it is hardly sweet – the dark chocolate filling gives it a kind of luscious and decadent quality, the crunchy pecans gives the cake little pops of surprise.
The way the dough is made is just like how you would make a brioche (or an enriched bread); its key difference is the replacement of plain flour for bread flour. It rises during proving but not the astronomical rise like bread dough does.
Since it took me so long to get to the recipe, I decide to make up for time by baking this twice in two weeks. On the second attempt, I tried a version with cinnamon sugar. It is just like a cinnamon roll but better!
For now, I think that I like the chocolate one just a wee bit better.
I’m already dreaming of another slice of this as I’m writing this.
Chocolate krantz cake
Makes 2 large loaves
Recipe adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Though this cake takes quite a lot of time, I can assure you that is well-worth your effort (just like the two recipe testers for the cookbook). The recipe yields two large loaves and I would suggest that you bake the whole batch even though it is a lot. You can freeze one of the loaves and heat it up before serving. I’ve made it twice in two weeks (Yes, it is THAT good). I followed the recipe very closely – it is very well-explained. I have made a few, minor alterations which I have highlighted in italics.
For the dough
530 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100 g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fast-rising active dry yeast
grated zest of 1 small lemon ( I use the zest of an orange instead)
3 large eggs
120 ml water
rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 3/4-inch / 2cm cubes
sunflower oil/canola oil, for greasing
For the chocolate filling
50 g confectioners’ sugar
30 g best-quality cocoa powder ( I use Callebaut dutch-processed cocoa powder)
130 g good-quality dark chocolate, melted ( I use Valhrona Equatoriale Dark 55 %)
1/2 cup / 120 g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup / 100 g pecans, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
For the sugar syrup (enough for both cakes)
2/3 cup / 160 ml water
1 1/4 cups / 260 g superfine sugar
a strip of orange zest without pith, optional (I also added orange zest to the sugar syrup to give it a little more orange flavour that worked well with both the chocolate and cinnamon sugar kratz cakes)
sea salt flakes, optional
1. For the dough, place the flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs and water and mix on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes, until the dough comes together. Add the salt and then start adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing until it is incorporated into the dough. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is completely smooth, elastic, and shiny. During the mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times and throw a small amount of flour onto the sides so that all of the dough leaves them.
2. Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with sunflower oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight.
3. Grease two 2 1⁄4-lb / 1kg loaf pans (9 by 4 inches / 23 by 10 cm) with some sunflower oil and line the bottom of each pan with a piece of waxed paper. Divide the dough in half and keep one-half covered in the fridge.
4. Make the filling by mixing together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter. You will get a spreadable paste. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 cm). Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread half the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a 3⁄4-inch / 2cm border all around. Sprinkle half the pecans on top of the chocolate, then sprinkle over half the superfine sugar.
5. Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.
6. Trim about 3⁄4 inch / 2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake into a loaf pan. Cover the pan with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 11⁄2 hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent. Repeat the whole process to make the second cake.
7. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove the tea towels, place the cakes on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. I baked the trimmings as well in a small loaf pan. Those will bake much quicker – check at 20 minutes. Also make sure that the chocolate doesn’t start to burn. You can use an aluminum foil to cover the loaf tins to prevent the cake from getting too brown.
8. While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar (and orange zest if you are adding) in a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat and leave to cool down. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush all of the syrup over them. It is important to use up all the syrup. Though it looks like a lot of syrup, it is possible to use it up. Just brush it over and let the cake absorb it before brushing on the next layer – repeat until syrup is used up. I sprinkled some Murray river sea salt after brushing because I like the sweet and salty combination. Leave the cakes until they are just warm, then remove them from the pans and let cool completely before serving.
*You can also make an equally delicious version using cinnamon and sugar (As suggested by the cookbook)
Cinnamon sugar filling: brush each dough half with 6 tbsp / 80 g melted unsalted butter and then sprinkle with 120 g light muscovado sugar, 1 1⁄2 tbsp ground cinnamon, and 50 g coarsely chopped walnuts; then roll as described in the chocolate version.
*Make the dough the night before. If you have a good mixer, you can just dump the ingredients in and use a dough hook to do most of the work for you.
*It is important that the butter is soft when you incorporate it into the dough. Otherwise, it would not blend in uniformly. I find it easier to incorporate the butter by hand – folding it into the dough before putting it back on the mixer.
*When assembling the loaf, ensure that you keep your chocolate filling warm. This is a good point to note especially if you are working in a cool climate especially on a cold dough just out of the fridge. Ensure that your chocolate filling does not cool too quickly . while you are spreading it. The dark chocolate may begin to temper and set, you may end up with hardened and cracked chocolate when you roll it up.
* When baking the loaves, it is good to check it midway. If the top gets too brown/ chocolate starts to burn, cover it with a sheet of aluminium foil which is what I did.