Spring time in Mount Wilson is magnificent. Perched high in the Blue mountains this tiny village hamlet is famous for it’s cool climate gardens. This weekend we were lucky enough to be invited by our good friends to join them at home. We spent our time admiring gardens and relaxing in very convivial surroundings. Carisbrook is doubly blessed not only with superb gardens but a spacious, airy country kitchen. Complete with open fireplace and large kitchen table. Perfect for baking.
Tucked in my luggage was one of my newest cookbook acquisitions, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s alluring Jerusalem. A birthday present from my daughters. On my very first flick through the book this recipe for Chocolate Krantz Cake caught my eye. A sweet yeasted cake filled with chocolate and pecans. A cross somewhere between a syrup soaked babka and a Danish pastry. Delicious and decadent I knew I had to make it.
It is not a cake to be made in a hurry and in this sense was perfectly suited to a long, lazy weekend in the country. A word of warning, the recipe needs to be started the day before you would like to eat it. There are a number of processes involved but neither of them is particularly difficult or onerous. From the making and resting of the sweet yeast dough for a minimum of 12 hours to the preparation of the filling, and all important assembly of the krantz. Rich and chocolate-y it was divine. A real crowd pleaser. Well worth making but more importantly? It worked first time. Scribed below is the recipe, verbatim, as it appears in the book.
Sadly less than a month after our visit, Carisbrook was a casualty of the devastating October 18 bushfires in The Blue Mountains. The home and its beautiful gardens were razed to the ground. We are so very grateful that there was no loss of life. It is so surreal that this little piece of paradise is no longer there. Chocolate Krantz Cake will always remind me of that wonderful weekend at Carisbrook and its magnificent garden abloom in its Spring glory.
Chocolate Krantz Cake
Reproduced from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Making a krantz isn’t easy or quick. You need to let the dough rise overnight and then fill and shape it, which is quite an elaborate process. But, and it is a big but, we were guaranteed by two of our recipe testers, Claudine and Alison, that it is well worth it! (Their exclamation mark.)
Although this recipe makes two fairly large cakes, there isn’t really any risk of anything going to waste. They are just the sort of thing everyone hurls themselves at as soon as they come out of the oven. They will also keep for up to two days at room temperature, wrapped in foil, and up to a couple of weeks when frozen.
For a fabulous alternative to the chocolate filling, brush each dough half with 6 tbsp / 80 g melted unsalted butter and then sprinkle with 1⁄2 cup / 120 g light muscovado sugar, 1 1⁄2 tbsp ground cinnamon, and scant 1⁄2 cup / 50 g coarsely chopped walnuts; then roll as described in the chocolate version.
Makes 2 loaves.
For the dough
4 cups / 530 g all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup / 100 g superfine sugar
2 teaspoons fast-rising active dry yeast
grated zest of 1 small lemon
3 extra-large free-range eggs
1/2 cup / 120 ml water rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup / 150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 3/4-inch / 2cm cubes
sunflower oil, for greasing
For the chocolate filling
scant 1/2 cup / 50 g confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup / 30 g best-quality cocoa powder
4 oz / 130 g good-quality dark chocolate, melted
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar 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. Leave the cakes until they are just warm, then remove them from the pans and let cool completely before serving.