December 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #12 : Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)

his month marks 12 months of baking breads together and given that’s it’s also a season for a lot of festive baking done in parts of the country and the world, I thought it would be great if all of us at “We Knead To Bake” got together to bake something special this month.
My choice for this month is the Bienenstich Kuchen or what’s also known as the German Bee Sting Cake! Bienenstich is not really a bread but a traditional German sweet yeasted cake that has a baked on topping of crunchy almond toffee-like layer and filled with a vanilla pastry cream. Bienenstich is traditionally eaten as dessert but also served with tea or coffee.

Bienenstich means “bee sting” in German and probably got its name from the honey flavoured topping that is typical of this yeasted cake. There are however some interesting stories connected to it. One story is that the German baker who was creating this recipe came across a bee (possibly attracted by the honey) and was stung by it and decided to name the cake after the incident!

Another story is that a group of German bakers stopped invaders from entering a neighbouring village, sometime in the 15th century, by throwing beehives at them. In order to celebrate their victory, they created the original version of the Bienenstich. 
The Bienenstich is made with enriched brioche-like dough that’s typical for yeasted cakes which means that it contains a lot of butter, some milk and eggs. I have reduced the egg to one in this particular recipe. If you do use eggs, go ahead and use one more (total of 2 eggs) as it will certainly improve the texture of your Bienenstich. You might need to add one or two tbsps more of flour to the dough for the extra egg. On the other hand if you don’t use eggs, please leave out the eggs altogether. It will make a slight difference to the texture but not too much, and you will still have a good Bienenstich.

A Bienenstich is typically filled with pastry cream which is a mix of custard and whipped cream. This pastry cream must be stiff enough to take the weight of being sandwiched between two layers of yeasted cake. I have used an egg-free version that uses custard powder but feel free to use your preferred recipe for custard using eggs.
You may also like to use buttercream, Bavarian Cream or Diplomat Cream as filling if that is your preference. I emntion once again, that the cake is a bit heavy so your filling should not be runny or too soft or it will not be able to carry the weight of the upper cake layer. There’s nothing more disappointing to see your effort spoiled by the filling flowing out of the middle and turning everything into a soggy mess! You can also add fruit (strawberry, kiwi, mango, etc) to your “cream” layer even though this is not traditional.
I have baked my Bienenstich in a round cake tin and cut it into slices but you can also bake it in a square tin and cut it out into squares like we do with brownies.
One of the ways of getting over the problems the filling possibly flowing out of the middle is to make it strong enough to take the weight of the upper layer. This can be taken care of by using a filling that will hold up and in the event your filling is a bit on the softer side, then not using too much filling to sandwich the layers. You can always thin the remaining filling and serve it with the Bienestich as a sauce. The whipped cream can be stabilized with corn-starch (or agar or gelatine if you use it).

Another problem that can present itself with the Bienenstich is that the filling could squish out when you try to cut or slice it. Thisproblem can be solved by placing the lower layer of the cake on the serving plate and then making a collar around it with a double layer of parchment paper that should be a little taller than the height of your finished Bienenstich.  Now spread the filling over the lower layer evenly.

Then cut the upper almond toffee layer of your yeasted cake into slices or squares (depending on the shape of your Bienenstich) as you would cut your finished Bienenstich. Now place the slices/ squares on top of the filling so it looks like the top layer is whole. Refrigerate this for at least a couple of hours before serving. When ready to serve, remove the parchment collar, and use the slices/ squares as a guide and cut through the filling right to the bottom. 

Note: If you cannot find sliced almonds where you live (as in my case), you can make them at home. They will not be as thin as the store-bough version but I personally prefer my home made variety.
Blanch almonds by dropping them in just boiled hot water (not boiling water, but boiling water that has just been taken off the heat). If you boil them, they will cook and become soft. Let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes. Then drain the water off and rinse once in cold water. Strain well.

The skins of the almonds should feel a little loose and look wrinkled now. Pinch each almond at the broad end with thumb and forefinger and the skin should slip off easily.
Let the almonds dry out on a kitchen towel in an airy place for about half an hour. Then lay each almond down on its flat side and, using a sharp knife, slice as thinly as you can. There you have your sliced almonds.
Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)


For the Pastry Cream Filling:

250ml milk (I used 2%)
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp vanilla flavoured custard powder
200ml cream (I used 25% fat)
1 tbsp corn-starch 

For the Dough:

1/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
100gm butter, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast 

For the Honey-Almond Topping:

50 gm butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup almonds, sliced* (see Note above)


Make the custard for the filling first. This can be made the previous day and refrigerated till required.
Keep aside 1/4 cup of milk, and put the remaining milk and the sugar in pan. Over medium heat, bring this to a boil while stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. In the meanwhile, dissolve the custard powder in the 1/4 cup of milk. Add this in a stream, to the boiling milk and keep whisking so that no lumps are formed.
Keep whisking until the custard becomes very thick. Take the pan off the heat and let the custard cool to room temperature. Whisk it on and off so it stays smooth. If it does become lumpy after cooling, use a hand blender to make it smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Once you are ready to fill the Bienenstich, whip 200ml of cream till soft peaks form. Then add the corn-starch and whip till it forms stiff peaks. Whisk the custard to make sure it is smooth. Gently fold the cream into the custard. If you feel it is too soft, refrigerate for a couple of hours and then use.
To make the dough, heat the milk until it is quite hot but not boiling. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the milk, stirring it until the better melts completely. Let it cool a little. 

In the meanwhile, put the flour, sugar, salt and the yeast in the bowl of your processor. Run a couple of times to mix well and then add the egg (leave the egg out if you don’t use it). Run again till the egg has also mixed well. Now add the butter-milk mixture (it should be warm, not hot) and the then knead till it forms a smooth and soft (loose) brioche-like dough that’s just short of sticky. It should come way from the sides of the bowl and be easy to handle.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This dough will rise quite well but not to double or as much as your regular bread dough. 
Deflate the dough, and shape again to a smooth ball. Place it in a 8” spring form cake tin lined with parchment. It is important to do this otherwise the topping will make the bread/ cake sticky and difficult to unmould. Flatten the dough a little, pressing down lightly so that the dough fits the cake tin. It doesn’t matter if its not touching the sides like batter does. Let it rise for about 30 to 45 minutes. It will not rise very much and look a little puffy.
Prepare the topping while the dough rises. Melt the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla in a small pan, over medium heat. Keep stirring frequently and it will start bubbling up. Let it cook for about 3 minutes or so until it turns to a light beige colour. Add the sliced almonds, and stir well till the almonds are well coated. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool a bit. The mixture will become quite thick.
Now get ready to bake the bread/ cake. Once the dough has risen, use a spoon take bits if the topping (it will be quite thick, like a sticky fudge) and distribute it uniformly over the surface. If there are small gaps they will get covered once the bread/ cake is baking.
Bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling. A cake tester through the centre should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then gently loosen the sides with a spatula and unmould. Let it cool completely on a rack.
When it has cooled completely, slice the cake into two equal layers carefully, using a very sharp knife. Spread the pastry cream on the lower layer and top with the upper layer and refrigerate till ready to serve.
This recipe should serve 8 to 10. 

This yeasted cake is being YeastSpotted!

On an aside, over the past year since the “We Knead To Bake” group was formed, many of you have asked to join us. The group is now open to new members till the 30th of this month after which the group will be closed for a year.
If you would like to join us and would be committed to baking with us every month, please make a request to join the group on its page on Facebook.