Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crumb (Coffee) Cake

To celebrate Bryant taking his Step 3 exam on Friday, I asked him what he wanted as a celebratory dinner and dessert.  His answer? Fish'n'chips.  Let me preface this by saying that was understood that this fish'n'chips was to be purchased from a restaurant. I have a quite a story of my disastrous attempt to make healthy fish'n'chips - let's just say the fish resembled smushed pancakes and I threw a small tantrum and refused to eat anything. Bryant was game enough to try it but before his first bite, he found a worm in his fish (even though it had been purchased from a more upscale grocery store).  Of course, the worm just made this story laughable.  And I've learned not to attempt a healthy version of fish'n'chips and stick with the restaurants (or Uncle John) that do it right.

But I digress.  My point was that while I wasn't going to be making dinner, I knew I could make a celebratory dessert.  However, instead of dessert, Bryant requested a coffee cake for breakfast the next morning.  And not just any coffee cake.  A crumb coffee cake.  Actually, the crumb coffee cake.  The kind that uses more butter than I use in a typical month.  The kind that might as well be dessert (correction: this coffee cake IS dessert - I found an almost identical recipe for crumb cake in my Cook's Illustrated magazine).  The kind that elicited a "Best damn coffee cake I've ever had" (his words, not mine) from a coworker of Bryant's when I brought it to the hospital for Bryant and his team on an overnight shift.

My final words of wisdom: This coffee cake isn't for every day (or even every month).  But it is so, so good, no matter if you're serving it for dessert or breakfast. And if you find a worm in your fish, bring both the fish and the worm into the store as proof and they should give you a refund.

Crumb (Coffee) Cake
Taken from: Smitten Kitchen & Cook's Illustrated (May 2007)
Serves 8

For the crumbs:
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (Cook's Illustrated did not include this)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose which worked fine)
 For the cake:
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (Cook's Illustrated used buttermilk instead)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour (same thing as above - subbed in all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tbsp. softened butter, cut into pieces
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan.
-To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a thick dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.
-To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream/buttermilk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla.
-Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula.
-Scrape batter into prepared pan.
-Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs (Cook's Illustrated suggests breaking apart crumb dough, and then rolling broken dough between your thumb and forefinger to form crumbs the size of large peas). They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter, 35-40 minutes. Cool completely before serving (approximately 20-30 minutes).

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