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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Raspberry Coffee Cakes


I seem to be stuck in the breakfast mode these days, but now a couple of sweet breads to balance yesterday's savory recipes.

The first is a coffee cake I've been making for 30 years or more, and the inspiration at that time came from a decades old cookbook. This is one of those lovely recipes that stand up to all manner of tinkering, my favorite kind. Today's version has raspberries, but it can be made with lots of other fruits or without any fruit at all. The nicest part of it is that, if you have a food processor, it takes about five minutes to stir up. Even without that great appliance, this is a very quick bread that looks like it took a lot longer.





Crumb Coffee Cake

3 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 c sugar—may use all white sugar or a mixture of white and brown sugars
1 to 2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 c butter, cut in thin slices
3 large eggs
1 c milk
1 t vanilla
1/2 c almonds—see preparation comment below
1 c fresh or frozen raspberries—do not thaw

To prepare almonds: If using a food processor, put whole almonds in and chop coarsely. Set aside in a 2 cup measure. If you do not have a food processor, use sliced or chopped almonds for this recipe.

Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of the processor (or in a large mixing bowl). Cut in the butter until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Remove some of the crumb mixture to the measuring cup with the almonds so that you have a total of 1 1/2 cups of crumbs and almonds. Set this aside.

Put the three eggs around the top of the dry ingredients and pour the milk and vanilla over. Process or beat by hand just until smooth. The batter will be quite thin.

Spray a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the raspberries evenly over the top and then spread with the nut/crumb mixture, covering all the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes or until done. (If using frozen berries, you may need to add a few minutes of baking time.)

Some other variations to consider: Any berries can be substituted for the raspberries, as can finely diced apple, raisins or other dried fruit. The nuts can be omitted or walnuts or pecans used instead. Applesauce can be substituted for the milk; with this variation, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and reduce the baking powder to 2 1/2 teaspoons. Add more or less cinnamon or substitute almond for the vanilla.

Now for a coffee cake that will require only a little more time but more preplanning. I recently stirred up enough sweet dough for two loaves of bread and made it into two raspberry filled coffee cakes. The shaping was amazingly easy, but the results were really very attractive.

Raspberry Filled Yeast Coffee Cake

1 batch sweet yeast dough, enough for 2 loaves of bread
Raspberry filling
Powdered sugar frosting

When the dough has risen and is ready to be shaped, divide in half. Roll each one into a square about 12 inches or so on each side. It should be no more than one half inch thick. Transfer the square to a well-oiled baking sheet.
A couple of hints:
  • Be sure you transfer the dough before filling and cutting! If you don't, you will have a lot of difficulty getting the coffee cake onto the baking sheet without a mess!
  • Do not use an insulated baking sheet for this recipe. These are large loaves and the bottom will not brown adequately with insulated sheets. In fact, if you have a pizza stone, put the pan directly on the stone when you are baking these loaves for the best crust.

Now for the final shaping. Imagine the square as being divided in thirds. The center third is where you will place the filling, while the two thirds on the sides will be slashed and folded over the center.

Spread half the filling down the center of the dough, stopping just before the ends of the dough.

With kitchen scissors or a very sharp knife, make cuts on each side, about 1 inch apart and ending just before the filling.

Beginning at one end, fold the cut strips over the filling, alternating from the left and right sides. Allow the strips to overlap slightly and let a little bit of the filling peek through as you go. Pinch and fold the dough at both ends to keep the filling form leaking out. Repeat with the second half of the dough and filling.

Cover lightly with a towel and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees about 25 to 30 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter. When cooled, drizzle thick powdered sugar icing over the coffee cakes, allowing the filling to peek through between the squiggles of icing.

Raspberry Filling

12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed; reserve juice
1/2 to 3/4 c sugar, according to your tastes
2 T cornstarch
water

Place the drained juice from the raspberries in a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1 cup.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, stir the sugar and cornstarch together until well blended. Gradually add the water and raspberry juice mixture and stir. Microwave at low to medium power for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. The mixture should bubble and become clear and thick.
Remove from microwave and stir in the berries. Set aside until cool.

Powdered Sugar Icing

2 T butter, softened or melted
approximately 1 pound powdered sugar
milk
1 t vanilla

Gradually stir some powdered sugar into the butter until it is creamy. Add the vanilla and a very little milk and then some more powdered sugar. Continue beating together, alternating powdered sugar and a few drops of milk until the powdered sugar is used up.

If you have never made this kind of icing before, be VERY careful! It takes only a few drops of milk to turn the icing from "just a little too stiff" to a soupy mix that will run right off of whatever it is you want to ice. Slow and steady is the rule here. The good news is that you can correct icing that is too thin by just adding more powdered sugar. The bad news of course is that you either have no more powdered sugar to add or you will end up with enough icing for half a dozen cakes! (If the latter occurs, cover the icing tightly and refrigerate; it will keep for a week or more, until your next baking session.)

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