Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A late summer coffee cake

As I returned from my honeymoon, I started stripping my menu. It had been set the month before with items that could fill my absence from the kitchen. Needless to say, I was ready to move on, quickly, and all at once. The first morning back in the kitchen found me pensive, spinning ideas round and round, trying to find new and exciting ways to present the late summer flavors I was working with.

A delivery of wine broke me from deep thought, and I began discussing the Erik's own baking adventures of the week. As he was leaving, he made the offhanded comment, "It's funny, I always pick the most challenging recipe in the book, just to see if I can do it, and people like it. But when I make the simplest thing, like a coffee cake, everyone raves about it all night."

Back to my own menu, it became clear. I could over think, over work, and over do the new menu items, but a simple coffee cake was the answer.

Simply called a late summer coffee cake, this rich, dense cake takes its seasonal name from a medley of fruits baked on top. Huckleberries, plums, and nectarines crowd the top bursting with the seasons last bright colors and flavors. A streusell of brown sugar and cinnamon baked on the fruit hints at the autumn just weeks away. I am serving it warm, with caramelized cinnamon icecream, but a simple vanilla would be heaven.

While you stroll the late season farmers markets, tempted by summers lingering jewels, remember this coffee cake. Don't feel limited by my own choices in fruits, rather let your own tastes or availability dictate. And feel free to include as many or as few fruits as you like. Have the fruits and the streusell ready before you begin mixing the cake. The batter shouldn't wait while you prepare the two.

For the fruits

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 nectarines
4 plums
1 cup huckleberries

1. Slice the fruits into desired sized pieces. I quarter the plums and cut the nectarines in 8 pieces.

2. Mix the cinnamon and sugar and toss the fruit to coat.

For the streusell

1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter

1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon well.

2. Add the butter and break it up with your fingers or a pastry blender, making sure it gets tossed with the flour mixture constantly. Continue breaking up the butter, cutting it in, until it becomes very small and the mixture looks like a coarse meal.

For the Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs separated
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk

A 9 inch round or 8 inch square baking pan greased and lined with parchment.

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together, and set aside.

2. Place the whites in a large, very clean bowl and set aside with a very clean whisk.

3. Cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy. Add the 2 yolks and continue creaming for 1 minute. Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated.

4. Add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Mix on low speed careful not to over mix. This will make a thick batter.

5. Whip the whites to stiff peaks. Transfer the tight batter to the bowl with the whites and carefully fold the two together.

6. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Cover with sliced fruit and berries, then sprinkle with streusell. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes. The juices from the fruits should begin to bubble, and the cake should spring back when touched.



Anonymous Malini said...

WOW! For my brother who has an aversion to fresh fruit, this will be delicious disguise.Thank you.

Do tell us about the response you got from your diners.

September 28, 2006 8:41 PM  
Anonymous L said...

Sounds a lot like the blueberry coffeecake we had when we were in (at Eva) the other night. It was delicious, esp the smattering of huckleberry sauce. MMM.

September 28, 2006 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this whole blog is terrific. It contains level headed recipes from someone who can cook. It is well written and there is a complete absence of OOhss... and AAhsss... (Pity the same can't be said about some of the "comments")...an excellent production.. keep un the good work


September 29, 2006 2:06 PM  
Anonymous peabody said...

Oh, I just love sour cream based coffee cakes.

September 29, 2006 2:53 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Malini- It has been the most popular dessert since it was placed on the menu!

L- I am down to just using the late summer huckleberries on the cake now, one of my favotite flavors in the world. I'm glad you got a chance to try it!

Cookie- Thanks! I regard your compliment highly.

Peabody- The baker across the street told me sour cream is a magic ingredient for cakes like these. Its adds moisture, deepens the flavor with a little acidity and richness, and doesn't weigh down the texture. Thus I added it to mine and like magic, the cake improved!

September 29, 2006 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's been much drum-beating about coffee maker. But what is the reality?

November 16, 2006 3:42 AM  

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