Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Little Squares of Heaven

It's two in the morning, I can't sleep, and I just uploaded pictures of five different cooking projects onto my little white laptop. I've already spent three years looking at pictures of people I sort of know on facebook, I've looked at jobs on Idealist for long enough to be totally convinced that a) I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, and b) even if I did, no one would hire me, my precious flower little self, anyway. The next logical step? Coffee cake.

Now, it should be noted that coffee cake is my favorite food in the whole world, not counting chicken marsala, fettucine alfredo, green beans, and bacon. The many varieties of coffee cake served at Dartmouth College are singlehandedly responsible for me putting on seventy gajillion pounds my freshman year. That and the pizza and the fried food. But those are neither here nor there. Alls I'm trying to say is, when I saw the recipe for big crumb coffee cake on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I just had to make it. Really, I had no choice.
And whoo boy, am I glad I made it. My friend Lauren came down from Hanover for the night, and now, well, the cake? It's mostly gone. I'm bringing what remains to work tomorrow so I'm not tempted anymore. I might eat it all on the subway on the way in, though. It's a pretty dangerous situation.

Since I am becoming a pretentious food blogger, though, I needed to make some changes. Minor minor ones, of course. I'm pretentious, but not pretentious enough to think that I should actually try to mess with a recipe plenty of people had already deemed amazing and delicious. But I knew that I needed to leave out the ground ginger, because I hate ginger. Always have, probably always will. And rhubarb? I am sure it is delicious, but what are the chances that I have rhubarb just floating around my house? Also, I like blueberries. A lot. In all there multiple forms. Except jam. I've never really been a fan of blueberry jam.
The most important change that I made to this recipe, though, was an ittle bitty of a substitution. I've made sour cream coffee cakes several times before, and I often end up using fat-free plain yogurt in the place of the sour cream, because in the virtuous Abbiebabble home, that's all we've got. I've found that it actually makes the cakes moister and less tough. I don't know why this is, that an amazingly delicious full-fat ingredient is not as perfect in baked goods as a kind of yucky, runny, watery, fat-free alternative, but I've decided to just accept it and keep going. Because if I try to think about it too much, it hurts my head a little. And that's never good.

"Big Crumb" Coffeecake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from The New York Times 6/6/07

Butter for greasing pan

For the blueberry filling:
1/2-3/4 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 3/4 cups flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. Mix filling ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

2. To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.

3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of yogurt mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining yogurt mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon blueberries over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over blueberries; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. I found that the crumb dough broke pretty easily into the appropriate-sized crumbs with just a little pressure from my thumb. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from blueberries), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.


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