Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Saturday, January 31, 2009
Our last Saturday coffee-and-doughnut hour for the year, and the last Saturday I have to rouse myself in the middle of the night to bake a not-doughnut something. (Sometime I will try doughnuts, I think). I asked for suggestions, and I got some good ones. Melinda thought I should make some "easy-peasy" homemade Danish. I asked her what planet she lived on. Oriana sent me a good-sounding recipe for bran muffins, which actually did look easy, and I could have made them ahead of time, but I feared two hours of jokes about bowel movements if I made something with bran (or prunes for that matter). Maura sent me some fabulous recipes, one for sunny-side-up apricot pastries made with homemade puff pastry, which she also described as easy. This makes me realize that many people have a different definition of "easy" than I do. Maura also sent me directions for baking dozens upon dozens of kolache, which she herself has done--with multiple fillings. I wish that Maura would become my personal baker. Finally, she suggested sour cream coffee cake, which seemed perfect. Besides, I love it. Now Maura said she'd had good luck with the recipe from The Silver Palate, and I should have just used that recipe, no questions asked, but I started thumbing through cookbooks and decided to try the recipe from The New Best Recipe, which had four eggs, a cup and a half of sour cream, and nearly two sticks of butter, plus pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon. How could I go wrong?
I didn't exactly go wrong, but I didn't exactly go right either. The Best Recipe coffee cake is mammoth, and I took it out of the oven after an hour because I feared burning. It might have been perfect if I had kept it in for just five minutes more, but it was ever so slightly underdone. That is, it was not perfect. If I'm going to get up at 6:30 on a Saturday, I want perfection!

The batter was lovely, rich, and silky, and it gave me high hopes. It was easy to layer the batter and the streusel, but it ended up nearly filling the bundt pan. (The directions said to use a tube pan, but not one that came apart, like an angel food cake pan, so the bundt pan seemed the only option).
In making the streusel, I came scarily close to using curry powder instead of cinnamon, probably because I was operating on only one cup of coffee, so I spent quite a bit of time trying to imagine what a curry powder streusel might taste like and wondering if I could possibly convince people that I'd done it on purpose, and it was all the rage in New York. I decided no.

One reason I like baking bread better than anything else is that it's not so fussy about the precise moment it's done. Five minutes either way, and no one's the wiser. But pastry and cakes--they're spoiled children. Take them out one minute too soon and they're squishy and spongy. Leave them in one minute two long and they burn or dry out.

The directions for this coffee cake are to bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Usually my convection oven, even set 25 degrees lower than recommended, gets things done early. I checked the cake after 50 minutes, and a lot of batter clung to the knife. Eight minutes later, it seemed to be good.

After it cooled a bit and I up-ended it on a plate, I had my doubts. It just didn't look quite solid enough. But I'd passed the point of no return, and I figured that everyone else was on their first cup of coffee so they wouldn't be that observant. Just don't mention that it might not be quite done, I instructed myself. Apparently I routinely ignore my instructions because I announced that it wasn't done to anyone who would listen. They didn't seem to care.
It was our neighbor Doug Logeland's birthday on Saturday, so he got a candle on his slightly underdone coffee cake.

Cook's Illustrated Sour Cream Coffeecake
3 3/4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
5 1/4 ounces sugar
3 1/2 ounces dark brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon
2 T. cold unsalted butter
1 c. pecans, chopped

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 T. vanilla
11 1/4 ounces unbleached A-P flour
8 3/4 ounces sugar
1 T. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
12 T. unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch cubes.

1. Streusel: Place flour, sugar, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor and combine. Transfer 1 1/4 cups of this mixture to a small bowl, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and set aside (streusel for inside cake). Add butter and pecans to remaining dry ingredients in food processor. Process for about 10 pulses. Set aside (streusel for top of cake).
2. Cake. Put oven rack to lowest position and preheat to 350. Grease 10-cup capacity tube or bundt pan. Combine eggs, 1 cup sour cream, and vanilla in medium bowl.
3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in mixer for about 30 seconds at low speed. Add butter, 1/2 cup sour cream and mix until moistened. Increase speed to medium for 30 more seconds. Decrease speed and incorporate egg mixture in three additions. Increase speed and beat for one minute and mixture becomes aerated and pale in color.
4. Add 1/3 of batter too pan, and smooth evenly. Sprinkle with half of streusel filling. Repeat with batter and streusel. Top with remaining batter, spread evenly, and top with the streusel topping with the nuts.
5. Bake until cake feels firm to the touch and toothpick comes out clean of batter (sugar may cling to tester), 50 or 60 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 30 minutes, then invert on plate. (You can also re-invert so streusel will be on top).


jini said...

well it LOOKS fabulous marie and doug the birthday boy seems pleased with it too. i suspect you are a pretty severe critic of your own work. give yourself a break....:)
i do think you should try some easy peasy danish next year, but make it the day before!

breadbasketcase said...

Now truthfully, Jini, if you make a piece of jewelry that doesn't quite meet your expectations, do you just say, oh what the hell, maybe no one will notice? Are you back from Tucson?

evil cake lady said...

Hey I made a sour cream coffee cake last night! However mine was gluten-free and it had apples in the middle; a lot like Rose's recipe. I have the same compulsion to announce to everyone exactly what I think is wrong with the cake I baked. Why do we do that?

Melinda said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melinda said...

Well, it doesn't look bad, in fact it looks good. I bet it was delicious.
That is a lot of cake batter in the bundt pan! My only criticism would be, why do you use a knife to test your cakes? To me, it is a bit too big to test with. A bamboo skewer would be better for testing. (Don't tell me...they don't sell bamboo skewers in fly over land!)
Jeannette and I made Danish pastries on our day baking course in Bath with Richard Bertinet. They were not so hardy pardy.
How funny it would have been to make a curry enhanced cake. I would pay to see the look on your guests faces.
Do you get to sleep in next Saturday?

Doughadear said...

I had trepidation about suggesting a bran muffin for your get-together for the reactions they may elicit, after all your January gathering is about sharing coffee and something decadent so your coffee cake was a good choice. From here it looks pretty good and I am sure everyone thought so too.
I too tend to tell my guests if the dish prepared is not quite right and each time I tell myself to keep my thoughts to myself as they would probably not notice.

breadbasketcase said...

I have a small knife with a tiny, very thin blade that I use only for testing. It works better than anything else I've used, including a bamboo skewer, oh, she-who-knows-all. Maybe someday I'll take a class on Danish pastry. They're just like croissants, only more so, right? Things like that are always much easier to do after you've made them once. I think I'll sleep until noon next Saturday!

ECL and Oriana,
Why do we do that? It's very annoying. I don't like it when other people do it because it seems like you're then obliged to give them a compliment ("Oh, no, it's not underdone at all--it's just perfect!") The reason I was so concerned about the coffee cake getting overdone is that when I made Rose's wonderful apple sour cream coffee cake last year, there was a thin layer on the bottom that was burned, and I didn't want to repeat that mistake.

Bunny said...

I don't think I've ever seen a tube (angel food cake pan) that didn't come apart. I can understand your apprehension about burning it after what happened to the other cake. It does look and sound like a great cake and hopefully the next time you make it, it'll be right on for you.

Melinda said...

Do you really think I know it all? I really don't. But if you like that knife, you use it! (but it didn't seem to work so well on that deep batter, did it? I'm just saying...)
Can you get rid of the duplicate comment? I didn't do that...what happened?

breadbasketcase said...

I know, I thought it was odd to specify a one-piece tube pan--the book had a picture of what looked like an angel-food cake pan, not a bundt pan, so apparently they exist. I will just have to keep making sour-cream coffee cakes until I get them right!

Ha. Touche!
Here's what happened--I stuck my thin little knife in the cake, and it didn't come out clean, but the book says that sugar may stick to the knife even when it's done. I examined the knife to see what exactly was clinging to it and decided it looked more sugar-y than batter-y. So it was a mistake of judgment, not a fault of the piercer.
I removed the duplicate comment but now I'm afraid people will think I took umbrage at something you said.

Melinda said...

Thank you. We know there is no umbrage. X

Goody said...

Well, lava cakes are basically under-baked and look how popular those things are. I tend to bake in the other volcanic style, that is spewing ash. I have to think lava is preferable.

If you'd made the cake with yoghurt instead of sour cream you might have been able to pull off that curry thing.

I never would have been able to get such a huge cake out of the pan in one piece-it certainly looks beautiful.

breadbasketcase said...

You are just filled with good ideas. I never thought of calling it a lava coffee cake (or a coffee lava cake). I wish someone else were brave enough to try the yogurt/curry cake; I'm still thinking it might not have been a total success.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that yours turned out okay - they say that it keeps cooking in the pan, so perhaps that finished the job? I made this coffeecake yesterday, side by side the Pecan Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Cook's Country, and this one was fabulous! Soft, delicious yummy inside with tons of good topping. It was the overall favorite and will definitely be making a reappearance in my house. Oh so good! I used a 6 cup tube pan and divided the recipe by two.

The cook's country recipe was also very good, and very different, so it earned a repeat status too :) It has toasted tiny pecan pieces inside, so the cake part was delicious, but the glazes were kinda boring so next time I'm gonna make less batter and top it with another streusel I loved from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking where the cake part was too wheaty but the streusel was heavenly. Anyway, the recipe that you posted was just perfect as written and needed no adaptations, and I would highly recommend it to anyone!