Let them eat coffee cake

If you’re trying to finish your flour, you don’t want to buy another bag for a recipe. So what are the alternatives?

Coffee cake 521 (photo credit: Marcus Nilsson)
Coffee cake 521
(photo credit: Marcus Nilsson)
Finishing the flour before Pessah is important to many families. This makes a great excuse to enjoy home-baked cakes.
Pessah preparations make this a busy time and so it’s especially useful to bake cakes that you can whip up in a jiffy. Loaf cakes, quick breakfast breads and coffee cakes are perfect.
These homey, hard-to-resist cakes are rich and satisfying, and are very different from the traditional light, airy cakes and other sweet fare that will soon be on the table during Pessah.
The batter for coffee cakes and other hearty cakes can be quickly mixed. Most are onebowl cakes, and don’t require separating eggs or whipping egg whites. Since the cakes are flavorful and moist on their own, they don’t need frostings or glazes.
These old-fashioned favorites are loved today as much as ever. In their new book, The Perfect Finish, Bill Yosses, the executive pastry chef at the White House, and Melissa Clark wrote of their pecan-studded banana-sour cream loaf: “The secret of this recipe is the incredible ability of sour cream to produce a moist cake that will keep.”
Kim Boyce, author of Good to the Grain (with Amy Scattergood), uses popular quick breads and coffee cakes as a starting point to create whole-grain versions with new flavors. She makes carrot coffee cake flavored with allspice and topped with spelt and oat bran streusel.
Her zucchini bread has rye flour, fresh basil and fresh mint. She enriches a spelt flour chocolate chip cake with olive oil and chopped bittersweet chocolate and flavors it with fresh rosemary. Her apple graham coffee cake is embellished with apple pieces caramelized in butter with sugar and cinnamon.
Of course, if you’re trying to finish your flour, you don’t want to have to buy another bag in order to follow a recipe that interests you. That’s when it’s useful to consider alternatives.
Usually it’s best to use the flour that is called for but there are some substitutes that you can safely make. All-purpose flour works fine instead of cake flour in coffee cakes and quick breads, although the baked goods might be slightly less tender. If you have whole wheat flour, you can use it instead of half the white flour in a recipe. Boyce wrote: “Spelt can be substituted directly for whole wheat or all purpose flour in most recipes... doughs and batters made with it will often absorb more liquid than with other flours. Therefore, when substituting spelt for other wheat flours in recipes, you may need to increase the amount of liquid that the recipe calls for.”
When and how to serve these cakes is up to you. Some refer to them as breakfast breads or as cakes for coffee breaks or tea time. I always wondered why banana bread is called bread, since it tends to be as sweet as cake. Yosses and Clark consider their cake-like date walnut loaf a quick bread and suggest serving it in a bread basket for brunch, or spreading it with cream cheese for classic date-nut sandwiches. When I was growing up, homemade cinnamon-swirled sour cream coffee cake appeared often on our table and was not necessarily reserved for coffee time.
In our home these breakfast breads and coffee cakes are always welcome as desserts as well.
Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning Chocolate Sensations.
This Bundt cake is enriched with sour cream and swirled with chocolate.
You can keep it, wrapped, for two days at room temperature, or longer in the refrigerator.
13⁄4 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp. baking powder 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda 1 cup sour cream 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted 85 gr. semisweet chocolate, finely grated 1⁄2 cup (110 gr.) unsalted butter, slightly softened3⁄4 cup sugar 3 large eggs Powdered sugar (optional)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 175º. Generously butter a 24 cm.x10 cm. fluted tube pan or Bundt pan, taking care to butter tube and each fluted section.
Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. In a medium bowl mix sour cream and vanilla. In a small bowl gently mix cocoa and chocolate with a fork.
Cream butter in a medium bowl. Add sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gently stir in about half of flour mixture, then half of sour-cream mixture, then remaining flour, last remaining sour-cream mixture, until no trace of flour remains. Do not beat.
Transfer 2 cups batter to a medium bowl. Gently stir in chocolate mixture.
Spread 1 cup white batter in prepared pan. Pour chocolate batter into pan, then pour remaining white batter on top. Swirl a knife gently through batter to give a marbled effect.
Bake about 50 to 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife around tube but not around side of pan. Invert cake onto rack; cool completely. Transfer to a platter.
Serve at room temperature. If you like, sprinkle cake with sifted powdered sugar shortly before serving.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
This recipe is from The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark.
They write: “This bread comes together in less than 20 minutes, and it’s the kind of unexpected retro treat everyone is always happy to find in a breadbasket at brunch. The dates make this loaf stay moist for a long time, so it is still delectable 4 to 5 days later. And the brown sugar gives it a deep butterscotch flavor. Thinly sliced and toasted, this bread is also a great accompaniment to a cheese plate.”
Yosses, a pastry chef, gives precise weights of all the ingredients in his recipes.
Equipment: 23 cm. x 13 cm. loaf pan, cake tester
1 cup coarsely chopped, pitted Medjool dates (about 12 large dates, 191 gr.) 1 cup packed dark brown sugar (239 gr.) 113 gr. unsalted butter (8 Tbsp.), plus additional for the pan 1 tsp. baking soda (5 gr.) 1 large egg (48 gr.), at room temperature 1 tsp. vanilla extract (4 gr.) 11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour (195 gr.) 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts (113 gr.) Pinch of salt Cream cheese, for serving
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 175º. Use some of the butter to grease a 23 cm.x13 cm. loaf pan.
In a saucepan, combine the dates, sugar and butter with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the baking soda.
Transfer the date mixture to a large bowl and beat in the egg and vanilla.
Stir in the flour, walnuts and salt and scrape into the loaf pan.
Bake on the center rack until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slide a thin knife or offset spatula around the sides of the pan and turn it over to unmold the loaf onto a wire rack. Allow the loaf to cool on the rack for a few more minutes, then serve warm, with cream cheese.
Makes one 23-cm. loaf to serve 8