January 06, 2008

Other Things For Breakfast (Walnut Coffee Cake)

I am generally a fan of the savory side of breakfast. While I adore pancakes, I require a side of something meat-y to really enjoy them first thing in the morning. Crepes, of course, allow for the happy concatenation of the two, but are not always an option.

Still, there is certainly something to be said for a quick burst of food as one is about to fly out the door in the morning, or something that requires zero preparation or refrigeration to be enjoyed once one has arrived at their destination. To this end, there are few things that fit the bill better than a good coffee cake, especially one that is not cloyingly sweet.

While many coffee cakes are tasty, but heavy things, this one is shockingly light and airy and allows for almost infinite variety. Here I have used my basic Buttermilk Coffee Cake recipe (available in the comments section below), but skipped the sugared layering process, and instead scattered well-toasted walnut pieces on top and throughout, and stirred a little nutmeg into the batter.

I enjoy nuts, but I usually tend toward almonds, which are more shelf-stable, rather than walnuts. A walnut that has gone rancid is second only to rotten milk for a heebie-jeebie taste in the mouth that will not be vanquished. Still, a fresh, toasted walnut is so incredibly delicious that it is worth the risk. It also helps to purchase your walnuts from a specialty store that has a high turnover, so you can feel confident that you are getting a product that hasn't been sitting around forever. Also, it is good to purchase only as much as you need, and if you find yourself with a few leftover, you will want to toss them into some sort of endive salad or trail-mix snack in fairly short order.

This cake can also be frozen very successfully, if wrapped in a nice tight layer of plastic wrap, either whole or in serving-sized pieces (which generally will have defrosted completely by the time coffee-break rolls around, if taken from the freezer that same morning). This is one of the endearing features of this cake, because it means that I am not sentenced to repetition (which can be tedious, no matter how good the item repeated may be) in order to use it up while it is still fresh-tasting.

1 comment:

Dawna said...

Recipe from expired link:

Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Makes 12 - 16 pieces

Total prep and cooking time: 60 minutes

1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

Topping / Filling: (Cocoa Ribbon variation)
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash ground cloves
½ - 1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Mix buttermilk and baking soda in a measuring cup - allowing room for it to expand - and let stand. Spray an 8” square baking pan with cooking spray, and dust the inside with flour Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, mix sugar for the topping with the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, Set aside.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until light. Add a third of the flour mixture and mix gently until just incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk mixture, and mix gently again. Repeat, ending with the final third of flour mixture and mix just until the batter is barely smooth.

Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan. The batter is quite thick, so go slowly, dolloping the batter around in the bottom of the pan, and smooth with a spatula. Using a sifter, sprinkle an even layer of cocoa powder over the batter in the pan. Then sprinkle 2/3 of the sugar and spice mixture over the cocoa powder layer. Carefully spoon the rest of the batter over top of the filling, and smooth out. Be sure to push the batter completely up to the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining sugar and spices over the top of the batter.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 35 - 40 minutes, or until it springs back when gently pressed with a finger. Let cool for a minimum of ten minutes in the pan before slicing. Serve warm or cold. Cooled slices of cake heat up beautifully in a microwave for about 15 seconds on high heat.

Two-Tone variation: Make only half of the topping/filling mixture, and omit the cocoa. Instead, melt 1 oz of semi-sweet chocolate (about 1/4 cup of chocolate chips) and stir it into the second half of the batter, once the first half is in the prepared pan. Stir until blended, and pour over the "vanilla" mixture. Sprinkle topping evenly over the top and bake as usual. This variant needs no filling, and is very pretty to look at.

Coconut Brulée variation: Add 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg to the flour before mixing up the batter. Instead of the usual topping/filling mixture, mix 1/3 cup brown sugar with 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut. Use half as filling and half as topping. After the cake has finished cooking, spritz the top of it with a little vegetable oil (canola is good - don't break out the extra virgin olive oil here!) and pop it under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the sugar glazes and darkens slightly. Watch it like a hawk - it can burn quite easily.