Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Back in the day: coffee cake

Last week I picked up a copy of Back in The Day Bakery  and I fell in love.
It made me want to break out my KitchenAide mixer,  reclaim the measuring spoons which have (not so) mysteriously found their way into the twins' backyard spoon garden,
and bake.

The Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake was the first recipe I made.
Nostalgia quickly swooped in, and I found myself reminiscing about the coffee cake we had loved as kids: Entenmanns.

Yes, the Entenmanns coffee cake was as ubiquitous a presence in my childhood as Flav-Or-Ice.
the ridiculously colored syrup in a plastic sleeve that we would suck on so hard it would turn into a white dagger.
and then we'd try to stab each other.

or the granny square afghans my grandmother would make that seemed to multiply like rabbits. Anytime you wanted a blanket, all you had to do was reach behind the couch,
or under  a chair,
or beneath the cushion you were sitting on
and there one was
smelling faintly of olive oil and pizza dough,
ready to snuggle up with you.
(they were also an instrumental element in fort construction)

or the Sears & Roebuck catalog.
That mighty beast that rivaled the yellow pages in massiveness.
But blew it away in terms of slickness and versatility.
Those shiny pages made fantastic paper airplanes.
(also, good for strengthening and stabilizing above mentioned forts)

or the legendary green gallon jug of Ernest & Juleo's finest sitting proudly on the counter top.
dominating it's space among the basket of fruit and yesterday's junk mail.
(this too would have been used in our forts, but alas, was too heavy to relocate)

That iconic blue and white box with the plastic window top would be sitting there, nonchalantly, on top of the crusty toaster oven,  happily residing in one of the kitchen's quieter corners.
a clean butter knife placed expectantly on top.

The raspberry and cheese danish.
The chocolate covered donuts (that we would sneak into the freezer, because they were so good frozen)
and the coffee crumb cake.

Oh that crumb cake!
The topping was my favorite.
I would take that butter knife and with the skill of a seasoned surgeon, remove the crumble and shove it into my mouth before someone caught me.
and then I'd do it again.

But I don't buy it these days.
If I'm going to let them eat cake,
then I'm going to be the one to make it.
and so I did.

Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake

recipe by The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook - Cheryl & Griffith Day

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
1 stick butter (room temp)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted & cooled
1 1/2 cups good quality dark chocolate- finely chopped
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (room temp)
1 egg (room temp)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter an 8x8 baking pan and cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom.

Break out the KitchenAide monster and mix together the flour, sugars, butter and salt until it looks like a coarse meal.
or little pebbles.
or wet sand.
(basically, don't cream it to a uniform consistency. Leave it loosey goosey)

Then scoop out about a cup of this and mix it with the pecans, chocolate and espresso.
Take a little taste to make sure it's right.
(by the way, this tasting step is completely unnecessary. But it will make you happy.)
This is the crumb topping.

Finish the batter by adding the rest of the ingredients, but only mix it until it just comes together.
Pour it into the baking pan you prepared earlier.
(you did do that right? If not, go ahead and do it now. I can wait.)

Sprinkle on the crumb topping.

Bake for 40 minutes. You can test for doneness : a knife inserted in the center will come out clean.

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