Yesterday was supposed to be a picnic-filled day. A day of croquette and flirty dresses, scampering around the park with friends. Raucous was supposed to have ensued. We might have misplaced a shoe while running through cool grass. I was supposed to be surrounded by masses. Instead, I chose to spend time with myself. I called the crew and let them know that today I would be celebrating Sunday with a mini out-of-town adventure. So I had my adventure and it was a thing that one savors rather than writes about, but when I came home I was invigorated, not my usual tired self, and I set out to fix a fail-safe cake: the crumb coffee cake. There’s something about baking which soothes me. Perhaps it’s the science – the methodic measuring of ingredients – because I’m the project-planning, chart-wielding kind. Perhaps it’s the waft of cinnamon which puts one to thinking of a sweet childhood (not mine, but one I imagine), home. Or perhaps it’s the joy of making something from nothing.
So I plugged in the headphones, relaxed to some Film School and sifted, creamed, buttered, baked, napped, woke, cooled, sliced, smiled. smiled. smiled.
From the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook (aka, the baker’s bible)
CLASSIC CRUMB CAKE
Note: I use all local/organic ingredients
â€¢ 10 tablespoons room temperature butter*
â€¢ 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour**
â€¢ 1 teaspoon baking powder
â€¢ 1 teaspoon baking soda
â€¢ 1/2 teaspoon salt
â€¢ 1 cup sugar***
â€¢ 3 large eggs
â€¢ 1 & 1/4 cups sour cream****
â€¢ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
â€¢ Crumb Topping (3 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 3 1/2 sticks***** of room temperature butter)
â€¢ Confectionersâ€™ sugar (optional)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 pan and set aside.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside the flour mixture. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (approx 3-4 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well so that each egg is incorporated into the mixture. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture (I added the flour gradually so that it can be absorbed slowly) and sour cream. Mix just until blended. DO NOT overmix or you will yield the hockey puck effect. I usually mix until all the ingredients have combined (20-30 seconds) and I finish off with folding the mixture (to ensure all the flour from the bottom of the mixer is incorporated) with a rubber spatula.
Spread batter evenly into pan. Top with crumb topping. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool on a wire rack for well over an hour (I left my cake out for two hours). Dust with confectionersâ€™ sugar.
*Quick tip on getting your butter to come to room temperature quickly: dice cold butter in tablespoons and leave out on the counter. The butter will come to room temperature in 45 minutes rather than a few hours
**I used unbleached
***I used cane sugar
****I used reduced fat sour cream
*****I used 2 1/2 sticks of butter because I couldn’t bear to use almost a pound of butter. The topping will not yield the ultimate crumble, however, the butter is a binding/flavoring agent, and it does the job at 2 1/2 sticks. With a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, this was an utter delight the next day.
Necessary Soundtrack: Film School’s Alwaysnever. Notable tracks: “Ms. Connection” and “Activated”