Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pear & Walnut Coffee Cake

I thought I would begin the year with cake. The annual January onslaught of diet foods, diet advice, diet that... makes me tired. Cake almost always lifts my mood. You don't have to eat the whole cake...a small slice really is sufficient.

The recipe I'm posting today is for a favorite coffee cake. It is a classic sour cream coffee cake. Anyone who bakes from scratch regularly probably has a pet recipe for a moist and tender sour cream coffee cake. This one is mine. At its heart it is nothing more than a slight variation on the classic 1-2-3-4 cake. A standard "creaming method" cake, the secret to a good result (fine-grained, light and moist) is sufficient creaming (the butter and sugar should be very light and fluffy) and room temperature ingredients (place the eggs in their shells in a bowl of warm tap water for a few minutes if you forgot to pull them out of the fridge in time).

I found this recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia. She uses it in a delicious rhubarb upside down cake. But it can be made into many different kinds of cakes—round, square, rectangle, loaf, thin or thick.  It can be plain, spicy, filled with delicious bits (chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, etc), or layered/topped with streusel or streusel and fruit. It is an excellent basic cake. I teach this Pear & Walnut version as the example of the "creaming method" in my Breakfast Breads class. I posted a round Peach variation a couple of years ago. Whenever I am thinking about developing a new coffee cake, this sour cream cake is typically where I begin.

You can never have too many recipes for coffee cake. What would breakfast be without it? I think people have a hard time believing that I really do eat homemade cake—or a muffin...or a scone—for breakfast every day.  But it's true. I also eat plain yogurt and fresh fruit—but my day just wouldn't feel the same without a little something sweet to start out. If for some reason I am trying to shed a few pounds, I just eat a smaller piece. In the long run, moderation will always be more successful than deprivation. So instead of a diet resolution, maybe the better New Year's resolution would be to learn how to make a really good cake. This one is a fine place to start.

Pear & Walnut Coffeecake

1/2 c. all-purpose flour (2 oz.)
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter
1 c. walnut pieces, lightly toasted

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (7 oz.)
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar (200 grams)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla
1 c. sour cream (242 grams)

2 medium pears, peeled, cored & cut lengthwise into 16 slices and tossed with the juice of half a lemon (alternatively, cut the pears in a 1/2-inch dice)

To make the topping, combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl, rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients. Add the walnuts and chill until ready to build the coffee cake.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes using a stand mixer). 

Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. 

Beat in the vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream in two additions.

Spread the batter in a greased and floured 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Lay the sliced pears attractively over the batter in a single layer (or scatter the diced pears evenly over the batter). Scatter the topping evenly over all.

Bake in a 350° oven until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean—35 to 45 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 12.

Note: This cake freezes beautifully. If you want to have a slice for breakfast every morning, portion the whole cake and freeze the individual portions in an airtight container or in a single layer in a Ziplock freezer bag. A piece can be thawed in the microwave (medium power) or you can let it thaw overnight. To do this, before you go to bed, take out a slice, set it on a plate and cover it tightly with plastic to conserve the moisture as the cake thaws.

Printable Recipe


Anonymous said...

I have baked this cake over and over. I absolutely love the recipe. Thank you so much for sharing

Paige said...

Thank you for taking the time to let me know! I love this cake too and am so glad you like it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this recipe!its one of my best!

Daphne said...

Perfectly delicious! I will be making this again.