Thursday, July 21, 2011

New York-Style Crumb Cake from Baked Explorations

Crumb Topping Actual Size 

  Those boys from Brooklyn, Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis, are no strangers on Chewing the Fat.  We just can’t get enough of their spectacular baking recipes from not one, but two great cookbooks: “Baked” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang 2008) and “Baked Explorations” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang 2010).  Today, we’d like to share a perfect way to start a weekend morning:   A crumb cake that’s more crumb than cake: The topping on this one is over the top. And for Andrew, it's a trip right back to his childhood.

         Andrew was one of five children. For years, right after Sunday School, the family would troop into the local bakery. There they were allowed to choose one Sunday treat a piece. Andrew, the second youngest, would wait his turn and having scoped out the entire store, would inevitably choose a New York-style Crumb cake.  And he'd base his choice on which individual crumb cake had the most topping. Which cake would yield the most  brown-sugar-y, butter-y, crunchy pieces that cover the entire top of the cake. They're the mark of a true New York-style Crumb cake. What makes a crumb cake different from, say, a coffee cake?
It's all about the Topping
         Renato, a native New Yorker, lays down the law.  New York-style crumb cake has nothing to do with coffee cake.  It’s all about the topping and that topping should never contain nuts, the way coffee cakes do.  No crushed nuts. No whole nuts. No nuts of any kind. And a true New York-style crumb cake never has that telltale swirl of cinnamon or chocolate or both.   Instead under those chunks of brown sugar and cinnamon is a layer of lovely white cake moistened with sour cream.  This is not all that difficult or time consuming to make. (Easy for me to say, Andrew, of course, made it. )  If you are ambitious, you can wake your family and any weekend house guests up to a wonderful cinnamon scent wafting from the kitchen.  But if you're not an early riser, make it the day or night before.  The cake stays in perfect shape for 3 days if you cover it tightly and leave it at room temperature. And by all means, serve it with cups of coffee.  But whatever you do, don't call it coffee cake. Here is the recipe:

Recipe for New York-style Crumb Cake from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

For the Crumb Topping:

½ cup packed golden brown sugar *

½ cup packed demerara sugar (also called turbinado or raw sugar) or you can opt for dark brown sugar *

½ cup white granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour

For the Cake base:

2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 ½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 ¼ cups sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.            Preheat oven to 350°F and with the oven rack in the center. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9”x13”x2.75” baking dish or pan (not sheet)**.

2.            Make the topping. Combine sugars, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter and whisk until combined, crushing any large lumps. Stir in flour until mixture is uniform.

3.            Make the cake:
   Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

   In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (you can also use a large bowl and a powerful hand mixer), cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add sugar, and continue beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between addition. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until just combined. Stir (setting in “Stir” or low) in the flour in thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl before each addition, until incorporated. Batter will be thick.

    Assemble the CAKE
   Pour the batter into buttered pan, level with a spatula. Scoop a handful of the topping mix, make a fist, and crumble the topping over the batter. Repeat until all the topping is used.

Bake for 45-55 minutes in the oven, rotating the pan twice. The cake is baked when a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.