We got together for brunch at my cousin and his wife's house this past Sunday. Normally they are with us for Christmas, but this year my cousin, Steve, went home to his native England for a visit, so things worked out a bit differently.
Anyway, brunch at their house is ALWAYS something you want to get to, because Colleen (Steve's wife) is an awesome cook and she makes enough for the whole town to eat. And she makes this egg dish, with chourizo and tater tots and cheese (and onions? don't remember), all baked in the oven – it's VERY good.
So I asked Colleen if I could bring anything, and she suggested muffins or coffee cake, and I opted for coffee cake.
I looked at a few recipes (including a couple in Dorie's Baking From My Home to Yours, but also other recipes I have), and came up with the following recipe, which takes ideas from all over the place and morphs them into what turned out to be a very yummy, moist, flavorful item.
One thing I knew was that I wanted PLENTY of crumbly, crunchy topping. I made that mixture first.
1 cup of flour
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, not too cold, not too warm
The zest of one large lemon
1 tablespoon finely diced candied ginger (you could use more; mine didn't stand out enough, in my opinion)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Combine all the ingredients except the butter in a large bowl. Then, break the butter into bits and drop into the dry ingredients. Mix everything together with your hands, rubbing the butter into the other ingredients, but not entirely – you want some larger lumps of butter left. Ohhhh…the yumminess you are creating….
Put the bowl of crumbly goodness in the fridge while you make the cake part.
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled (do this first – I never remember to and I end up with warm melted butter that lumps up as soon as it hits the cooler wet ingredients. Not that it seems to matter in the final product, but still…)
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 medium pears (I used one Asian pear and one…other kind. Don't remember – I just went with what I had), peeled and chopped into smallish (1/2") dice
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Line an 8" x 8" pan with foil so that there is extra foil hanging over two sides. Butter the foil and two un-foiled sides of the pan and dust with flour. Set aside.
Melt your butter, if you haven't already. Set aside.
Combine milk and egg. Set aside.
Combine all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
Combine pecans and pears. Set aside.
Okay, add your melted butter to the milk and egg mixture and whisk together briefly.
Pour this into the bowl with all your dry ingredients. With a spoon, mix everything together until JUST blended. Don't overmix or the gods of baking will burn your coffee cake EVEN BEFORE YOU PUT IT IN THE OVEN!
Add the pecans and pears and stir in just enough to distribute them evenly but not enough to anger the gods of baking.
Scrape about half of the whole mess into your lined, buttered, flour-dusted pan.
Get your crumb stuff out of the fridge.
Sprinkle about a third of this mixture over the batter in your pan.
Cover that with the rest of the batter, and then top with the rest of the crumb mixture.
Bake about 45-50 minutes, or until the thin knife you poke into the center comes out almost entirely clean.
Let the whole thing cool on a rack for about fifteen minutes or so (if you have time – I was, of course, rushing around with this because I wanted it to still be warm when it got to Steve and Colleen's house, so I was pulling this from the oven not too long before we had to leave the house).
After fifteen minutes, slide a knife along the non-foiled sides of the pan and then – CAREFULLY AND WITHOUT RUSHING LIKE YOU'RE LATE TO THE BALL – lift the whole cake from the pan and place on the rack. Let it cool another ten to fifteen minutes, if you have the time, before cutting into it.
Slice into squares, rectangles, triangles, or whatever your favorite geometric shape is, and serve with good coffee. Or tea.
Oh, and do try not to pick off all the crumbly, crunchy topping before serving. There's nothing worse than a bald coffee cake.