I have a deep love for breakfast pastries. Crazy love. As a kid, special morning moments were always marked with a treat – Pillsbury pecan rolls to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cookies for Christmas breakfast, pink donuts for Valentine’s Day. Don’t even get me started on Paczki Day. I could take or leave a muffin but a well-made croissant makes my toes tap. In culinary school I learned to make Danishes the proper way, with layers and layers of careful butter lamination, and promptly gained 5 happy pounds. A beautiful flaky scone or a perfect old-fashioned donut is cause for celebration. I’ve been known to do some serious damage on a kringle of any kind, but given the choice, a good bakery-style buttery, crumbly coffeecake wins every time.
Twice a year on Christmas and Easter, it is guaranteed that I will make two things: kolacky and coffeecake. For the big holidays, I always make the Polish cookie known as kolacky in a variety of fillings: cheese, apricot, raspberry, poppyseed, sometimes almond and prune. When I bake, I like options. With the exception of the cheese filling which I make myself, the fruit fillings are of the canned type. ”Variety”, “homemade” and “holidays” don’t always mix from a time perspective and sometimes you just have to do what you can to make it work. I’m OK with the canned fillings but variety has a downside. My mother would look at the leftover half cans of fruit goop on the kitchen counter and give me a “you’re going to deal with that, right?” glare. So I came up with a solution. This is why there’s always a coffeecake or two for Christmas morning and the day after Easter (Easter Monday?) Very thrifty, no?
There are two basic types of coffeecakes is this world: the yeast kind, a little more bread-like with streusel and icing and the second kind, which more closely resembles a cake with a tender buttery crumb (I’ve posted on that one too.) This is the former, a coffeecake in the classic sense; the kind you’d find in an old fashioned bakery. A golden yeast-risen base with a cinnamon streusel crumble and a drizzle of white icing. You can use any filling you like – a homemade cream cheese filling (found here), leftover canned fruit fillings, jams or marmalades. I like them best with a combination of fillings and let me just say, cheese goes with everything.
It’s not an overly difficult recipe but the rise times can be significant and something to consider. There’s the first rise, then a refrigeration period, then another rise after shaping. It takes a while and needs some planning but most of the time spent is hands-off. To be honest, it’s one of the few times I break out my bread machine. I dump everything in and let it do all the work while I rush around finishing other projects. The sweet little thing beeps when it’s ready and I simply remove the workbowl, cover it with plastic wrap and stash it in the fridge overnight. I don’t break that beastly machine out very often but it definitely has its moments.
If you’ve got some extra filling, maybe a half jar of jam laying around, make this. I’d even go as far to say that it’s worth it to buy the fillings for the sole purpose of these cakes. Mother’s Day is coming and I bet she would be thrilled to find this on the breakfast tray. Dad too! I’ve had pretty good success freezing the baked cakes so make a few extra. You can even divide the dough into three or four smaller cakes if that’s easier to deal with. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the icing. Pile that on. I went a little skimpy on my second coffeecake below and should have whipped up more.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: Have you ever served fresh, homemade coffeecake to your friends and family? Well, you should. Just stand back and soak in the adoration. Make these for the special morning occasions in your life. Or pull one out of the freezer for that draggy Tuesday you’re dreading. Coffeecake makes everything better.
On this blog three years ago: working with Waffleizer, Kolacky
On this blog two years ago: Sticky Bun Bread (make this!)
On this blog one year ago: Greek Sunday Lunch
other special breakfast treats: Sweet Orange Rolls, Chocolate Cherry Breakfast Rolls, Brown Butter Banana Bread, Classic Buttermilk Pancakes, Sour Cream Coffeecake, Cider Donuts, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Molasses Bran Muffins, Swedish Cardamom Custard Buns, Fresh Paczki, Barley Marmalade Scones, Popovers with Strawberry Butter, Buttermilk Biscuits, Plum Kuchen. Huh, didn’t realize I had posted on so many breakfast pastry type things. Told you I loved them.
CLASSIC STREUSEL COFFEECAKES – from a Cooks Illustrated recipe
Makes 2 large coffeecakes
For the coffeecake dough:
4 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
¼ cup warm water (warm to the touch – 110°-115°F)
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large eggs
4 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
16 Tablespoons unsalted butter, soft (2 sticks)
egg wash – 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon cream or milk
filling(s) of your choice
for the streusel:
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
for the icing:
¾ cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons whole milk or cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
- For the coffeecake dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast and warm water; stir to combine and let stand 5 minutes until foamy. If after 5 minutes mixture isn’t foamy, chances are good your yeast is dead. To be safe, purchase new yeast and try again before getting farther into the recipe.
- With the dough hook attachment on low speed, add the sugar, milk, vanilla and eggs; mix on low until blended.
- Add the salt and all but 1 cup of the flour – 3 ½ cups – and mix on low until combined.
- Increase the speed to medium-low and add the butter one piece at a time until blended. Have patience, it’ll work itself in.
- Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and beat on medium-low for about 5 minutes until silky smooth.
- Increase the speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes until a smooth round ball forms.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a nice warm place until doubled, about 2 hours though it may take as much as 3-4 hours.
- Punch down to release some of the accumulated gases, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 24 hours (I refrigerate overnight.)
- Shaping: Divide the dough in half and on a lightly floured piece of parchment or a silpat mat, roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 12″x18″. As you roll, push or bash the rolling pin against the sides of the dough to nicely square it up.
- Make slits along each long side of the dough about a third of the way in, leaving a 1 ½” gap on each end. (Refer to the pictures above)
- Trim away the first tab from each of the four corners so that each short end of the dough rectangle has a sort of flap. This will make sense in a moment. (Refer to the pictures above.)
- Pipe or spread your desired filling down the center of the uncut dough, leaving a 1 ½” gap from each end (i.e. the flap.)
- Fold each of the “flaps” up and over the ends of the filling, to close up the ends.
- Now you’re going to enclose the filling by stretching the tabs over the center. Take the first dough tab farthest from you and stretch it up and over the filing, pressing gently just in front of the first dough tab on the opposite side.
- Now, take the first dough tab on the opposite side and stretch it up an over to the other side, pressing gently to adhere.
- Continue this action, stretching opposite tabs back and forth until you reach the end. It will look like a braid.
- Slide the coffeecake on the parchment or silpat onto a sheet pan.
- Do the same with the remaining dough and fillings.
- Cover the pan with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise until puffy, about 1-2 hours (the coffeecakes can be refrigerated at this point overnight and baked in the morning.)
- For the streusel: in a medium bowl, combine both sugars, flour, cinnamon and salt until combined.
- Add the butter and work in with your fingers or a pastry blender until well incorporated. Set aside until needed.
- Bake: Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Brush the coffeecakes with the egg wash, making sure to coat the sides well.
- Crumble the streusel on top.
- Bake in the lower third of the oven until deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes.
- Let cool completely.
- For the icing: in a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk (or cream), vanilla and pinch of salt until smooth.
- With a fork, drizzle the icing over the cooled coffeecakes and let sit at room temperature until the icing is set, about ½ hour.
- Keep any extras tightly wrapped and consume within 2 days. I’ve also frozen baked coffeecakes quite successfully and it’s really nice to have one stashed away.