Holdiay Food Guide

“Pastry-making…is one of the most important branches of the culinary sciences. It unceasingly occupies itself with ministering pleasure to the sight as well as the taste.” So said Mrs. Isabella Beeton in The Book of Household Management, first published in 1880.

A rather staid way to describe the near-magical creation of a glistening, chocolate-glazed caramel tart, or the conjuring of delicate squares of thyme-scented shortbread, no?

There is nothing staid about pastries, of course, and that has much to do with what is arguably the most important ingredient in the art and science of baking: butter.

  • Butter Basics
  • Shortbread
  • Tarts
  • Coffee cakes
  • Cream puffs
  • Recipes

Yeast Dough for Coffee Cake

No one seems to be sure exactly where and when the yeast-raised coffee cake was invented. In his massive and masterly book, The Professional Pastry Chef, Bo Friberg notes that people from Austria to France have been credited with the creation of this breakfast favorite, and that it likely dates as far back as the seventeenth century. Certainly there have been countless variations ever since, from berry-studded bundt-style cakes to streusel-filled logs. The same dough used for larger, multi-serving coffeecakes can also be the base for individual pastries such as cinnamon swirls or sticky buns.

They all go fabulously with a cup of hot java, of course, making coffee cake welcome not just at breakfast but at break time, dessert time and even bed time.

Yeasted coffee cake is a cross between sweetened bread and cake—and it is often actually less sweet than either one. The dough is buttery and flavorful, with a light, high rise and a rich, moist crumb. Yeast-raised coffee cakes aren’t as quick or easy to make as those that utilize chemical leaveners (like baking powder). But people who love to bake enjoy the process of kneading, rising and shaping the dough, and seeing their loved ones’ eyes light up when the fruit of their labor arrives on the table.

The next time you make a yeast-raised coffee cake, consider the following:

  • Butter gives coffee cake its characteristic (and fantastic) aroma and flavor. Use plenty of it! And use the gold standard here—butter made from fresh, unadulterated organic milk.
  • Use a very deep (not wide) bowl or a tall plastic container for first rising of the dough. If the dough is too spread out in a wide bowl, it won’t rise as high.
  • Don’t skip the second rising—not only does it improve the flavor of the fermenting dough, it develops a smooth texture that makes the dough easier to handle and shape.
  • Yeasted coffee cakes freeze well—which might be why many recipes yield two cakes, one for now and one for later.

Click here for the recipe for Coconut Pecan Coffee Cake.

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