It’s a wild world out there right now. Each day, life in Seattle feels like it’s getting both bigger and smaller. Bigger, because I’m reading about us in the national newspapers (though that focus is shifting already). And smaller, because – like everyone else – where I go, who I see and talk to, is shrinking by the day. The surreal has become our collective reality.
Our little blog is, of course, something that Tiffany and I do because we love to bake, and it gives us an amazing reason to stay in consistent in touch with one another. As we find our way through this crisis, I’m also realizing that S&S also provides a space for comfort for me. Baking has always been about connection to others – watching my dad cook, talking recipes with my brother, blogging with my dear friend – but right now, it also helps me feel a little bit safer. It not only gives me something to do during the day (in-between working, I promise!), but it also feels good to have control over something logical and where I can (mostly) control the outcome. Bonus is that it also makes the house smell amazing, and it provides extra delicious snacks.
This recipe in particular popped out at me for a bit of a silly reason – it has “Tuscan” in the title, and and I read the recipe shortly after I heard about Italy’s shutdown. The recipe looked great (and actually is super delicious – more on that in a moment), but I felt some attachment to baking this coffeecake as an ode to one of my (our!) favorite places. Also, I read this and, seriously, what an amazing country of people.
So – about the Coffeecake: firstly, the name is kind of a lie, because it’s more like a bread. It’s wonderfully tender and chewy, with a sugary exterior and nutty, bread-like interior. It’s not like a fruitcake (I would NEVER), it’s more way-better-than-you-could-imagine walnut bread.
Yesterday, I ate about a quarter of the loaf straight out of the oven, when the bread was still very warm and springy. Today, I toasted it, topped it with a bit of butter and loved it all the same with its crispy, buttery crunch. It’s a cinch to bake, and is a great starter recipe for folks not super experienced with yeasted breads.
1 cup (120g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Artisan Bread Flour
1/2 cup cool water (about 69°)
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
all of the starter
2/3 cup lukewarm water (between 98-105°)
2 3/4 cups (326g) All-Purpose Flour (plus more, as needed)
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 57g) butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup (113g) toasted walnuts, very coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (113g) chopped dried apples
3/4 cup (128g) dried cranberries
2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
To make the starter:
Mix the starter ingredients in a small (about 1-quart) bowl, cover, and let rest overnight at room temperature.
To make the dough:
Combine the dough ingredients, mixing and kneading to form a smooth, supple dough. It’ll be very slack; for this reason, we suggest kneading in a bread machine, or with a mixer, rather than by hand. (note: my dough was so slack and sticky that I added 1/4-1/2 cup more flour, until it came together into something more dough-like, and less batter-like)
Place the dough in a bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for about 1 hour. It may not double in bulk; that’s okay.
Gently deflate the dough, and returning the dough to the stand mixer, knead the nuts and fruit into it.
Shape the dough into a flat ball, and place it in a lightly greased 9″ round cake pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaf to rise for 60 minutes, or until it fills the pan side to side and barely crests over the top.
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
To glaze the coffeecake:
Combine the sugar, vanilla and water, and drizzle this mixture over the top of the risen, unbaked cake.
Bake the coffeecake on a lower oven rack for 45 to 55 minutes, or until it’s golden brown. Tent lightly with foil for the final 20 minutes, if it appears to be browning too quickly. The internal temperature of the finished bread should be at least 190°F.
Remove the coffeecake from the oven, and after 5 minutes, carefully turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. Serve at room temperature; or pop slices into the toaster and spread with butter, for a special treat.
Store the coffeecake at room temperature, well wrapped, for several days. Freeze for longer storage.
Strudel and Streusel are two friends living in different cities, sharing a love of baking (and butter) through this blog. With Streusel in Denver, and Strudel in Seattle, we've found our little site to be a great way to stay in touch, share recipes we love, and talk about experiences in our respective cities.