Sunday, April 3, 2011

Streusel Squares

Streusel Squares - made April 2, 2011 from Great Cakes by Carole Walter (book #78)

My final contribution to the bake sale for Japan is streusel cake.  The bake sale is 10-2 pm on Sunday, April 3 and I thought at 10 am, not everyone might be up for a chocolate brownie and might want something more brunch-y instead like a morning coffee-cake type of sweet.  I love streusel cake.  The best one I ever remember having was when I was working for Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco when I was right out of college.  For meetings, we'd order in these coffee cakes and I remember them being so moist, buttery and sweet.  I loved that cake.  My taste buds have changed since then and I may not like the same things now that I did back then (which is a good thing since I was also 30 pounds heavier back then - yikes).  But I still remember that coffee cake quite fondly.

Carole Walter is another good cookbook author I recommend for beginning bakers.  Her recipes are detailed and easy to follow and she includes basic instructions that remind novices not to forget the scrape the sides of the bowl during mixing, how to prep a baking pan, etc.  I have a few of her books and tend to skip most of the directions since I have my own method of doing things but her recipes are generally pretty good.  I did vary this one slightly though by substituting brown sugar for the granulated sugar in the streusel topping.  I'm not sure if that was a typo in the book or if she really meant for people to use granulated sugar in the topping.  I've never had a streusel or crumb topping with just granulated sugar so I took the liberty of putting in brown sugar instead for a more traditional streusel.

This cake turned out to be excellent.  I baked it for a little less than 40 minutes before the toothpick came out clean.  At first I thought I might've overbaked it because that's what a clean toothpick usually signifies but the cake was just right with a fluffy, tender texture.  There's so much beating of the batter that the soft, fluffy texture is almost a given so don't shortchange that step.  This is a great vanilla cake to hold the streusel as the topping got a bit crunchy during baking.  It's almost like having nuts in the topping but only the crisp ones that don't soften and steam during baking.  It might not be the coffee cake I remember from PG&E but it comes pretty close.  I enjoyed the taste test piece as much as I did Martha Stewart's Classic Crumb Cake.  I may try making it again with granulated sugar in the streusel and see how that turns out.  As with most cakes of this type, they're best served warm so you get the best contrast between the soft texture of the cake and the crunchiness of the topping.

Streusel Topping
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 ¼ cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 large egg white

1.     Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350⁰F.  Butter a 9 x 13 x 2” pan.
2.     To make the streusel topping; melt the butter (30 seconds in the microwave usually does it).  Cool slightly.  Add the flour, sugar and cinnamon all at once and stir with a fork until the mixture forms small crumbs.  Take a handful of the crumbs and make a fist to press the mixture into a large clump.  Then separate into smaller clusters, at least two or three times the size of the original crumbs.  Repeat until all of the crumbs have been reshaped.  Set aside.
3.    To make the cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
4.    Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to soften on low speed.  Increase speed to medium-high and cream until smooth and light in color, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
5.    Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, taking about 6 to 8 minutes to blend it in well.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
6.    Add the eggs and additional yolk, 1 at a time at 1-minute intervals, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.
7.    Reduce mixer speed to low.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, dividing the flour mixture into three parts and the milk into two parts, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix just until incorporated after each addition.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 10 seconds longer.
8.    Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a tablespoon.  Beat the egg white lightly with a fork.  Using a pastry brush, spread about half of the beaten egg white over the top of the cake batter.  Discard the remainder.  (The egg white helps wht streusel adhere to the top of the cake.)  Sprinkle the entire surface of the batter generously with the streusel.  Gently pat the crumbs into the batter with the palm of your hand; do not press hard.
9.    Center the pan on the rack and bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown on top, begins to come away from the sides of the pan, and the streusel is crisp.  A toothpick inserted into the center should come out dry.
10. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a cake rack to cool.  When ready to serve, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares.

Can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.

1 comment:

  1. Mmm, I am a streusel fiend. It's always my favorite part. This looks totally tasty.