Fresh from the oven, coffee cakes are truly dishes to fill the senses of sight, taste, and smell.
These rich, sweet, cakelike breads often eaten for breakfast or brunch are delicious whether they are made as yeast breads or quick breads.
Yeast breads make wonderful coffee cakes, especially when served warm from the oven so pats of butter can melt into their nooks and crannies. The trouble with yeast breads is that they take time. If you want them to be ready for breakfast, you have to start making the recipes very early in the morning and allow for one, two, or more risings of the dough.
That's why many home cooks bake quick breads made with baking soda and baking powder for leavening. Such recipes are faster because no rising time is needed.
Coffee cakes may be made with fruit, nuts, and even a cream-cheese filling. Once baked, they may be frosted, topped with a streusel, or sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Although many people believe coffee cakes are best served warm, the cakes make wonderful snacks any time of day, and sometimes they even make terrific light desserts in the evening. I would never refuse a bite of coffee cake.
While it's easy to opt for making a pan of muffins, the classic coffee cake is more versatile. A coffee cake may be sliced into 12, 16, or 20 pieces depending on how many servings are needed at the last minute.
You can bake a coffee cake in a square or rectangular pan, in a Bundt pan, or in a round cake pan. You can also make a coffee cake from refrigerated dough.
Baked coffee cakes will keep two or three days before drying out. For longer preservation, wrap in foil or plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag to freeze for up to a month. To defrost, simply put a cake on the kitchen counter the night before you want to serve it.
For larger coffee cakes, use a Bundt or other type of tube pan.
Whatever type of tube pan you use - from a plain angel food-type pan to a Bundt pan with whimsical patterns - a coffee cake baked in this way provides a big, beautiful cake that can serve as many as 20 people. The pans are large and hold about 10 cups or more of batter, so the cakes are long-baking and have a deeply golden crust, writes Dorie Greenspan in Baking From My Home to Yours (Houghton Mifflin, $40).
The key to using these pans is to adequately butter and flour them before pouring in the batter. Ms. Greenspan recommends a pastry brush coated with softened butter; I sometimes use wax paper coated with shortening or butter. The important thing is to smoothly cover the many nooks and crannies.
When testing a cake in a tube pan, use a long cake tester.
Cinnamon Streusel Cake with Irish Cream Glaze with Irish Cream Glaze is so good with a ribbon of cinnamon streusel woven through the warm, sweet flavor. The streusel is inside the cake (some coffee cake recipes use it for a topping). A glaze made with Irish cream liqueur adds a distinctive touch. The liqueur is available at local supermarkets such as Kazmaier's 5-Star Markets.
One of the best parts about coffee cakes is that the ingredients usually are inexpensive. Making the cakes is a wonderful way to use seasonal fruit, or to use up leftover ingredients such as a half cup of sour cream or the rest of a package of nuts.
Making coffee cakes also is a good way to incorporate healthful ingredients such as flax, yogurt, honey, and whole-wheat flour.
Chocolate Nugget-Orange Flax Cake is a good example, with whole-wheat flour, buttermilk or yogurt, honey, orange juice concentrate, flax cereal, dried currants or golden raisins, and walnuts. The flax cereal may be a little elusive, but it should be available at health-food stores and Kroger supermarkets.
The recipe is from Coffee Cakes by Lou Seibert Pappas (Chronicle, $18.95). She has 50 recipes in the cookbook with a variety of flavors and ingredients ranging from Russian Apricot-Apple Pretzel Cake made with dry yeast to Morning Glory Breakfast Cake made with quick-cooking oats, yogurt, carrots, and apple. Strawberry Coffee Cake is made with cream cheese and Sticky Caramel Pinwheel cake (dry yeast) has a caramel coating.
A can or package of refrigerated dough such as cinnamon rolls may be used to make a coffee cake.
A tube of Pillsbury Grands refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing was transformed into Giant Cinnamon-Cheese Danish, which was a 2004 finalist in the Breakfast & Brunches category of the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off. The delicious and easy recipe is a good example of the type of recipe and product that the contest is seeking. (See related article below.)
The cream cheese filling makes this a delicious breakfast coffee cake that everyone will enjoy.
Refrigerated crescent rolls and biscuits also may be used as the base of coffee cakes with various toppings or fruit fillings.
For sweet yeast breads used for coffee cake, the dough may be made by hand or in a bread machine. After the first rising (about 1 1/4 hours) punch down the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes, advises the Taste of Home Cookbook (Reader's Digest, $29.95). This makes the dough easier to roll out.
Loaves may be braided, rolled, or formed into rings.
If the dough is to be rolled, a filling is spread to within 1/2 inch of edges. Then it may be rolled jelly-roll style starting from the long side. Seams are pinched to seal and ends are tucked under. The bread sets for a second rising before baking.
Once baked, glaze or frosting may be drizzled over the yeast bread.
Yeast bread, quick bread, refrigerated dough - whatever coffee cake recipe you chose, your kitchen will be filled with good things.
Contact Kathie Smith at: firstname.lastname@example.org