I advise that you do this for a simple reason: it is better to make things that we eat frequently, as I maintain with my Big Six. It isn't unusual to find that we have quite a few occasions to take a piece of good coffee cake out and plate it up for an unexpected visitor, or hopefully an expected and welcome one. Coffee cake is a quick bread, so named because they are not made with yeast. That eliminates rising time and we can count on a good coffee cake recipe to be coming out of the oven by the time our guests knock on the door. And for the unexpected, we can be sure that we can whip one up in almost as short a time as it takes to set the coffee brewing. At least, that's the goal.
You can complicate this, of course, if you want to start slicing fruit or something. But a basic coffee cake is pretty basic, so the trick is that it has to taste good enough to be worth the whole thing. What makes a coffee cake especially delicious is the streusel topping, and if you live a life in which you come up with a quick bread often, it is possible to make a topping that can be stored, refrigerated or frozen, and broken out quickly when a baking occasion arises.
So when you have some free time, you can make sure you have an airtight container and then mix up this universal streusel.
1/2 cup organic whole-wheat, all-purpose or spelt flour
1 stick cold organic butter, sliced into Tablespoons
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground organic cinnamon
2 cups roughly-chopped organic walnuts or pecans
Combine all these ingredients in a food processor. Pulse them until the butter has incorporated and the whole thing looks like flour (but it will take on the color of the brown sugar). Transfer the streusel to the airtight container and freeze or refrigerate.
For a coffee cake, you will take out enough of this topping to sprinkle as heavily as you like on your coffeecake batter.
I am not hard-and-fast about the brown sugar, either. You can choose dark, golden or light-brown sugar, and Splenda Brown will also work fine. I almost always reduce the sugar content of what I cook, if it is present at all, so I have used all of these products with equal success.
Once you have the streusel tucked away safely in the cold, you can see just how easy it really is to make up a coffee cake. I find that it takes at least twice the time if you make the streusel topping just before baking, so if you want to impress a guest that it isn't any trouble to bake up a quick treat, this is how to do it.
This recipe for a coffeecake will work equally well with most kinds of flour, other than bread flour. NEVER use bread flour for quick bread because it that gluten in there will activate right away and you can't avoid a tough final product. But if you use spelt, pastry flour, all-purpose flour, white whole wheat or regular whole wheat, it will work fine.
1-1/2 cups organic flour (other than bread flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup organic brown sugar, packed
1/2 stick organic butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large organic egg at room temperature
2/3 cup organic milk at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Whisk together the dry ingredients other than the sugar.
Beat the sugar with the butter until they have incorporated, and then beat in the egg.
Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture alternately with the milk, in 3 parts (half the dry ingredients, the milk, and finally the rest of the dry ingredients).
Transfer the batter to a square or round baking pan and top with as much streusel as you want.
Bake the coffee cake for 35 minutes and then check to see that it is firm in the middle; if not it will need a few more minutes.
Let the finished cake cool in the pan while you make coffee. Serve warm.
This is a good time to mention that if you have not yet discovered spelt flour, you are in for a delight. Spelt is an ancient grain, a precursor of wheat as we know it. It has a silky, buttery texture all its own and it can be substituted for pastry flour in any recipe. It would probably work in dinner rolls as well but I haven't tried it, so you might want to wait on that until I get around to it and report.