German Style Crumb Cake

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This is another St. Louis thing. Another craving that comes from some deep memories that I can’t even put my finger on. When I first started thinking about making gooey butter cake, I think somehow I was really thinking about this crumb cake, or perhaps something in between. My memories may have gotten jumbled and mashed together, but what I do know is that this is another heavenly German yeast cake, like the ones I grew up with in St. Louis. Our last trip to St. Louis, we stayed with Cheryl and Brian (Brian is the one who introduced me to the “no-knead bread“.) I grew up two doors down from them in St. Louis, and spent just about all of my free time with their daughter Stephanie. Stephanie and all of her clan were there in St. Louis for this visit as well.

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Back together, with our kids.

It makes my heart so happy to know that our kids are having this same experience that we had; of all of us being together, laughing, sharing good food, and just spending time with each other. These folks are my second family, and I adore them.

Cheryl and Brian came to visit us here in Seattle last month, and we got to be tourists together.

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At Pike Place Market

And Cheryl and I even got to dance together on the Pier to a vintage “Artizan Military Band Organ”. You put a dollar in, and it plays really loud for a long time. Some things you just can’t imagine will happen until they do.

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Cheryl is wearing her “314” hat. It’s a St. Louis thing….

What does all of this have to do with crumb cake, you ask? Well, I did make this crumb cake for Cheryl and Brian while they were here. Brian is into yeasty things just as much as I am, if not more so, so I just had to do it.

I must say that if you are not familiar with this type of cake, you ought to know up front that the cake is not sweet! The topping is sweet, but not the cake. It is a buttery yeast dough, kind of like brioche. It is a wonderful compliment to any sweet topping, and the sweet toppings are usually doused with powdered sugar, so you really don’t need the cake itself to be sweet. Just the topping please.

The best recipe I found was Ruth Cousineau’s recipe on Epicurious. I tweaked a few things here and there, and got more ideas from George Greenstein’s book, “A JEWISH BAKER’S Pastry Secrets“. Warning! This recipe is time consuming, but worth it.

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Look at that tender, yeasty dough, and plentiful crumb topping!

German Style Crumb Cake

(Adapted from Ruth Cousineau’s “Old-Fashioned Crumb Cake” recipe.)

For cake:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk (105°-115°F), divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups (10 oz) bread flour (or all-purpose if you don’t have bread flour)
  • 1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch cardamom
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened slightly

For crumb topping:

  • 2 1/4 cups pastry flour (or just 2 cups all-purpose if you don’t have pastry flour)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Special Equipment

  • a stand mixer, paddle attachment and dough hook
  • two 8″x 8″ metal baking pans

To make the dough:

Stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm milk, and 1 teaspoon sugar in bowl of mixer until yeast is dissolved, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

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Stir together lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup warm milk and let stand until curdled, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, flour, salt, egg, curdled milk, softened butter, vanilla, and pinch cardamom to yeast mixture. That’s right, just dump it all into the bowl. Mix at low speed until all ingredients are incorporated and a dough forms. Switch to a dough hook, and beat on medium speed until dough is silky (a bit shiny) and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes.

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Scrape down sides of bowl to form a small ball of dough, sprinkle it with a tablespoon of flour, cover bowl with tea towel, and let rise in a warm spot in your kitchen for an hour to an hour and a half…. until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough to release the air, scoop out of bowl and divide into two balls. Working on a floured surface, stretch the dough of each ball, fold in thirds like an envelope, rotate and fold again into thirds like an envelope, creating two tight loaves. Let sit for about 15 minutes.

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While dough is resting, butter your two 8″x 8″ pans, and then make your crumb topping.

To make topping:

Put sugar, pastry flour, cold cubed butter, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of your stand mixer (yes, you’ll have to wash it). Using the paddle attachment, beat on low speed until topping resembles sand or crumbs, with some larger clumps. Clumps should come together when pinched with your fingers. Do not cream!!! If you prefer to do this by hand, use a pastry blender to blend the ingredients. If you see some chunks of butter that have not blended in, use your fingers to blend it in.

Back to the dough:

Roll out each ball of dough into a square that is a bit larger than 8″x 8″.

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A little lopsided, but that’s okay.

Place dough into buttered pan, making sure the dough goes all the way to the edges and corners. Take a fork and poke the dough in nice little rows.

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I love these pans.

Sprinkle dough with crumb topping.

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Yes, it’s a lot of crumb topping!

Cover pans with a tea towel and let cakes rise for about one hour… I know, I know, I’m sorry. You have to be patient.

About fifteen minutes before rise time is up, preheat oven to 350°. Bake cakes on center rack for 25 to 30 minutes. The topping will be slightly browned, and the cakes will have risen a bit. The tops should feel firm to the touch and spring back when lightly pressed with the fingers (careful not to burn yourself!) or small spatula. I don’t use the toothpick test for these cakes, as it is not dependable with yeast cakes. Best bet is to use an oven thermometer to be sure your oven is at the correct temperature while baking.

Cool on wire racks in pans. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sift a light coating of powdered sugar over the tops before serving.

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This cake is best the first day, but also keeps well at room temperature for several days if covered well with plastic wrap. Dust (or heavily douse) each piece with powdered sugar before serving. If serving the next day or so, cover with foil and heat in a 350° oven. You can also heat each piece by placing in the microwave on a plate for 7 or 8 seconds (no more!!!). I don’t really believe in microwave ovens, but this works well to ever-so-slightly warm and soften day-old crumb cake… or two-day-old, etc. But it tastes fabulous at room temperature as well.

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German Style Crumb Cake

(Adapted from Ruth Cousineau’s “Old-Fashioned Crumb Cake” recipe.)

For cake:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk (105°-115°F), divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups (10 oz) bread flour (or all-purpose if you don’t have bread flour)
  • 1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch cardamom
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened slightly

For For crumb topping:

  • 2 1/4 cups pastry flour (or just 2 cups all-purpose if you don’t have pastry flour)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Special Equipment

  • a stand mixer, paddle attachment and dough hook
  • two 8″x 8″ metal baking pans

To make the dough:

Stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm milk, and 1 teaspoon sugar in bowl of mixer until yeast is dissolved, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Stir together lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup warm milk and let stand until curdled, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, flour, salt, egg, curdled milk, softened butter, vanilla, and pinch cardamom to yeast mixture. That’s right, just dump it all into the bowl. Mix at low speed until all ingredients are incorporated and a dough forms. Switch to a dough hook, and beat on medium speed until dough is silky (a bit shiny) and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Scrape down sides of bowl to form a small ball of dough, sprinkle it with a tablespoon of flour, cover bowl with tea towel, and let rise in a warm spot in your kitchen for an hour to an hour and a half…. until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough to release the air, scoop out of bowl and divide into two balls. Working on a floured surface, stretch the dough of each ball, fold in thirds like and envelope, rotate and fold again into thirds like an envelope, creating two tight loaves. Let sit for about 15 minutes.

While dough is resting, butter your two 8″x 8″ pans, and then make your crumb topping.

To make topping:

Put sugar, pastry flour, cold cubed butter, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of your stand mixer (yes, you’ll have to wash it). Using the paddle attachment, beat on low speed until topping resembles sand or crumbs, with some larger clumps. Clumps should come together when pinched with your fingers. Do not cream or over mix!!! If you prefer to do this by hand, use a pastry blender to blend the ingredients. If you see some chunks of butter that have not blended in, use your fingers to blend it in.

Back to the dough:

Roll out each ball of dough into a square that is a bit larger than 8″x 8″.

Place dough into buttered pan, making sure the dough goes all the way to the edges and corners. Take a fork and poke the dough in nice little rows.

Sprinkle dough with crumb topping.

Cover pans with a tea towel and let cakes rise for about one hour… I know, I know, I’m sorry. You have to be patient.

About fifteen minutes before rise time is up, preheat oven to 350°. Bake cakes on center rack for 25 to 30 minutes. The topping will be slightly browned, and the cakes will have risen a bit. The tops should feel firm to the touch and spring back when lightly pressed with the fingers (careful not to burn yourself!) or small spatula. I don’t use the toothpick test for these cakes, as it is not dependable with yeast cakes. Best bet is to use an oven thermometer to be sure your oven is at the correct temperature.

Cool on wire racks in pans. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sift a light coating of powdered sugar over the tops before serving.

This cake is best the first day, but also keeps well at room temperature for several days if covered well with plastic wrap. Dust (or heavily douse) each piece with powdered sugar before serving. If serving the next day or so, cover with foil and heat in a 350° oven. You can also heat each piece by placing in the microwave on a plate for 7 or 8 seconds (no more!!!). I don’t really believe in microwave ovens, but this works well to ever-so-slightly warm and soften day old crumb cake… or two day old, etc. But it tastes fabulous at room temperature as well.

And just for the fun of it…

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Life is too short not to dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to German Style Crumb Cake

  1. Pingback: Blueberry Crumb Muffins | and everything nice

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