Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food styling and photos by Sarah Phillips © 2012 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Variation: Apple Walnut Spice Streusel Muffins
This is a wonderful cinnamon streusel tops this snack coffee cake, which is slightly sweet and cakelike with little chunks of apple, crystallized ginger and walnuts suspended throughout. I show you how I add them in to produce a moist and tender cake. It makes a great breakfast, brunch or snack treat, and can be served with any beverage, hot or cold. It smells heavenly as it bakes in the oven. I have trouble staying away from this baked treat when I make it, and keeping myself from slicing tiny pieces from the main cake as I pass by the kitchen!
QUICK-BREAD RECIPE HELP
After mixing the cake, I fold in the diced apples, lemon juice, finely diced crystallized ginger, and chopped walnuts until JUST combined. I do this to prevent overmixing the cake because folding is a gentle mixing method. If you overmix wheat flour when moistened, it produces too much gluten. Too much gluten toughens and dries the cake when baked. Thus you'll find that this recipe is tender and moist.
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into dry measuring cup and level to rim
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup (1/4 stick or 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold; cut into small cubes
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into dry measuring cup and level to rim
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (about 3 to 4 medium) peeled, cored and diced apples; such as Granny Smith, Gala or Honey Crisp
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon peel
1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely diced
Walnuts and crystallized ginger
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss in the cold butter cubes.
2. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture becomes crumbly.
SARAH SAYS: The way I cut in the butter is to reach into the bowl with both hands, and quickly squeeze the butter and flour particles in between my fingertips.
I repeat this until I have large chunks of butter and the flour mixture squeezed together. It only takes a few minutes or so to do.
Make sure the butter still remains cold and does not become greasy. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
1. Position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9- x 9- x- 2-inch square pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, toss the diced apples with lemon juice, and set aside.
Add the vanilla extract and the lemon peel to the milk, and set aside until needed.
3. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, on low until softened. (If the butter is cold, it will warm quickly from the beaters - taking about 60 seconds).
4. Add the sugar in a steady stream at the side of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute until the butter is lighter in color and aerated.
Stop the mixer and scrape the side and bottom of the bowl with a large rubber spatula.
5. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time and beat for 20 seconds after each addition.
6. After the eggs have been added, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the mixture for 2 minutes. (If the eggs are cold, the batter will curdle slightly. It's ok. It will come together as the batter warms from the beaters. ) Set the kitchen timer to help you keep track of the time. The mixture will become fluffy and aerated.
7. With the mixer on LOW speed, add 1/4 cup of the flour mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl.
8. With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk mixture at once. (If the milk is cold, the batter will curdle slightly. It's ok. It will come together when you add the flour.)
9. Then quickly add the remaining flour mixture in 1/4 cup increments; do NOT wait in between additions too long as you don't want to overmix the batter.
After completing the last addition of flour, stop the mixer, and scrape the side and bottom of the bowl with a large rubber spatula.
10. Run the mixer on medium-low for about 30 to 60 seconds more until all the flour has been incorporated. The batter will be thick.
11. Stop the mixer and unclamp the mixer bowl.
Add the diced apples, lemon juice, finely diced crystallized ginger, and chopped walnuts on top of the batter.
FOLD with a large rubber spatula until JUST combined. DO NOT OVERMIX.
12. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Lightly smooth its top.
13. Then sprinkle over the topping.
14. Bake until puffed and a wooden skewer inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs but not batter, about 45 to 50 minutes.
15. Cool cake completely in its pan on a wire cake rack.
Cut the cake into squares and serve from its pan.
Wrap cooled cake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for a day or two; refrigerate after that so it won't mold. If it is humid, refrigerate right away, so it won't mold.
The cake freezes nicely, wrapped in plastic wrap and then sealed in an airtight container, for a month or more.
Apple Walnut Spice Streusel Muffins: Fill muffin liners about 3/4 full. (I did not add streusel on top, but there was enough room in the cupcake liner for me to do so before baking).
Muffins take about 25 to 30 minutes to bake. Makes about 18.