17 January 2016

All we need

I posted a photo on Instagram last week of my kitchen countertop (which is more like a station, a patch of work space) before and after I KonMari'ed it. I am a proponent of her method, though admittedly find the folding techniques a bit too much. Nevertheless, I've been enjoying the Internet chatter over her latest installment, which advocates keeping kitchen counters completely clear. Nearly impossible for many of us. Laughable, even for frequent home-cooks (Kondo doesn't cook much). But. There was something here. I wondered what would happen if I pared down what I kept out in the open, and, as if by magic, my entire cooking life transformed.  Well...not exactly : ) But I can't help but think a few things went differently after I addressed this...

One night, we had an unplanned dinner guest, a first ever here, but something I've wanted to break the ice on (I know--crazy but...space!) Another late afternoon pre-sunset, I decided that cookie-dough making did not have to occur, even though there was a pocket of time for it, a walk was needed. Well, that's it, really, but on the whole, things felt more streamlined, more falling into place. I approached the counter with calmness rather than a nagging question of where to place what, when. I made an apple galette with the last apple and dough from the freezer. And when I spied a big orange in the bowl, I made this little crumb cake. I say little because it really is all we need.

I love a good crumb cake. It's been on my to-bake list for awhile. Many recipes are just so rich. They wipe out your cupboards with a cup of flour for the crumbs, another 2 or 3 cups for the batter, and let's just throw 2 sticks of butter and a carton of sour cream in there while we're at it. Which is why I rarely make it. Why does a coffee cake have to be a grand affair?

This cake, spiced with the union of orange, cardamom and coffee, is anything but extravagant, it's a petite burst of flavor and spicy warmth, with a lovely crumb crunch. Lighter than crumb cakes of another name, this one's moistened with coffee and milk, just enough butter and that's all.  I chose it to feature here because of how unfussy it is...it's a no-mixer deal, with the payoff of crumbs! Enjoy!

Cardamom Crumb Cake (adapted from Food52)
Notes: I halved the original recipe since I have a six-inch cake pan. You can use any small pan of the same size, make mini cakes in muffin tins or freestanding liners (adjust bake time), or make it doubled as written in the link above : ) My only change was to add a pinch salt** to the topping and to swap in a tablespoon or so barley flour into the flours of the topping and batter. I also had to bake more like 40-43 minutes, not 35. 

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted, chopped almonds (or walnuts)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange zest 
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Pinch salt ~ 1/8 tsp **
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee, cooled
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract   

                        -Oven to 400. Butter and flour your pan, tap out excess, and place it on a baking sheet.
                        -To make crumbs, whisk all dry ingredients then add butter and work in until you have crumbs. Place in the fridge.
                        -For cake, place sugar in a small bowl and add zest. Work in zest to moisten sugar and scent it. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, espresso and cardamom in a large bowl. Whisk in orange sugar.
                        -Whisk together melted butter, vanilla, egg, coffee and milk in another bowl and gently add wet to dry, folding just to combine. 
                        -Turn batter into pan, top evenly with crumbs. Bake until cake is domed, crumbs browned, and a tester comes out clean, checking at 30/35, and allowing it to go longer if needed. (mine did). Cool completely on a rack. 

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