It finally stopped raining long enough for the local strawberries to dry out and ripen. We picked up a flat of small, beautiful berries. Strawberries are easily Amaya's favorite fruit and we have to have a good supply of fresh and/or frozen berries in the house at all times.
Even though we happily eat cake for breakfast year round I have got coffee cake on the brain. It is something that brings to mind lazy summer mornings when the air is still cool, the skies are a brilliant blue and the scent of the air is filled with the promise of adventure. There is always and abundance of fresh fruit to cook with. Strawberries are the beginning, soon followed by cherries, apricots, peaches, raspberries... We eat them fresh out of hand, savoring their sweetness and juice. Then we cook with them, folding them into pies and cakes, grilling and roasting them for sweet-savory deliciousness or simply slicing them into salads with crisp vegetables and chopped herbs. The hot weather indicates simplicity (really a fear of of hot sweatiness) and the beautiful, abundant produce makes that possible.
Back to the coffee cake. Alex laughs because I refuse to make coffee cakes that require creaming the butter and sugar first thing in the morning. Of course on the rare occasions that he makes the coffee cake, he breaks out the mixer and bakes the day before, letting the cakes cool overnight so they're ready to serve the next morning. I don't plan that far ahead and I'm fond of a warm cake in the morning, so my coffee cakes tend to be a bit more off the cuff. At most I will clean and cut the fruit the day before, but then again, I'm probably doing that anyway so I have some ready for Amaya.
I prefer not to have to clean the mixer before my first cup of coffee when I'm cooking at home. I like simple cakes that are easily pulled together. Streusel is a necessity because Alex doesn't consider it coffee cake without crumbs on top. Years ago we worked with a breakfast cook/baker who would put a layer of fruit between the cake and streusel and that's been our go-to method ever since. Inspired by this strawberry cake I added some barley flour to my recipe to see how it would taste. Since I tend to be an early bird, it's the only time of day I can be guaranteed of a little solitude; I can get the cake in the oven before anyone else wakes up. The results are fantastic and easily do double duty as dessert when topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Strawberry Coffee Cake
You can use 100% all purpose flour or 100% almond flour in this recipe but the combination of barley and AP flour has a wonderful texture and flavor. It's nutty, slightly chewy and yet still amazingly tender.
1/2 cup (75 g) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (107 g) light brown sugar
small pinch of fine sea salt
freshly grated nutmeg
2 ounces (56 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (75 g) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (70 g/75 g) barley or whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon (3 g) fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (6 g) baking powder
4 ounces (113 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon (4 g) vanilla
2 cups strawberries, cut in half vertically
Preheat the oven the 350°F/175°C. Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) springform cake pan and put it on a sheet pan.
Combine the 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, pinch of salt and nutmeg in a small bowl. Whisk to blend thoroughly. Add 2 ounces soft butter and use your fingers or a fork to blend the mixture into soft crumbs. Set aside.
Combine 1/2 cup all purpose flour, the barley or whole wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ground cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to blend. Cut the butter into sliced and put it in a 1 quart pot and set it over medium heat. When half the butter has melted, 2-3 minutes, remove from heat and swirl the pan until all of the butter has melted, 1-2 minutes. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the pot and stir with a silicone spatula to blend completely. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and tilt the pan to spread the batter evenly in the bottom. Scatter the strawberries evenly over the top of the cake batter. Cover the streusel topping. Bake for 55-65 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean although there will probably be some jammy strawberry love on it. The cake will looked cooked and firm and the topping will be golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes on a rack before removing the top. Cool 10 more minutes before slicing.