Johnny’s Crumb Cake

Johnny's crumb cake

I think the first time I saw or even heard of Johnny Iuzzini was when he was a judge on Top Chef.  To me, there isn’t anything much cooler than a motorcycle riding, modern-day Elvis looking guy with tattoos who also happens to be a pastry chef.  Super cool!  I saw Johnny wrote a new book, Sugar Rush, but unfortunately, I was not able to cross it off my Christmas wish list. Luckily I came across this crumb cake recipe from his book, so I thought I would try a recipe before I bought it.  Since it will probably be a long time before I get to taste one of his actual desserts, making one of Johnny’s recipes is the next best thing. And, crumb cake is a perfect place to start because everyone in my family loves coffee cake. What I love about this recipe is that as a pastry chef, besides the traditional measurements, all the ingredients are given by weight. Baking is about being precise and if you say you aren’t a baker, this is the way to get good results every time as long as you have a good, reliable recipe. No measuring cups are needed, you just keep adding ingredients and zeroing out the scale for each new ingredient. I had my scale for like a year before I used it because for some reason, even as a pharmacist, using it was intimidating probably because it was just different from what I was used to. But now, if there are weight measurements, I use them.  You won’t believe the difference.

A few notes about this recipe. First, the batter barely covers the pan. I checked the pan size like five times, but it is 13×9.  I was worried that I would have a really short cake. Second, the crumb is very wet and heavy and there is a ton of it compared to the cake. Given those two things, I didn’t think there was any way this recipe would work out. But, I knew I measured everything correctly, so I put it in the oven and crossed my fingers.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the cake rose. The cake is really fluffy and light, compared to some crumb cakes that can be a little dense. The crumb gets really crunchy on top, providing a perfect texture contrast to the cake.  Honestly, no joke, this one of the best crumb cakes I ever had.

Johnny Iuzzini’s Crumb Cake
Yield: 13×9 cake
2 cups all-purpose flour (250g)
5½ tablespoons (1/3 cup) unsalted butter (75g)
½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature (60g)
⅔ cup milk, at room temperature (160g)
1 tablespoon vanilla (15g)
1 tablespoon baking powder (12g)
pinch of kosher salt
Crumb topping
2¼ cups all-purpose flour (280g)
1¼ cups packed light brown sugar (290g)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (6g)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted (226g)
Take out and measure the ingredients that need to be at room temperature: sour cream, milk, eggs and butter.
Make sure the baking rack is in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 350ºF.
Spray a 9×13-inch glass baking pan (I used a metal pan) with Pam. Lightly dust with flour and tap out any excess
In the bowl of your KitchenAid, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle until light and fluffy, ~ 3 minutes.
Add in the egg and sour cream. Mix until combined.
In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk and the vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Sprinkle in the pinch of salt
With the mixer on low, alternately add the wet and dry ingredients. Start and finish with the dry ingredients. Make sure to stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, unless you a have a beater blade that does this for you
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Note: this barely covers the bottom of the pan.
Now, for the crumb topping:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon until uniform.
Pour in the melted butter. Stir until completely moistened. This will be heavy, wet and lots of it. Make sure to use it all.
Roll the mixture between the tips of your fingers to make small balls of crumb
Scatter the topping evenly over the top of the batter in the pan, right from your hands as you roll it. Completely cover the cake batter. It will be about half cake to half crumb.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the center of the cake is firm to the touch and it springs back lightly when pressed.
Note: If the cake is not done in 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325ºF and continue to bake until done- checking frequently
Remove the cake from the oven. Lightly dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Allow the cake to cool completely and give it a generous dusting of powdered sugar
Source: Sugar Rush by Johnny Iuzzini, as seen on Taste and Tell

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake

I was looking on Pinterest (where else?) for a recipe to use up some blueberries and I came across this blueberry cream cheese coffee cake.  I really love anything with crumb topping and then you one up a coffee cake with cream cheese?  Now we’re talking.  The cake batter is easy enough to put together.  Then you fold in the blueberries and chunks of cream cheese to complete the batter.  The crumb topping is made by just mashing together sugar, flour and cold butter.  I have tried the two fork method and I even have a pastry blender, but I find that nothing works better than mushing it with your hands.   The cake is so pretty after it is baked with all the bright purple blueberries poking out from beneath the golden crumb topping.  When you taste it, the cake itself is moist and buttery.   Then you bite into a blueberry and it’s sweet and juicy.  Then you hit a pocket of cream cheese and it’s well, as you can imagine, creamy.  I love all the different texture and taste contrasts in this cake.  Another thing I love about coffeecake?  It is one of the few times where it is completely acceptable to eat cake and call it breakfast.  Although, that’s not to say that I haven’t eaten chocolate chip cookies in the morning and called it breakfast.  But that was only me, hiding in the kitchen, stuffing them in my mouth before my kids woke up and wanted cookies for breakfast too. 😀

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Yield:  an 8 x 8 cake.  I used a 9 inch round cake pan.

For the cake:

1/4 cup (4 Tbs) butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla   (my addition)

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all- purpose flour, DIVIDED

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, washed, dried and picked over for stems    I used fresh

3 oz cold cream cheese, cut into small cubes

For the crumb topping:

4 Tablespoons flour

4 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons cold butter

Preheat oven to 375F.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,  cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla (if using).  Combine 1 cup of flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk.  Start and end with the flour mixture.

Toss the blueberries with remaining 2 Tbs flour.  With a spatula, fold the blueberries and cream cheese cubes into the batter.  Pour the batter into a greased 8 inch baking pan.  I used a 9in round.  I wish I would have put a parchment circle on the bottom so the cake would have been easier to remove and put on my cake stand.

Prepare the crumb topping:  In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the batter.  Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Mine took about 35 minutes.

Helpful Hints:

  • If you use frozen berries, do not thaw before using or they will bleed into the cake.  It will still taste good, but it won’t look as pretty.
  • When making the crumb topping, I find just using my hands to work better than two forks or a pastry blender.

Source: Slightly adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, originally from Taste of Home magazine

Chocolate Crumb Bars

Soon after my daughter was born 5 years ago, we decided that our townhouse was too small and we should put it on the market.  So, we packed up a bunch of stuff to put into 2 storage lockers, trying to declutter the house, making it more attractive to sell.  Sadly, this included packing up some of my kitchen stuff and cookbooks that I don’t use often.  Well, the house was up for 1.5 years, and because of the economy, we couldn’t sell it.  We grew tired of keeping the house spotless with a toddler and a baby, so we finally gave in and took it off the market.  A few months ago, we realized that keeping 2 storage lockers is really expensive (I know, duh).  So we decided to go through them, selling and donating enough stuff to combine them into one.  In the process, I came across 4 boxes of cookbooks that I totally forgot about.  For me it was like Christmas!  I had a whole box of those little food magazines that they have at the grocery checkout that always seem to find their way into my cart.  I was looking through Nestle’s Very Best Baking cookbook and these chocolate crumb bars caught my attention.  The bars have a shortbread crust, a buttery crumb topping, sandwiched together with a creamy chocolate filling.  Shortbread and creamy chocolate?  Well, now there’s a winning combination to me! 😀

Chocolate Crumb Bars

Yield: A 13 x 9 pan of bars, the number depends on the size you cut them.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional         I omitted
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.Beat butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in flour, sugar and salt until crumbly. With floured fingers, press 2 cups crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared baking pan; reserve remainingmixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.Combine 1 cup morsels and sweetened condensed milk in a small, heavy-duty saucepan. Warm over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Spread over hot crust.Stir nuts and remaining morsels into reserved crumb mixture; sprinkle over chocolate filling. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Martha’s Classic Crumb Cake

So, it’s Sunday morning, about 6:30 AM and I’m in the midst of my usual scramble trying to figure out what to make for breakfast. I really don’t feel like the usual pancakes or French toast.  So, I start thinking about making a cinnamon crumb cake.  I really don’t remember the last time I made one and it’s my husband’s favorite.  I was leafing through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and I found a recipe for classic crumb cake.  Looking at the picture, I was instantly drawn to the sheer amount of streusel.  I am such a sucker for it.  Now, please don’t freak out when you see 3 1/2 sticks of butter in the topping.  I know that’s a a ton, especially since there is 1 1/4 sticks of butter in the cake.  I don’t know about you, but I have a Julia Child like love affair with butter and I have to admit even I was taken aback for a second.  But, keep in mind, this recipe really does make a huge, 13 x 9 crumb cake.  I would say it is definitely enough to serve at least 12, if not 16 people, given its richness.  The cake is obviously really buttery and moist and the cinnamon streusel is the perfect texture contrast.  I like to serve mine with just a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, along side a piping hot cup of coffee.  Ah, what a perfect leisurely Sunday morning breakfast, right?

I sent a large portion of the cake with my husband to school and the kids loved it.  One student told Justin not to tell me, but as good as the cake is, the streusel is the best part.  Why would I take offense?  She’s totally right.  As far as I am concerned, cake is just a vehicle to eat streusel.  If you just ate a bowl of streusel, most people would frown upon that.  I say most, because I certainly wouldn’t. 😀

Martha’s Classic Crumb Cake

Yield: one 13 x 9 cake, 12 to 16 servings.

1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and sour cream; beat just until combined.

Spoon the batter into the pan, and smooth with an offset spatula. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Take caution not to overbake, or the cake will be dry!  Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using.

Crumb Topping

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
3 ½ sticks (1 ¾ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature

1. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt; cut in the butter using a pastry blender, until large, moist clumps form. (Alternatively, mix together in a food processor.) Topping can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Source:  Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Caramel Crumb Bars

If there was a Baker’s Hall of Fame, Nick Malgieri would be one of the first inductees.  So, when he says that if given the choice, caramel crumb bars would be the cookies he would chose above all others…well, you take notice, and then make those bars.  They did not disappoint!  The buttery shortbread crust serves double duty as the crumb topping as well.  Then you add a layer of creamy homemade caramel…oh my goodness!  My son took a bite, said MmmMmmm and then proceeded to eat three more bars. Mind you he is a little bitty thing, just 45 pounds, so that is a lot of cookie bars!  I was going to send them all with my husband to work tomorrow because keeping them in the house would be dangerous for me.  But, I think I have enough willpower to save a few to surprise Jack in his school lunch tomorrow before I eat them 😀

Caramel Crumb Bars

For the crust/crumb topping

8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)- DIVIDED

For the caramel filling

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Position a rack on the lowest level of the oven; preheat to 350°F

Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil, then lightly butter the paper/foil.  (save your butter wrappers- they work nicely for this purpose)

For the dough: Combine 2 sticks of butter, the sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle.  Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is soft and light. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

Reduce the speed to low, then gradually add 2 1/4 cups of the flour (spooned into the cup and leveled) and beat until well incorporated to form a smooth dough. Use a spatula to scrape down the bowl and paddle.

Remove the bowl from the mixer; transfer 3/4 of the dough into the prepared pan. Use the palm of your hand to press the dough down lightly and evenly. Chill the crust dough while you make the topping: Work the remaining 1/4 cup flour into the remaining dough with your fingertips so that it forms small crumbs. Set aside at room temperature.

For the caramel: Combine the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to boil gently, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken and darken slightly. Pour into a stainless steel bowl to cool for 5 minutes.

To assemble: Pour the cooled filling on top of the chilled dough, then scatter the crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling bubbles gently and is a deep caramel color and the dough and crumb topping are baked through.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, until lukewarm. Use the parchment paper/foil to lift the slab of bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board before it has cooled completely. Cut the slab into roughly 2-inch squares.

Source:  The Modern Baker:  Time-Saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes and Cookies

Helpful Hints:

  • Be careful with the caramel so it doesn’t get too thick.  I made mine a bit too thick and it was very hard to spread.  After using an offset spatula for most of the spreading, I used my hands to press the caramel onto the places I just couldn’t get the caramel to stick (it had cooled enough by then)
  • It is also helpful to dollop the caramel all over the bars and then spread the large dots of caramel together with an offset spatula.   There is less pulling at the crust I found.
  • Be sure to spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level it off so you get the right amount of flour.
  • My dough was a bit more crumbly (dry) than it should have been because my Kitchen Aid broke (Gasp!) and I had to use my old-time hand mixer- which apparently is a bit harder to handle than I thought.  I had the mishap of some butter jumping out of the bowl.  So, the crumb mixture should be in bigger pieces of crumb. 😀  It is more of a cosmetic thing…they still tasted wonderful.
  • I think a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt before the crumb topping would be a wonderful addition.
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