Monday, November 1, 2010
Give (Storebought) Piece A Chance
I'm a bit of a sweets snob.
Not that I don't appreciate the simplicity of a low-rent s'mores because I do. I just don't do — or get — the boxed thing. Cake mixes have this completely unnatural texture and chemical-y taste while brownie mixes — don't even get me started. It's so easy to make brownies from scratch that there is just no excuse for those nasty boxed things. Try this brownie recipe and see for yourself.
So now that you have the whole baked backstory, you can see why it's so weird that this Trader Joe's "Baker Josef's" Cinnamon Crumb coffee cake mix ($2.99, I think) ended up in the cart.
But, it was being demoed and I was hungry. I tried a bit and was surprised by its goodness. My kids loved it, but they think haute cuisine comes through a sliding glass window. My more discriminating palate loved the light, fluffy cake, which even had specks — and the slight taste — of nutmeg. The cinnamon topping was strewn through the middle of the batter and lavishly coated the top with crunchy sugariness.
Now, I have a killer crumb cake recipe. It is — to put it simply — the biggest pain in the ass. Tastes fabulous, but it involves rolling the buttery crumb topping into uniform pea-sized bits. This takes about a week.
I've made the recipe three times, and each and every time those labor-intensive peas sank straight into the middle of the cake, leaving barely a crunchy bit on top. Now if that isn't a bite, I don't know what it is. A crumb cake must be properly crumby.
The TJ's crumb cake has very modest requirements: an egg; milk or water; butter or oil plus extra butter for the topping. That's it. Use an 8 or 9 inch pan, which isn't especially big, yet the batter seemed spread mighty thin for the 40-60 minute baking time. I ended up at 35 minutes, and it was a touch overcooked. Still tasted downright delicious, though — and I didn't have to do make a single, perfect pea-sized crumb.