Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tuscan Coffee Cake, A Tale of Two Breads - Avid Baker's Challenge

I must say that this month's ABC selection from the King Arthur Flour website was very timely - after all of the holiday baking in December, I wasn't yet ready to face another sugar and butter-rich concoction but this enriched yeast-raised "cake" fulfilled my need to bake.
The recipe was easy but did span 2 days since the first step was to make a sponge that fermented overnight. I used a stand mixer to knead the dough, which was quite soft and sticky but manageable after the first proof. Dried fruits and nuts were kneaded in before the final shaping, proofing and baking of the loaf. I used the remains of Christmas baking, dried cranberries and currants instead of the required dates and raisins but did include toasted walnuts. Waiting for the correct internal temperature to be reached, my baking time was almost 20 minutes longer than stated in the recipe - time to calibrate my oven perchance? ;)
Freshly baked and barely cooled, the bread was fabulous: moist and soft, bursting with sweet-tart fruit and crunchy nuts with a crackly sugar topping, completely worthy of its "cake" moniker.
However, its character changed considerably by the second day. It was still moist but the fluffiness of the crumb was replaced with a slight chewiness, desirable in many breads but not necessarily in one that wants to be a cake. Where on the first day, the bread was merely a medium in which all of the lovely fruits and nuts were suspended, on the second day its flavour, which seemed to have matured overnight, was strong and decidedly on the savoury end of the spectrum. It wasn't sweet or flavourful enough to complement the fruits - it actually had a slight sourdough tang - but it had a sugary crust, now sadly out of place, and too many fruit add-ins to be savoury. A little vanilla and orange zest in the dough might have helped or perhaps it was important to use the recommended dried fruit combination of dates and raisins for their sweetness. All was not lost though.... like many other breads that linger in my kitchen, it was re-purposed into a very delicious batch of French toast.
The recipe for Tuscan Coffee Cake can be found here. Visit ABC to see what the other bakers thought of it.


  1. Wonderful bread Zosia, such bread are great for using up all the bits of dried fruit or nuts that should be used soon. I could eat this bread forever, Christmas or not :)

  2. Lovely texture, Zosia. The fruits are beautifully suspended in the bread :) I froze the leftovers right away and didn't get the sour tang in the bread. I did use orange zest in mine though.

  3. ho zosia, these is a great loaf of bread in deeded and is a keeper , and for sure I like that you add dry fruits in it , looks nice ...p.s. I will next time make two 6"by3"high like hanaa;s ,

  4. Zosia, the bread looks fabulous. Makes me want a bite :-). I'm all for some French toast too.

  5. yours looks great. mine isnt quite as airy as I did not use the starter - I am at a starter impassed but I still loved my version also

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