Growing up in north Jersey, there was a local bakery, on Stephens Avenue in Little Falls, whose name I can’t recall, that had the most delicious baked goods. Offerings included marble loaf cake with walnuts, lemon filled coconut buns, honey buns and crumb buns.
Over the years I had come to like a particular type of crumb cake. I don’t like an overly moist or soft cake, but prefer one that’s chewy, yet tender, and a crumb topping that isn’t overly sweet. Also, there has to be a higher ratio of crumb topping to cake.
In Monmouth County I enjoy crumb buns made by Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck and the Macaroon Shop in Avon-by-the Sea. Years ago, Gourmet Magazine, published a crumb cake recipe submitted by a reader, Coffeecake Eschmann; it was delicious. During Super Storm Sandy, when our basement took on water, my Gourmet Magazine collection got damaged, but I was able to find a copy on line, but I’m not sure it’s exactly the same.
Earlier this year, on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen shown on public broadcasting, Julia Lancaster was demonstrating the New Jersey Crumb Cake recipe. They tweaked the recipe using all-purpose flour for the cake and cake flour for the crumb topping. They used both white and brown sugar for the crumb topping. When you read through the recipe below, it explains the reasoning.
For the recipe you’ll need all-purpose flour, milk, granulated sugar, an egg, rapid rise yeast, salt, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, cake flour and confectioners’ sugar. The cake batter is prepared in a stand mixer using a dough hook. This is a yeast dough and the dough hook is needed to achieve a certain consistency and texture. Once the dough is done, it is placed and spread into a greased 9-inchx13-inch baking dish and proofs for one hour.
While the dough is proofing, 10-15 minutes before it’s done, you’ll prepare the crumb topping. You’ll think that you have too much topping, however, that is the purpose, to have total and complete coverage. After the cake proofs, take the crumb mixture and form into 1/2-inch pieces and make an even layer over the cake. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the cake registers 215° in the center. Loosen the sides of the cake from the dish and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into 12 squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Oh my, was this ever so delicious! As I was home by myself yesterday, I had to practice restraint and cut just a small piece to try it. Heaven, a perfect amount of crumb to the proportion of cake; not overly sweet. My husband declined my offer to try a piece. I carefully wrapped it and stowed in my chest freezer lest I eat the whole thing by myself. I am expecting company this week and this will be my dessert offering. I hope they enjoy it.
New Jersey Crumb Buns
From America’s Test Kitchen
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
We found that we could pile the crumb topping high on this cake—just like they do in Jersey—by paying special attention to the types of flour and sugar we used in each layer. Using all-purpose flour in the cakey base made it satisfyingly chewy. Cake flour, which is finer and lower in protein than all-purpose flour, gave the topping its signature soft crumbs. Just the right mix of white and brown sugars ensured that the crumb buns had the optimal flavor and texture.
2 ¼ cups (11 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ cup milk
¼ cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
¾ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened
18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
¾ cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups (16 ounces) cake flour
1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13 by 9-inch baking dish. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine flour, milk, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Knead on low speed until dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
2. With mixer running, add butter 1 piece at a time, waiting until each piece is incorporated before adding next. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to knead until dough forms stretchy, web-like strands on sides of bowl, about 6 minutes longer (dough will be soft and sticky).
3. Using greased rubber spatula, transfer dough to prepared dish. Using your floured hands, press dough into even layer to edges of dish. Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature until slightly puffy, about 1 hour.
4. FOR THE TOPPING: Ten minutes before dough has finished rising, whisk melted butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in bowl. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture forms thick, cohesive dough; let sit for 10 minutes to allow flour to hydrate.
5. If dough has pulled away from sides of dish after rising, gently pat it back into place using your floured fingers. Break topping mixture into rough 1/2-inch pieces using your fingers and scatter in even layer over dough in dish. (Be sure to scatter all crumbs even though it may seem like too much.)
6. Bake until crumbs are golden brown, wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, and cake portion registers about 215 degrees in center, about 35 minutes. Transfer dish to wire rack and let cake cool completely. Using spatula, transfer cake to cutting board; cut cake into 12 squares. Dust squares with confectioners’ sugar and serve.
TO MAKE AHEAD: Once dough has been pressed into even layer in baking dish and dish has been wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, dough can be refrigerated for at least 4 hours (to ensure proper rising) or up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, let dough sit on counter for 10 minutes before proceeding with step 4. Increase baking time to 40 minutes.
AT A GLANCE CRUMB BUNS
Start preparing the topping 10 minutes before the dough is done proofing.
1. Add butter to yeasted dough 1 piece at a time, then beat until dough pulls in stretchy, web-like strands from sides of bowl.
2. Using your floured hands, press dough into even layer in greased baking dish. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
3. To make topping, mix butter, granulated and brown sugars, cinnamon, salt, and cake flour. Let sit for 10 minutes.
4. Break crumb topping into rough 1/2-inch pieces and scatter in even layer over risen dough before baking.
TWO FLOURS, THREE SUGARS
Trust us: It’s worth pulling out multiple flours and sugars to make crumb buns. Each type makes a unique contribution, delivering just the right flavor and texture.
ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR: With a moderate amount of protein (10 to 12 percent), all-purpose flour develops enough gluten to give the yeasted cake structure and just a bit of chew.
CAKE FLOUR: Using cake flour to make the crumb topping gives it a moist, tender, delicate texture. That’s because cake flour is more finely milled than all-purpose flour, making it better able to absorb fat and liquid. Cake flour is also lower in protein (6 to 8 percent) than all-purpose flour and therefore has less ability to form toughening gluten. Finally, cake flour is typically bleached to remove a yellow cast that some consumers find unappealing. This bleaching process also alters the protein structure of the flour, which makes it even less able to form gluten.
GRANULATED SUGAR: Granulated sugar is made from either sugarcane or sugar beets. Using it in the cake base preserves the traditional white color and produces the proper slightly chewy texture.
BROWN SUGAR: Brown sugar, whether light or dark, is just white sugar with a little molasses added. The addition of molasses makes the sugar soft and adds subtle flavor notes of caramel and rum. Combined with an equal amount of white sugar in the topping, brown sugar helps produce the best-textured crumbs.
CONFECTIONERS’ SUGAR: Confectioners’ sugar is simply pulverized granulated sugar with cornstarch added to prevent clumping. A snowy dusting on top of the crumb buns is the traditional finishing touch.
A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.