Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cream Cheese and Almond Coffee Cake

Growing up, my family didn't go on my vacations.  At least not that I remember very well.  The ones we did go on happened when I was fairly young, before my younger siblings were born. Or at least before the last two were born.  I'm seven years older than the oldest of them and then nine and twelve years older than the next two.  So I imagine the dynamics of everything changed once the others started popping up.

It's funny, because I know we used to drive up to Boyne Mountain for picnicing, camping, and skiing.  At least I imagine that's what we did.  I don't actually remember much about actually being there.  I remember a bunch of other kids all in a big circle eating fat, juicy watermelon slices. I wasn't eating them, because even back then I didn't like watermelon.  But I remember trying it.  I've always tried to like it.  Just never succeeded.

Anyhoo.  I also remember playing the Monchichi hand clap game. Monchichi monchichi, I can do karate.  Monchichi monchichi, I can play Atari.  Monchichi, monchichi...oops, I'm sorry!  I remember sticking Bugles on the tips of my finger and pretending I had long, pointy fingernails.  I remember scooping up big heaps of bean dip using corn chips.
Yet still, I don't remember much else about actually being there.  I think I loved the actual experience of the road trip.  Which led to my life-long love of the road trip, I suppose.  I still love stocking up on provisions, music, and maps and hitting the open road on a nice day.

I was fortunate to have friends with generous parents as I got older.  They would pile me in the car and take me with them on their family vacations.  Camping trips to the lake.  Deer Forest.  Michigan Funland.  Family cabins.  Sea World.  And sometimes we'd stay in hotels along the way.  Hotels with pools...the best kind.  They were never anything particularly fancy.  Not one that would have a full-service restaurant in it.  It was always the kind with a Continental Breakfast.  Cereal and milk.  Juice and coffee.  Bagels and toast and yogurt.  And the part every kid looks forward to - doughnuts and danish and coffee cake.

I used to pour a full glass of orange juice and take a big, fat slice of whatever sort of coffee cake they had to offer.  My favorites were always the cream cheese variety or the cherry variety.  And hopefully there was plenty of icing zig-zagged over the top.  Us kids would fill up on coffee cake and juice and then run back to the room to change into our swimsuits for a morning swim before the adults checked out and made us get back on the road.
And although the grown-up me always heads for the Almond filled coffee cakes if she has a choice, biting into that sweet bread when it's filled with gooey cream cheese or sticky, bright red cherries always brings a wave of nostalgia washing over me.  It makes me want to jump in the car and head off on a new vacation.

This coffee cake combines both my childhood favorite and my grown-up favorite - cream cheese and almonds.  The best of both worlds.


Cream Cheese and Almond Coffee Cake

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 15 minutes + overnight rest
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Keywords: bake breakfast bread vegetarian almonds cream cheese

Ingredients (1 loaf (~12 svgs.))
    dough:
    • 2¼ tsp. (1 pkg./¼ oz.) active dry yeast
    • ¼ c. lukewarm water (110°-115° F)
    • 2½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
    • 2 Tbs. sugar
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    • ½ c. lukewarm whole milk (110°-115° F)
    • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
    filling:
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • ¼ c. superfine sugar
    • 3 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 egg yolk
    • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
    • 1 tsp. almond emulsion (or extract)
    glaze:
    • 1 c. powdered (confectioners') sugar
    • 2 Tbs. whole milk
    • 1 tsp. almond emulsion (or extract)
    • ½ c. sliced almonds, toasted
    Instructions
    Sprinkle yeast over water in a small bowl and allow it to bloom; this will take about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, and the salt. Add butter and cut in, as you would for a pie crust, until crumbly. Add the yeast mixture, milk, and egg yolks and stir to combine. Stir in just enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Using your hands, quickly form dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

    Just before you're ready to proceed with your dough, combine all of the ingredients for the filling and stir together until smooth. Set aside.

    Punch dough down. Transfer to a floured work surface and roll into a 13" x 10" rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving about a 1" border all the way around. Starting with one long edge, roll tightly just to the center of the dough. Repeat with remaining side so that they both meet in the middle. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

    Using kitchen shears and starting at the outside edges of the dough, cut ⅔ of the way into the dough, towards the center, at 1½" intervals down one side. Repeat on opposite side. When all of the cuts are made, twist each strip to allow filling to show. Your dough will have lengthened a bit.
    Cover with plastic or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled, ~1 hour.
    Preheat oven to 350° F during last 20 minutes of rise time. Remove plastic and slide into oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Slide off of pan, parchment and all, onto a wire rack to cool.

    Whisk together all of the ingredients for the glaze (except the almonds). Drizzle most of it over the coffee cake when it is still slightly warm. Sprinkle the toasted almond slices over the bread and glaze. Drizzle with remaining glaze. Enjoy!

    notes:
    This is best eaten the same day that it is made, but it can be stored, covered, for a day or two extra, if you wish.
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