Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Coffeecake that isn't

Exhibit A in The Coffeecake argument - the recipe titled Danish Pastry Wreath.  Case closed.  The Coffeecake is definitely not a coffeecake. 

Despite the name conundrum, my mom tore the recipe from McCall's magazine in 1974 and made it yearly until her death in 2000.  She would choose a December weekend for the recipe ritual - the tell tale sign of which was the yard stick laying across the counter top.  She used it to measure the dough while she rolled and folded the buttery layers into the famous Christmas morning concoction.  The Coffeecake is a braided pastry with flaky layers of sweet dough and almond filling and butter - lots and lots of butter.   If asked why she changed the name all those years ago I suspect she would shrug her shoulders and crack sheepish a smile having no idea herself.   What I do know is that this confection become known not just as a coffeecake but The Coffeecake and the official first breakfast of Christmas morning.

One thing to note about my mom's recipe box is that the most famous family recipes often contain brand name products.  Some examples include:
  • The Coffeecake (Zweiback Toasts)
  • Hungry Jack Casserole (Campbell's Pork n Beans, Hungry Jack biscuits)
  • Cherry Jello Salad (Coke, Jello)
  • BBQ Hot Dogs (Kraft BBQ sauce)
  • Roadside Potatoes - (Ore Ida Hash Browns)
While my own grocery list avoids brand name products in favor of homemade alternatives, seeing these recipes and tasting their flavors brings me back to her kitchen and our table (and my grandmother's and great grandmother's and Auntie Lowell's).  They are some of the best and most vivid memories I have of growing up.  Hopefully my boys will look back fondly at memories of my kitchen and our table - which happens to be the one my mom set her meals on too.  

Being a grown up now I make slight modifications to The Coffeecake recipe.  I never felt like she added enough of the sugary glaze.  Let me tell you - I add plenty now!  Zweiback Toasts are not easily found so I substitute with Melba Toast.  I'm sure you could use plain bread crumbs among other things but it feels sacrilegious not to use one brand name product for another.  I also substitute whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour in lieu of all purpose. 

As kids The Coffeecake made Christmas rounds with us and was shared with relatives along the way.  The volume of people it fed dictated the serving size - I always recall it being a sliver as so many enjoyed it during our travels. 

On this Christmas (and everyone since she died) I break out my yard stick and spend a weekend making The Coffeecake.  On Christmas morning we cut everyone a big, warm piece and have a toast to Naunie.

The original recipe

The dough after resting for 30 minutes.

The dough with butter layer rolled in.

Yes, that is the butter soaking through the brown paper bag.
Frosting will be poured on once it's cooled.

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