Poppyseed, Prune and Lemon Coffee Cake

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Coffee cake has always seemed a bit boring to me.  In a land filled with pies and cookies and brownies, why would you ever choose a coffee cake?  It’s cake’s slightly dry cousin.  I never see a coffee cake recipe and think, “Yeah, I’ll spend time making that” when I could be spending time making something more satisfying.

That was all until I saw this recipe from Tasting Table.  Do you get the Tasting Table emails?  If not, you should.  So many great recipes and interesting gift ideas abound in every email.  This coffee cake looked absolutely decadent (it should – there’s almost three cups of sugar – ack!) But I figured in the name of Thanksgiving indulgence and postpartum cravings, I’d dive in and try it.  And I dadgum near ate the entire pan myself.  Not my proudest moment, but it was pretty enjoyable.  The filling reminded me of fig newtons and the lemon zest brightened the entire sugar-laden thing up.  I’d definitely recommend making this when you have family in your house over Christmas.  It makes a ton, it feeds and satisfies a lot (or one person over the course of a week) and it is super comforting.  Enjoy!

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Poppyseed, Prune and Lemon Coffee Cake
makes one 13×9 cake

For the Streusel:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1¼ teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Coffee Cake:

Softened unsalted butter, for greasing
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Filling:
½ cup chopped prunes
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup poppy seeds
Zest of 1 lemon

1. Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, light brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon until everything is well incorporated. Add the melted butter to the flour-spice mixture and mix with a fork or a wooden spoon until fully incorporated and clumps begin to form. Make ahead: Unbaked streusel can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month.

2. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with the softened butter and dust the pan with flour.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract and melted butter until very smooth.

5. Using a rubber spatula, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.

6. Layer half the batter in the prepared baking pan; smooth it out to the edge leveling the top with an offset spatula. (Tip: Since the batter is so thick, it’s best to scoop it in ¼ cup mounds into the pan before spreading.)

7. Sprinkle the prunes evenly over the batter then sprinkle with the dark brown sugar and the poppy seeds. Top the filling with the lemon zest.

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8. Layer the remaining batter over the filling using the same method mentioned above. Smooth out the top of the batter, ensuring it is even and reaches the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the streusel, and then bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes.  I had to bake it over an hour to get the middle done.  I recommend rotating it halfway through baking!

*recipe from Tasting Table

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Chicken and Waffles with Molasses Butter

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Easter Sunday was a bit low-key for us this year.  I had a wedding to shoot on Saturday so we couldn’t go out of town to be with family and we didn’t have time to prepare the feast we normally do.  We typically like to have brunch-type foods when we know it’s going to be just us because breakfast is usually easy to throw together in less than an hour after church and, well, who doesn’t like breakfast for lunch?!

A few months ago I ran across a wonderful yeast waffle recipe that you mix up the night before and let it sit out on your counter to get all bubbly.  Sounds strange, but it imparts such an amazing sourdough, yeasty flavor to the waffles which helps balance the pure sugar you typically use to drown the waffle.  Matt and I have had a slight obsession with the Southern dish of chicken and waffles and every where we go where it’s on the menu, we always feel the dish falls a little short of the expectations in our mind.  The chicken should be juicy, super crispy, salty and flavorful on its own and the waffle shouldn’t be too heavy – it should be light, airy and buttery with just enough sweetness to give that perfect balance of flavors.  A lot of waffles are too heavy, too bland, too sweet or the chicken is an after-thought – dry or not seasoned.  So, taking matters into our own hands, we used the amazing recipe for Korean fried chicken that we did at the Super Bowl and paired it with a yeast waffle recipe and the combination was juuuuuust right.
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I added my own sentimental flair to the dish.  Growing up, I distinctly remember at family gatherings, often at Sunday lunches, my Pappaw would request molasses and then he’d take a large chunk of soft butter and whip the two together into a smooth paste for his biscuits.  I thought it was odd, but as far back as I can remember, there has never been a food strange enough that I wouldn’t try it.  I immediately began to imitate his method and loved the tangy sweetness of the molasses butter on my biscuits, too.

This Sunday as I was thinking about Easter and family, I had my Pappaw on my mind because just a few days ago, he underwent extremely intense cancer surgery and was, up until yesterday, still in pretty critical condition in ICU.  I thought about our family get-togethers when I was young and Pappaw’s love of biscuits, molasses and black coffee and thought for our brunch, what better accompaniment to our waffles, which beg for that salty/sweet balance, than his molasses butter?  It was an amazing addition to the waffles and it may be my new favorite topping instead of maple syrup.  Matt wasn’t convinced, but then again, he doesn’t have the memory to go along with it.  And food is so much more than just ingredients on a plate.  If you have a story or a face or a memory of light streaming in from the window across a little dinette set in your grandparents’ kitchen as you slather biscuits with creamy molasses, it’s bound to become your new favorite thing. 🙂

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Korean Fried Chicken Strips

Kosher salt
3/4 cups corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pounds chicken strip tenders
2 quarts peanut oil or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vodka

Combine 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Add chicken strips and toss until every surface is coated. Transfer chicken to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, shaking vigorously as you go to get rid if excess coating. Transfer to refrigerator and let rest, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.

When ready to fry, preheat oil to 350°F in a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer.  We used a wok on the stove.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, flour, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Add water and vodka and whisk until a smooth batter is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water if batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of thin paint and fall off of the whisk in thin ribbons that instantly disappear as they hit the surface of the batter in the bowl.

Add half of the chicken strips to the batter. Working one at a time, lift one strip and allow excess batter to drip off, using your finger to get rid of any large pockets or slicks of batter. Carefully lower chicken into hot oil. Repeat with remaining strips in the first batch. Fry, using a metal spider or slotted spatula to rotate and agitate strips as they cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with kosher salt. Keep warm in a 175F oven while you fry the remaining chicken.

Yeast Waffles*

1 3/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more melted butter for the waffle iron
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (from 2 envelopes)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the milk, 1/2 cup melted butter, flour, yeast, eggs, agave and salt and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until the batter is very puffy, about 2 hours at room temperature (or refrigerate overnight, which is what we did since we wouldn’t be using it first thing in the morning).

Preheat the oven to 250°. Preheat a waffle iron and brush it with melted butter. Gently stir the batter to deflate it. For each batch, fill the waffle iron about two-thirds full (the batter will spread and rise); brush the waffle iron with melted butter as needed.

Cook the waffles until golden crisp.  Keep the waffles directly on your oven racks to keep warm and crispy until you’re done cooking them.  I find that using a traditional sized waffle iron works best than a Belgian waffle maker because sometimes the Belgian waffle irons are too deep for the batter to rise into every crevice. Also, from the two different yeast waffle recipes we’ve tried, I prefer cooking them from room temp if you leave the batter out on your counter, as opposed to keeping it in the fridge.  The batter seems lighter at room temp than cold, so you may want to test that out for yourself.  Both are delicious, but I felt the batter at room temp was thinner and more of that super crisp, light texture I wanted.

*from Food and Wine magazine but I think I prefer the recipe from Smitten Kitchen better.  They’re almost the same, but she uses a little less flour.

Molasses Butter

Dark Molasses
Unsalted Butter – room temp

Use equal parts butter and molasses and whip together until completely mixed.  Spread on waffles before topping with chicken strips.  I added a drizzle of maple syrup on the chicken and then salted it to make the salt stick better.