Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pear and Pecan Coffee Cake

Photo: Dayna Bateman

Sometimes, you want what you want and nothing else will do.  This morning, I wanted coffee cake.  The problem with this desire, I soon discovered, was that I’d pretty much run out of the gluten-free flour blend I use for baking projects these days.  Life in the Foodie household has been so hectic lately that I’d forgotten to make note of this on the grocery list.

Which meant my choices were as follows:

1.  Go out in search of rice flour, the basis for the aforementioned blend.  I generally try to avoid going to the grocery store on the weekend, so this was not an appealing prospect.  It was, however, something I had to consider.

2.  Forget about making coffee cake.   As if.

3.  Find another way to approach this project, without the gluten-free blend.

I briefly considered using regular wheat flour, since eating wheat doesn’t cause serious or permanent injury to my health.  Still, I try to save the gluten bombs for when they’re really worth the indulgence–and much as I wanted coffee cake, this didn’t seem like one of those times when gluten indulgence was warranted.  So I rifled through my baking cabinet in search of inspiration, and there I found a box of Gluten-Free Bisquick that I’d bought at some point in the past.  Probably right after I started avoiding gluten, when I was still a little nervous about my ability to bake without wheat flour and, thus, bought a bunch of packaged mixes.  I’d completely forgotten the Bisquick was even up there on the top shelf, but I was very glad to see it this morning.

The fine folks at Betty Crocker offer this recipe for those of using their gluten-free baking mix to make coffee cake.  I used this as a starting point, but then–because I’mthe Foodie–I went off road.  I added diced pears.  I added chopped pecans.  I used sour cream instead of milk.  I used more vanilla than was called for, and I used vanilla bean paste instead of extract.  It was Foodie madness, I tell you, sheer madness.  But the cake looked good while it was baking, and it smelled terrific after some time in the oven, so I was encouraged.

I added the pecans to only half of the coffee cake, taking into consideration the fact that Mr. Picky is not a nut person.  That means half of this coffee cake was very nutty–but those of us who eat pecans liked it that way.  If you’re planning to bake like a normal person (something I rarely do) and distribute the pecans throughout the whole cake, you might just want to make life easier for yourself and add them to the streusel mixture while you’re putting it together.


Pear and Pecan Coffee Cake (Gluten-Free)


For the streusel mixture:

1/3 cup gluten-free baking mix (like Bisquick Gluten-Free)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

For the coffee cake:

1 3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix
1/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
3 eggs
2 medium pears, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped pecans, divided use


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8-inch round baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and cut together with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture is in pea-size crumbs. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, stir together the baking mix and sugar. Add the sour cream, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Use a spatula to stir just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half the batter into the prepared baking pan. Distribute the diced pears, half the pecans, and half the streusel mixture over the batter. Cover with the remaining batter and smooth with the back of a spoon. Top with the remaining streusel mixture and pecans.

Bake for 45 minutes, until a knife inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean.

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