Monday, December 19, 2011

Cherry Pecan Coffee Cake

I’m not sure what it is about Christmas and cherries that go together.  Maybe it’s the presence of maraschino cherries in the traditional holiday fruitcake.  Maybe it’s the chocolate-covered cherry cordials that used to show up under the Christmas tree (one box for my former brother-in-law, one for my oldest niece.)  In any case, something about the Christmas season makes me think of cherries.

One problem, though:  I can’t stand goopy cherry cordials.  Or maraschino cherries–except for the occasional cherry at the bottom of my Sonic cherry limeade, which has absorbed enough lime juice to be palatable.  Neither can anyone else in the Foodie family.  The Foodie children won’t touch cherries in any form, for that matter: fresh, in a sauce, on top of cheesecake, in a Pop Tart.  I have no idea where this cherry aversion comes from.  As far as I know, neither of them were frightened by cherries during their early childhood.

The Hubs and I, however, love dried sour cherries.  And the desire to incorporate cherries into our Christmas vacation is where I started the journey that ended, around noon yesterday, with this: Cherry Pecan Coffee Cake.

See that little halo of heavenly light around the slice of cake?  That should give you some idea of how extremely tasty it is.

Many recipes for a coffee cake of this sort will tell you to chop up your dried cherries.  I did not.  Because I’m a rebel like that.  But also because I liked the idea of big, chewy pieces of tart cherry surrounded by softer, sweeter cake.  I used more cherries than most recipes called for as well.  If you think you’d prefer smaller pieces of cherry, of course, feel free to chop them to bits.  I would do this after soaking them, before adding them to the dry ingredients.

Although I used light sour cream in this recipe, you could easily substitute plain yogurt.  Or vanilla yogurt, in which case you could halve or omit the vanilla extract.  Lemon yogurt might also be a nice flavor addition.  Pairing cherries and almonds is pretty common practice, but because I had pecans on hand I decided to go in that direction instead–which means I used vanilla extract instead of almond.  If you have almonds (or would prefer almonds), I’d suggest using one teaspoon of vanilla extract and one of almond extract in your cake batter.  The amount of nuts used for the topping can probably stay the same–although this is, of course, a suggestion.  There’s no law to stop you from going pecan-wild on the top of your cake.  Also, if you don’t have turbinado sugar on hand, just use plain granulated sugar for the topping  instead.  You won’t get the same texture, but the top of your cake will be nice and shiny.

Finally, I used a gluten-free flour blend when making this cake, but all the recipes I consulted called for plain old all-purpose wheat flour.  Use whatever makes you happy. Remember, though, that gluten-free baked goods need time to cool before you eat them; otherwise, your cake will be gummy and stick to your teeth when you try to enjoy it.  (Never mind how I know this.  Just trust me.)



Cherry Pecan Coffee Cake


3/4 cup dried cherries
Hot water (enough to cover the cherries)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 egg white
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 T. turbinado sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Place dried cherried in a shallow bowl. Add enough hot water to cover them. Let the cherries soak and soften up while you assemble the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir to combine the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add the sour cream, vegetable oil, egg, egg white, and vanilla. Stir again, just until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet ingredients.

Drain the cherries and dry them between two layers of paper towels. Stir the cherries into the batter just to distribute them evenly. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the cake batter; sprinkle the turbinado sugar over everything.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean.

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