Although I enjoy baking, I don’t often bake sweets. Mostly it boils down to a desire to avoid the guilt that inevitably stems from having inhaled half a dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies or polished off two or three pieces of fresh peach and cherry pie in a single go.
You see, I love good food — all varieties of it. But sweets are my Achilles’ heel.
Even though I don’t tend to stock up on sweets, believe me, I eat them. And I certainly don’t lead an ascetic life of denial — particularly during this time of year, when the weather has turned chilly and all of the local coffee shops start peddling their own competing versions of the gingerbread latte. Admittedly, I can easily bypass sugary coffee drinks. (I prefer coffee black and unadulterated, and espresso strong, with just the slightest hint of demarera). What these commercial concoctions do leave me craving are flavors such as cinnamon and spice — albeit in a different, more substantial form.
And yesterday was a day in which I found myself doing just that — that is, craving the sweet and spicy flavors that have come to define the gastronomie of the winter season. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any ginger on hand — nor did I have any brown sugar. So, foregoing anything gingery, I settled on a recipe for a cinnamon-rich, ultra crumbly coffee cake. And although the recipe calls for brown sugar, I made up some of my own using baker’s sugar, a little molasses, and this recipe. To put my own personalized spin on the cake I decided to throw into the mix some dried Turkish figs and pecan pieces that I had on hand.
It was a day of slowly making my way through the Sunday paper, drinking cup after cup of coffee, and indulging in this coffee cake — which had managed to become my main source of sustenance by the day’s end.
Coffee Cake with Turkish Figs and Pecans
(This recipe is an adaptation of one that appears in Vegan Brunch).
For the topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 – 4 tablespoons canola oil
2 – 3 tablespoons Earth Balance (or salted butter substitute), melted
For the middle layer:
1 cup of finely chopped dried Turkish figs
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
For the cake:
3/4 cup soy milk (other nondairy milks also work fine as a substitute)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch pan.
Begin by measuring out and combining the milk and vinegar. Set aside and allow to curdle while preparing the topping.
To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Drizzle in approximately 2 tablespoons of canola oil and two tablespoons of the melted butter. The addition of the salted butter gives the topping a slightly richer salty-and-sweet taste than using canola oil alone. Combine until crumbs begin to form. Then continue to add either canola oil or butter (or both) until the fat is mixed in completely, and the final result contains mostly large crumbs. Note: A bit of remaining sandiness is not a problem, as long as most of the mixture has taken on the form of large crumbs. Set the mixture aside.
For the middle layer, using your hands combine the chopped figs, pecan pieces, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
To make the cake: Mix together the milk + vinegar mixture, sugar, canola oil, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Then sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Next, evenly sprinkle the combined middle layer ingredients over the batter. Finally, sprinkle on the topping evenly and then pat down gently. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool and enjoy with a strong cup of hot coffee.