Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake
November 19, 2011

by stacy
Published on: November 19, 2011
Tags: No Tags
Comments: 2 Comments

“This is another coffee bread, baked in a tube pan, one that I have enjoyed all my life.  In fact, it is my favorite of all the sweet breads.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I usually don’t mess with Beard’s recipes.  That seems to defeat the purpose of the project: why bake all the recipes from a cookbook if you’re going to change them?  I am guilty of leaving out raisins and the occasional exotic liqueur, but I mostly bake by the book.

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake is an exception.  James Beard was a man who really, really loved butter, so when he calls something “rich” it means “obscenely decadent.”  Furthermore, the recipe as written yields two large coffee cakes and contains ingredients I know I hate, like currants and apricot jam.  So I decided to step outside the box and modify the recipe a bit.  Instead of my usual post, I’m posting my recipe variation.

Stacy’s Blueberry-Sour Cream Coffee Cake
A variation on “Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake” from Beard on Bread


Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake Ingredients

For the dough:
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold skim milk
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 sticks softened unsalted butter
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the filling:
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/8 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 cup finely chopped walnuts

For the glaze:
4 ounces blueberry jam

The night before, combine the yeast, 1/8 cup sugar, and water in a large bowl and allow to proof.  Stir in the remaining 1/8 cup sugar, salt, milk, sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla; mix well.  Add the egg; mix well.  With a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour in a separate large bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture; stir.  Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.  Shape dough into a ball, place in a tightly covered bowl, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, roll out the dough into a rectangle (it will be stiff and difficult to work with, but persist).  Brush the rectangle with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon; then sprinkle with walnuts.  Roll dough up from the wider end.  Form into a ring and place in a Bundt pan that has been buttered or sprayed with baking spray.  Join the ends together.  Let dough rise until puffy and doubled in bulk.  (To make your dough rise faster, preheat oven to “keep warm” setting.  Turn off oven and place dough in the oven to rise.  This is particularly helpful if you keep your house cool during the winter months).

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake After Second Rising

Bake bread in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown and hollow sounding when rapped with knuckles.  Turn out of Bundt pan onto a large plate or cake stand.

Melt jam over medium-high heat in a small saucepan.  Drizzle jam over cake.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Rich Sour-Cream Coffee Cake


2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. rick says:

    I find your blog very interesting and follow it regularly, but to strictly “bake by the book” has not worked well for me. Take Beard’s Basic White Bread recipe for instance. Beard states on p. 28 that he likes to season his bread with 1T salt per pound of flour. In “American Cookery,” he also reiterates this and specifically adds the qualification of the salt being Kosher. I weigh 1T Kosher salt at 0.5714oz which results in a baker’s percentage of 3.5% for 1lb flour. Most authors are unanimous that salt should be 2% of the flour weight, while some say 1.8-2.2%. The baker’s percentage of salt in Beard’s Broiled White Free-Form Loaf is even higher at 4.6% of the flour weight. While these breads still taste good for savory sandwiches, they taste extremely poor for a sweet sandwich such as peanut butter and jelly. The high salt content is true of some of Beard’s breads, but not all of them, and certainly his book contains a lot of recipes from other people. So, it varies case by case. On the sweet end of the spectrum, the Moravian Coffee Cake has a baker’s percentage of salt of 0.49%. I find that many authors still like their sweet breads with 2% salt, but I have seen that some may say 1.5-2%, while a few others as low as 1%. The salt content of Beards’ Moravian Coffee Cake is certainly well below the established norm, the problem being that there isn’t enough salt to regulate the yeast activity properly. In my opinion, it is not a good recipe as written. My general approach to each recipe is to weigh the ingredients and then do the math in determining the baker’s percentages before I assemble the ingredients. If the hydration, salt, and sugar are within normal accepted ranges–then all is well. But, if not, then I feel free to adjust these quantities until they are. Beard has some definite home runs in his book as written, but he also has some recipes with big problems.

    • stacy says:

      Hi Rick,

      Thank you for your very informative comments! I agree with you that some of Beard’s recipes are on the salty side. I sometimes use a much less scientific method that you do and just cut the amount of salt in half if it seems on the high side for the amount of flour. The percentages you provided are very helpful (as a math geek I appreciate hard numbers!)

      I’m glad that you’re enjoying the blog, and thanks again for your insights.

      Happy baking,

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