Make Christmas morning a sweet celebration with this buttery, rich Tuscan coffee cake filled with dried berries and sliced almonds. This yeast-raised Tuscan-style coffee cake has the texture of a not-so-sweet panettone and pandoro. And keeping with European tradition, this coffee cake is similar to a much sweeter Polish babka, which is usually formed into a twist and then baked.
This cake is full of nuts and berries, dotted with hints of orange and vanilla, and it is just sweet enough for a divine morning breakfast treat. I like to use Fiori di Sicilia, an Italian citrusy vanilla flavoring that really makes any Italian baked good better. This is quite unlike an American coffee cake, as it lacks the crumb topping or streusel swirl. The beautiful topping is a drizzle of white chocolate, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and sliced almonds. If you like a more festive cake, sprinkle on colored sugar or festive nonpareils. This treat will certainly give your Christmas morning a taste of Tuscany.
Plan ahead and make this coffee cake a day or two before Christmas morning as you will need a few hours for prep, rising and baking. The rise will be determined by the temperature in your room. This is not a high-rising dough because of the sugar and berries, so expect the dough to rise only half as much again on both risings. You can also make this cake in a 15-cup decorative Bundt pan. Or use my favorite: a nonstick tube pan with a removable bottom.
Rejoice in the holiday season, no matter how big or small your feast. And may 2021 be a renewal of life and happiness for us all. Happy cooking and baking.
Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuscan Christmas Coffee Cake
For the filling:
1 cup coarsely chopped sliced almonds
1 cup coarsely chopped dried berries
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the dough:
1 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
¼ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, optional
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
For the topping:
1 cup white chocolate melting wafers, melted and stirred smooth
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar (mix ½ teaspoon each)
Coarse white sugar
Optional: colored coarse sugar, decorative nonpareils
Make the filling: In a medium mixing bowl, toss together all the filling ingredients.
Heat the milk in the microwave just to 110 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, orange zest, vanilla extract, almond extract and Fiori di Sicilia, if using.
Make the dough: To a stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
On low speed, slowly pour in the beaten egg mixture, mixing just until combined. The mixture will be curdled, but that’s okay. Scrape the bowl.
Continuing on low speed, add the flour/yeast mixture alternately with the warm milk, in five increments, starting and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined. Scrape the bowl. The consistency should be between a thick cake batter and a very wet bread dough.
On low speed, add the filling ingredients, mixing just until combined. Scrape the dough toward the middle of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, lightly spray a 10-inch tube pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper with a cutout for the tube in the middle and spray again. Spoon the batter into the pan with a rubber spatula. Tap the pan on the counter to evenly fill the pan and release any air bubbles. Smooth the top. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let dough rise again for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until golden brown and the internal temperature is 190 degrees, about 30 to 45 minutes. If the cake is browning too quickly, loosely cover with foil. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Loosen the cake around the edges to help release it. Invert on a wire rack and remove the parchment paper. When cool, invert again on a serving plate.
Make the topping: Drizzle melted white chocolate over the top and sides of the cooled cake. Immediately sprinkle with sliced almonds, cinnamon-sugar and coarse white sugar before the chocolate hardens. Use green and red colored sugar or decorative nonpareils for a festive look.
Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski