This Tuscan coffeecake was developed by PJ Hamel (of King Arthur Flour fame) after visiting an Italian bakery in Vermont. As she describes it, it was "Italian-Italian, not American-Italian."
While this is called a coffeecake, it is actually a yeasted bread filled with fruit, nuts, and lightly enriched with a bit of sugar and butter.. but not too much. It is brushed with a vanilla sugar mixture prior to baking to give it a nice crunchy glaze. It's reminiscent of panettone, without all of the fuss.
Only issue? How to evenly distribute the fruit throughout the loaf when shaping. I'll have to work on that.
Knowing that certain members of my family who shall remain nameless would probably not like the walnuts included in the original recipe, I substituted chopped dried apricots. I also substituted dried cherries for the dates called for in the original recipe. In addition, I added 1/8 tsp of Fiori de Sicilia, an Italian flavoring that combines the flavors and scents of vanilla and citrus.
Keep in mind that you will need to make the starter the night before making the bread. It can sit out on your counter for several hours to get bubbly and develop flavor. It's super easy so don't let the word "starter" stop you from trying this delicious bread.
This bread was chosen for the Avid Bakers Challenge for February. Each month, we are baking a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. To see how other bakers fared, check out the Avid Bakers Challenge page. You'll find lots of delicious looking variations.
Tuscan Coffee Cake
- Mix the starter ingredients in a one quart bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit overnight, until bubbly.
- Mix all of the dough ingredients in a stand mixer or bread machine until smooth, about 7 minutes.
- Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for about an hour (if your kitchen is really cold, you should let it rise longer). If it doesn't completely double, that's okay.
- Knead the fruit into the dough, and shape it into a ball. Place the ball into an oiled 9 inch cake pan and flatten it a bit, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise for about 30 minutes. It should just crest over the top of the pan (the loaf will rise even more in the oven).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the glaze ingredients and brush the top of the loaf with the mixture.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and the interior of the loaf reaches 190 degrees F.
- Allow it to cool in the pan for five minutes. Remove it from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
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