Friday, February 26, 2010

My Mother's Coffeecake

Sunday mornings when I was a child would not have been complete without warm cinnamon rolls or a slice of freshly baked coffee cake. We would come home from church, settle in the living room with the Sunday paper spread across the floor and eat the warm buttered slices over comics and headlines. The house smelled like sweet bread, and crumbs would cover my skirt.

My mother, true to form, woke us up one morning on this visit with the smell of fresh-baked coffee cake. Stumbling out to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee I spotted two nicely browned rounds on the corner cutting board. The knife gently broke though the still-hot-to-the-touch crust and slid through the layers below. My first bite in a year of this favorite childhood treat did not disappoint. (It was so satisfactory, in fact, that I was not able to get a picture.)

The recipe comes from a book that has been on our kitchen counter forever. Now tightly encased in cellophane it came with the brand new Monarch stove my parents bought for their first house more than fifty years ago. A fine layer of flour greets my fingers as I hold it and just a wee bit of the shortening, too. I've seen my mother touch it in reference during kneading or just after for years now, even though I know she must know it nearly by heart. Her mother, my grandmother, always made a crumble-top coffee cake that is another family treasure. This recipe became a family favorite somewhat by accident. As my mother said, "I tried the recipe and it worked for me, so I just kept making it." I, for one, am eternally grateful.

Foundation Sweet Dough, a.k.a. My Mother's Coffee Cake and Cinnamon Rolls
2 cakes yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon lemon rind
5 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Soften yeast in water. Scald milk and add shortening, sugar and salt to scalded milk. Cool to lukewarm. Add the softened yeast, eggs, and lemon rind to the cooled mixture. Add enough flour to liquid ingredients to make a stiff batter. Beat well. add enough more flour to make a soft dough.

Turn out on lightly floured board and knead until satiny. Place in greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. When light, punch down. Shape into rings, rolls or coffee cakes. Let rise again until doubled in bulk.

Bake in moderate over (375 degrees) for 25 to 30 minutes for coffee cakes - 10-15 minutes for rolls, depending on size.

Yields are two 12-inch rings or about three and a half dozen rolls.

(Cover photo from Remembering Monarch Range.)

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