I recently picked up a copy of Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, the second cookbook from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito – aka the geniuses behind Brooklyn’s (and Charleston’s) Baked. Traditionally, I shy away from cookbooks written by local bakeries because I figure I’d rather have the real thing than my lame attempt. However, I was drawn to Lewis and Poliafito’s recipes because 1) I love their brownies; 2) they are dedicated to classic, American recipes; and 3) they write with a great sense of humor.
For Valentine’s Day, Mark had cooked me an amazing dinner (see future blog post), so I wanted to return the favor by surprising him with my take on one of his favorite foods: New York Crumb Cake. Lewis writes that he learned “the hard way” from New Yorker Poliafito that “New York-Style Crumb Cake is not to be confused with Coffee Cake – Ever.” This introduction assured me that the Baked recipe could satisfy my boyfriend with equally discerning New York tastes.
I really, really wanted fresh crumb cake and a cup of coffee on Saturday morning. But it wasn’t until Friday night that I noticed the cake needed 50 minutes to bake. So there I was getting up early Saturday morning – and secretly hoping I wouldn’t regret this decision. Luckily, the instructions were clear and easy to follow for my sleepy self. I made only one modification, which was to use light brown sugar instead of dark. I know it’s not the same, but I had a full jar of brown sugar and was trying to save on supplies.
I started with the crumb and let it sit out of the way while I focused on the cake. With my standing mixer, the cake went faster than I expected – add wet ingredients, add eggs, add dry ingredients, done! Then came the big moment of adding the crumb. Lewis and Poliafito are clearly men after my own heart – they provided me with enough crumb to make a ridiculously thick topping.
50 minutes later, Mark was up and the kitchen smelled unbelievable. It was hard for us not to eat right away, but obeyed by the recommended cooling period.
After one bite, I felt the need to channel Parks & Recreation’s Chris Traeger (aka Rob Lowe) and announce “This is LITERALLY the best thing I’ve ever made.” Mark agreed.
We became addicted. We each had a piece (or was it two?) for breakfast and another after dinner. The next morning we had it again, and Mark accurately pointed out that we had eaten a lot of crumb cake in 24 hours:
It was then that we (reluctantly) decided to pack up some pieces to share with his family. But I admit, like true addicts, we still selfishly saved a few pieces for ourselves. The moment we finished the cake (only one day later), Mark asked for more. I’m trying to hold off at least for a little while, but even I can barely wait for the next batch.