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Almond Twist Coffeecake

by Flo Braker

There are certain types of desserts that people swear by. Some cannot live without chocolate cake, others turn down any offering except apple pie. Whether it's a matter of habit or taste, we all have our favorites. However, there is one item that seems to have universal appeal. In fact, I'm willing to wager my favorite rolling pin that most everyone loves yeast coffeecakes.

A yeast coffeecake is unintimidating. It's easy-to-eat finger food, not too sweet, with no fancy decoration. Perhaps best of all, baking a coffeecake fills the home with an inviting, enticing yeasty aroma.

The Almond Twist Coffeecake uses a basic sweet dough recipe. It's similar to a bread dough enriched with milk, eggs, and some butter. There's no trick to mixing the dough, and it's a nice, forgiving, easy-to-stretch consistency, so you don't have to be a pro with a rolling pin. It's fine to prepare the dough one day, refrigerate and roll, form, let rise and bake the next.

When you bake a coffeecake with yeast from scratch, you have the opportunity to create something both fun and different. The Almond Twist Coffeecake, an intriguing design I originally saw in a national magazine, has the unusal look of a wheel, complete with spokes. You roll out a third of the dough into a circle, spread an almond paste filling over the circle and top with another. Lastly, you spread on more filling and place the final circle of dough on top.

Wedges are cut from this stack of dough circles. Without detaching them from the center, twist each wedge 4 to 5 times to form a spiral. After rising for about 30 minutes and baking, the spirals expand, touching each other to form a single round golden brown coffeecake. While it is warm from the oven, brush it with apricot jam, and then a simple sugar glaze, and sprinkle the top with sliced toasted almonds. Glazing, in this way, seals in the coffeecake's moisture and provides them with an attractive sheen. For best flavor and texture, eat this homemade coffeecake the same day baked.

Almond Twist Coffee Cake
serves 8
This round coffeecake with sixteen twists emenating from the center appears complicated to make. But looks are deceiving, it's easy and fun to do.

3/4 cup milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup warm milk (110 degrees F.)
1 package dry yeast
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Almond Filling:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) almond paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon each lemon zest and vanilla
dash salt
1/2 cup apricot jam
1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine 3/4 cup milk with the butter and melt. Pour into a large bowl and cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over warm 1/4 cup milk; to proof yeast allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes until mixture is foamy. Add the sugar, eggs, yeast mixture, vanilla, and 2 cups flour to the lukewarm milk mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the salt and the 1 1/2 cups additional flour; beat just to form a soft dough.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead about 8 minutes or until dough is shiny, elastic smooth and has small blisters on the surface. Add a bit more flour to work surface just as needed to prevent sticking. (Alternatively, if using a heavy-duty mixer with flat beater attachment, beat on medium speed rather than knead dough on work surface until dough comes together in a ball and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 to 7 minutes.)

Set dough in a large bowl, cover dough's surface with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap, then a cloth towel. Refrigerate overnight, if you wish, or allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.

To prepare filling: Using a food processor, blend the almond paste with the sugar. Add the butter, flour, egg, lemon, vanilla and salt; process until smooth.

To form coffeecake: Gently punch dough down. Divide into three equal pieces. Lightly grease a 12-inch pizza pan. On a lightly floured surface roll out one portion of dough to a circle, 12-inches in diameter. Transfer to baking pan, stretching with fingertips if necessary, to fit the dimensions of the pan. Spread the dough with half the filling. Roll out second portion of dough to a 12-inch circle and transfer it on top of the other circle. If necessary, gently stretch the dough with fingertips to fit pan shape. Spread with the remaining filling. Roll out remaining dough ball to another 12-inch circle and set it on top of the circle stack. Again if necessary, gently stretch the dough with fingertips to fit pan shape.

Invert a drinking glass about 2-inches in diameter and set it in the center of the dough circle. (Do not allow it to cut through the dough.) With the handle of a wooden spoon, lightly score the dough circle with 16 indentations. Using kitchen scissors, cut through the layers of dough, using the indentations as a guide. Begin at the edge of the dough circle and cut up to the glass to form 16 pie-shaped wedges. Gently twist each wedge 4 to 5 times, spiraling each piece of dough. Remove the glass. Loosely cover dough with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 25 to 30 minutes. Adjust rack in lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees at least 20 minutes. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. While warm, brush with warm apricot jam. In a small bowl, blend together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla and brush the glaze over the jam while the coffeecake is warm. Sprinkle almonds over top. With a small paring knife, cut small slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape while baking.

Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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