I watch an amazing amount of Food TV. My mom and I always did. Even before Food Network or Cooking Channel you could find us watching some show on PBS where the chef spoke French and there was an interpreter doing the voice-over. They cooked things I never heard of. But it was mesmerizing. Learning techniques on tv, in the early 90s, I’m sure helped sculpt my brain into what it is today. I was absorbing so much from those shows as a teenager and I’m grateful to my mom for allowing me to watch hours of it. Copper pots, whisks, foreign chefs, souffles, vegetables I never saw before… yeah. It was my own little heaven. Now, I watch food shows and try to decipher what is doable in my own kitchen and what I’d have to be a trained chef to accomplish. I watch a show called Unique Eats because the foodies talk about these dishes like I describe food. They ooh and aah over it and describe it in such a way that makes me want to hop a jet to L.A. to eat a crispy rabbit liver or fly to Austin to stuff my face with some brothy bowl of Ramen that took over 60 hours to craft. Yes. Ramen noodle soup. 60 hours. I want it. Anyway, in addition to watching food tv I also cooked a lot and helped in the kitchen as a kid with my mother and grandmother. My best advice if you feel like you are sub-par in the kitchen is to expose yourself to new things. Walk down the aisle in the grocery store that you never walked down before. Go slow. Look at it and think, “I like Chinese take-out. Maybe I can do this myself.” AND…. If you have kids, ask them if they want to help make menus. When you walk through the produce area, ask them what they’d like to try. If they pick up some prehistoric looking veggie say, “Okay! Looks fun!” and go home and Google that sh!t. They don’t need to know you’re clueless.
Oh, why was I telling you all of this? Well, during one of the episodes of Unique Eats they were describing a dessert that some chef makes. (never did catch the name of the restaurant or anything. I just made a mental note that it was clever.) She layered the CRUMBLE on the bottom of the tart pan. You know, the crunchy, crumbly buttery goodness that comes on the top of a muffin or coffee cake? Yeah. She put it on the bottom and baked it. Then layered a cake over top of it and did whatever else to it…. All I heard was the crumble was on the bottom. Oh I can totally do that.
I was on the hunt for a crumble recipe in my old church cookbooks. (Church cookbooks are the best. The older the better because you know they are true to the name: Uncle Carroll’s Bread and Butter Pickles, Aunt Hilda’s Meringue Kisses – these were not borrowed from Rachel Ray. These were really Carroll and Hilda’s recipes.) So I found a crumble recipe and tweaked it to fit the size pan I had. I also found a coffee cake recipe that I could work with. I melded the two recipes and added some homemade plum jam to create the layered look and this is what I got. It’s good hot out of the oven, or cold the next day in a bowl with milk poured over it.
Crunchy Layered Coffee Cake with Jam
Preheat oven to 350º F and grease an 8×8 pan with butter or cooking spray (greasing the sides is more important than the bottom I think… because the crumble on the bottom is very buttery)
In a bowl mix the following or place all of this in a food processor and pulse until crumbly:
1 C flour
1/2 C whole grain oats
1 C white sugar
2/3 C packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
and cut in 1 stick (1/2 C) COLD unsalted sweet cream butter
Once mixture is crumbly and butter is mixed in, place all but one cup of mixture in bottom of the pan. Remember: reserve one cup of mixture for later!
Gently press the mixture into the pan. As the butter melts it settles nicely to form a crust.
Just bake it for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan and finish baking for 8-10 more minutes. The crust will begin to appear before your eyes. Remove from oven to cool slightly but leave oven set to 350ºF.
While the crust is baking make the cake. You’ll need two bowls for this. One for wet, one for dry.
1 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C milk (I used skim but anything will do. Including almond or soy)
1/4 C vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (use the pure stuff!)
Whisk wet ingredients to combine and pour into dry ingredients.
Once wet and dry are incorporated pour over crust that has been cooling slightly. Tap pan to release bubbles. Now drizzle 1/2 C preserves on top of cake batter. Glop it on, pour it on, whatever. My plum jam doesn’t use pectin so it is a little loose, thus it is easy to ‘pour’ over the cake batter.
Finally place that 1 C of crumble on top of the jam layer and then put it back in the oven.
Set timer for 20 minutes and rotate and check again in 10 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean. Remember the base layer has already baked so you just have to get the toothpick through the cake layer.
Enjoy warm or cold. (Keep leftovers refrigerated)