This is a coffee cake for streusel lovers and it has a fun balance to it, although it might initially appear that there is a bit too much topping to the amount of cake. The base of the coffee cake is a lightly sweet yeast bread that is tender, but relatively plain. The topping is a bold brown-sugar based topping that has a lot of sweetness and crunch to it and is perfect balanced by the cake beneath it. Taken on their own, the cake might be a little bit too plain and the topping might be a little too sweet, but together they are perfectly balanced – and addictive.
The streusel is a very buttery brown sugar mixture that is full of crunchy pecans. It definitely has more sugar than some streusel recipes, which gives the finished topping a melt-in-your-mouth consistency and sweetness. It might be a little too much streusel if you are not a huge streusel-lover, but most coffee cake fans will find that a cake with a generous topping is the perfect brunch dish. A little salt and the pecans take the edge off of that brown sugar, but the topping is sweet because it really is meant to be eaten along with the cake beneath it (not picked off the top and eaten separately, which happens to the streusel on many coffee cakes!).
The cake itself is very easy to make, which might surprise bakers who don’t have a lot of experience working with yeast breads. The dough does contain yeast, but it is a very soft dough that requires no kneading. It is soft and tender, but has a little bit more substance to it than an all-butter cake would have – which really makes it go well with a cup of coffee in the morning and not just seem like you’re eating dessert. The real advantage of using a yeast dough in a cake like this is that you get a very light textured cake without needed to add a lot of extra butter or fat, which allows the cake to go so well with the decadent topping without making the cake seem too heavy.
Brown Sugar Pecan Streusel Yeasted Coffee Cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp active dry or rapid rise yeast
2/3 cup warm milk (100-110F; low fat is fine)
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Dissolve the yeast in a measuring cup filled with the warmed milk, then stir milk mixture, melted butter, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. IT will have the consistency of a thick batter. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 20 minutes.
While the dough rests, prepare the topping. Beat together butter, brown sugar, all purpose flour, and cinnamon in a medium bowl until mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans. Distribute topping evenly on top of rested dough.
Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350F.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until bread is topping is crisp and caramelized (the sugar in the topping may be bubbling around the edges of the pan) at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. A toothpick inserted into the bread should come out clean.
Allow to cool before serving.