"I'll have two coffees, an order of Brussel sprouts, a small matzo ball soup, two eggs over-easy, hash browns, 2 slices of bacon, white toast, and a piece of coffee cake, toasted...."Where else but an American diner can an order like this not only be legitimate, but downright commonplace? Growing up in Texas, I thought diners were akin only to greasy Podunk truck stops, or simply something out of the movies. It wasn't until I met Matt and we moved to New York, that I realized how ignorant - and deprived - I had been.
Back in the UES, we had a few standard routines we followed with regards to eating. Not because we had to or were limited in choice for really excellent, decently priced eats (that would explain why we eat the way we eat here in London), but because we loved our local restaurants.
Our Sunday morning brunch routine generally consisted of one of two things: our local cafe, or our local Greek diner, Cafe Luka. The place is run by two highly efficient brothers who meet and greet every single customer, and boasts probably the fastest delivery time on the Upper East side. The servers and cooks are friendly but no-nonsense, and the patrons are generally patient with the constant line-out-the-door wait on weekends. Its mostly run-of-the-mill locals eating slightly-better-than-run-of-the-mill food you'll find there, but if you're lucky, every once in a while you'll catch a shady looking mafia type. Gotta love New York...and at the risk of being dramatic:
O Cafe Luka, Cafe Luka! Wherefore art thou Cafe Luka?
Deny they neighborhood and refuse the United States;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my neighborhood restaurant,
And I'll no longer be a UK resident!
If only it were that simple. While, lamentably, I still have not found a place in London where I can get my Luka favorites all at once (the above mentioned boiled Brussel sprouts combined with a bowl of Matzo ball soup or even a BLT with avocado and French's mustard - hold the mayo), Matt is far more upset than I by the absence of good old fashioned diner-like coffee cake here in the UK.
I don't really like coffee cake. And I don't really get coffee cake. Why call something coffee cake because you eat it with coffee and not because it actually has coffee in it?! (Am I asking too much from the Gods of logic?) Well, we all know humans are anything but innately rational, so despite my misgivings, being the good wife that I am, I decided to embark upon a journey to "soothe the savage beast" with a familiar tune, and came up with the following recipe which I adapted from one in Bon Appétit. Hey, It's no Cafe Luka Coffee Cake, but it's damn good if you ask me (and, presumably, Matt).
Sour Cream Apple Coffee Cake with a Nutty Crumbly Topping
(In honor of Cafe Luka)
The original recipe calls for pears, but I used (and prefer) Granny Smith apples. It also calls for only pecans rather than my pecan, walnut, hazelnut medley. I doubled the amount of fruit and increased the amount of cinnamon. The cake comes out incredibly moist and very tasty indeed. If you bake it in a ceramic container you might have to increase baking time by 15-20 minutes, so be aware. Let it cool completely - it holds together better.
Nutty Crumbly Topping
1 1/2 cup medley of whole Almonds, walnuts & pecans (about 6 ounces)
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar (not dark)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk
3 cups of 1/2 inch-cubed peeled Granny Smith Apples, tossed in 1-2 tsp cinnamon
1. Blend the first four topping ingredients in the food processor until the nuts are coarsely chopped. Add the butter and blend briefly using pulse, until rough crumbs begin to form. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350F and butter / flour a 13x9x2 inch pan or ceramic casserole dish.
3. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a small bowl.
4. Separately, using an electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add both sugars and beat until well blended. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then lemon peel and vanilla.
5. Blend sour cream and milk in small bowl. Beat in sour cream mixture alternately with dry ingredients in 3 portions each.
6. Spread half of cake batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle half of topping over; cover with apples. Spread remaining batter over; sprinkle generously with remaining topping.
7. Bake for 50 minutes (60-70 if using ceramic) until top is brown and a skewer comes out clean.
Cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. Goes great with American coffee on a NY-kinda-morning. :)