If you’re expecting overnight guests during the holiday season, you might want to stock up on the ingredients for this recipe. Doing so will allow you to throw together a knockout coffee cake for breakfast, a special treat that features a cream biscuit dough packed with intensely flavored dried apricots, layered with almond paste and glazed with apricot jam.
The right ingredients are crucial. You want California apricots because they’re much more tart and apricot-y than the Turkish variety. As for the jam, the first ingredient listed on the label should be apricots, not sugar, because this cake is all about the balance between the sweet almond paste and the tart apricots and jam. Likewise, be sure you’re using almond paste and not marzipan. The latter is too sugary.
The dough is also key, so take care to measure it correctly. The best way is with a scale not a measuring cup. One cup of flour should weigh 4 1/4 ounces, but if you pack it tightly into a measuring cup, it’ll weigh much more ... and your cake will turn out tough and dry. If you don’t own a scale, fluff up your flour, sprinkle it loosely into a one-cup dry-cup measure and scrape off the excess with a straight edge.
Finally, when adding the heavy cream to the flour mixture, take care not to overmix the dough. The longer you work it, the more the gluten develops and the chewier the dough becomes. Not good. It takes a careful baker to make a tender coffee cake.
Apricot Almond Coffee Cake
Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (40 active)
8½ ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup (about 3½ ounces) finely chopped apricots, preferably California apricots
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1¼ cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons apricot jam
3 ounces very thinly sliced almond paste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Into a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the apricots and lemon zest; stir well. Pour in the heavy cream and stir just until combined.
Dump the dough on the kitchen counter and knead it a few times or just until it comes together. Divide the dough into two parts and roll out one-half on a lightly floured surface into a 9-inch round. Transfer the round to an ungreased 9-inch round pan and gently press it to fit evenly. Brush the top of the rolled-out dough in the pan all over with about 1/2 of the jam and arrange all of the almond paste slices in one layer on top.
Roll out the second piece of dough into a 9-inch round and transfer the round to the pan, placing it on top of the almond paste. Press gently to fit it in the pan and make sure the cake is even in thickness.
Bake the cake on the middle shelf of the oven for 18 minutes or until a toothpick, when inserted in the middle, comes out clean. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the remaining jam. When the cake comes out of the oven run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it and let it stand for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a large plate, re-invert it on to a rack and brush the top with the warm apricot jam. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
• Nutrition information per serving: 229 calories; 100 calories from fat; 11 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 34 mg cholesterol; 200 mg sodium; 29 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 3 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “HomeCooking 101.”