It has been raining. The sun has disappeared, the clouds are looming in a rather ominous fashion, everything is absolutely soaked, and there is water where there is not supposed to be water. Meaning, inside our house. Clearly, it is time for some cake.
What’s that? The name of this recipe does not indicate that one would be making cake, but rather bread? Yes. Yes, this is true. But, in the interest of maintaining complete honesty, I could not in good conscience continue to call this baked treat a bread when, butter and sugar and cake flour, oh my, it is clearly nothing so innocent.
What it is is utterly delicious. I’ve been eyeing this bread (cake) for years, stopping at its lovely and drool-inducing photo every time I flipped through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible, but it was only during a recent bout of rather soggy weather that I was finally persuaded (by myself, and my woe over not being able to see the sun) to make it. Predictably, I have been cursing myself ever since for the long wait I endured before tasting this bread (cake), as it turns out that this bread (cake) just so happens to be perfect in every way.
Buttery crumb topping? Perfectly spiced slices of apple waiting beneath the crumb topping? An unbelievably moist and perfectly textured bread (cake) propping everything up? Do you like any of these things? If so, let me know, because I might be compelled to bring you some of this the next time I make it. When I first made this bread (cake), I was immediately struck with the realization that, alone at home, I could not be trusted to be in the same house with it. After wrapping it up and practically forcing my son’s kindergarten teacher to take it from me (and subsequently spoiling the children’s heretofore unfettered streak of receiving purely healthy afternoon snacks while at school), I decided that, if I were to make this bread (cake) again, it would have to be while surrounded by a ravenous horde who would be certain to devour the treat before I was able to stuff it down my own gullet.
This is a rather inelegant way of saying my friends, this is a baked good of legend. I highly recommend you make it, but I also advise you to do so at your own risk of overindulging to the point of shame. If you are not prone to such behavior, I can only say good for you, and how in the world did we ever come to be friends?
Apple Cinnamon Crumb Bread
Crumb Topping and Filling
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons (or, 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons) granulated sugar
¾ cup walnuts (I used walnuts and pecans, and it was fantastic)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsifted cake flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Apple Filling and Batter
1 small tart apple (I used a Granny Smith), sliced into 1 heaping cup of slices
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sifted cake flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon (or a scant ½ teaspoon) baking soda
scant ¼ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust an oven rack to the middle level. Grease and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the sugars, nuts, and cinnamon until the nuts are coarsely chopped. Reserve ½ cup for the filling. Add the flour, butter, and vanilla to the remainder and pulse briefly just until the butter is absorbed. Alternately, if you do not have a food processor, you can chop the nuts by hand and then mix everything together using a fork. Empty the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to firm up, then break up the mixture with your fingers to form a coarse, crumbly mixture for the topping.
Just before mixing the batter, peel and core the apple, then cut it into ¼-inch thick slices. Toss slices with lemon juice.
In a medium bowl, combine the egg, egg yolks, about ¼ of the sour cream, and the vanilla.
In a mixer bowl, or other large bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix for 30 seconds on low speed using a hand-held mixer or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add the butter and remaining sour cream and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium if using a stand mixer or high speed if using a hand-held mixture, and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the egg mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Scrape about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the reserved ½ cup crumb mixture. Top with the apple slices, arranging them in rows of overlapping slices. Drop the reserved batter in large blobs over the fruit and spread it evenly using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon. The batter should be ¾-inch from the top of the pan. Sprinkle with the crumb topping.
Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean and the bread springs back when pressed lightly in the center. If tested with an instant-read thermometer, the center of the bread should read 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Tent the bread loosely with buttered foil after 45 minutes to prevent overbrowning.
Remove the bread from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Place a folded kitchen towel on top of a flat plate and cover it with plastic wrap. Oil the plastic wrap. Loosen the sides of the bread with a small metal or plastic spatula, and invert it onto the plate. Grease a wire rack and reinvert the bread onto it, so that it is right side up. Cool completely, about 1 ½ hours, before wrapping airtight