Make an Original Coffee Cake

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coffeecake_cRemember those mornings when your mom had the mom next door over for coffee, cake and gossip? When life moved at a more leisurely pace and having a piece of cake didn't mean you had to spend hours atoning in the gym? The original coffee cake was an admittedly delicious combination of tender, buttery cake, tart bursts of whole cranberries and crunchy cinnamon streusel. But you can use some other recipes, thanks to which your waistline won't pay the price for all that enjoyment.

By Linda Greer

The original coffee cake was an admittedly delicious combination of tender, buttery cake, tart bursts of whole cranberries and crunchy cinnamon streusel. However, your waistline certainly paid the price for all that enjoyment. A single serving weighted in at a hefty 501 calories with a whopping 24 grams of fat per serving. Practically all the flavor came from fat - two and a half sticks of butter, 3 eggs and a full cup of sour cream!

Some commonsense substitutions and a bit of kitchen wizardry were all it took to reform this bad boy. Calories were slashed by nearly half and - perhaps even more important - there are now only 4 grams of fat per serving with absolutely no sacrifice in flavor.

An array of healthful ingredients are at work replacing the fat. Apple-juice concentrate and just a bit of canola oil moisten the streusel and bind it together, completely forgoing the need for butter.

Pured canned pears are used to take advantage of their natural fat-mimicking abilities. As a result, texture, always a dicey proposition in low-fat baking, is not compromised.

One whole egg and an egg white provide the amount of protein the cake needs to form a nice crumb and add just enough richness.

The tanginess and moisture traditionally provided by the sour cream, not to mention the richness, come through just as strongly with nonfat sour cream. The same amount of nonfat yogurt also works well.

Thanks to the natural sweetness and moisture provided by the apple-juice concentrate and the pear purée, this cake batter can get away with a half cup less of refined sugar. But a dessert with this many cranberries does need the counterbalance of the sugary streusel. And don't forget: You are getting loads of vitamin C and antioxidants from those cranberries, helping to maintain a healthy urinary tract and possibly helping to prevent gum disease.

But perhaps the most clever trick is browning the tiny amount of butter remaining in the recipe before incorporating it into the cake batter, maximizing that unmistakable flavor and even adding a slightly nutty undertone. The butter, in combination with the mere tablespoon of canola oil, a healthful monounsaturated fat, means that only 12 percent of the cake's calories come from fat.

Equally delicious at breakfast, brunch or as an afternoon pick-me-up, this recipe can be enjoyed as giant muffins or as two 8-inch by 4-inch loaves. Enjoy one now and freeze one for later. For a fancier occasion, bake in a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with confectioners' sugar. Adjust your baking times to the size of your pans accordingly and check for doneness frequently. Finally, use this recipe all year round. Try it with blueberries or raspberries in the summer and chopped apple or pear in the fall.


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