BETTER BAKING ACADEMY: Gluten-Free Summer Berry Coffee Cake

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gluten free berry coffee cake

For the June lesson of our Better Baking Academy with Bob’s Red Mill, we level up coffee cake with a gluten-free transformation that will have even the most devoted gluten enthusiasts smitten. The beauty of coffee cake is that it’s a daily celebration in itself, pairing perfectly with the most joyous circadian ritual—a cup of coffee or tea. Balancing the richness of a warm cup of joe, a slice of coffee cake offers sweetness and often showcases bright spices. With a simple stir-together batter, this cake also sports a crown of crunchy streusel, providing a harmonious textural contrast to the tender interior. We start by using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour to create the batter, adding almond flour for structure and flavor, and folding in a generous addition of berries for a seasonal boost that adds eye-catching color. This one-pan wonder is finished with an Oat Streusel and served with silky Whipped Sour Cream. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to master coffee’s favorite companion while creating an extra-light gluten-free crumb. Click here for the printable PDF version of the module!

Before you get to baking, be sure to enter our Instagram giveaway to win Bob’s Red Mill products and a $50 Baking Essentials Gift Certificate. The giveaway closes on June 30, 2021, so hurry to enter!

INGREDIENT BREAKDOWN

Great recipes require great ingredients. Here’s how each key ingredient helps create a gluten-free coffee cake with unmatched flavor and texture. 

BOB’S RED MILL GLUTEN FREE 1-TO-1 BAKING FLOUR: This versatile flour blend can be used in many of your favorite baking recipes, replacing traditional wheat flour cup for cup. Bob’s Red Mill blends high-quality ingredients like sweet rice and brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum to create a blend that works wonderfully in recipes that call for baking powder and/or baking soda. The rice flours have a smooth, neutral flavor. Sorghum flour has a mildly sweet flavor. The potato starch, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum mimic the elasticity of gluten, imparting chewiness, and also help the other flours bind together.

GRANULATED SUGAR: Sugar adds sweetness, creating the ultimate coffee pairing, and the hygroscopic nature of sugar also ensures a moist crumb.

BOB’S RED MILL SUPER-FINE ALMOND FLOUR: Bob’s Red Mill almond flour is made from whole blanched almonds ground into a fine meal. Almond flour lends a nutty flavor and moist texture to baked goods, and it pairs especially well with other alternative baking flours, like rice and tapioca flour. Because almonds are high in fat, almond flour adds tenderness to gluten-free baked goods.

BAKING POWDER: Comprised of baking soda, powdered acid or acids, and a starch, most baking powders are double-acting, meaning the reaction occurs twice, using two different acids. The first is a very quick reaction that occurs when baking powder is combined with a liquid, aerating the batter. The second reaction is slower-acting, occurring when heated and baked.

KOSHER SALT: Kosher salt has a pure, clean flavor because it doesn’t contain iodine or minerals. When it comes to salt, one important thing to note is that salt granules come in different sizes and densities, so be sure to weigh your salt for the most accurate measure.

BAKING SODA: Baking soda requires an acid be present in the batter (in this case, sour cream and lemon juice) to help tenderize baked goods. Baking soda releases most of its gas immediately once combined with an acid and moisture, so doughs and batters leavened only or primarily with baking soda should be baked soon after it’s added. If too much is used, the final baked product may have a slightly soapy taste and a brownish-yellow cast. If too little is used, making the batter or dough too acidic, the final product may not brown adequately.

SOUR CREAM: This acidic dairy product adds a pleasant tartness to baked goods, and the tenderizing fat in the sour cream helps create a richer cake. 

UNSALTED BUTTER: For our stir-together cake formula, we melt the butter so it incorporates smoothly. Using melted butter instead of oil gives our cake a richer flavor.

EGGS: We use three large eggs for leavening, flavor, richness, and structure in our gluten-free cake.

WHOLE MILK: For the liquid in our coffee cake batter, we use whole milk, which adds fat and sugar, leading to a tender and moist cake. 

LEMON ZEST: Under a magnified lens, citrus peel contains hundreds of tiny pores packed with essential oils. Once unleashed, they provide concentrated aroma and flavor. A little bit of lemon zest goes a long way in baked goods. 

FRESH LEMON JUICE: Acidic lemon juice helps enhance the overall flavor, adding tang to the cake and brightness to the fruit, and boosts the leavening action of the baking soda.

VANILLA EXTRACT: Vanilla is the secret weapon for baked goods, adding depth of flavor. A dash of high-quality vanilla gives baked treats a multidimensional updo.

BERRIES: Make the most of the season by using fresh summer berries, like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. All berries except strawberries can be used whole; strawberries need to be chopped. If you are making this cake during a different time of the year, optimize flavor by using ripe seasonal fruit varieties—just make sure to use 1 cup of your fruit of choice. 

Gluten-Free Summer Berry Coffee Cake

Said to have originated in 17th-century Vienna, Austria, coffee cake underwent an American twist in the early 1900s. Commercially available sour cream, a product of the newly introduced process of pasteurization, was added to the batter, creating tenderness throughout the crumb and an irresistible tangy flavor. Our gluten-free coffee cake takes the sour cream base and ups the ante with a Whipped Sour Cream topping. Showcasing an undeniably light cake with a crunchy streusel-packed top, adding your choice of fruit personalizes this showstopping treat.

BETTER BAKING ACADEMY: Gluten-Free Summer Berry Coffee Cake
 
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake
Ingredients
  • 1⅔ cups (246 grams) Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
  • 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (72 grams) Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 grams) baking soda
  • ¾ cup (180 grams) sour cream, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) whole milk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs (150 grams), room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (6 grams) tightly packed lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons (6 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (225 grams) fresh berries*
  • Oat Streusel (recipe follows)
  • Whipped Sour Cream (recipe follows)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together baking flour, sugar, almond flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, melted butter, milk, eggs, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla. Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture, folding just until combined. Fold in 1 cup (150 grams) berries. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup (75 grams) berries; sprinkle with Oat Streusel.
  4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 200°F (93°C). Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Serve immediately or let cool completely. Serve with Whipped Sour Cream.
Notes
*We recommend using a combination of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. All berries except strawberries can be used whole; strawberries need to be chopped.

Oat Streusel
 
Makes 1½ cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together oats, baking flour, sugar, almond flour, salt, and ground spice. Using your fingers, cut (or snap) in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Crumble with your fingertips until desired consistency is reached, squeezing a large portion of mixture in your hand and then crumbling with your fingertips. Stir in nuts. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Notes
*For mild spices, like cinnamon, use ½ teaspoon (1 gram), and for strong spices, like nutmeg, use ¼ teaspoon.

Notes: We used cinnamon and almonds in our streusel.

Streusel can be made ahead of time. Feel free to make a large batch and keep it in the freezer to use whenever you are in the mood to bake!

Whipped Sour Cream
 
Makes 2½ cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (240 grams) cold heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup (120 grams) cold sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons (24 grams) granulated sugar
  •  
Instructions
  1. Refrigerate a large bowl and a whisk until cold, about 10 minutes.
  2. In cold bowl, using cold whisk, whisk together all ingredients until medium-stiff peaks form. Use immediately.

 

A Closer Look

TEMPERATURE CHECK

Before you begin, make sure these key ingredients are at the appropriate temperature

Sour cream: Sour cream is difficult to incorporate when cold because its milk fat is still firm. Furthermore, chilled sour cream can resolidify your melted butter. So, for smooth incorporation, opt for mixing room temperature sour cream with other room temperature ingredients.

Eggs: Cold eggs may seem a minor problem when pulling together cake batter, but three cold eggs can force your melted butter to resolidify in spots, creating chunks that are hard to reincorporate and may lead to a dense crumb.

Melted unsalted butter: Piping hot butter, straight from the stovetop or microwave, can pose a problem when mixing your wet ingredients. If hot butter comes into direct contact with raw eggs, you could end up with cooked egg bits throughout your batter. Butter becomes liquid between 90°F (32°C) to 95°F (35°C), so let your butter cool slightly before adding it to the mix.

Whole milk: Consider whole milk the last domino in your series of room temperature dairy products. Don’t let cold whole milk ruin the creamy concoction you’ve made.   

IT’S ALL IN THE MIX

Creating a smooth, silky batter for our gluten-free coffee cake is a simple stir-together process that involves adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Follow along here for tips to achieve the best results.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together baking flour, sugar, almond flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisking these ingredients prior to adding wet ingredients ensures a homogenous mixture and prevents against undissolved clumps. Speaking of clumps, if your baking powder or baking soda is hard or clumpy, it’s likely absorbed humidity from the environment and lost effectiveness. If this is the case, consider getting new leavener for optimum performance.

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, melted butter, milk, eggs, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla. Though your liquid ingredients are at room temperature, the mixture will have a curdled appearance before the sour cream is fully incorporated. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes smooth.

  1. Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture, folding just until combined. With a stir-together recipe, you can give your hand mixer or stand mixer a break. Simply stir the ingredients together until just combined. As a bonus, because there is no wheat protein in this gluten-free recipe, you won’t need to worry about the possibility of overmixing and activating gluten, which can lead to a tough cake in traditional batters. 

BERRY, BERRY GOOD

This coffee cake alone is crave-worthy, but with the addition of fresh, seasonal fruit, it’s an absolute dream. Choose your favorite fruits and follow our guide for folding perfection.

  1. Fold in 1 cup (150 grams) berries. Fresh summer berries, like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, are our favorites. Strawberries should be chopped into smaller pieces, but all other berries can be used whole. To avoid crushing delicate fruit and imparting streaks of color in your batter, use a gentle folding motion to incorporate the add-ins.

  1. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup (75 grams) berries. Sprinkling berries on top of the batter will ensure that you have them distributed evenly throughout the baked cake.

  1. Sprinkle with Oat Streusel. Here comes the streusel magic—times two. The streusel bakes up crisp and gives your coffee cake undeniable texture, but it also adds a barrier between the heat of the oven and the tender cake, ensuring that your cake stays incredibly moist. So, what makes a springform pan the best choice for a coffee cake? The answer lies in its disassembly. Since you are topping this silky batter with a crumbly oat-packed streusel, flipping the cake out of the pan after baking would mean losing the crunchy goodness. A springform pan allows removal of the sides of the pan, so you can slide the cake right off the base—bypassing the toil of gravity.

STRESS-FREE STREUSEL

Delightfully crispy, streusel can be customized to your liking, from a sandy-like texture to large crunchy bits and everything in between

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together oats, baking flour, sugar, almond flour, salt, and ground spice. Stir well, breaking up clumps before you add butter. Typical ground spices used for coffee cake include cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, ginger, cloves, and star anise. Feel free to experiment with your favorites. Use ½ teaspoon (1 gram) for mild spices, like cinnamon and ginger, or ¼ teaspoon for stronger spices, like nutmeg or cloves.

  1. Using your fingers, cut (or snap) in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. The snap method is also used when making a piecrust by hand. Hold the chunks of butter between your middle finger and thumb, and make a snapping motion to squeeze and break the butter into pieces. Because snapping butter is a quick motion, this method reduces the chance of melting the butter and allows for larger chunks of fat to remain intact.

  1. Crumble with your fingertips until desired consistency is reached, squeezing a large portion of mixture in your hand and then crumbling with your fingertips. Whether you prefer a chunky-style streusel or a more uniform crumble, the results will depend on the size of crumbles you create in this step. Create the streusel that best suits your taste and visual preference by squeezing the mixture together and then breaking the pieces apart into the size you prefer.

  1. Stir in nuts. Refrigerate until ready to use. We’re nuts about almonds for our coffee cake, but don’t miss out on pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, or any other nuts you fancy! Also, when the streusel cravings strike, it’s great to be prepared. This streusel recipe can be made ahead of time. Feel free to make a large batch and keep it in the freezer to use whenever a streusel-topped craving strikes.

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