Sunday, April 27, 2008

Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate-Almond Streusel

Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate-Almond Streusel
Adapted with liberal changes from Epicurious

1 1/4 cups good quality chocolate chips
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup butter (one stick), melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large, very ripe* bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8"x8"x2" baking dish.

To prepare the streusel, combine chocolate chips, brown sugar and sliced almonds in a small bowl. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice. In a medium bowl, mix together melted butter and sugar. Once combined, add the egg and vanilla extract, followed by the banana mash, then the sour cream. Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, stirring well between each.

To assemble the cake, pour half the banana batter into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle just less than half the streusel mixture over the batter, taking care to cover each corner. Gently spread the remaining batter evenly over the streusel, then top with the remaining streusel. The brown sugar is going to melt partially into a slightly crunchy crust, so be sure that the cake is completely covered.

Put the cake in the oven, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until cake has evenly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center** comes out crumb-free.*** Delicious warm from the oven or cooled.

*If your bananas are ripe before you're in the mood to bake, toss them in the freezer. They keep for what seems like ages, turn totally black, and defrost in minutes to a delightful glop that's perfect for baking.

**Try not to stab a chocolate chip with your cake tester. Having melted chocolate all over your toothpick makes it difficult to gauge the cake's doneness. Based on my experience, it's the top layer that cooks more slowly, so don't worry about stabbing your toothpick all the way to the bottom of the dish.

**If you get impatient and decide to take the cake out before it is done because you have, in fact, stabbed too many chocolate chips, you may find that the top half of the center of the cake is completely raw. If this happens to you, and you've already eaten a piece or three fresh out of the oven because it smelled so darn good... just put it back in the oven at 325 degrees for about 15 more minutes. Between the bananas and the sour cream there's so much moisture in this cake that it's practically impossible to overbake. And as it turns out, the double-bake method works just fine.

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