Beat It

Reader Diane asks:

Your Crumb Coffee Cake seems to be constructed similarly to the muffin method. I thought with the muffin method you are supposed to barely stir it after adding the wet ingredients. So whats’s with all the beating?

I love that question! In fact the method I’m using for this cake is the so-called “one bowl” or “quick” method. It bears some similarities to the muffin method in that the liquid is added in stages. However there is an important difference: the fat is added to the dry ingredients early, and thoroughly mixed in before anything wet goes into the bowl.

What does that do? First and foremost it distributes the fat evenly throughout the mix, and that helps give the cake a more even, finely textured crumb. However it also accomplishes something else: it coats the flour granules with fat, and that interferes with gluten development. In fact fat is so effective at disrupting gluten networks that you have to beat the batter extra to encourage gluten development and give the cake some structure.

This is in stark contrast to the muffin method, in which extra beating creates too much developed gluten, resulting in crowning, toughness and a gummy mouthfeel. Thanks for the question, Diane!

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