The joy of fresh pecans, and a pecan coffee cake recipe

Well hello again!

For a wee while now, I’ve on occasion read about the importance of eating nuts when they are fresh. This is quite counter to my habits of buying nuts and seeds in quantities of around 1kg, from the bulk bins, to nibble on over the subsequent months. The reasoning for the imperative to eat nuts fresh is that over time, when exposed to oxygen, the oil in nuts turns rancid, and so the taste is compromised. Though eating rancid nuts doesn’t seem anything to panic about, there is some evidence to suggest that it might not be a particularly good thing to do – if it can be easily avoided.

A way to avoid nuts which have gone a bit old is to get them fresh when possible (who would have guessed?!), and sourcing nuts in the shell does this nicely. I’ve written before about the bunya nuts which take some concerted effort to shell, but fortunately this is not the case with most of the nuts we regularly eat.

A short while ago, we were lucky enough to get some freshly picked pecans from Queensland – still in the shell – from Food Connect, and it was the first time I really understood the difference in flavour between fresh nuts, and those that were a bit old! It was just amazing. These fresh pecans, I felt, had an almost maple flavour to them; something I hadn’t tasted before. Many – many – of these we scoffed straight out of the shells, but I did keep some aside for baking. (Another place, if you’re in Australia, from which you can source nuts in the shells, straight from the farmers, is Farmhouse Direct.)

So with no further fresh-nut-worship, here’s the recipe for the Pecan Coffee Cake. For this, I adapted the Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe from the fantastic Wholefood Baking by Jude Blereau.

Pecans

Recipe: Pecan Coffee Cake

This is a relatively straight forward recipe which makes good use of a stand mixer, and cooks in a loaf tin. I think the icing is the best icing I’ve ever made… I recommend adding in a small amount of teff flour to the cake, because I love the depth of flavour it gives, but if you don’t have any on hand, consider substituting in buckwheat flour, rye flour, or just go for all spelt or plain flour. You can also substitute in plain sugar for the rapadura sugar if rapadura isn’t your thing. In this case, consider going for a mix of white and brown sugars to get a nice, soft consistency. This cake can easily become dry – as it did for me the first time I made it – so be careful to not over-cook. Err on the side of slightly-moist when checking for done-ness.

Things to go into the cake

Cake

  • Spelt or plain flour x 150g
  • Teff flour x 50g
  • Baking powder x 2 and 1/4 tsp
  • Butter, unsalted, softened x 200g
  • Rapadura sugar x 115g
  • Eggs, at room temperature x 4
  • Pecans, roughly chopped x 60g
  • Vanilla extract x 2 tsp
  • Milk x 1 tbsp
  • Brewed coffee x 30 ml (e.g. from a plunger – make it strong)

Icing

  • Butter, unsalted, softened x 100g
  • Icing sugar x 200g
  • Vanilla extract x 1 tsp
  • Brewed coffee x 20 ml (as above; make it strong)
  • Pecans, halved, lightly toasted x 10-12 (to decorate)

Things to do to make the cake

Cake

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease with butter and line with baking paper a medium sized loaf tin.

2. Into a medium bowl, sieve the flours and baking powder, and set aside.

3. In a stand mixer with the paddle beater, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. One at a time, add the eggs with a good beating in between each addition. When adding the fourth egg, also add 1 tbsp of the flour mixture to avoid curdling. During the beating, keep an eye on the consistency. If it becomes too thick you may like to sit the bowl in warm water for a few moments to soften. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the butter mix is beaten equally.

4. Once it’s creamy, pale, and thick, add the flour mixture, the chopped pecans, vanilla extract, milk, and coffee. Beat slowly until the flour is combined, but avoid over-mixing.

5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once you get to around 20 minutes, start checking for done-ness and avoid over-cooking.

6. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely in the loaf tin before removing and placing on a wire rack.

Icing

1. In the stand mixer with the paddle beater, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Scrape down the sides when required to keep the mix consistent.

2. With the mixer off, add the vanilla extract and coffee then start beating on low. Increase the speed as the liquids mix with the butter and sugar (to avoid splashing) until the mixer is on a medium-high speed.

3. Beat until creamy and smooth. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of water at a time, continue mixing, and reassess the consistency.

4. Spread the icing over the cooled cake, and decorate with lightly toasted, halved pecans.

Pecan coffee cake

Enjoy !

-Bec

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