Sunday, May 23, 2021

Recreating Butter Streusel

Long ago, while I was living for one year in Heidelberg, Germany, I frequented a bakery on the Hauptstrasse that sold a baked good called Butter Streusel. It was half way between a cookie and a coffee cake: not quite an inch tall, about half of that being the streusel topping, with a base that was denser and crisper than cake. I never found it at any other bakery, and when I returned to Heidelberg some years later, that bakery no longer sold it either.

A lot of people baked bread during the pandemic. I decided it was a good time to make some Butter Streusel. I tried a couple of recipes from the web, but they didn't quite match my memory. I have to admit, however, that after so many years, it's possible that what I remember never existed. As Mark Twain may or may not have said, "The older I get, the more clearly I remember things that never happened."

I started with a yeast-based recipe with a photo that looked somewhat like what I remembered, but I wanted something more dense, and I decided I didn't like the yeast taste in something that should taste more like a cake or cookie than bread. I looked through a bunch of recipes for streuselkuchen, shortbread, short cake, pound cake, vanilla cake, and biscuits, and started experimenting.

One of my goals was that it should be easy to make, so some of my experimentation was not only about what ingredients to use, but how to mix them together. On trial #13 I had something I liked. A friend said it was "amazing." Here it is.

Butter Streusel

Preheat oven to 375F.
Get a 9x12x2in baking pan (a shorter pan or even a cookie sheet should work) and parchment paper, but don't put the paper in the pan yet.


Prepare the base dough:
  • 140g softened butter (salted) (10 tbsp)
  • 60g sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 200g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder (double acting)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100ml milk
Blend together butter, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl large enough for all the base dough ingredients.
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt (you can use a big bowl for this and reuse it for the topping), then mix into butter mixture.
Add milk and mix to smooth consistency, knead for about 2 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes.
(I used an electric mixer for all of the above steps, except for pre-mixing the dry ingredients and for the last two minutes of kneading.)


While the base dough is resting, prepare the streusel topping:
  • 160 g flour
  • 120 g sugar
  • 120 g butter, melted (melted makes the topping lumpier, which is good)
Mix all ingredients together, leaving some lumps.

Assemble and Bake

Get a piece of parchment paper a few inches larger than the pan. Lay the parchment paper on the counter, and spread the base dough on it using a couple of tablespoons until it is the size of the bottom of the pan. Place the parchment paper with dough into the pan and push down the sides and corners to make it flat. Spread the streusel over the top.
Bake at 375F for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven. Lift parchment paper with contents and place on a cutting board to cool. Cool about 20 minutes, then cut into 2x3in bars.

Yield: 18 bars about 3/4in thick.