In the Heat of the Night (BBB August 2018)

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Bread Baking Babes August 2018 summary: recipe for Yeasted Blueberry Coffee Cake; brioche; hot weather baking; information about Bread Baking Babes;

At ten minutes to three in the morning, the city of Wells lay inert, hot and stagnant. Most of its eleven thousand people tossed restlessly; the few who couldn’t sleep at all damned the fact that there was no breeze to lift the stifling effect of the night. The heat of the Carolinas in August hung thick and heavy in the air. – John Ball, In the Heat of the Night

Sigh. Late again. I WAS going to be ontime. I really was.

I blame it on the Dog Days. Even though it isn’t Dog Days yet. It sure is hot enough though. It went up to 31C yesterday. And now, only a few hours into today, it’s still 24C. And stinkingly humid. “Stifling”… “Thick and heavy”…. Make it stop!

But enough (almost) whining, and on to the heart of the matter:

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Yeasted Blueberry Coffee Cake

BBB August 2018

Brioche dough is so soft and silky, I look forward to making it just to enjoy the feel of it under my hands. The finished dough is so full of life it requires constant deflating duing its maturing rest in the refrigerator. […] Do not allow the dough to rise more than the number of times recommended […] or the rise will weaken the sturcture and cause the bread to be heavy.
– Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Bread Bible, p485-486

This month, Judy (Judy’s Gross Eats) chose yeasted blueberry coffee cake for the BBBabes to bake. At first, I imagined I was going to use wild yeast only.

Ha. As if. The heat and humidity got to me. It also made our wild yeast extremely unpredictable.

Happily, we still have some active dry yeast in the fridge. And beautiful wild blueberries in the freezer. I was set!

Except for the heat…. Here’s how things went in OUR kitchen:

BBB Blueberry Coffee Cake diary:

13 July 2018, 15:50 This will be fun! I know that local blueberries will be appearing at the vegetable/fruit store soon, but we are also addicted to the frozen wild blueberries we can get at the supermarket. So, whichever ones are readily available is what we’ll use.

8 August 2018, 13:21 Frozen wild blueberries were on sale at our supermarket. Of course we got some, even though fresh wild blueberries are available at our vegetable/fruit stores. However, we’ve noticed that not only are those fresh blueberries really really really expensive, they are also not as intensely flavoured as the frozen ones.

But. We also saw beautiful fresh, local peaches. Suddenly, I’m thinking we might neeeeeeed to have a peach coffee cake instead of a blueberry one….

10 August 2018, 13:21 We ate all the peaches. :-) They were delicious. So we got some more.

And they aren’t quite as ripe. Now I’m thinking that peach jam really is the way to go to rescue these peaches that were picked just a little too green.

Here’s a great idea!

I am thankful for Farmers’ Markets (where I scored these beautiful Georgia peaches) and friends with gardens (where I scored these picture perfect jalapenos). When peaches and jalapeños meet there is bound to be some sweet spicy love created aka Peach Jalapeño Skillet Jam.
– Libby, Lemony Thyme | Peach Jalapeño Skillet Jam

We don’t have jalapenos but we do have access to the most wonderful hot red peppers that our neighbours have grown (they think they’re too hot and have invited us to help ourselves any time! :-) )

11 August 2018, 15:09 It has been very hot this summer… But at last there has been a little relief. Now that it’s not impossibly hot, I’m thinking about making this either tomorrow or Monday. But I plan to halve the recipe. So.

Large eggs, lightly beaten: 6/12 ounces/340 grams
– BBB August 2018 recipe

Can that be right that half the recipe would be about 3-4 large eggs? Wow. That’s a lot of eggs!

17:23 We went for a bike ride this morning to go to the farmers’ market that takes place by the lake just west of here every Saturday morning. We got a big slab of the most wonderful cheese: “Butterkase” – it’s very similar to Swiss. We also got some gorgeous looking beets with their greens. We asked the vendor if people asked to have the greens cut off. In her Eastern European accent, she said, “yes, of course” and started getting her big knife out. But we were quicker than she and stopped her by asking if we could buy the greens she had cut off earlier this morning. She then asked if it was only the greens we wanted and proceeded to go through the boxes under her table looking for beet greens to give to us! She found a bag that had beet greens and gorgeous looking celery greens, and as she handed them to us. She seemed surprised that we were going to buy any beets at all…. But of course we were going to buy some of her beets!

As we were starting to walk away, she said, “Are you Canadian?? …Canadians NEVER want the greens!”

As we were paying, another woman came up to buy beets for her table. And rats!! She decided to keep her beet greens to herself – after she asked how to cook the greens!

So. For dinner tonight, we will be having baked beets, stir-fried beet greens, corn off the cob, red rice, and barbecued pork shoulder. Followed by peach pie with lime/buttermilk ice cream.

14 August 2018, 17:34 Phooey!! It’s increasingly hot and humid again. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bake this coffee cake a couple of days ago.

I’m also kicking myself that I didn’t really pay attention to the brioche recipe (except to notice that it calls for a ridiculous amount of eggs and to decide to make half). I’ve looked at a number of brioche recipes in our cookbooks and all of them call for making a starter. One of them calls for using wild yeast. But this heat is really playing havoc with our wild yeast – it’s really really wild and unpredictable. So. Commercial yeast it is. T and the heat have decreed it.

Because of all those eggs in this month’s brioche recipe, I’ve made an executive decision to use the brioche recipe from BBB March 2013’s Gateau a la Creme and switch a few of the ingredients to match this month’s brioche (honey instead of sugar, for instance)

I WAS going to make peach jam to put in the coffee cake. But we ate all the peaches. (They were delicious.) So. It’s back to using frozen wild blueberries.

Then I toyed with the idea of using some of the beautiful blackberries from two doors down (our neighbour has urged us to pick as many as we want). But all those seeds are throwing me off…. :stomp:

18:59 The dough is mixed and I’ve already turned it once. It was REALLY sloppy when I was mixing it. And it made me pretty nervous.

But just now, as I was turning it, it was holding its shape pretty nicely. It’s still slack, but not horribly so.

We’ve decided to leave it on the counter over dinner and then into the fridge it goes overnight.

19:14 As we were putting things together for dinner, I looked at the dough. It was half risen already. So I stretched and folded it and stuck it in the fridge.

21:33 It’s half-risen again! In the fridge! Yikes!

It’s alive….

15 August 2018, 07:41 Well! Who knew that would happen? The fridge really did arrest the development of that dough. It’s now in the oven with only the light on.

I made the skillet jam, using just 2 cups frozen wild blueberries (again, I contemplated going to the neighbours’ yard to get some blackberries but even if T hadn’t nixed them for the coffee cake, I don’t think I’d have been able to get quite enough). I eyeballed the sugar and hope I didn’t put in too much. Blueberries are so sweet already that the amount of sugar called for seems high.

As a general rule, I got for ¼ cup sweetener for every two cups (1 pint) of berries-adjusting for their ripeness, of course. You can also add a squeeze of citrus juice to help bring out the flavors and brighten it up-plus any other spices or herbs that you wish to flavor the jam with.
Rochelle Bilow, Bon Appétit | You Should Make Your Own Jam This Morning. No, Really

I also made the Streusel, congratulating myself for deciding to grate the hard butter just out of the fridge. THAT certainly makes things easier!

09:05 Oh oh. So much for baking the bread in the cool of the morning…. The dough still hasn’t budged and remains in its tight ball from last night!

09:43 Whoohooo!! It has risen and it’s time to shape. Being the disobedient BBBabe that I am, I rolled out 4 layers of dough rather than 3. Because having just two layers of blueberry doesn’t seem like enough.

Oops. I made too much Streusel topping. I’ll have to go next door to get a few blackberries to make blackberry crumble….

10:45 Already, the coffee cake looks like it’s ready to bake.

BBB Yeasted Coffee Cake

And I see that I wasn’t supposed to put the Streusel on top yet. Nor was I supposed to put all the blueberry sludge between the layers – I was supposed to put some on top. So much for my improved reading skills….

Divide the dough into 3 pieces, shape them into balls and then roll out into disks that will fit comfortably into the springform pan. […] Lay one of the disks into the pan. Cover with 1/3 of the jam, spreading out, but not quite to the edges. Repeat this with the remaining two disks of dough and jam. […] Add the streusel to the pan just before baking, otherwise it will get soggy from the jam.
– BBB Blueberry Coffee Cake Recipe

11:09 The blueberry coffee cake and the little bowl of blackberry crumble are in the oven now. I can’t believe how tall the cake is! I sure hope it holds that amazing loft.

11:54 It smells fabulous! It looks even more fabulous!! I can’t wait until it has cooled and it’s time to cut it open.

12:15 What??? Why is it sinking in the middle?!

13:18 I was sure that at least one of our books had troubleshooting sections about why cake and/or brioche might sink in the middle. But I can’t find the images anywhere! Not even in “If It Doesn’t Pan Out” or “Joy of Cooking”!

But thank goodness for the internet:

One of the reasons bread might drop during the cooling process, or even while it’s still in the oven, is a lack of gluten development. This can happen if you’re not kneading the dough well enough to create gluten development, or if your flour just doesn’t have enough gluten to begin with. […] [A]dd a small quantity of pure vital gluten along with the rest of your dry ingredients.
Using too much yeast can also cause your bread to fall, by helping it rise too enthusiastically. […] [T]he gluten might not be strong enough to support this high and fluffy structure once it cools. A similar problem can occur if you leave the bread to rise for too long. It will expand in the oven, but the gluten becomes weak from over-fermenting and can’t keep the bread at its maximum height.
[I]t might be that [your oven] is running too hot. Your bread would brown and look perfectly baked, but not be fully cooked in the middle. That doughy section collapses as it cools, and your bread sinks. You can improve the odds by testing your bread with an instant-read thermometer, until it shows an internal temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooling the bread too rapidly after it comes out of the oven can also be problematic. The bread must cool gently so its starches have time to firm up or “set” in their fully risen condition. If the loaf is in a cold draft, its air pockets will shrink before the starches can do that and the net result will be a fallen loaf.
– Fred Decker, our everyday life | Why Does Bread Drop in the Middle When Cooling?

Aha!! So THAT’S why Lien told us to use bread flour for the brioche back in March 2013. I even had a note telling me to add vital wheat gluten (that I decided to ignore yesterday – because I’m an expert and I know everything about bread making so I don’ need no stinkin’ vital wheat gluten in my brioche dough!)

Duh. Of course, it could be that the brioche dough over-rose. After all, it is horribly hot right now. It’s around 31C outside and disgustingly humid. I don’t want to know what the temperature in the kitchen is. It’s too depressing….

BBB Yeasted Coffee Cake
BBB August 2017
Yeasted Blueberry Coffee Cake

We left the coffee cake to cool on the counter and then had it for afternoon coffee break. It was still a little warm inside (the coffee cake – it was a LOT warm inside the house…).

T loved it. But I have to be honest. For me, it is just a little bit too sweet. And maybe a tiny bit on the eggy side.

It reminds me of plum duff. I can hear Mum’s voice saying to my sister after she said (on multiple occasions) that she didn’t like it: “Don’t be silly. It’s just like cake on top!”

So, with that in mind, I will listen to the echos of Mum’s words. It IS just like cake on top! I think it might be perfect for dessert with some plain yoghurt to cut the sweetness.

BBB August 2018

Oh yes, and the blackberry crumble? It is delicious! Maybe a little puddingy on top, but delicious. Now I’m really glad that I didn’t read the coffee cake recipe correctly. We love how crispy (but not too crispy) the crumble top is.

Many thanks for this fun choice, Judy! Next time, I’ll bite the bullet and use our Jane Mason starter to make the brioche. And maybe, if there are any lurking on the neighbours’ bushes, I’ll sneak some blackberries into the jam. :-)

Here is the BBB recipe for Blueberry Yeasted Coffee Cake that we were given. And here is what I did to it:

Blueberry Yeasted Coffee Cake
based on Zoë François’ recipe in “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”

for 1 smallish coffee cake


  • 150 gm unsalted butter
  • 90gm water, boiling
  • 1 Tbsp powdered milk
  • 25 gm honey
  • 5gm active dry yeast
  • 25gm whole wheat flour
  • 225gm unbleached all purpose flour
  • 7gm wheat germ
  • 5 gm Kosher salt (see salt is salt, right?)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature

Blueberry Skillet Jam

  • 2 c frozen wild blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 c sugar

Streusel Topping (enough for 2 coffee cakes)

  • 1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c golden brown sugar
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  1. mixing brioche: In the afternoon before you will be baking the coffee cake, cut the butter into smallish pieces and put it into the bottom of a largish mixing bowl. Pour boiling overtop to melt the butter.
  2. Whisk in milk powder and honey. Before adding the yeast, check the temperature of the butter mixture by putting a drop of liquid on the inside of your wrist. It should feel like nothing at all. Whisk in the yeast.
  3. Whisk in the eggs.
  4. Dump in the flours, wheat germ, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir briskly. Stir. Stir. Stir. Kind of freak out that it’s so liquid – like thick batter. Keep beating, thinking about the fact that this is coffee cake, so it’s supposed to be like thick batter…. Keep beating a little longer.
  5. Get tired of stirring and decide to rely on “stretch and fold”.
  6. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes. Notice that it’s not quite so much like batter and is more like loose dough. Really loose dough.
  7. stretching and folding: Run your dough-working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat about 8 times. You’ll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover the bowl with a plate again and leave on the counter for another 30 minutes or so.
  8. Repeat the above step twice.
  9. After one more stretch and fold, put the bowl in the fridge to stay there overnight.
  10. About an hour after the dough has gone in the fridge, take a look at the dough. Freak out mildly that it has doubled in the fridge. Gently stretch and fold it again, noting that it really is like dough now.
  11. Stop freaking out and rest easy, knowing that you’ll be baking the coffee cake early the next morning before it gets really hot again.
  12. making skillet jam: On the morning of the day you will be baking the coffee cake, put the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice into a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the mixture is thick like honey and you can see the bottom of the pot for a few seconds before the berries cover it again. Pour into a small bowl and allow to cool on the counter.
  13. mixing Streusel topping: Whisk flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a smallish mixing bowl. Grate the butter overtop, then gently stir it into the flour mixture. Cover with a plate and set aside.
  14. putting it all together: Line a small spring-form pan (7 inch) with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge and be amazed that it hasn’t budged overnight. Put the bowl into the oven with only the light turned on until it doubles. Be relieved that this only takes about an hour and that the dough is still cool. Turn it out onto a lightly floured board and cut it into four pieces.
  15. Roll each piece into a disc large enough to fit in the pan. Lay the first disc in the pan. Spoon a third of the blueberry jam onto the disc and spread it almost to the edges with the back of the spoon. Lay the second disc on top and spread the second third of the jam overtop. Repeat with the third disc. Lay the fourth disc on top and, instead of spreading it with jam, liberally cover it with Streusel topping. Realize that you made the full recipe of Streusel topping and judiciously decide to leave some of it in the bowl to make a small bowl of blackberry crumble.
  16. Cover the spring form pan with a shower hat and leave in the oven with only the light on for about an hour.
  17. baking: Take the now well-risen coffee cake out of the oven and put it on the counter. Turn the oven to 350F. While the oven is heating up, race over to the neighbours’ garden to get a little bowl of ripe blackberries. Wash them and put them into a small pyrex dish, along with some sugar. How much sugar? Imagine Mum’s voice: Oh, I don’t know… enough. How much is enough? Again, imagine Mum’s voice: Don’t be silly. Just put in some until it seems right. Cover the top with the rest of the Streusel topping.
  18. Put the coffee cake and blackberry crumble onto a cookie sheet and bake on an upper shelf of the oven (to prevent burning on the bottom) for about 45 minutes, until the blackberries are bubbling furiously and a meat thermometer put horizontally into the top layer of the coffee cake reads around 200F.
  19. resting: Put the coffee cake onto a rack and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan. Continue to allow the coffee cake to cool. It’s still baking inside!


:: Flour: To prevent the coffee cake from sinking in the center after it has finished baking, it’s probably a good idea to add a little vital wheat gluten (say about 10gm) to help strengthen the dough.

:: Proofing the shaped cake: If it’s particularly warm in the kitchen, check earlier rather than later to ensure that the coffee cake hasn’t over-risen.


Yesterday morning (on the 16th – the day I THOUGHT I was going to post about this), we cut two wedges and served them with thin slices of Butterkäse and large cups of strong café au lait. We sat out on the porch, wondering why we live in a place that gets so ridiculously hot in summer and equally ridiculously cold in winter. What on earth is wrong with us? :stomp: :stomp:

But at least we had blueberry coffee cake. Our next-door neighbour was sitting on her porch with her son, waiting for his ride to hockey camp. We gave them wedges of coffee cake too. What could be better?

BBB August 2018

Bread Baking Babes

Bread Baking Babes August 2018Yeasted Blueberry Coffeecake

Judy is hosting August 2018’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

Here’s my offering for August, taking advantage of the summer fruit bounty (if possible) and making components ahead of time to fit into busy schedules. (You didn’t hear me say this, but it could also be a reverse reaction to all the healthy breads.)
Yeasted Blueberry Coffee Cake […] [with] fresh or frozen wild blueberries […] You are welcome to experiment with other fruits.
Have a slice!
– Judy, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make yeasted coffee cake too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the bread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 August 2018. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ August 2018 Coffee Cake.


The Girl: I’m just not made for the heat. This is my first summer in New York and it’s practically killing me. You know what I tried yesterday? I tried to sleep in the bathtub. Just lying there up to my neck in cold water…
Maybe if I took the little fan, put it in the icebox, then left the icebox door open, then left the bedroom door open, and soak the sheets and pillowcase in ice water…
– Billy Wilder, Seven Year Itch

10 responses to “In the Heat of the Night (BBB August 2018)

  1. Judy Hunt

    I so enjoy reading your write-ups — it’s always an adventure! I also contemplated using peaches, but, like you, ate them all. Because peaches, like strawberries, are so seasonal, I usually prefer just to eat them, unadulterated, rather than add other ingredients. Four layers? I wondered why your coffee cake was so tall! Thanks for baking with me.

    1. ejm Post author

      Thank you, Judy!

      Ha!! The only reason I used 4 layers instead of 3 was because I remembered that your coffee cake had three layers of blueberry. (I just didn’t remember that one of the blueberry layers was supposed to be on top….)

      I’m definitely with you on the peaches. Although, I have also used them to make terrific peach lassis (yoghurt and peach shakes). And pie. Everyone needs at least one seaonal peach pie.

  2. Karen

    You sure got a tall coffee cake! Looks delicious with that extra layer. Mine sunk a bit in the middle too, but I’m just pretending it’s supposed to do that.

    edit: I must admit that I was quite relieved to see I wasn’t alone with the sinking middle. -Elizabeth

    1. ejm Post author

      I wouldn’t have thought anything of the sunken center if it had come out of the oven that way, Karen. But the loft was so wonderful for at least 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven.

      T thinks the sinking happened because of the high humidity (air humidity AND the addition of all those blueberries).

  3. Katie Zeller

    That is a lovely (tall) coffee cake. But you’re complaining at 31C? We had 35, 37, 35, 36, 37 last weekend,,,, 31 would have been lovely. Of course we don’t get the humidity. Still too hot to turn the oven on. Or go for a bike ride.

    edit: Yes. I’m complaining, Katie. Bitterly. :stomp: If the night temperatures would only go below 20C, I wouldn’t say a word. Or maybe I would still complain a little, if the neighbours were still blasting their AC so it’s impossible to sit on the front porch to gather the tiny breaths of breeze. (35Cto37C sounds dreadful.) -Elizabeth

    1. ejm Post author

      Thank you, Kelly. I only wish the blueberry layers had stayed horizontal.

      (We got 3 dinners-worth out of all those beet greens! Delicious!)

  4. Elle

    As always your journey to a finished baked creation is a fun read. Sorry that it is so hot and humid…we’ve been having the hot, but not the humid, for which I’m grateful. Love that you used frozen blueberries because they have a stronger flavor profile than fresh (and are a little less expensive…why are fresh blueberries so expensive??). Love the height that you have on your coffee cake and also that excerpt telling why bread falls. Love the story of the beet and celery greens. Surely Canadiens eat beet greens. They are delicious. Wishing you cooler days, soon!

    1. ejm Post author

      Thank you, Elle. It’s very kind of you to say that my verbose report is fun. The heat and humidity really get to me. Mercifully, there was a massive rainstorm today. I can’t tell yet if it has offered the relief we’re hoping for but it does seem not quite so oppressive. Here’s hoping that you too get a break in the heat there.

      I guess that fresh blueberries are more expensive than frozen because they are so fragile. But how wonderful that we can get the frozen ones. (I definitely would have used our neighbours’ blackberries if only I could figure out how to easily remove the seeds. The blackberry crisp was delicious but it was a little trying to wonder whether to swallow the pips or discreetly spit them out.)

      We were as surprised as you about the question from the beet vendor. And of course Canadians eat beet greens! But she is right. It wasn’t the first time that we have been presented with free beet greens because others had rejected them. There have been numerous occasions that people have stared at us and then as they buy their beets, asked how to cook the greens. Bizarre, isn’t it?

  5. Your sister

    “Just like cake on top” indeed. Now I understand why I didn’t like it. It was just like EGGY cake.
    As always, a thrilling saga!

    edit: This time round, because there is so much butter and egg in the brioche, I finally understood your aversion! But almost immediately, I heard Mum’s voice saying, “Don’t be silly!” and ate up. -E :-)


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