April 11, 2013

Grocery Aisle Memories

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We all have memories of running errands with our parents when we were young. Of little legs dangling over booster seats as our seatbelts tried to choke us to death. Of being at the mercy of our parents’ choice of radio station (in my case, the 99.1 WFMK “Lite Rock, Less Talk” program that played all the ’70s and ’80s music that my mother loves so much). Of breathing in stale, stuffy air as our parents picked up clothes from the dry cleaner’s or dropped off a last-minute package at the post office.

But the one errand that I never minded was the weekly grocery-shopping trip. (I probably should have realized back then that I’d end up a foodie.)

I often wasn’t particularly useful with actually helping my family pick out groceries for the week. I usually just spent a lot of the time wandering around the store, tapping the tank that held lethargic lobsters or shivering in the frozen foods aisle as I’d admire the cartons of different ice cream flavors behind foggy glass doors.

I soon learned, however, that if I stayed near my parents and helped them find items on our grocery list, I had a better chance of convincing them to buy an extra treat that wasn’t on the list. And one of my favorite treats was an Entenmann’s or Freihofer’s crumb coffee cake with cream cheese filling. This coffee cake was my first foray into the world of desserts beyond traditional cookies and sheet cakes. Best of all, its designation as a “coffee cake” somehow made it perfectly acceptable to eat at any time of the day — breakfast, post-dinner dessert, afternoon snack. (No luck trying to convince my parents that there was such a thing as a “breakfast cookie.”)

When I bought a copy of The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook and saw that the authors had created a breakfast bun recipe inspired by Freihofer’s crumb cake, I instantly knew that I had to make the recipe. I like that Magnolia Bakery’s version is just sweet enough; it fulfills your sweet-tooth craving without being too cloying. And while my first attempt to make these breakfast buns didn’t turn out perfectly, I know that I’ll make these again whenever I have a cream-cheese pastry craving.

And I won’t even have to endure stuffy car air or “Lite Rock, Less Talk” to fulfill it.

Cream Cheese Crumb Buns

(Recipe from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)


For the cream cheese filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 large egg yolk, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Crumb Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup light brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup solid vegetable shortening

½ cup sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup milk

Nonstick baking spray


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Use nonstick baking spray to grease 12 muffin tins. (This recipe will yield about 12 muffins, depending on how much you fill each muffin tin.)In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Set aside.

3. For the filling: Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy in a medium-size bowl. Add sugar, egg yolk and vanilla. Beat well and set aside.

4. For the topping: Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat shortening and granulated sugar together with the mixer of your choice on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredient mixture and milk in two parts, alternating the two and beating until well incorporated. Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for ten minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, remove pan from oven. Working quickly and carefully (this is the tricky part), place one tablespoon of cream cheese filling in the center of each muffin. Press down gently with the back of the spoon.

6. Sprinkle crumb topping over the cream cheese and cover the entire top of the bun, but keep the crumb topping within each muffin tin.

7. Return pan to oven and bake for another 13 minutes.

8. Allow buns to cool for 30 minutes before serving. Eat them for breakfast … or for dessert … or for an afternoon snack … or whenever you feel like it, really.

Original Author: Elizabeth Young