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Make This Easy Streusel and You’re Halfway to Dessert

Usually a supporting player, this crumbly, buttery topping gets its chance to shine in desserts and baked treats.

October/November 2017 Issue
Featured in our 2017 Christmas Guide
photo: Scott Phillips
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I fell in love with streusel—that delicious mix of butter, sugar, and flour often found on crumb cake—when I was a pastry cook at Gramercy Tavern in New York City. One of our popular desserts was a fruit crisp. While the seasonal fruit was always a hit, our customers went wild for the crunchy, nutty, cinnamon-spiked streusel, a perfect complement to the warm baked filling. Streusel’s deliciousness needn’t be limited to fruit crisp and crumb cake, however. Because it’s so versatile, streusel—a German word meaning sprinkle—has become one of my baking staples. It’s the perfect crunchy, buttery element to add to cookies, muffins, or even an ice cream sundae.

Making streusel is easy. It’s just a matter of pouring melted butter into a flour and sugar mixture, then stirring briefly to moisten. You need only one bowl to make a batch, whether by hand or with a mixer.

It’s also a great make-ahead item. I prepare big batches of streusel and always have bags of it in my freezer. That kind of time-saver is huge at any point in the year, but especially during the holidays. I’m never too far away from a batch of jam-filled bar cookies or a coffee cake.

Streusel is also versatile, both in flavor and in how it’s featured. I’m sharing three of my favorite streusels here: Marcona almond; cardamom, cocoa, and cacao nib; and coconut and macadamia. They all have a flour-and-oat base, but each one pops with its own distinctive flavor. They are all sweet, of course, but I balance that with a briny hit of salt for contrast. In a couple of recipes, I also call for the streusel to be baked so that it’s nice and crisp before it’s incorporated with the rest of the ingredients.

The streusel variations are interchangeable among the recipes featured here, so feel free to mix and match to enjoy your favorite flavors. It won’t take you long to realize streusel is more than just a crumb topping.

Using Leftover Streusel

Because the streusel recipes make more than you need for these desserts, you’re going to have leftover streusel. This is a good thing. Here are some ideas for enjoying it:

  • Sprinkle unbaked streusel on top of quickbread batter before baking.
  • Roll up unbaked streusel in your favorite sticky bun dough.
  • Use baked streusel in place of granola in a yogurt parfait for breakfast.
  • Garnish a frosted cake or cupcakes with baked streusel crumbs
  • Crumble baked streusel over a dish of your favorite pudding.
  • Eat baked streusel as a snack.

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