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~ My All-Purpose PA Dutch-Style Streusel Topping ~

IMG_4344A buttery-rich, cripsy streusel topping is one of my favorite things.  I like it because it is both sweet and savory, which makes it very adaptable.  I grew up in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, "PA Deutsch Country" -- "the land of apple desserts"  Everyone who baked used streusel to top tart fruit pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  A neighbor of ours, Agnes, who baked a few times a week, would mix up a big bowl of her streusel topping and keep it on hand in the refrigerator all week -- which if you have a lot of baking to do at any time is very convenient!

You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We say Pennsylvania Deutsch!

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcafef88970bI am here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch-style cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern German to avoid religious persecution and established several communities in the Lehigh Valley.  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an offical "state" religion. Pennsylvania.  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life?  You betcha!

Pennsylvania-Deutsch-Style Streusel Topping:

Streusel (STROO-zuhl) is the German word for "something scattered, strewn or sprinkled".  In baking, it is a crumbly topping for pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  It is basically a mixture of four ingredients (flour, sugar, butter and salt), but, it is not uncommon to find aromatic spices (cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg) and/or uncooked oats or chopped nuts added to it.  Streusel is especially good on tart pies (apple, cherry, peach or rhubarb) where sweet and savory, rather than a mundane top crust, is a welcome, flavor-enhancing addition.  Streusel is also one of a baker's best kept secrets.  On a day where you don't have a lot of time for pie pastry making, or, you find yourself with an overabundance of ingredients, in less than five minutes, two pie pastries transform into two pies and no one is the wiser for it or disappointed by it.

Personally, I prefer a streusel-topped pie to a two-crust pie almost always.  If you are a regular reader of Kitchen Encounters, you know I've shared several recipes that use streusel topping. Depending upon what I am baking, I vary the following recipe to suit my needs:  sometimes I use nuts, sometimes I don't.  Some times I use oats, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I use all cinnamon, other times, I add cloves or nutmeg too.  Click on any of the Related Article links below for examples of what I am saying:  use this recipe as a guide -- it will never let you down!

IMG_43066  tablespoons cold, salted butter, cut into cubes or slices

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned oats, not quick-cooking or instant

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  cup coarsely-chopped walnuts or pecans (Note:  I do not add nuts for cherry or rhubarb pies but do for apple and peach pie!)

IMG_4311 IMG_4321 IMG_4324~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, using a pastry blender and a sharp knife, "cut" the butter into the sugar, flour and cinnamon.

IMG_4332Stop "cutting" when it resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs.

Note:  If you want to add other spices, instead of just cinnamon, one of my favorite combinations is:

3/4  teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

~ Step 2.  Coarsely chop the nuts as directed.  They should be about the same size as the pieces of butter.

IMG_4337Note:  Do not use or be inclined to try using toasted or lightly-toasted nuts.  Streusel topping is always sprinkled on something that is going to be baked in the oven. Even the slightest bit of toasting will cause the nuts to burn before your dessert fully-bakes.

IMG_4340~ Step 3. Gently fold the nuts into the delicate, softening butter IMG_4438mixture.  You don't want to smash the butter pieces.

~ Step 4.  Sprinkle onto pies, coffeecakes and/or muffins, just prior to baking and bake as directed in specific recipe.

Note:  If baking more than one pie, coffeecake or batch of muffins, never, sprinkle the streusel topping on until whatever it is, is ready for the oven.  The moisture from the fruit filling or cake batter will start to dissolve the sugar  immediately and always affect the end result.

A streusel-topped pie ready for the oven:

IMG_4466A streusel-topped pie out of the oven:

IMG_4477My All-Purpose PA Dutch-Style Streusel Topping:  Recipe yields enough streusel topping for 1, 9"-10" pie, coffeecake or 1 dozen standard-sized muffins.

Special Equipment List:  pastry blender; paring knife; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b016303dc1dd1970dCook's Note:  In the event you are using a a recipe that instructs you, for whatever reason, to top your baked goods, before or after baking, with toasted or lightly-toasted nuts or seeds (including pumpkin seeds), for instructions, click into Category 15 to read my post: ~ How to:  Roast/Toast Nuts & Some Seeds ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


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