The word is often confused with “strudel” here in the States, but they’re not even close to the same thing. Strudel is of course a type of layered pastry that hails from Austria. Streusel is a crumb topping that was first popularized in Germany. The word itself means “scattered” or “sprinkled”, or more literally “strewn.” A classic streusel is a mixture of flour, white sugar and soft butter, sometimes with a little cinnamon mixed in. It’s a nice way to add sweetness, richness and texture to a cake. Now me, I like a little more pizazz in a streusel, so I gravitate to recipes that contain nuts and brown sugar. Sorta like this:
3 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
3 ounces (1/2 cup minus two tablespoons) brown sugar (light or dark)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) softened butter
3 ounces (3/4 cup) walnuts or pecans
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
a few drops vanilla extract
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor…
…and pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
I should emphasize that this recipe is really only a rough guide. For my coffeecake I used extra pecans because I wanted to use up the bag. That made the streusel not only a little darker in color but a bit more crumbly. Some people like a little more butter, some less. All I can say is — experiment! Streusel keeps very well at room temperature for a few days or in the fridge for a few weeks.
VARIATION: For a lighter streusel, for Danish or kolache or coffee cakes, use this recipe:
2.5 ounces (1/2 cup) flour
3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) packed brown sugar
2 ounces (1/2 stick) soft butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Combine all together in a bowl and work by hand into a crumbly topping.