I don’t know why it is, or if you have the same feelings, but some fruit desserts seem very personal to me. A fruit crisp or buckle seems to be my very own private dessert. In the picture at the bottom, the buckle really is private because Rose Levy Beranbaum baked them off individually. In our picture at the top, Suzen and I followed Rose’s recipe in her new book The Baking Bible. The whole buckle goes into one 9‑inch round pan.
A crisp versus a buckle? The crisp is the one with a crumb topping. The buckle, the dessert featured here, has a topping of cake batter that bakes on top. These are but two of the array of American desserts that come with rather offsetting names. There are also grunts and slumps and cobblers. Here’s a link to a discussion about all these treats and what they mean. But I must tell you that if you research, you won’t find consistency. Rose has this buckle with the cake baked on top. Others put the cake batter on the bottom and let it “buckle” up and through the fruit as it bakes.
Definitions and techniques and debates aside, all the desserts in the class of fruit treats deserve your attention. And, with summer blueberry season at its peak, now is the time to surrender to your temptations. Yes, folks, just buckle and make this. You will thank Rose. And you will want your own copy of The Baking Bible.
Yield: serves 8 to 12, Rose claims, but she’s wrong
For the blueberry filling:
2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup superfine sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of sea salt
4 cups fresh blueberries [frozen if you must, but now, in the summer, fresh]
For the batter topping:
2 large eggs yolks at room temperature
⅓ cup sour cream, divided
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup bleached cake flour
½ cup superfine sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
PREHEAT THE OVEN: Thirty minutes or longer before baking, set oven racks at the middle and lowest levels. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Place a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch any bubbling juices.
MAKE THE BLUEBERRY FILLING: In the pie plate, stir together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the blueberries and toss to coat them.
MIX THE LIQUID INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of the sour cream, and the vanilla just until lightly combined.
MAKE THE BATTER TOPPING: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Using a silicone spatula, drop the batter onto the blueberries, leaving a 1 inch border between the batter and the sides of the pie plate and a 2 inch space in the middle.
BAKE THE CAKE: Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted into the center (just into the cake) comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. After 30 minutes, if the top of the cake is browning too much, cover it loosely with aluminum foil that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.
COOL THE CAKE: Let the cake cool in the pie plate on a wire rack until barely warm or room temperature. The flavors blend best when no longer hot.
STORE: Airtight: room temperature, 2 days; refrigerated, 3 days; frozen, 3 months.
Source: The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014]
Photo Information [Top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for1/30th second at ISO‑3200
That top picture may remind you of something you’ve seen in the produce section of your grocery store: a bag of smallish potatoes with a rainbow of colors. What to do with them if you take them home? You cannot bake them and stuff with sour cream, butter, and chives. No, these small ones have a different destiny. They make a great breakfast potato. Combined with just bacon and onion, you have a dish to complete any breakfast table. This dish does take almost an hour from start to finish, so it may not be ideal for a busy workday.
Oh, that’s the solution. Make lots of this on Sunday when you have a little more time. It stores in your fridge and on Monday or Wednesday morning, it can be sizzling hot in just one microwave minute.
No Small Breakfast Potatoes
Yield: 4 servings
5 slices of bacon
About 1 pound of assorted small potatoes
1 medium onion
Salt and pepper
Layer the bacon over the bottom of a large cast iron pan. Cook over medium heat until moderately crisp. Remove the bacon, but leave the pan.
While the bacon has been cooking, wash the potatoes and cut into small pieces, about ¼ inch cubes at the biggest. Peel and dice the onion, also into smallish cubes.
After the bacon is removed from your pan, add the onions to the cast iron pan with its hot bacon grease. Cook the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 7 minutes.
Add the potatoes to the pan, stir to mix, and cook until the potatoes are tender. This will take 20-30 minutes. During the process, the onion pieces are going to blacken and caramelize. That’s flavor being added.
Add salt and pepper to your satisfaction. Eat to your satisfaction, too. The leftovers are even better. You may want some Worcestershire or hot sauce to provide some zip on Monday morning.
Source: Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information [both pictures]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for1/50th second at ISO‑640
Nancy Baggett has a love affair with cookies. Somewhere in my collection, I do have my copy of The International Cookie Cookbook form 1988. And I know I have Simply Sensational Cookies form 2012. Somewhere.
What I do have in my hand now is The All-American Cookie Book from 2001. I’m not just putting this book down. It’s going onto one of those shelves Suzen and I have for the “where the hell is it” cookbooks that drive us nuts. We have a lot cookbooks, perhaps 4,000 now. And we keep them in one of eight sets of shelves over five floors in two residences. [It’s a bad situation and we’re looking for some iPad app to let us finally catalog everything. If you do know of one, please let me know.]
In the meantime, I will guard The All-American Cookie Book as if it were precious. Actually, it is precious.
Over ten chapters, Nancy guides you to cookie nirvana. She is both an excellent writer and a real baker, someone whose recipes and guidance you can trust. Just follow along with her, and in a few minutes you’ll have a warm treat in your mouth.
Unless you make the Rocky Road Brownies, which have to refrigerate overnight. Look for a post after they emerge from my fridge!
Here’s a tour of this lovely and still very important book.
Chapter 1 is How to Make Great Cookies Every Single Time. Nancy has this title with an added note in red type: Read This. It’s only elevenpages but there are great lessons here for you. Lesson Number One? Measure, Don’t Guess.
Chapter 2 is devoted to Sugar Cookies and Shortbreads. My grandmother lived with us and she was pure Scotch. So, I grew up on these cookies:
Nineteenth-Century Sugar Cookies [from 1834]
Carolina Stamped Shortbread
Caramel-Frosted Sugar Cookies
Chapter 3 deals with what everyone knows is the definition of cookie, Chocolate and White Chocolate Chip Cookies. Here you’ll be introduced to new flavor ideas that Nancy believes will entertain you:
Chewy Chocolate Chunk Monster Cookies
Oregon Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
White Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
Tutti-Frutti Chocolate Fruitcake Drops
What could be a more natural followup that Chapter 4 with Chocolate and Mocha Cookies. Do you relish mocha? Then consider:
The First Chocolate Cookie [from 1832]
Brownies, Blondies and Other Bar Cookies abound in Chapter 5. There are 25 recipes here and everyone is something that you’ll want to sample. The book has, to this point, been directed to us chocoholics but now Nancy is writing for the rest of the population:
No-Bake Peanut Butter-Chocolate Crunch Bars
Strawberry-Rhubarb Streusel Bars
Maple Nut Bars
That non-chocolate theme extends in Chapter 6 with Fruit, Pumpkin and Carrot Cookies. I’m writing this in August and in the fall I can try:
Mini Apple Stack Cakes
Kentucky Bourbon Fruitcake Cookies
Pumpkin Rocks with Cream-Cheese Frosting
Spiced Cranberry-Apricot Icebox Cookies
I know, nuts are a problem. The rise of nut allergies among our kids is a mystery and a tragedy. We used to enjoy nuts in our baking far more. The recipes in Nut and Peanut Cookies will tell you why:
Peanut Brittle Cookies
Pecan Praline Wafer
Praline Meringue Puffs
Maple Pecan Sandwich Cookies
If “healthy” is a byword for you, then Chapter 8 with Oat, Coconut, and Sesame Seed Cookies is just for you:
Soft-Raisin Oatmeal Drop Cookies
Honey Currant Oatmeal Cookies
Chewy Coconut Wafers
Best Benne Seed Wafers
In the fall, Suzen and I often turned good old-fashioned spice cookies. Here is the perfect chapter for us, Ginger, Spice, and Molasses Cookies:
Old-Fashioned Glazed Molasses Cookies
Sour Cream Hermits
The book concludes with Chapter 10 offering Cooking Decorating and Crafts. You need to see the book to admire Nancy’s Stained Glass and Light Catcher Cookies. It turns out that, yes, a cookie can be a work of art.
There is only one problem with this book: start to scan through it, and you are going to feel overwhelmed. You’ll want to bake everything. Be calm. Be patient. Remember how people took a year to go through Dorie’s Around My French Table? Okay, take a year. A cookie every couple of days. It’s an amazing and exceptional book. It was deservedly an IACP winnerin 2011. Guard your copy well.