Suzi's Blog

Blueberry Crumb Cake from Michele Stuart

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“What was that?” I asked Suzen.

My wife’s head popped up. I ate a blueberry and added “I thought I saw something over there.” I nodded towards the far end of the blueberry field, which ends in hills and forest. Home to bears.

“Don’t go there,” Suzen said. She claims I tease her too much. I just think I am toughening her up for real life encounters. Bears run at 30 MPH. It is not the claws or teeth that kill you. It’s the impact. You have to, like a Boy Scout, be prepared.

“Probably nothing,” I commented. I don’t believe in explicit torture of my wife.

Suzen said something to me but this is a family blog. Let’s just say it was terse and involved verbs and something I physically am incapable of undertaking.

As with many things.

We did return home with an abundance of blueberries and no bears or even official bear sightings [I did see a branch move out there so …]. Our berries were as fresh as possible and ready to use. I’d found this recipe for Blue Berry Crumb Cake in Michele Stuart’s Perfect Pies and More. I admit my first instinct is just to make a pie when I open Michele’s books. But the “… and More” book has an avalanche of dessert ideas that are non-pie.

This soft, rich cake with a dense crumb topping is one of those non-pie ideas sure to grab your attention. While designed around berries, Michele suggests you can bake away without any berries at all or, better, substitute your fresh fruit de jour. The operative word is “fresh.” If you have ever tasted one of Michele’s splendid baked goods, then you have seen the proof that nothing can surpass fresh ingredients.

This recipe is unusual in that it calls for salted butter. We used unsalted. And, when I tried to pour out the milk, it really proved to be past its prime. We substituted buttermilk, remembering to add ½ teaspoon of baking soda, a necessity when buttermilk is in the mix.

Our changes may have had modest changes in the texture of the cake, but our version was lovely. And we’ll revisit this recipe during the summer, trying other fruits and having real, fresh milk on hand.

 

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Yield: enough for 12 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Cinnamon Sugar Crumb Topping [see yesterday’s post]
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ pound [2 sticks] salted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen [fresh is better!]
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, whipped cream or ice cream for topping [optional]

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9 X 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

To prepare the batter, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder. Use a pastry blender to blend the butter into the flour mixture until it forms pea-sized pieces. Remove 1 ½ cups of the flour mixture and add it to the cinnamon sugar crumb topping and toss well to fully combine.

Transfer the remaining flour mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium speed and add the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Mix until combined. Fold the blueberries into the cake batter. Spoon the cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter.

To bake, place the baking dish on a baking sheet and place the sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow the cake to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

To serve, dust the top of the cake with sifted confectioners’ sugar. Or no sugar. Or whipped cream or ice cream.

The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days when tightly wrapped with plastic wrap.

 

Sources: Perfect Pies and More by Michele Stuart

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/60th second at ISO-200

 

 

 

 

 

Fudgy Walnut Brownie Cookies from One Bowl Baking

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Cookies are part of our lives. Almost from the start. You don’t eat cookies, now, at all? Ever?

What about when you were teething decades ago? You got a cookie/cracker to gnaw on. There were animal crackers with milk at school. And everybody has at least one Oreo in their life. There just cannot be such a thing as an Oreo virgin. Okay, if you are allergic to chocolate, you may have escaped the Oreo but surely your life’s path was paved, in part, with cookie crumbs.

Given their ubiquitiness, we all can appreciate the range of quality we’ve encountered. Mostly okay, some good, but in truth just a few can be labeled great. How do you know a great cookie? At first bite. There’s just something there. Like that girl across the room.

So, this cookie, from One Bowl Baking, is deservedly in that love at first bite category. This is a great, exceptional, wonderful cookie.

Author Yvonee Ruperti compares this cookie to a brownie and calls it that, too. There is a brownie flavor and texture, I admit, but I think this cookie is more. I love soft chocolate cookies and I love thin cookies [and thick ones too]. The issue is that softness is often correlated with that thickness. It is hard to fashion a cookie that is both soft and thin. Most often, the baking process just naturally turns thin cookies into firm wafers.

Not here. The brilliance of this recipe is the ratio of sugar to flour and the placing of the cookies on the baking sheet. In a standard brownie recipe, the ratio of sugar to flour is typically 2:1. Here it is 1:1. The cookie dough is shaped into balls, about the size of a golf ball, and when baking starts they don’t immediately collapse. But over time, with that extra flour, the cookies gracefully settle in thin rounds.

When you bite one, it is soft, succulent and just chocolaty enough to make you sigh in pleasure.

The recipe says you get twelve 3½ inch cookies. You do. That batter spreads. So you have to exercise care in spreading the cookies out on the baking sheet. They will truly cover, if not dominate, every square inch of a half sheet pan. If your oven will accommodate a full sheet pan, that is that safer route. If you use a half sheet and some of the cookies spread into each other, I’m afraid the only solution is to take those misfits, eat them, and bake another batch.

I said this cookie was exceptionally good. Not perfect.

The premise of One Bowl Baking is to achieve superior products with minimum mess. That’s exactly what occurs with this recipe. If you have a child or grandchild who has been cookie deprived, this is a wonderful way to cook with them and show them what wonders can be achieved in your own kitchen.

The title has “walnut” in it. As usual, personal preference went to pecans. Our portfolio probably includes pecan stocks.

 

Fudgy Walnut Brownie Cookies

 

Yield: twelve 3½ inch rounds

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (7 ounces or 200 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup walnuts (3 ounces or 85 grams), chopped, divided [pecans or other nuts can be readily substituted]

 

Preparation:

Place an oven rack in the middle position.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large heatproof bowl heat the butter and chocolate to just melted, stirring frequently.

Stir in the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the eggs, one a time, until completely mixed in.

Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl, then stir to combine. Stir in half of the chopped walnuts.

Scoop the batter into 12 balls, spacing evenly on the pan. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the t op of each cookie.

Bake until the cookies are puffed, cracked, and barely set, about 8 minutes. Do not overbake.

Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

Sources: One Bowl Baking by Yvonne Ruperti

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/10th second at ISO-3200