Suzi's Blog

Blueberry Crumb Cake from Michele Stuart

wc-2014_06_22_2310

 

“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

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel or Dolce de Leche

wc-IMG_5952

Good food is edible. Great food is edible art. Such is the story of this cookie which could double as a gem in Madison Avenue storefront. If you have a sweet tooth, if you love coconut, then this cookie is for you. Small coconut balls are given a thumbprint impression, then baked. The indent is filled with one of two things: salted caramel [the original recipe] or dolce de leche [Suzen’s favorite].

To make dolce de leche, you can simple cook a can of sweetened condensed milk cover in water in a saucepan. When, as Suzen does, you are making dolce de leche for 50 people, all burners are active. Our kitchen becomes a production line.

This cookie is quite versatile. For dessert on a warm summer weekend night, when the barbeque dishes are not yet digested and you just want a tiny touch of dessert, then this cookie is perfect. It will cleanse away all traces of chicken, steak, onions and potato salad. A glass of sparkling wine is not mandatory but suggested.

If you want elegance, say for a fall or winter holiday feast, then a plate of these cookies — centered on the table and reflecting candle light in that dolce de leche — is understated sophistication. This year round cookie is one you will simply never tire of. Trust me. I’ve had a few dozen in the past year and my addiction is only intensifying.

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel or Dolce de Leche

Yield: ~ 50 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Table salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • 44 small soft caramel candies (12 ounces), such as Kraft
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Large, flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • Or, in lieu of the caramels, cream and Maldon, 1 ½ cups of dolce de leche

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour and ½ teaspoon table salt, and beat to combine. Press dough together in plastic wrap, then roll into 1 ¼-inch balls. Dip each ball in beaten egg, and roll in coconut. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, and press an indentation into each with your thumb. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove sheets from oven, and re-press indentations. Bake cookies until golden, 9 to 10 minutes more. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

If making a caramel filling instead of using dolce de leche, place the caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the caramels are melted and mixture is smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Spoon into indentations in cookies, and sprinkle with sea salt. Rewarm caramel if it hardens before all cookies are filled.

Source: Martha Steward Living, February 2012

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/6 for 1/40th second at ISO-3200