“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
- 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]
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
I recently blogged a review of Put ‘em Up! Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton. It’s an excellent guide to preserving fruits at home and using those treats in your daily cooking. Fruit goes far beyond jams and jellies with ideas to use your fruit wonders right away!
Here’s a perfect example: Blueberry Ketchup. Sherri describes this as not too sweet and tantalizingly fun on a burger. It has much the same ingredient list as conventional ketchup — and tomatoes are a fruit after all — so this recipe is less strange than you are thinking. At the moment.
Beyond burgers, this ketchup is ideal with barbecued chicken, blackened and hot off the grill. The blueberry tones pair lovingly with the meat. Remember Thanksgiving? Turkey? Cranberries? This recipe uses a lot blueberries but fortunately a lot of blueberries are out there.
Yield: 3 cups
- 2 shallots, unpeeled
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 quart blueberries [about 1 ½ pounds]
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Coat the shallots with oil and bundle in a double thickness of aluminum foil. Place the bundle on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, until the shallots are tender when pierced with a knife. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and dice them.
Combine the roasted shallots with the remaining ingredients in a large nonreactive pot and slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender.
To store, you can simply cool, cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Or you can uses glass jars employing the classic boiling water method for sterilization.
Source: Put ‘em Up! Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton