Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Perfect Cakes" - Blueberry Crumb Cake

Date I made this recipe: March 1, 2011

Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri – author of Cookies Unlimited, Chocolate, and How to Bake
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0-06-019879-6
Recipe: Blueberry Crumb Cake – p. 62

When I was a kid, my mom read to me and my brother from this wonderful story book that has since gone AWOL in my parent’s house. (Drats!) One of the stories was about a little boy who complained to his mom that he was tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wanted something else in his lunchbox. His mother then read off a long (and I mean long) list of sandwich options: egg salad, tuna salad, ham, ham and cheese and on and on and on. And after all that, the kid opted to return to the simplest sandwich of all: peanut butter and jelly.

My husband’s birthday is today, Tuesday, and on Sunday night, I handed him this cookbook and said “See if there’s something in there you like.”

Of course I had several options in mind: anything chocolate would do, most of the layer cakes would do and I was particularly salivating over a Coconut-Raspberry Layer Cake (p. 201) but it was not my birthday and so what I wanted didn’t matter. And so alas, those yummy recipes were left in the dust when he opted for the very simple, very easy Blueberry Crumb Cake.

Thinking back, I should have seen this coming. Andy loves fruit and is especially good at making fruit pies and so like the little boy in the story, he returned to the simplest recipe in the book and there it was. Might I just say that after I got over my disappointment, I was relieved that I didn’t have to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen?

And so I baked this crumb cake using Chilean blueberries (because you sure can’t find them at this time of year in Minnesota…or really anywhere in the continental United States) and had the whole thing ready when he came home from work. And for one second, he really was like a little kid in a candy store: “Oh. I didn’t think you’d make it this quickly.”

Well dude, it is your birthday after all! Of course I had it ready for you. Duh….

Not only is this cake a snap to make but it’s really good. And every day is somebody’s birthday so even if it isn’t yours go ahead and make it anyway. Any excuse for a party….

Blueberry Crumb Cake – about 24 servings

Cake Batter
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (1 ½ pint baskets) blueberries, rinsed, picked over, and dried

Crumb topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I did not have the time or inclination to hunt down a fresh nutmeg pod so I went with dried nutmeg and used a little less than ¼ teaspoon)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

One 9 x 13 x2-inch baking pan, lined with buttered foil.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, mixing well.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until soft and light. One at a time, beat the eggs, beating until smooth after each addition. (Note: sometimes I just really need to pay more attention to instructions. I saw the command “beat the eggs” and added all the eggs – 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks. And then of course I saw the next command below: “Add the yolks.” I’m happy to report that nothing bad happened. But just so you know, when it says “beat the eggs,” it means “beat just the whole eggs and nothing but the whole eggs.)

Beat in the vanilla.

Decrease the mixer speed to low. Add half the flour mixture, then scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula. Add the yolks and mix well. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture.

Use a large rubber spatula to give a final stir to the batter, then scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the blueberries evenly over the batter (don’t press them in).

To make the crumb topping, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and rub to coarse crumbs with your fingers. Scatter the crumbs as evenly as possible over the berries.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is firm and the crumbs are well colored.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack then cut into 2-inch squares.

Serving: this is casual food—it can be served on a plate or eaten out of hand.

Storage: keep at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.

Cherry Crumb Cake: substitute 3 cups (1 ½ pounds) pitted sour cherries for blueberries.

Apricot Crumb Cake: substitute about 16 medium apricots, rinsed, pitted, and quartered, for the blueberries. Arrange the quarters in rows, cut side up, on the batter.

Peach crumb cake: substitute 3 cups peeled, pitted and diced peaches for the blueberries.

Ann’s Note: If you are making this recipe in the winter when fruit is not in season, don’t forget to check the freezer section of your local grocery store!

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