Blueberry Crumb Cake

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tonight, I planned to make apple squares from a recipe given to me by a friend. The plan was to make them to take to my in-laws tomorrow. My sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and nephew are coming into town and I always like to bring something to share.

But when Michael talked to his sister tonight, she mentioned that she was bringing a homemade apple pie. Even though it's fall and it's apple season, I didn't want to overdo it with the apple desserts. I suspected my apple squares might have been too similar to the apple pie, so I had to scramble to find something new to make. And quickly. It was already 8:00 p.m. To further complicate things, I had to find something to make that only used ingredients we had in the house. Neither one of us felt like running out to the grocery store.

So, I picked up my new baking book and started thumbing through it. Many of the recipes that looked good were eliminated immediately due to time constraints or the contents of our cupboards. However, I eventually landed on this recipe for blueberry crumb cake. I asked my husband if he thought this might be good to bring, and he agreed. Into the kitchen I went.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
(Recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

For the Crumbs:
5 tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts*

For the Cake:
1 pint (2 cups) blueberries (preferably fresh, or frozen, not thawed)**
2 cups plus 2 tsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange
3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter at room temp
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8-inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients except the nuts in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms clumps and curds and holds together when pressed. Scrape the topping into a bowl, stir in the nuts and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until needed. (Covered well the crumb mix can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

To make the cake: Using your fingertips, toss the blueberries and 2 tsp of the flour together in a small bowl just to coat the berries; set aside. Whisk together the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the butter and, with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar with the butter at medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract. Don’t be concerned if the batter looks curdled — it will soon smooth out. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, the flour in 3 parts and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients.) You will have a thick, creamy batter. With a rubber spatula, gently stir in the berries.

Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top gently with the spatula. Pull the crumb mix from the fridge and, with your fingertips, break it into pieces. There’s no need to try to get even pieces — these are crumbs, they’re supposed to be lumpy and bumpy and every shape and size. Scatter the crumbs over the batter, pressing them down ever so slightly.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool just until it is warm or until it reaches room temperature.

*We used peanuts instead of walnuts.
**I would use more blueberries next time.

Close-up of the crumb topping:

Update and review: This came out very well. Perfect for a breakfast or brunch treat, but also sufficient for a snack or dessert. The crumb topping is really flavorful and sweet, and is a nice offset to the cake. I would have enjoyed having more blueberries in the cake, so the next time I make this, I will include at least another handful of blueberries. Since I was using frozen berries, I think they didn't measure correctly because of a little ice build-up on some of the berries. And as always, I'm sure fresh berries would be even better.


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