Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blueberry Crumb Cake

I love cake! I really do.
Cake is not something I get to eat very often, so when it's time to eat cake, it has to be special and delicious. I don't get tempted by the cakes in the bakery section at the grocery store. My weakness is the real stuff. The stuff you find in independent bakeries at the corner of some shopping plaza or, better yet, the stuff you make at home.

I watched Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) make this blueberry crumb cake, and I resolved to make that cake one day. I did, and the results were fantastic.

Here's the recipe:

For the streusel:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen which turned out great)
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel:
Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Notes: I said I love cake. That doesn't mean I love for everything to be sugary-sweet. I followed the recipe for the streusel topping but only ended up using about half. It worked perfect for my taste, so adjust the amount according to your personal need for extra sweetness.
As I mentioned, I used frozen blueberries. There is no difference in taste between fresh and frozen in this recipe. Save yourself the extra bucks and go for frozen unless you just went blueberry picking last weekend.
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Monday, September 1, 2008

Homemade Bread

Homemade bread is something I've always been afraid to try, mostly because I'm worried that I'll end up with something that resembles a brick (in weight and texture). Maybe it was the long weekend that got me relaxed and easy going, but I thought I'd give it a try today.
The recipe I used was the one I found on the package of Red Star Quick-Rise Yeast. As you can see from the picture, the end result looked great. And it tasted good too. The inside was still warm and dense and soft while the outside was crusty.

Making this bread today reminded me of when I was young and my mom would take my sister and me to the grocery store with her. The last stop before coming home was the local baker where she would pick up a couple of baguettes. I would sit in the back seat of our white Datsun station wagon and break off the end of the baguette and dig in. By the time we got home, the baguette was hollow and my sister was fuming! Ha! I can still remember how mad she would get.

Anyway, the recipe was simple:

White Bread

6.5 to 7 cups AP flour
2 pkgs quick-rise yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine 3 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt and mix well.
Blend at low speed until moistened (I used a large plastic mixing spoon), beat for 3 minutes (again, I used the spoon).
Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a firm dough.
Knead on floured surgace till smooth and elastic (5-8 minutes; I did 8 minutes).
Place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place till almost doubled (30 min).
Punch down and divide dough into two parts.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each half into a rectangle (recipe suggests 14" x 7"; I didn't get out my tape measure).
Roll up tightly (starting with shorter side) and pinch the edges and ends to seal.
Place each roll into a greased loaf pan.
Cover and let rise for about 20 minutes, or until an indentation remains after lightly touching the side of the loaf.
Preheat oven to 400F and bake for about 35-40 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the pan as soon as you take it out of the oven. Cool.

Since I just baked this today, I'm not really sure how long the bread will keep well, but I'm going to venture to say it will keep for about 3-4 days out on the counter. If I'm wrong, I'll update this post.

Next homemade bread experiment will involve cinnamon and raisin; the one following that will involve wheat flour mixed in and possibly some nuts and grains too.

I hope you give this a try too. It was worth it and not near as hard as I thought it would be. Yeah, it's a little time consuming (rising, baking, kneading), but the taste is worth the time.
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Brecken & Brooks' Wedding

I was recruited this weekend to help cook for a wedding reception in Brandon, MS. Considering the occasion, I was happy to oblige.

The happy couple?
Brecken & Brooks.

Brecken is Garth's younger sister, and Brooks is a guy she met at church. They also happen to teach at the same school in Starkville.

We (Howard, Boneda and I) had to smoke about 40 pounds of pork tenderloin and 40 pounds of chicken wings. We used the same Ol' Hickory Pits Smoker as last time, and the whole production took about 2 1/2 hours. Easy as pie.

The verdict from the wedding guests? Delicious!

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