Blueberries Archive

Thursday, August 30, 2012

vanilla custards with roasted blueberries

custards with roasted blueberries

Today is my sister’s birthday. Every year, I ask her what kind of cake I can make her and do you know what she says? “I don’t want a cake. I just want a big bowl of vanilla bean custard.” I hope you understand how hard this is for me (and please read that back in your brattiest little sister voice; it is, after all, all about me, right?) Making elaborate birthday cakes for family and friends is my thing. It has launched an entire section of this site, and portion of my cookbook (which includes my son’s 2nd, my husband’s 37th and 38th, and maybe even your next birthday cakes, too). I delight in trying to find a layered summary of everyone’s favorite things that fits in a cake carrier, and I think it’s awfully mean of my sister to deny me this outlet every August 30th. (Huff. Puff.) A bowl of custard? There’s not much to say about it.

getting ready to make custards
to begin

Or, there might not be if your narrator wasn’t such a blabbermouth. To wit: Custard, or pastry cream, is a pretty big deal in my family. My mother and sister especially consider it among the dessert greats, whereas others mostly look at it as just an element of grander things. It’s the filling of cream puffs and eclairs; it forms a delightful layer underneath freshly sliced strawberries or an artful arrangement of stunning fruit. Sometimes, it separates cake layers, fills the hollows of doughnuts and Boston Cream Pies, too. But it rarely gets its own day in the sun — or you know, single serving bowl with a spoon — and my sister thinks that it should.

whisk, whisk, whisk

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

flag cake

berry flag cake

Last year, I brought a flag cake to a 4th of July rooftop barbecue. Earlier in the week, I’d harbored fantasies about making an elaborate ice cream cake or layered berry yogurt popsicles or salads teetering on the edge of food safety standards but New York City, as it always seems to be in the first week of July, was at the crest of a week-plus of ever-increasing temperatures and stickiness, a summit where it tends to linger for a few even more airless days before finally releasing the thunder and lightening, sinking the mercury back to a brief day or two of something resembling temperate before it starts the climb again. What, me? No fan of NYC summers? Where would you get such an idea?

cake batter
buttery sheet cake

(This is also the time of year, every year, where I break my please-don’t-be-so-dull-as-to-complain-about-the-weather-Deb rule. Forgive me) Anyway, the heat got the better of my ambitions and I decided to make a simple yellow sheet cake with cream cheese frosting and an arrangement of patriotic berries that had, in fact, been imported from Baja. To me, it was good, cute even, but nothing crazy, just something I’d seen kicked around magazines and TV shows for two decades, hardly a revolutionary idea. My friends, however — many of whom use their ovens for sweater storage and gasp! do not spend their days ingesting various formats of food media — went absolutely ballistic over it. When strangers from other parties on the roof started taking some, they became possessive of their cake and shooed them away. The told me in no uncertain terms would I ever be welcome at a July 4th party again without it.

cream cheese frosting

Continued after the jump »

Monday, June 25, 2012

triple berry summer buttermilk bundt

summer berry buttermilk bundt

Our toddler left us. Or, at least until Friday. Over the last 2 3/4 years, we’ve occasionally been blessed with the chance to go away for a few days sans bébé. We return well-rested and smiling, sandy grit in the bottom of our suitcases, traces of whatever had vexed us before we left deliciously eviscerated from memory, and almost giddy with excitement to start scraping spaghetti from the underside of the high chair again. But this is the first time — with barely a “Sayonara!” as he ran out the door or a single “Wish you were here!” postcard from the road — that Jacob has headed out for lazier climes without us. He’s spending a week at the mountain retreat of Camp Grandparents, where he’s forced to endure petting zoos, baby pools, wide expanses of fresh air, nonstop adoration, and, no doubt, all of the ice cream he can talk them into.

three berries
light and so very fluffy batter

Meanwhile, Alex and I have been left behind to attend to our assigned daily grinds and realize how totally dull this place is in the morning without a toddler buzzing from room to room at the crack of dawn, pulling on our earlobes to announce, “I’m awake! Wake UP!” and serenading us with ABCs on his guitar. We’ve also learned that we share differing interpretations of a week’s Vacation From Parenting. For example, I was thinking that, freed from the daily whirlwind of tight schedules, tantrums, irregular sleep patterns and spontaneous song-and-dance-and-marching! parties that life with a toddler demands, we could finally get caught up on things that have been neglected for the last 2 3/4 years. My to-do list for this week involves such enticing tasks as “Get the apartment painted!” “Rearrange furniture and pictures!” “Clean out closets!” “Meet at gym every day after work,” and “Back-up and replace laptops.” I was also thinking we could read and discuss “War and Peace” every night before we hit the pillow, but didn’t want to be overly ambitious. Alex’s comparatively modest list includes such audacious suggestions as “Get lots of sleep, get drinks with friends, watch TV with the sound on and the Closed Captioning off, and very little else.” Yeah, so who would you rather party with? It’s okay, I won’t take it personally.

folding in the floured berries

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

blueberry yogurt multigrain pancakes

new blues: wholegrain blueberry pancakes

I had a little crisis on Father’s Day, and unlike the week that proceeded it, it did not relate to a feverish toddler who landed himself in our bed (and proceeded to be well enough at 5 a.m. to stand up and announce the different parts of our face as he poked them “NO” “EYEAR” “AYE” “MOUF”), the gutting of our (single) bathroom so that plumbers could access a wayward pipe in the building or the thin film of dirt left on every surface of every room when they were done working. No, by Father’s Day, most of those things had thankfully righted themselves, leaving only crises of less grave proportions: the blueberry pancakes I’d always known and loved no longer worked for me.

all ready to go
batter, berries, separate

I mean, they work, in terms of technically executing what they’re supposed to. They’re a bit runnier than I remembered, thus making it difficult to flip and bake them through cleanly, but they’re hardly worth complaining over, or so felt the Dad of Honor who found them–as he is contractually obligated to–delicious. We ate our pancakes, showered him with gifts and set off for the playground. But I couldn’t stop thinking about them; they didn’t sit right and I realized that it had less to do with the recipe and more to do with … me. I’ve changed.

studded with blueberries

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, August 26, 2010

perfect blueberry muffins

blueberry muffins, craggy tops

When blueberries first show up at the market, it feels like sacrilege to bake with them — ditto with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Mother Nature made them perfect! Why drown them in batter, wilt them with heat and then leave them out to dry? What brutes we’d be! But there’s a day in August — I think it might have been yesterday* — when something shifts. The high for the day is in the 60s, you run out to the market and what is this? Did you wish you’d brought your cardigan? How strange! And all of a sudden the prospect of a berry baked into something warm and cozy, that you might eat with your first hot coffee of the season, seems very right.

blueberries
batter

And it is around this time every year that I try to find the best blueberry muffin. I’ve made them with buttermilk and yogurt and cream cheese too, with streusel and dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar; I’ve tucked them into corn muffins and bran muffins too, back to one I got from Cook’s Illustrated eons ago (introduced to me by the lovely Elise), but that’s different from the recipes in the two Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks that I own and also at least three of the five other blueberry muffin recipes on their site (the last two are hidden behind a pay wall put between people already paying and people paying more than people who are paying, not that I’m venting or anything, ahem). It has a high dome and a thick batter that’s really more of a dough (a classically brilliant technique of CI’s to keep berries from sinking) and every time, they’re as pretty as a picture.

blueberry muffins

Continued after the jump »


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