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Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread

One of the first things I did when we returned from our travels a couple of weeks ago was to look around for blueberry farms that would allow us to come and pick our own.  We’ve been blueberry picking every summer for almost two decades!  There were several that popped up, but most of them did not seem appealing for one reason or another except for one that happened to be rather close to our house.  Well, close meaning it was a 25 minute drive, which is how far we are from just about everything.  Anyway, we jumped into the car and drove over there and the whole time I was thinking that if it was a bust, at least it wasn’t that far away.  Happily, it was a fantastic little farm and we were there on the opening day of blueberry picking, so the blueberries were very plentiful.

We were there for less than an hour and picked all this, including the raspberries.

I can”t tell you what a relief and joy it was that we were able to find this farm.  After a long first year here with countless moments of homesickness, this was a couple of hours when we all felt actually really happy and glad to be here.  Don’t get me wrong, none of us regret moving (well, maybe a little), but living in a place where everything is new and nothing is familiar just wears on a person.

It was nice to enjoy a familiar activity.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next week and did it again.  And I am hoping they will still be open for another week so we can get some more because, unbelievably, we have gone through 12 quarts of blueberries in two weeks.  There were a couple of tarts and batches of jam.  Three or four of those quarts went into the freezer for the long winter.  And, of course, there were pies and breads and smoothies.  And recently, with the last quart of berries facing me, I also made a lovely loaf cake dotted with blueberries, flavored with zingy lemon, and enhanced by the subtle crunch of cornmeal.

Best of all, the cake is super easy to mix together.  The hardest task is zesting the lemons.  Everything else can be done with a whisk.  These are my favorite kinds of recipes.  Simple.  Tasty.  Unfussy.

When the loaf comes out of the oven, it gets a sugar and lemon juice glaze.

Then, once it has cooled, it gets a drizzle of icing.  You may be tempted to skip the icing and it would be ok without it.  However, the cake itself has less sugar than most, so the icing really enhances the cake instead of just adding to the sweetness.  Plus, it makes it really pretty.

 

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread

makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf  (I used a 11.5 by 3.5 inch pan that I got from Ikea, but the 9 by 5 is about the same volume.  If you don’t have that, an 8 by 8 pan would work, but it would be shorter and probably need to bake for a shorter period of time.)

1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) fine cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar

zest of one lemon

1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk

2 large eggs

8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh blueberries

for glaze:

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

for icing:

3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar

zest of half a lemon

1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until mixed.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and lemon zest together.  Add the dry ingredients and whisk until almost fully mixed.  Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 1 cup of blueberries.  Scrape the batter into your loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of blueberries on top.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely golden on top and a tester comes out clean.  Meanwhile, mix together the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar for the glaze.  As soon as you remove the cake from the oven brush the glaze over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan.  After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Mix together the ingredients for the icing.  Begin with a tablespoon of lemon juice.  Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a bowl, adding additional juice until the icing drops smoothly from a spoon or whisk.  Drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake.  Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature.  The cake will keep well, covered for a day or two.

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A Dream Come True

For many, many years, I have had a dream. I dream about getting up early in the morning after a refreshing night’s sleep and puttering around the kitchen while everyone is still sleeping. I dream that I will take out flour and sugar and other ingredients and mix together some really nice freshly, baked goodie for breakfast. Sometimes, I dream that I make pancakes or waffles, but mostly, I dream about making muffins. Blueberry ones, to be exact.

The reality is this: My kids wake up earlier than I do and I am a terrible sleeper and often grumpy in the mornings. Even before I had kids, I don’t think I had the gumption to get up in the morning and do more than make a cup of tea and pour a bowl of cereal. Yet, for some reason, I hold onto this dream, which is why I was excited to try the recipe for blueberry muffins from Bouchon Bakery.

Every book on baking has some kind of berry muffin recipe. This one did not seem to stand out to me especially until I got to the part where the author tells you to refrigerate the batter until the next morning. Really? This means that I could do all the messy work the night before and then just have to bake them in the morning? This looked like a recipe I needed to try.

So I did.

And it worked, sort of.

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Like all Keller’s recipes, there’s a lot of precise measuring, one or two unexpected ingredients (blackstrap molasses, anyone?), and a big mess in the kitchen. Of course, the mess is mostly my fault for deciding that I needed to triple the recipe. Why do I do these things to myself?

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Anyway, I got the batter made and sent it off to rest in the fridge while I slept and dreamt about warm muffins for breakfast. Except there was a teeny problem when I got up to finish off the muffins the next day.

The batter was cold and hard.

The last instruction before baking the muffins was to stir in the frozen blueberries. However, the batter was quite stiff and I found it almost impossible to stir it at all. After a couple of arm wrenching minutes, I gave up. That’s just not the kind of thing I do first thing in the morning. I left the batter on the counter, disgusted, and poured cereal for everyone. Sigh.

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A couple of hours later, I came back to the batter. It was quite soft now and stirring the blueberries in was no big chore. I baked a pan right away as a mid-morning snack, but there was quite a significant chunk of batter left in the bowl. This will be because, if you remember from earlier, I tripled the recipe. Clearly, I had not really thought about the implications of that act. What would we do with three dozen muffins? All my original energy and motivation for this project was just about gone.

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So, I decided not to bake the rest of the muffins. I froze them instead. Yes, I scooped out all the batter into oil-sprayed paper cups, sprinkled on the almond crumb topping, and stuck them in the freezer, unbaked.

The next day, I took them out of the pans and threw them into a plastic bag to store in the freezer, except for two. Those I stuck into ramekins and baked them in my little countertop oven.

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They took a little longer to bake, but they baked up just fine. Just as good as any other muffin I have ever baked. Finally! Success! Next time, I will skip the refrigerating step and just go ahead and stir in the berries. Then, scoop out all the batter and freeze. The brilliance in this method, in case you have missed it, is that you can have freshly baked muffins any time and you can bake one or two or ten, depending on what you need. It makes me wonder if this will work with any muffin recipe? I’ll have to get back to you on that one, or if you are willing to try it, you can let me know.

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Now, these are good muffins. Perhaps not your traditional blueberry muffin, though. The blackstrap molasses really gives it a unique flavor that brings the muffin very close to gingerbread, only with blueberries and no ginger. It’s a nice change from overly sweet muffin recipes and I liked the almond crumb topping that used almond meal instead of big chunks of almonds. Plus, the contrast in color with the muffin was nice. However, the best thing is that I still have over a dozen little muffin balls waiting for me in the freezer whenever I feel like a freshly baked muffin. And all the work has already been done. It’s a dream come true!

Summer in a Pie

Every summer for the past 12 years I have made this pie.  It says summer to me more than any other dessert I make.  We all look forward to the time during the summer when fresh nectarines are plentiful, heavy, and flavorful.  Most of us in my family love nectarines more than peaches because there is none of that annoying fuzz.  Also, they seem to me to have more flavor.  Peaches can be bland, but nectarines, even the ones that are not as ripe are packed with flavor.  If a peach is not sweet, it’s almost not worth eating, but nectarines can be a little tart and still be really good, especially in this pie.

Blueberry Nectarine Pie.

I have blogged about this pie before.  It is the husband’s favorite pie and I make it several times each summer.  And we rarely share it.  If I make one to share, I have to make another one right after just for him us.  Over the years, I have adjusted the recipe according to our tastes.  The biggest change I have made is to use tapioca instead of flour and I no longer cook any of the filling ahead of time.  This saves oodles of prep time because you don’t have to wait for the filling to cool and we prefer the clean flavor of the tapioca.  You can find my recipe for the filling here.

This pie almost did not get made in time for Tuesday’s with Dorie this week.  I got a little bit of a cold after coming home from my friend’s house and have basically been sitting around and watching the Olympics any chance I can get.  Oh, all right, I’d be doing that anyway, even if I did not have a cold!  Anyway, I felt better today when I got up and decided to get it done (even if I had to give up watching a little of the Olympic action).

The first thing I did was look in the freezer to see if I had any spare pie crust disks in there.  I had one, but the recipe calls for two, and a one crust pie is not an option in my house, especially with this pie.  It has been some years since I have made the pie crust recipe out of Baking with Julia.  It used to be my go to recipe for pie crust, but I have since developed my own recipe.  This morning, though, I discovered that my buttermilk had to be thrown out, so I used the recipe in the book with a couple of changes.  I used 5 ounces of shortening and 12 ounces of butter.  We like our crusts with more butter around here.  Also, I substituted 8 ounces of the flour for the same amount of whole wheat pastry flour–this way I can say that it is healthy!

Have I said how much we love this pie?  I bet this pie will be gone within 24 hours.  If pie eating were an Olympic event, one of us (I won’t say which one) might win a medal.   If you want to try your hand at this event, go visit this blog and this blog for the original recipe from the book.  Or, you can follow my links above to my altered recipes.

Pie filling Recipe

Yesterday, after I published my post, it occurred  to me that, although I could not give you a piece of pie, I could give you the recipe for the pie filling.  I usually follow an already published recipe which I could not give you for copyright reasons.  However, I’ve changed this one so much from the original, that I think I can call it my own now.   So, if you’re interested in making the pie pictured yesterday, all you have to do is make or buy your favorite pie crust, put in the filling, and you’ve got my husband’s favorite pie all for yourself.  And I won’t tell if you choose not to share it.

Blueberry Nectarine Pie filling

1.5 pounds or about 4 cups of blueberries, rinsed and picked over for stems

3 yellow nectarines, slices thinly

1/2 of a lemon, grated and juiced

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup minute tapioca

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Let stand for 15 minutes to let the tapioca soften up.  This is a good time to get your pie crust ready.

Pour into prepped pie crust and top with another pie crust. Trim and seal the edges.  Make sure you cut some holes in the top for steam to escape.

Brush pie with heavy cream or egg white.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for about an hour or until the crust is nicely browned and filling is bubbling in the center of the pie.

Let cool at least until lukewarm before cutting.  This takes 2-3 hours.

Enjoy!

Favorite Pie

In our house, pie is a treasured dessert.  I do not make it as often as I do cakes and cookies.  It’s the pie crust.  You have to make it ahead of time and it is a good deal of work to roll it out and cut up whatever you need.  Then, you have to wait for hours after it is baked to eat it.   Once it is cool, it must be consumed within 24 hours because, really, it tastes the best that first day.

However, it is my husband’s favorite dessert (and breakfast–why not?  There’s fruit in it, after all.)  and he jealously guards it.  If he lets you have a piece of pie that I have made, you should feel honored because only very close friends and family are allowed to have a piece of pie.  And no one, I mean no one except the four of us who live in this house, has ever been allowed to have a piece of his Favorite pie.  Actually, that’s not strictly true.  Last summer, I made this pie when my BFF from high school came to visit..  She is the only one who has had a taste of this pie.

Blueberry Nectarine Pie.

I’ve been making this pie for about 12 years.  The original recipe came from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.   However, the way I make it now is nothing like the recipe in the book.  First of all, I am always trying new crust recipes, so that is ever changing.  Also, the original recipe calls for flour in the filling and you have to cook part of it before it goes in the crust, which means it also has to cool.  All of that is a little fussy for me these days and I do not like the taste of flour in my fruit fillings.  I think it gets in the way of the fruit flavor.  So, I use this.

It’s a great thickener.  It absorbs all your yummy fruit juices and gives the filling a nice texture, especially with berry pies.

Today, I made two pies.  One for now, and one to put in the freezer for later.

So, I’m sorry that I cannot offer you a piece of this pie.  But, I would like to know, what is your favorite pie?