Friday, August 07, 2009

Beginnings and Blueberry Buckles

I haven't baked practically all summer. The reason is simple, really. When the oven is on, my entire house feels like Southeast Asia. Frankly, I just don't like to be in the kitchen while my clothes are clinging to me, my hair is sticking to my forehead, and sweat beads are stinging my eyes.
So, for probably an entire month, I have barely touched the stove, let alone the oven. Sure, I would get urges while at work in an air-conditioned laboratory, but once I leave work, and the sun's rays touch my skin, the urge ceases before I can say "preheat".
Thankfully, this week in Los Angeles, the heat seemed to be subsiding. It's only been around the upper 70s/lower 80s this week, which is delightful compared to the upwards of 90s we've been having in the recent weeks.
This week I also started a new position at a new company. Everyone here is so friendly and so welcoming. On Monday, my co-workers took me out to lunch, on Thursday, the V.P. (my boss) took me out to lunch, and I was also invited to join a softball league (poor things - they don't know my lack of athletic skills. I made it clear that I will be there to capture photographs from the bleachers) and I got invited to a bbq this weekend. How awesome is that - to come into a company where everyone is so benevolent!
Now...because of the ceasing heat, because everyone was so memorably kind, because I just got a new job, and because it was going to be Friday, I decided to bake! I had plenty of bulk berries that needed to be used up and this was my opportunity. I went through my recipe books, looking for something that would be nice for a Friday breakfast treat and found these - blueberry buckles. I had never heard of them before so I thought, why not? It turns out they are so named because they tend to buckle down (no pun intended) during the baking process due to the dense batter. The way to get around this is by making the batter stiff, which this recipe certainly does (then, of course it's not a buckle cake anymore, but still delicious nonetheless).

Blueberry Buckle adapted from "The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book"

Steusel Topping

1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 oz.) light brown sugar
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened


1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
10 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (4 2/3 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated fresh lemon zest
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups (20 oz.) fresh blueberries

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. For the streusel topping: Whisk the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Beat in the butter with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. For the cake: In a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in the vanilla.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated, about 20 seconds (the batter will be extremely thick and heavy). Gently fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the batter. Bake the buckle until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes (the cake will fall slightly as it cools). Run a small knife around the edge of the cake and flip it out onto a large plate (not the serving platter). Peel off the parchment, flip the cake right side up onto a serving platter, and let cool until just warm or to room temperature, at least 1 hour, before serving.

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