Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Just a day after I said I don't cook much right now, what did I end up doing but cooking dinner for a visiting friend. The dinner was Beef Carbonnade. The recipe from my venerable binder of clippings during my years as a Cooking Light subscriber. It delivered (and yes, the weather was hot and sticky here, but we cranked up the air conditioning and pretended that it was properly seasonal). While making the stew, it occurred to me with a frisson of horror that we had nothing at all to serve for dessert.

Acquaintances who hear about my baking frequently want to know why I'm not the size of a house, and the answer is that I don't often actually eat the stuff. I am someone who wants her sweets in the afternoon, the long desert between my early lunch and 6 p.m. dinnertime. After dinner I am busy making sure homework happened and organizing bedtime snacks, and other than the odd miniature chocolate bar I hardly ever eat dessert then. The exception happens when we have company. Somewhere in my mind it is written You shall serve dessert to your guests or give up all claim to being civilized.

The oven, of course, was going to be busy for the two+ hours it took the carbonnade to reduce itself to a molten deliciousness. So I went looking for something that a) I had everything I needed for, b) did not require chilling time or anything else complicated, and c) could be served warmish, since it would have to bake while we ate. That ruled out most cakes and brownies. I didn't have time to fuss around with batches of cookies. I did have a lot of summer fruit in the freezer....

Dorie Greenspan saved my bacon with her crumb cake. No exotic ingredients? Check. Simple to make? Check. Serve warm or room temperature? Check.

Scrumptious? Check!

5 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/3 c (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c chopped walnuts

1 pint (2 c) blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
2 c plus 2 tsp all-purpose flour, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2/3 c granulated sugar
grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange
6 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet. 
  2. Make the crumbs. Put all of the ingredients except the walnuts in a food processor. Pulse until it clumps and holds together when pressed. Transfer crumbs to a bowl. Mix in the walnuts. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 3 days). 
  3. Toss the blueberries and 2 tsp flour together to coat the berries. Set aside. 
  4. Whisk together the remaining 2 c flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or another large bowl if using a hand mixer) rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the butter and mix at medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. 
  6. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each. Beat in the vanilla. Dorie says don't worry if it looks curdled. 
  7. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients (in 3 additions) alternately with the buttermilk (in 2 additions).
  8. Gently stir in the berries.
  9. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth it. Get out the crumb mixture. Break it up with your fingers and scatter over the top.
  10. Bake for 55-65 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool until just warm or room temperature.

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