Friday, July 25, 2014

Blueberry Buckle

A friend sent me the photo below from my high school days. It brought back a lot of fond memories. Ironically one involves food. I realized a lot of my happy memories are about food. I'm not sure what that says about me or why that fact just occurred to me, but there it is. What can I say, I like food.

Stereotypes and jokes aside we had a lot of fun being cheerleaders. At the end of one season we were treated to a fabulous brunch at Nancy's enviable home. Her father was a doctor and they lived in the prettiest house in the neighborhood. Her mother was an excellent cook. We shared the delightful meal in their elegant sunroom overlooking their lush backyard. Everything was delicious but the blueberry coffee cake was my favorite. The tender yellow cake was full of ripe, juicy blueberries crowned with buttery streusel topping. I wanted to eat the whole cake. I asked Mrs. F what it was called and she said, Blueberry Buckle. Funny after all these years that a photo sparked such a delicious memory.

I love blueberries and wish blueberry season went on forever. I never run out of ways to use them. For another delicious breakfast or anytime treat, here is a recipe from a previous blueberry post.

Blueberry Buckle

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350℉ (175 ℃). Butter an 8-inch (203mm) square pan. Cream the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk in two additions. Beat until smooth. Spread in prepared pan. Sprinkle blueberries over the batter and top with crumb topping (recipe below). Bake for 40-45 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Crumb topping

1/2 cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (2 ounces/58 g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Put flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the butter pieces. Using your fingers, rub the flour and sugar mixture with the butter until crumbly. Squeeze together to make chunks. Sprinkle on cake.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Baked French Toast Custard

Weekends just beg for a leisurely breakfast. Something a little fancier than there is time for during the week. Breakfast just happens to be one of my favorite meals, which I am willing to eat morning, noon, or night. This recipe does indeed make a delicious meal at any time of day.

The recipe combines french toast and bread pudding into one. The top turns golden and toasted like french toast while the bottom develops into custard bread pudding. I adapted it from a recipe I saw in a magazine years ago. The results are quite fancy, but it couldn't be easier to make.

Homemade bread would be just lovely, but a good loaf of cinnamon or cinnamon-raisin bread from a bakery works just fine and is a much quicker alternative. While the french toast custard bakes there is time to make bacon or linger over a cup of tea or french pressed coffee.

I used to make this recipe for my late husband because he loved it. We would dine alfresco on the covered patio of our little Palo Alto home listening to Italian opera and sipping cappuccinos. My children now beg for me to make it so we can do the same on our Midwestern patio.

 If you use a loaf of bakery bread don't have the bakery slice it so you can make thicker slices.

Make sure each slice of buttered bread is equally covered in custard mixture. Allow the bread and custard mixture to sit for a few minutes so the bread can absorb some of the custard.

Baked French Toast Custard
8 servings

1 loaf of cinnamon or cinnamon-raisin bread
1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) unsalted butter, melted
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3 cups (750 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
confectioners' sugar
strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, optional

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃). Using a serrated knife slice the bread into eight equal pieces. Butter a 9"x13" (23 cm x 33 cm) glass baking dish with some of the melted butter. Then brush each side of the sliced bread with the remaining melted butter and arrange in rows in the glass dish.

In a large bowl combine whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla extract whisk to combine. Pour the mixture through a strainer over the bread making sure to moisten each piece. Let the bread and custard mixture sit for a few minutes to soak up the egg mixture.

Place the glass dish in a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan half full with warm water. The water level should come to the middle of the glass dish. (It is easiest to put the nesting pans in the oven first then add the water to the roasting pan using a tea kettle or large measuring cup.) Bake in the top half of the oven until the custard is set and the bread is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, as the water in the roasting pan is very hot. Allow the french toast custard to rest on a rack for 10-15 minutes. Cut into pieces garnish with confectioners' sugar and fresh berries is using.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Patriotic Ice Pops

Back before central air conditioning and few of us were lucky enough to have a window air conditioning unit that always looked like it was going to fall out of the window and knock someone silly, we spent a lot of time outside. In fact, as kids it was expected that you were outside rain or shine unless it was time for a meal. My sister and I would play on our swing set, or run through the lawn sprinkler in our bathing suits, or play kickball with the neighbor kids in the parking lot of the catholic church behind our home. 

My parents, my sister holding our dog, Tiny, and myself next to our neighbor Sister Mary Marguerite

Midwestern summers are indeed hot. Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Which I'm pretty sure we tried to do at least once or twice. Few things brought relief which is why when we and the neighbor kids heard the jaunty music of the ice cream truck we ran and begged our mothers for change to get an icy treat. Of course we had popsicles in our freezer, that, like the heat, was a given in the Midwest, but they weren't the fancy kind that the ice cream man had. So our mothers would make a bit of a fuss and then reluctantly give in, shelling out nickels and dimes as they were as miserable as us trying to stay cool. 

The ice cream man had a whole assortment of treats but my favorite was the red, white, and blue bomb popsicle. Since the pop was large it insured the longest period of heat relief. It was always a challenge to keep it from dripping. While the original is nostalgic, I have updated the flavors with real fruit. Strawberry, lemon, and blueberry make these red, white, and blue pops both patriotic and delicious. 

While the original was a big popsicle, I thought it would be fun to make these ice pops in mini-size, so I used small paper cups as molds with tiny popsicle sticks. But any popsicle molds would work just fine. The recipe made 22 miniature pops which would be about 12 regular size popsicles.

Patriotic Ice Pops
Makes about 22 small popsicles or 12 regular size popsicles

Strawberry Ice

1 pound (450 g) fresh strawberries
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Remove the stems and slice the strawberries. Put in a glass bowl and add the sugar. Stir to combine. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Purée the strawberries, lemon juice, and the juice from the fruit in a food processor.

Fill molds 1/3 full of pureed strawberries. Freeze until solid 2-4 hours depending on the mold size.

Lemon Ice

2 1/4 cups (560 ml) water
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
2 lemons, preferably organic
3/4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)

Put the sugar in a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Finely grate the lemon zest from the 2 lemons onto the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar between your fingers until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the water to the saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 3/4 cups (310 ml) of water. Chill in the refrigerator until the strawberry ice is frozen.

When ready for the lemon ice layer, stir the lemon juice into the lemon syrup until combined. Fill half of the remaining space in the molds. Return to the freezer and freeze until solid enough to add the popsicle sticks about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Once the sticks are in place freeze until solid.

Blueberry Ice

4 cups (450 g) fresh blueberries
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Stir together the blueberries and sugar mashing the blueberries slightly so the juice will mix with the sugar. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Purée the blueberries, lemon juice, and juice from the fruit in a food processor.

When the strawberry and lemon ice layers are frozen fill the molds with the puréed blueberries. Freeze until solid or over night.