Thursday, August 6, 2009

Buckle Up!

So. The other day I felt like making my blueberry buckle recipe, for no other reason other than that I had just purchased a bunch of blueberries from my local farmers’ market and that I wanted some crumble topping. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find my recipe anywhere. (Not because I am messy or disorganized, but because I have little binders/boxes/envelopes of recipes all over my apartment. OK. Maybe I am a little disorganized.)

While flipping through the stacks of mags that are slowly consuming my apartment, I found a blueberry streusel “cake” recipe in the July 2009 issue of Gourmet. looks exactly like a buckle. And it has an excellent streusel to cake ratio. Score. They recommend serving it as the dessert moment for a very strange lunch of black and tans, buffalo style grilled shrimp (totally trying that!), grilled chicken salad, and garlic-herb bread sticks. Is it just me or is that an odd combo of foods? And ending with breakfast? I mean, blueberry cake? Really? Maybe I’m just not creative enough. Well, whatever. The photos are gorg. To each his/her own.

The buckle/cake recipe looked super easy and I really liked that they added sour cream to the batter. I once experimented with using milk or yogurt or sour cream in a muffin recipe, and the sour cream totally won, hands down. (Anybody even know what that expression means? Hands down?) After reading the recipe more carefully (and actually making it), I found a few peculiarities:

  1. Lining the pan with foil. Why? I've never been a fan of that. If it’s a homey cake, then why do I care if I can lift the whole thing out of the pan to cut perfect squares? It cuts just fine in the pan.
  2. There are only 4 tablespoons of butter in the streusel topping. The texture of the topping turns out more sandy than clumpy, so not very streusel-y. I did find that if you squish it in your fingers, it will hold together and form clumps. Throwing it into the fridge helps the clumps to then harden a bit. OR why not just add two more tablespoons of butter? I’m just sayin’.
  3. Why do you have to add the streusel in increments? The recipe asks you to add half at the beginning right before baking, then says to add the other half after the cake is halfway through baking. I mean, I did it. But it didn’t make any sense. The cake puffs up quite a bit so I guess some of the topping could fall off if you add it all at once, but it almost fell off when I was trying to add it the second time. Maybe adding it all at once forces it down into the batter rather than allowing it to sit on top? I don’t know. I’m guessing that it doesn’t matter. I am going to write up the recipe the way they suggest, only because I didn’t test to see what would major calamity would unfold if I didn't. But feel free to live on the edge and let me know how it goes.

Definitely enjoy this buckle/cake the day (morning!) that you make it, but I recommend sharing it immediately (or eating the whole thing yourself in one sitting) because the topping starts to get a little soft the next day. Just a heads up. It still tastes good, you just lose some of the crunch.

And I still think that this is a breakfast item. I don't want blueberry crumb cake for dessert. I want chocolate. And calling it a buckle rather than a cake diverts attention away from the fact that I am eating cake for breakfast. Why do you think muffins aren’t called “Highly Caloric Individual Frosting-less Breakfast Cakes?" (Add directly to hips.) It's all about marketing! (By the way, I did finally find my buckle recipes stashed in a magazine in my office. Don't know why I didn't look there first!)

Blueberry Buckle/Cake
(Adapted from Gourmet)

Streusel topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar (or one heaping tablespoon)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (or one heaping tablespoon)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 cups blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan, then dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

2. To make the streusel topping, stir together the flour, sugars, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Blend in the butter with a pastry blender (or your fingers) until the mixture forms large clumps. Set aside in the refrigerator while you make the cake.

3. To make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together the sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside.

4. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed (or in a stand mixer) until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat until well blended. At low speed, mix in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the sour-cream mixture, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Crumble half of the topping evenly over the batter (or crumble it all and see what happens!).

6. Bake 25 minutes, then remove from the oven and crumble the remaining topping evenly over cake (or just rotate the pan if the full amount of topping has already been added). Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes more. Cool completely on a rack and then serve.


ted said...

the phrase "hands down" comes from horse racing. when one horse was so far ahead of the pack that victory was certain, the jockey could loosen his grip on the reigns, lower his hands, and cruise in for the win. therefore, winning "hands down".

the origin is sometimes attributed to boxing too where one fighter was dominating the other to a degree that he didn't even need to guard himself in order to win. by lowering his guard and continuing to dominate, he would win "hands down".

Tina said...

Thanks Ted!

Anonymous said...

It should be so delicious!

marisaqueens said...

Um...a little market testing around peculiarity #3 might bring some clarity here. You know where to find me! :)

Hands down?. Ted makes some good points here...horses, boxing...
Another scenario to consider is poker. Hands down (and finally revealed) make the winner perfectly clear.

you've inspired me to have t-shirts made:
butter makes it better

Tina said...

Marisa - Also excellent insight into hands down. And I'll buy one of those t-shirts. Maybe I'll make a competing one for bacon...