Monday, August 23, 2010

Ritual of Summer

Blueberry picking has been one of the rituals of summer since childhood. Every summer we would travel to the family farm in New Hampshire. On any farm summer time is filled with work from dawn to dusk. Many of our days were spent bringing in the hay, but in between haying and the regular barn chores there were often more pleasant tasks to be attended to. On sunny days during blueberry season my grandmother would send my aunts to pick wild blueberries. I have pleasant memories of picking wild blueberries on rocky mountain outcroppings with my mother and her sisters.

At home we picked blueberries at Oscar & Lolita’s. Mom would always make a pie for dinner and several more for the freezer. When my folks moved to Vermont Oscar gave them fifteen blueberry bushes. Dad planted them in the backyard where they thrived. Mom froze quarts of blueberries and made dozens of jars of jam. When my parent’s freezer was full the neighbors were invited to pick. As my folks aged and we needed additional help with their various gardens, the neighbors pitched in. When my folks passed on, DH and I transplanted some shoots from their blueberry bushes to our farm. But, what to do for blueberries while we waited for the shoots mature?
One night over a glass of wine with our friends CC and Ned, DH & I mentioned our blueberry dilemma. CC and Ned looked at each other and said, “We have blueberry bushes. Come and pick all you want!” For the past few years that is exactly what we’ve done. In exchange for their generosity, we give CC and Ned a case of jam and a blueberry dessert or two during the season.
One of the blueberry desserts I like to make is Carole’s Fresh Blueberry Tart. This recipe comes from my friend Carole, another blueberry picker. The dessert looks and tastes fabulous, but isn’t complicated or difficult to make. This year my cousin Cole was visiting and helped make the Tart for CC and Ned. CC asked if I could teach her to make the Tart. So, here’s Carole’s Fresh Blueberry Tart via Cole and CC’s cooking lessons. Enjoy!
Notes for this recipe: The tart crust is blind baked—a technique used to bake empty crusts, which are later filled. There are several ways to blind bake a crust, the one used in this recipe is the technique I prefer and requires parchment paper and dried beans. The beans may be saved and reused. The lemon zest must be very finely grated--a micro-grater produces the best results. Use only fresh lemon juice and unsalted butter. If you don’t have a tart pan, a deep dish pie plate is an adequate substitute.
Carole's Fresh Blueberry Tart
l-l/4 cups flour
3 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
l/4 tsp. salt
10 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Parchment paper
Dried beans or rice
3/4 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. cold water
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
6 cups fresh blueberries
For Crust: Preheat oven to 425. Select 10” false-bottomed tart pan or a 9” deep false-bottomed tart pan.

Measure the flour, powdered sugar and salt into the work bowl of a food processor. Blend for 5 seconds.

Add butter, and pulse until it is cut in. Then blend until the dough forms a ball.

Gather the dough and form into a palm-sized disc. Place the disc of dough into the bottom of the tart pan.

Gently push the dough evenly over the bottom, and into the corner of the tart pan.

Use your thumb to push the dough from the corner and up the side of the tart pan. If using a deep tart pan, the dough should go up the sides 1 inch.

Line the crust with a piece of parchment paper. Fill the paper with the beans or rice.

Place the tart pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is set and lightly golden brown. Carefully remove parchment and beans and bake for another 5 minutes or until the crust is dry to the touch. Remove tart pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Filling: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt in medium saucepan to blend. Gradually add 2 TBSP cold water and lemon juice, whisking until smooth. Add butter and lemon peel. Add 2 cups berries and mash with potato masher. Cook over med. heat until mixture thickens and boils, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Fold in remaining 4 cups of berries. Scrape the filling into cooled crust.

With a rubber spatula spread the filling to the edges and smooth. Refrigerate till cold, at least l hour. Can be prepared l day ahead. Cover loosely with foil, refrigerate.

To remove the tart from the pan for serving: Select a flat serving plate or platter and have it close to your work surface. Hold the pan in one hand and with your other gently push up on the false bottom. When you feel the tart give way, continue gently pushing up allowing the rim of the pan to fall down around your arm. Place the tart on your work surface. Slip a long thin angled spatula between the false bottom and the crust. Gently slide the spatula around to separate the crust from the bottom. Very gently slide the tart onto the selected serving plate or platter. Allow the tart to sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Something Blue

I could go into some heady discussion about the history of blueberries, how they are native to North American and they have been a part of the culinary landscape here for centuries. That would only detract from the purpose of this article, which is to rave about this deliciously spectacular orb and the magnificent Blueberry Buckle. Many years ago while reading a science fiction novel’s description of some blue food the characters were eating I wondered what it would be like to eat something blue. Then it hit me! We have the blueberry! How could I have forgotten?! (Obviously, not one of my finer moments.)

Over the years I’ve made a myriad of blueberry baked goods. When I was baking professionally, the list was quite extensive, now I make what we like, which tends to be the tried and true old-fashioned favorites. One of these is Blueberry Buckle. This deliciously moist buttery cake dense with blueberries hails back to Colonial days. The blueberry part of the name is obvious. The buckle part of the name refers to the top of the cake, which “buckles” or “warps” during baking. This recipe need not be limited to blueberries—diced peaches, sliced strawberries, raspberries, halved cherries all work well, too.

Blueberry Buckle
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. milk
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a round 9” baking pan. Line bottom only with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and dust the entire pan with flour, tap out excess flour.

Measure the topping ingredients into a small bowl. Using your fingers, blend the mixture completely. Set aside. Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside. Combine the milk and the vanilla and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the brown sugar and butter until creamed. Add the egg and beat until blended.  Add the flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix only until blended. Fold in the blueberries. Scrape into the
prepared pan.

Sprinkle on the topping. Bake for 45 minutes or until done. The edges should be browned and slightly pulling away from the pan. Remove Buckle to a wire rack. Cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan. Place a second wire wrack over the top of the cake. Turn the cake upside down onto the second rack. Remove the pan, peel off the parchment from the Buckle’s bottom. Place a cooling rack over the bottom of the Buckle and gently flip it top side up. Cool completely or serve warm.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Just In Time

DH has a poster sent to him by his Aunt Vi of a man in a mask standing on a neighbor’s porch with a "Saturday night special" and an armful of zucchini. The caption reads, “You may be a red neck if you’ve ever forced your neighbors to take your unwanted zucchini.” That pretty much sums up week three of the zucchini harvest! Right now our neighbors are happy to see us. In a week’s time they will be locking their doors and cowering in the corner when they see us coming. And you think I’m joking!

There are several ways we put zucchini by for the winter months. It is grated and put into zip lock bags and frozen to be used in soups, stews, and casseroles. Zucchini Relish is a favorite and 24 pints of that have been put by. And then there is Zucchini Bread which is baked into small loaves and frozen. For years I used my mother’s zucchini bread recipe. It is quite a well known recipe, but to our taste it was too sweet, had too much cinnamon and was far too oily. So, I began tampering. After two years and I don’t know how many attempts this morning it happened—the recipe is finished! And just in time, too!

Notes for this recipe: The zucchini can be grated in a food processor using the grating blade. It can also be grated by hand. The recipe makes 1 9 x5 inch loaf, 3 3x5 inch loaves or 2 4x6 inch loaves. This recipe freezes extremely well. Wrap the loaves in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, label and freeze. This bread also makes a lovely dessert served with fruit and a cup of tea or coffee. It is not necessary to use an electric mixer for this recipe--I generally use a whisk and a spatula. Quick, simple, and low tech with the same delicious results!

Just In Time Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 c. brown sugar
1-1/4 c. canola oil
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon, optional
1 tsp. salt
2 c. grated zucchini
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan (or 2 to 3 smaller pans) and set aside.

Grate the zucchini and set aside. Measure dry ingredients into a bowl, stir to combine and set aside.

In a large bowl beat together brown sugar and oil. Beat eggs until creamy, add to sugar and oil and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and stir to mix.

Add dry ingredients and mix on low until combined. Stir in grated zucchini and chopped nuts (if using). Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake for 1 hour or until done. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from the pan and cool completely on wire rack.