Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Teacup Full of Bluebberries: Blueberry Baking Marathon!

“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way 
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day: 
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, 
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum 
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come! 
And all ripe together, not some of them green 
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”
-From Blueberries by Robert Frost

I visited Robert Frost's home once, and from the profusion of apple trees he tended there, felt confident he was my kind of fellow, and certainly someone appreciative of berry picking. Now his poem confirms it! Blueberry fever took over this last week, with blueberry picking, and then an entire blueberry-baking afternoon.

Long ago and far away, when I first was living in Boston, I discovered the Hi-Rise Bakery, and among their many treasures, became enamored (obsessed, unhinged...) over their blueberry lime muffins. I ate one as often as my week allowed. I assumed they would exist in perpetuity...blueberry lime muffins 365-24-7. So I just about had a breakdown the day I walked to the counter and was informed that the blueberries were done for the year, so I'd have to wait until next year for the muffins. It was rather shocking to me that blueberries don't grow year round. The Hi-Rise is still in Boston, still making beautiful baked goods and I do recommend a visit. Ever since I moved away from Boston, I've been looking and longing for that same flavor. And I'm not the only one. In deciding what to make with the blueberry haul, I found quite a few blueberry-lime recipes, but decided to go with a pound cake from the novice chef blog.

The First Lady of Frosting (FLOF) and I prepared for battle by drinking stiff ice tea lattes and then dove in. The blueberry-lime pound cake with cream cheese frosting mixed together quickly, but I underestimated how many limes would be needed to make 2 tablespoons of lime zest (one for each cake). With six limes, we had a scant half tablespoon among both. But at the time, it smelled so fragrant that I assumed it would be plenty. Folding in the blueberries to the batter was the most gratifying part (well, they are edible blue marbles and just look a little more exotic and jewel-like than raisins or chocolate chips). The scent as they baked was narcotic. And with cream cheese frosting, I was prepared for nirvana. Well, it turns out, blueberries and lime zest, especially a quarter of the amount recommended, make for a very delicate flavor. So I was not bowled over with taste. The cream cheese frosting really saves it though, and I have no doubt every last crumb will be consumed. But next year, I will use a ton of lime zest, even if I have to haul home an entire tree's worth and I will add more blueberries and more sugar (it is not a super sweet cake...if that's your preference then follow the recipe, which is here).

Our next bold move (because you can't have *just* cake) was blueberry cookies from the recipe critic (recipe here). Although there was a point at which the batter looked as if it had curdled (presumably from the lemon juice), it came out just a little denser than your average chocolate-chip cookie dough. They took longer to bake than we expected, but it could be that the FLOF's stove outwitted me again and the oven was under-temperature when we put them in. They came out looking a bit like scones, and at first I feared they might be too wodgy (this is an official term, and if you eat enough British baked goods, you will begin to use it too). We didn't have enough cream cheese to make the frosting from this recipe, so we used some of the frosting from the pound cake. And I have to say, once these sat in the fridge for a few hours, they were heavenly with a glass of cold milk. I inhaled them. They are gone. In the blink of an eye. Kaput. No more till next year, baby doll!

But I will say that the flavor is rather mild, even though we put in the required amount of lemon zest and far more vanilla than was called for. I'm not sure what happens during baking that all that blueberriness goes from a burst of flavor to a subtle hint of berry. A conundrum to ponder until next year, when the blueberry patch is bursting again. So ends a spectacular blueberry-baking jag!

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