Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Yes, it's peak blueberry season here in the Northeast, as documented on Gothamist and the August 17th edition of The New York Times Magazine. After reading The Times article and seeing the accompanying recipes, I knew I had to try out at least one of them. Since fresh Maine wild-blueberries are hard to come by, and they have Wyman's frozen wild-blueberries in my local store, Maine Wild-Blueberry Cake it was.
The recipe is pretty easy; I toasted my almonds, mix together the dry ingredients, started in on my wet ones, when the recipe took a distinctly strange turn. After putting in the orange zest, you stir the yogurt and milk together and stir it in. But some odd chemical reaction must take place (maybe the acid in the zest reacts with something in the yogurt?) because what happened next looked like a cross between curdled milk in coffee and cottage cheese.
My initial reaction was "What did I do wrong? Should I start again?" But I decided to forge ahead and folded in the dry ingredients. Evidently all was ok, but the batter look fine after, if a bit on the thick side.
After placing in the blueberries, everything takes on a pretty violet color that didn't really come out well with my camera. I don't have 9-inch square pans, but I do have 9-inch rounds, so I knew that I had to be extra careful about testing to determine it the cake was done or not. In the end, it took about 35 minutes for the cake to be a touch golden on top and ready to cool.
The blueberries were abundant throughout the cake, while the orange zest added a little acidic/citrusy kick that complemented the sweetness of the berries. The ground almonds added a unique texture, almost crumbly I would say, along with a nutty taste; this aspect makes the recipe a perfect candidate for gluten-free exercises. This wasn't my favorite blueberry cake of all time; I'd rather have a more traditional cake, but if you are tired of the same old textures and flavors, and are in the mood for a different type of dessert, I highly suggest this recipe. Now if I can only get my hands on some Maine wild-blueberries for that tart!
Maine Wild-Blueberry Cake adapted from Nancy Harmon Jenkins, published in The New York Times Magazine (August 15, 2008)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, plus more for flouring the pan
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons whole or nonfat plain yogurt
1/3 cup whole or nonfat milk
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen low- bush, wild blueberries (see note).
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square cake pan with butter. Dust the pan with flour, shaking out excess. Set the pan in the freezer.
2. On a baking sheet, roast the almonds in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool and pulse them to a coarse grit in a food processor. Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking powder and sea salt and continue processing to a fine grit.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 3/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape the sides. Beat in the egg, vanilla and orange zest. Stir the yogurt into the milk and then beat it into the batter.
4. Fold the flour mixture into the batter until combined. Toss blueberries with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons flour and fold them into the batter.
5. Transfer the batter to the chilled pan. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon sugar on top. Bake in the oven until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a cake rack. Serves 8.
NOTE: Wyman’s frozen wild blueberries are available at most Whole Foods Markets and health-food stores. When using frozen blueberries, do not let them thaw.