My first chapter is due next week. I scrapped one of my chapters (which included the tale of a man who lost his hand in an epic three-man fight) in favor of one where I write about vocabulary! The epic three-man fight will go to the introduction, so that people will want to read my dissertation, and then BAM, I hit them with my summary of 500+ mentions of the term debilitas over the course of four centuries. Once they think they’ve been bored out of their minds, a chapter on castration, followed by one on disability and political power. Can you tell I was bingeing on “Game of Thrones” when I outlined the second and third chapters?
But anyway, you can imagine that sorting through 500+ mentions of debilitas in primary sources is kind of super exhausting, especially when my Latin skills could use some work. This meant one thing: procrastibaking! To, um, clear my head and relax and stuff.
Mother’s Day (the US version) was this past Sunday, and one of the things that my mom bakes that I absolutely adore is her blueberry lemon crumb pie. It is happiness in a pie shell, and I have no idea how to bake it. So the alternative was to bake something I’ve seen her bake before and that I’ve helped with – blueberry crumb cake. My mom and I saw Ina Garten make it on “The Barefoot Contessa” (our favorite Food Network program), so of course we had to try it out. Being away from home in a strange kitchen, however, means that I do not possess a cake pan. Thus, it was time to return to my trusty muffin pan.
Now, this is a recipe where you will have to set the eggs and butter at room temperature, so if you’re going to bake in the morning, set them on your kitchen counter/table the night before. Eggs can stay at room temperature for up to 24 hours, so don’t worry about leaving them out overnight. If you want to bake them in the afternoon, you can probably take them out in the morning, unless the butter is frozen, in which case overnight may be better. Eggs need to be at room temperature along with the butter so that they better incorporate with the other ingredients. This gives you better crumbles and happier tastebuds. Do it for your tastebuds.
Note: This is Ina Garten’s recipe, but I have modified it very slightly, and I have noted where modifications have been made.
First, we start with the blueberries (assuming you left the eggs and butter at room temperature and can actually start baking). You’ll need a cup of blueberries, washed and dried. I like to dry them on a plate covered in a paper towel. Now is also a good time to zest a lemon. The recipe says 1/2 tsp, but just zest the whole thing.
Then, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).
Take a stick of unsalted butter (113 g, you metric people) and melt it. The stovetop is the easiest way to control the melting process, though it may take the longest amount of time (and then you’ll have to wash the pan). You can melt the butter more quickly in a microwave, but you will have to check on your butter every 10-15 seconds, because if it stays in the microwave too long, your butter will explode. I say this from experience…and from 10 minutes of cleaning melted butter from the inside of the microwave (sorry, floormates, that was me! Here, have a crumble!).
While your butter cools down, gather the dry ingredients: 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (note: the recipe originally called for light), 1 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg. Put these in a medium-sized bowl.
Now, pour in the butter. Use a spatula to get everything out.
Stir. You will get something that does not look pretty, but that smells really good.
Add 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour into the questionable-looking mixture.
Stir the batter slowly to combine the flour with the melted butter mixture, and like magic, you will have a beautiful mixture. Set that on the side to cool while you prepare the non-crumble part.
Remove the crumble topping to a smaller bowl because you’ll need that medium-sized bowl again for the dry ingredients. Unless you have another medium-sized bowl lying around.
Time for the dry ingredients! Add 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp kosher salt into a bowl.
Ordinarily, you’d sift these. I do not have a sifter with me, so I recommend whisking or using a fork to combine them. You want to make sure everything is evenly dispersed.
Now take a large bowl and add 3/4 stick (85 g) room-temperature (or super soft) unsalted butter, along with 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Note: please do not take butter straight from the fridge and try to microwave it. There’s a chance you’ll get it at the right consistency, but you will mostly likely melt your butter, and then it will not be usable (though I guess you could try to chill it again, but let’s try not to make the butter suffer too much).
The recipe calls for a mixer. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not have one here because the outlets in this country are different from the ones in the US, and I did not want to spend lots of money on something I couldn’t bring back with me. If you’re going to be in one country for a long time, though, I highly recommend getting a KitchenAid mixer. Those things are amazing.
Right, you’re supposed to mix the butter and sugar for 4-5 minutes in a mixer. This is highly important because you want the butter and sugar to mix and become one light and fluffy homogenous form, so you can’t skimp on the mixing. If you have a mixer, go rock that mixer. If you don’t, here’s a backup plan:
Use a wooden spoon to put the sugar all over the butter, so that there are no stray sugar granules.
Now mix as fast as you can for 500 reps. You heard me. Take a 15-second break every 100 reps, and then get back to work. When you finish, it should look like this:
That is light and fluffy.
Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and stir after each one to incorporate each egg into the batter.
Add 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, lemon zest (from the whole lemon), and 2/3 cup sour cream.
Stir well to mix everything.
Now add those dry ingredients you prepared earlier.
Mix just to combine, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients get incorporated. And mix slowly, otherwise you’ll get flour in your face. Do not overmix once you’ve added the dry ingredients.
Add one cup of blueberries and fold them in using a spatula.
Prepare a muffin pan with tall cupcake liners. This is necessary for keeping the crumbly part of the crumbles in.
Fill your muffin tin. There should be enough batter for twelve crumbles, so just make sure that the distribution is even. If there’s a crumble with a sad amount of blueberries (i.e. none or disproportionately less than the other crumbles), pick some of the extra you washed and dried and drop ’em in.
Now, take the streusel (crumble) part you prepared earlier, and disperse them evenly over each cupcake case. It will seem like you have too much streusel at first, but trust me, you’ll need all of it.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you poke one with a toothpick and it comes out clean.
Pretty sure that without those tall cupcake cases, there would’ve been a horrible mess in the oven, because these things rise when they bake.
Right, I’m going to eat one, and then get back to work.
Here’s the link to the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/blueberry-crumb-cake-recipe.html
And here’s the ingredients and modified directions for anyone who didn’t feel like clicking the link:
For the streusel (crumble topping):
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar (light or brown works fine)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 stick (113 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
For the cake:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 stick (6 tbsp/85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (but you can zest the whole lemon and use that)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh blueberries
1. Wash and dry a cup of blueberries (or more if you want). Zest a lemon.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
3. For the streusel: combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.
4. For the cake: Sift/find some way to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
5. Cream the butter and sugar for 4-5 minutes (or 500 really fast reps after making sure that the butter is completely covered in sugar). Add eggs, one at a time, and stir after each one to incorporate it. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.
6. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, and mix just until combined.
7. Fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.
8. Line a muffin pan with tall muffin cases. Fill each case with roughly the same amount of batter, and correct for any blueberry distribution discrepancies.
9. Break apart the streusel mixture from earlier and load up each cup with crumbly goodness.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Wait at least five minutes before consuming them to let them cool off.
Happy procrastibaking! If you like what you’ve read, please follow, subscribe, or follow me on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop).
Next week: back to finding places to study and drink hot chocolate in Cambridge!
P.S. I leave you with an artsy picture that my floormate took while keeping me company in the kitchen: