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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yummilicious Blueberry Crumb Bars and the Meaning of Life

Blueberries. Sugar. Butter. Flour. These are the primary ingredients for these Yummilicious Blueberry Crumb Bars. Each of these ingredients has a mission. A very clear purpose. Take butter, for instance. Butter is a tasty fat. That's how it is used in baking. This is how it enhances every food it encounters. Or sugar. Sugar is a sweetener. There is no mistaking its purpose. It clearly sweetens everything it comes into contact with. There are no questions, no grey areas, no wondering. These ingredients do what they're supposed to do. And very well, I might add. Especially in these Yummilicious Blueberry Crumb Bars.

But what about my purpose? My mission? Why isn't my mission in life as clear as sugar's mission? Why can't I achieve my purpose with the same ease as butter can? How is it that a brainless, ordinary thing like sugar can accomplish so much, so easily; when unique, extraordinary things like human beings find accomplishment so difficult?

I have no answers. I can only send these cosmic questions out into the webosphere. In any event, no matter how much I may be at a loss to accomplish, or to even know, my purpose, it is comforting to witness the perfect accomplishment of purpose of the ingredients for these Yummilicious Blueberry Crumb Bars. I found the recipe on
Smitten Kitchen, and after tasting them, I had to add "yummilicious" to the name for obvious reasons.

So, when you are wondering what your purpose is or feel like you can't make things work, just make these blueberry bars and watch how easily and profoundly these simple ingredients all come together.

Yummilicious Blueberry Crumb Bars

Posted on
Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from 

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Baking, for me, is both a comfort and an adventure.  While I love the sweet results of baking, I am always a little fearful of having a recipe go terribly wrong.  And oftentimes, it does.  In fact, most of the time, my baking is a comedy of errors.  If I ever were to host a baking show, it would no doubt be on the Comedy Network.  Inevitably, I pull the results of my baking adventure out of the oven and go "hmm..."  Maybe I overmixed the batter?   Maybe I undermixed?  Maybe my baking soda is old and no longer effective?  Maybe the eggs really should have been room temperature?  Maybe the butter was too soft?  In the end, I chalk it up to my crazy oven.  (Now that I think about it, it seems every place I've ever lived, I'm plagued with a crazy oven.  Hmm...)

Among the many recipes that didn't make it onto the blog due to slightly disastrous results were the Champagne Cupcakes (hmm... it had a slightly metallic taste), the chewy, fudgy, triple chocolate brownies (hmm...are they supposed to feel like bricks?), and the Hershey Perfectly Chocolate Cake (hmm...3 minutes out of the oven and the cupcakes were so shriveled and sunken, they look like they have been sitting out for a hundred years---but, never fear, folks, this Hershey fan will continue to ruin this recipe several more times in hopes that I can find the "perfect" secret).

Recently, however, while making dinner for my parents, I tried two recipes from Alexandra's Kitchen that turned out delicious.  So far, the recipes that Alexandra posts have yet to disappoint.  In fact, I defy you to find a clunker at  For dinner, I made her zucchini fritters, and even though I did not use the tzatziki sauce (I used sour cream instead) and left out a couple of ingredients from the fritters, they were awesome. 

The star of the night, though, was the Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake.  Just look at her pictures and tell me, who could resist giving this a try?  I generally don't keep buttermilk on hand, but I had bought it for a recipe and was excited to use it in this wonderful creation and am now a buttermilk convert!  I'm not sure why this is a "breakfast" cake because it tastes too sweet, too delightful to be in the company of bran muffins and pancakes.  It was delectable!  Absolutely heavenly.  Try it.  You'll love it.

A couple more recent winning recipes that didn't make it onto the blog, including Red Velvet Cupcakes and Outrageous Chocolate Chocolate Cookies, were left out merely because I didn't have the time to photograph them.  I don't think (from the way that cake looked and smelled) that I wouldn't have had the patience to take some pictures before devouring it completely, if it weren't for the fact that Mom was there.  She was the art directer for the photo shoot, and together we managed some lovely pictures before the three of us dug into this delicious cake.  She also helped out with a few dishes and tidying up while she was there (which I didn't discover until after she had left and found that a bunch of stuff has been magically put away.)  Thanks, Mom. 

And so, the moral of this story is:  Moms are awesome, my crazy oven tries to ruin my baking, and this Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake is a definite, hands-down winner.

Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Serves 6-8

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon (I used dried lemon peel, but fresh lemon zest is best)
7/8 cup + 1 T. sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour  (I used white whole wheat flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt 
2 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup buttermilk (If you don't have buttermilk, go out and buy it--it's worth it.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries. 4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes.