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Cynthia Stone: Baking the blues

These rich blueberry delighst use a little ricotta cheese to bring out the flavour.
These rich blueberry delighst use a little ricotta cheese to bring out the flavour. - Cynthia Stone photo

September is all about the blueberries, at least for me. By all accounts it’s a good crop this year so there’s no better time to bake the blues.

Blueberry Ricotta Muffin Cakes

These lovely cakes are too rich to call muffins but not quite sweet enough to call cupcakes. They add elegance to a brunch table and make a wonderful easy dessert.

The ricotta adds creamy texture and that fantastic milky flavor that goes so well with blueberries. I tried these with lemon zest and juice, then I added some nutmeg and cinnamon, but they are perfect just as they are, no adornment needed.

This recipe makes 12 medium-sized cupcake-muffins but you can bake the batter in a cake pan if you prefer, although it will take a little longer.

Also add a couple of minutes if you use frozen berries, but they work just as well. If you use the big grocery store imports don’t expect as much flavor, though—these shine with our small, local berries.

I don’t know if low-fat ricotta works because I did not try it. I expect it would, maybe with a slightly coarser texture.

1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Whisk together ricotta, eggs melted butter and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and add all at once to ricotta mixture. Stir just until combined and there are no streaks of flour. Fold in the berries — be gentle so they don’t break or the batter will turn out purple instead of golden.

Fresh from the oven, warm and berry, berry good.
Fresh from the oven, warm and berry, berry good.

Line muffin pan with paper cups and give then a spritz of non-stick spray. It’s not essential but it helps the paper peel off more cleanly. Divide batter among the 12. I find a standard ice cream scoop levelled, not mounded, works well. Bake at 350 degrees F 20 to 25 minutes, until a tester in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs. Don’t forget they will need a couple of extra minutes if you use frozen berries. Allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes then cool on a wire rack. These are so rich they don’t need any icing or butter added, but they are perfect served with fruit salad and lightly sweetened yogurt.

Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

Retro, gorgeous and perfect for a weekend dinner, this cake makes the most of our local berries. Serve it warm with whipped cream or good quality vanilla ice cream for a showstopping dessert.

You’ll get 12 generous servings from this cake. Reheat leftovers for a few seconds in the microwave and it’s just about as delicious the next day.

The method is creaming butter and sugar then alternating dry and wet ingredients, but I’ve found adding a couple of spoonfuls of flour before the eggs prevents the batter from curdling. Maybe it’s my imagination but I think it makes the final texture a little finer.

You can use more blueberries if you like but they bleed into the cake as it bakes—not necessarily a bad thing, just be aware.

Base:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup each granulated and firmly-packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tap. Salt
1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup soft unsalted butter
3 eggs
¾ cup whole or 2 per cent milk, not skim
1 tbsp. vanilla

To make the base, which will later become the topping, melt butter in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar and lemon juice. Evenly sprinkle blueberries over the mixture, pressing down lightly.

Now make the cake. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream brown sugar and butter until creamy, fluffy and lighter in colour. Beat in 2 tbsp. of the flour mixture.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each until completely incorporated.

Beat in half the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the milk then remaining dry ingredients.

Spoon batter evenly over berries, trying not to disturb them too much. Spread to the edges.

Bake at 350 degrees F 40 minutes, until a cake tester in the middle comes out clean.

Let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a large serving platter. Serve warm.

Cynthia Stone is an information manager and writer in St. John’s. E-mail questions to her at cynthia.stone@nf.sympatico.ca.

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