Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Berry Nice Surprise!

I know I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I'm really eager for the tastes of summer. Obviously, with the farmers' market just over a month away, I'm not likely to get fresh locally-grown summer fruits for a while.

But I can do the next best thing: I can enjoy last year's fruit, straight from the freezer.

I know, I know -- it's not the same as fresh. But when I plan to bake with that fruit, the difference between fresh and frozen doesn't seem as important.

I've been thinking about the next-to-the-last bag of blueberries for about a week, wondering what I should make: a fruity bar cookie somewhere between my lime-ginger squares and my date bars? clafoutis? something along the lines of a cobbler?

Eventually I chose a recipe for an Autumn Fruit Pudding Cake I found a couple of years ago through the King Arthur Flour site. When I tried the cake originally, I used pears with a sprinkling of mini diced crystallized ginger, and it was a big hit.

This time around, though, I used the thawed blueberries and paired them with dried lavender from my herb garden. It's a combination I've grown fond of, especially in muffins, so I knew I had to try it in the cake.

The cake itself was simple to prepare and allowed me to use more local ingredients: whole wheat flour, an egg, and milk. (I considered using honey to sweeten the cake, but I'm running low!)

And on top of all that, inspired by an exquisite Dagoba organic chocolate bar I recently enjoyed, I decided to top the cake with a sprinkling of dark bittersweet chocolate shavings (also from Dagoba).

Richly fragrant, this cake enticed me long before it emerged from the oven. And while underneath that amber crust it was decidedly messy (until it cooled, of course, but I couldn't wait!), with a silky berry pudding layer under the tender cake, the combination of flavors resulted in sheer bliss.

But then, that's not really a surprise.

Blueberry-Lavender Pudding Cake

I haven't traditionally been a big fan of baking cakes. They're great to eat, sure, but I'd rather bake cookies or bars or even a pie. But when faced with such a simple recipe as this one (originally billed as an "Autumn Fruit Pudding Cake" on the King Arthur Baking Circle online), how can I resist? And when the basic recipe makes a superb blank slate for a multitude of flavor combinations, well, that's just my speed. Enjoy this cake as is, or vary your fruit and spice combinations (pear-ginger is fantastic, too).

2 c blueberries, fresh or thawed
1 tsp dried lavender buds
1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c evaporated cane juice crystals
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c milk

1/2 c evaporated cane juice crystals
1 T cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 T dried lavender buds
1 c hot water (not boiling)
1 oz dark chocolate, chopped or grated coarsely

Lightly grease an 8" square or 9" round baking pan. Place the berries in the pan and toss with lavender. Preheat oven to 375 F.

In large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Beat in egg. Add flour alternately with the milk, beating after each addition. Spread batter over the berries in the pan to cover.

For the topping, sift together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and lavender. Sprinkle over the batter, then carefully pour the hot water over everything, allowing it to pool on top. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

Bake about 60 minutes, until nicely browned on top. Remove from oven, and serve warm. (You may find, though, that it looks most presentable when it has had a chance to cool and the layers have solidified a bit.)

Serves 8.


At 4/26/2006 4:39 PM, Blogger Tina said...

*drool* I'm definitely going to make that recipe this summer!:-)

At 4/29/2006 2:02 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

And I definitely think you should! Try it with other fruit, too... or combinations, like peaches and blueberries (and maybe ginger or mint?). The possibilities are ENDLESS!


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