food porn, Uncategorized

Blueberry Almond Coffee Cake

Yes.  Blueberry.  Almond.  Coffee.  Cake.  Or, why I’m so bleeping fat this month.

Some of you may have seen the food porn photos of this one up on my FaceBook page over the last couple of weeks.  Yes.  It’s that one.  At long last.

Here’s the back story to this one.  I found a baking magazine that I absolutely adore.  It’s a monthly publication that we sell at my work, simply titled Bake From Scratch.  It’s like my food soul mate.  It’s like they knew that I wanted new pastry recipes because I’m not as well-versed in baking as I am with cooking, and I wanted to change that.  It’s like they knew I love coffee, and coffee cake, and recipes that aren’t the same old boring thing.

This magazine is, simply put, my baking kryptonite.  It speaks to my little foodie heart.

In one issue, they focused entirely on different variations on cinnamon rolls.  In another, s’mores.  Including a s’more’s cake, and cinnamon roll topped apple pie.  Yeah.  It’s nuts!

So, depending on how much money I have for food each week, I go for trying a new recipe here and there.  Well this one I had to try multiple times, it was so good.

And I would like to let you guys know that I had every intention of bringing in a cake to work for everyone … but my mom ate it …. No, seriously, she ate most of the second one that I had forgotten about, and when I went to bring it into work there was a tiny sliver saved for me.  Two pieces, that’s all I got out of that coffee cake.  Two.  I love you mom, but TWO PIECES?!?

To be fair, she had been the one who’d asked for it.  Next time, I’m just going to have to make two cakes and leave one at home as a decoy while I take half of the other one to my chiropractor (who might have also been promised a slice that was no longer there by the time I got to it) and the other half to work.  We will see.

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So, I don’t know copyright laws … so I’m not, I’m sorry to say, going to post the actual recipe here, but I will tell you about my process of making it.  I just don’t want to get sued, since it’s not my property…I’m kind of broke, so pissing off a publisher might not be a good idea. So, instead, I will link you all to Bake From Scratch Magazine, and just say that…well…don’t look at their website while hungry.  If you want the actual recipe, you can buy the magazine, or if you know me in person I will lend you my copy.  If I get it back and can’t read it because you’ve drooled on it too much, I will be insanely pissed off.

I will tell you, it’s actually a fairly straight-forward, easy recipe.  You make a topping, you make a batter, you layer in blueberries so that when they bake up they get plump and pop in your mouth when you bite into the cake.  It’s like a blueberry orgy… I’m not ashamed of that sentence.  And the crumble topping, with the almonds that get all toasty and buttery.  Okay, I’m drooling on my keyboard.

So I’ve had mixed results with things like cookie recipes from weird magazines in the past, so with this recipe I followed it to a tee to make sure I wasn’t messing anything up.  You start with the crumble topping.  There’s surprisingly less sugar in it than you imagine (though still a decent amount, I just know I made about three times as much for my last apple pie than I did for this cake).  You mix softened butter and sugar until it’s crumbly as sin, then you add the almonds (otherwise the almonds get under your fingernails while you’re crumbling the sugar and that’s just no fun later…although it still tastes good).

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Then you make the batter for the cake.  I use two different kinds of AP (all-purpose for you non-foodies) flour, when I’m mixing my dry ingredients together in my bowl.  I use regular unbleached white, a good general thing to have on hand (and all they say to use in the recipe), but since I was raised with whole wheat flour, I also keep some unbleached wheat on hand.  For this I was brazen enough to use a 50/50 mix because the sugar and the blueberries were enough to override the wheat taste.  But you don’t just use AP flour, not for this recipe.  There’s also some almond flour, which gives the cake flavor as well as a different texture.  If you’re trying this at home, go for the super-fine grind on your almond flour – it makes a world of difference.  Otherwise it’s just like almond meal, and then you get an even crumblier biscuit-like texture that I’m not terribly fond of.  Add in your salt and your baking powder, and you’re good to go with the dry.

You know how they always say “cream” your butter in with your sugar?  They mean it.  The creamier you get that butter-sugar mixture, the better and fluffier the cake will be.  As soon as everything is light and fluffy, you throw in your eggs, your vanilla and almond extracts, and then lower the speed on your mixer.

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Here’s the tricky part.  You add in half your dry, then all of your milk, then the second half of your dry ingredients.  I usually end up dropping the bowl of the dry ingredients halfway through pulling it out of there, so be careful.

Maybe the most surprising thing to me, a beginning baker with not much experience other than Martha Stewart cookie recipes, was the next ingredient: Sour Cream.  I know, I know…sour cream in a sweet cake recipe?  Well, yeah, it kind of makes sense.  It balances the flavor a little (I mean you have all that sugar and almond in there), but more than that it actually helps the texture of the whole thing, it makes it nice and creamy, so that when you get a bite in your mouth it just kind of …. melts.

Alright, so you’ve got your batter, and it’s all wet and sticky and amazing.  You have your baking dish (hopefully you’ve oiled/buttered and floured that sucker, otherwise this is going to be one hell of a mess).  Now I need you to hold yourself back a bit…rein it in!  You only want to pour HALF of the batter in at first.  What?  Jen, you’re nuts, half?  You want us to have half a cake?

No, my friends.  I want you to have this….

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Yes, that’s a full layer of blueberries right there in the middle of my baking dish.  You take all but about two handfuls of your blueberries and actually make a middle layer for your cake.  I was snacking on my blueberries while waiting for my butter to soften, so the photo above may be a little bit more sparse than the first round of coffee cake I made, but it still gets the point across.

Then the other half of your batter (see, told you it would be worth it!), and then you top it with the two handfuls of blueberries you reserved (unless you ate them while waiting….maybe get two containers of blueberries next time).

But wait, there’s more!

Don’t forget your crumble topping!  That’s like…the best part.  Aside from the blueberries.

Then you wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am it in the oven (350f – ish for 55 minutes, unless you have MY oven and then it’s 365 for 65 minutes), make sure you can stick it with a wooden tester stick (aka chopstick, in my house) and nothing gooey seeps out with it, and you’re good to go.

And I do mean good.

Yeah, baby.  That just happened.

Sorry, I’m getting all excited about it again and I don’t even have enough ingredients to make it again here at home.  Talk about being blue-berried.  Hashtag Food Porn, hashtag I warned you.

Now close your mouth, you’re drooling.

I’m going to wax on a bit about the boring stuff before I get to the reflection exercise, here.  There’s something so satisfying about knowing that every recipe I’ve tried from these magazines has actually worked out.  I’ve done other magazines with so-so results, as I said before – they’re not strictly baking magazines, it’s been like … basically what I consider housewife magazines, which, no offense to housewives, don’t always include recipes that work for everyone (or sometimes anyone, I mean they just throw a recipe in there without seeming like they’ve tested it, and it either tastes horrible or is a complete failure – granted, not every single one is bad, it just seems like it’s a bit of a gamble, and, well, have you seen the price of baking ingredients lately?  I have… not a single one of them is something I want to waste).  And I’ve tried websites that were supposedly by “cooks” that have “great reputations,” and let’s just say one little lady’s house on the prairie (I won’t name names) had a scone recipe that fell flat.  Like, literally – someone messed up a quantity for the wet ingredients and my scones slipped right off my baking sheet and had to be mopped up, they were straight liquid.  But this Bake From Scratch magazine (again, they’re not paying me to say this, this is strictly my opinion … if you want to pay me to say it there’s a link on the contact page!) is one that you can totally tell is made by bakers for bakers.  They actually test their recipes before putting them out – at least, they have with the ones that I’ve decided to try at home.

The magazine is a little more money than I usually spend on things like that, but it has been honestly worth every penny I put into buying ingredients for those things that I’ve made out of the two issues I have.  With this recipe, they’ve made a lifelong friend in me.

I may not be the best baker in the world (oh, god, so far from it), but something about being able to take a recipe and NOT screw it up just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  It makes all of the effort, the hope, and such, and turns it into something tangible – this isn’t an hour and a half of my time wasted.  Something about baking, and having a good end result from it, just takes all of the crap of the day from off my shoulders, and knowing that there was at least one thing I didn’t screw up in a day that I can actually taste (literally) can make a world of difference.  It’s like, while I’m making this recipe next time, I’ll be sure to have fond memories and a sense of hope for what’s to come, and for me that means a lot.  Even if it’s just coffee cake.  It may seem silly to some people, but knowing that my effort won’t go to waste or go unappreciated is a serious load off.  Those blueberries turn into little bombs of joy, and the almonds that get all toasty on the top are like warm friends greeting me … okay, even as I typed that I rolled my eyes at myself, but you guys…you know what good food made from the heart does to people.  That’s what this recipe represents to me.  I hope you guys get it, try it, and enjoy it as much as I did.

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