Claire’s Blueberry Buckle

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Well, this was originally going to be my Fourth of July entry with some sort of groan-inducing name like “Red White and Blueberry Buckle,” but I made this right before going to a party on the Fourth and fell asleep almost as soon as I returned home.  So we’ll just have to keep the spirit of the Fourth with us all through the year, or at least through the week, so I can write about it almost a week later!

I’ve really been craving blueberry-infused baked goods of late, and have perused dozens of recipes from tarts to pierogies to good ol’ fashioned pies. But then I was flipping through my copy of the Clarie’s Corner Copia Cookbook, which I bought on Amazon for two dollars when I first moved to New York and was feeling a bit homesick for one of my favorite hometown and college-town haunts. My best friend Sharon and I used to go there all the time, particularly during summers and college breaks, and sit at the round table in the front window, eating desserts and catching up over coffee, so I felt particularly compelled to try this one out (many more of Claire’s recipes will follow this one–hers is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks).

To tell the truth, I had never really tried or even heard of a blueberry buckle before I tried out this recipe, but I was really pleased by the results. The cake is dense without being dry, and the topping filled my apartment with the really comforting, lingering aroma of the mingling of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Blueberry Buckle (From Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook by Claire Criscuolo)

  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I used Crisco. I know, I know. It’s not that good for you.)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (for me this was about 1 medium lemon)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (or, as above, the zest of one lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

I was really excited to bust out my new hand mixer for this one (okay, I “uncovered” my sister’s old one, but I’m not averse to curb-diving or scavenging as it is). I’ve been baking without one forever, though, so don’t feel like you’ll be paralyzed if you don’t have one.

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, bust out that hand mixer if you’ve got it and your bicep if you don’t, and cream the shortening on medium for one minute or…I don’t know, until your spoon or spatula (rubber scraper!) makes the shortening look creamy.Add the sugar and continue beating the mixture. Then add the egg and continue beating for another minute or so. Add the milk. Beat it.

Grab yourself an egg and beat it!

Grab yourself an egg and beat it!

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest with a fork. A note on zest: only grate the yellow part of the lemon peel and avoid grating the white pith, which will make your cake bitter. Here’s the before-shot, which incidentally looks like a cracked egg to me:

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Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture and BEAT IT! (A word to the wise: I’d probably loosely combine them with a spatula before using a hand mixer so you don’t get a cloud of flour and zest in your face). Then stir in the blueberries. Claire says to do this gently. That’s right–treat them the way you’d like to be treated.

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Okay, now the fun part: preparing the topping! Combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Add the butter and rub the whole mixture together with your fingers until it’s combined. Resist the urge to lick your hands, as you’re probably going to feed this to others. Add in the walnuts and toss it all together.

So, as with my cocoa brownie endeavor, I used a round pan (in fact, the very same one!) rather than the 8″ x 8″ pan for which the recipe called. I have since procured a square pan. Grease whatever pan you’re planning to use or spray it with cooking spray. Pour in the batter and smooth the top; then sprinkle the topping evenly over it. Bake it in the preheated oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes–I’d start checking around an hour in, inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake to see if it comes out clean. When it’s ready, take it out of the oven to cool.

Overall, I think my friends enjoyed this dessert. I have to say, my favorite part was the topping, and I think a number of different fruits or berries could be swapped in for the blueberries when summer’s over. As always, Claire delivered.

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