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Entries in Berries (4)


Blueberry Muffins Two Ways


On our trip to Alaska earlier this summer, we made some wonderful new friends and were lucky enough to enjoy a few meals with them.  These friends are vegan and it was inspiring to see the amazing and delicious meals they have without including any animal products.  I've been trying to work in more vegetarian meals into our week and when I was perusing Gwenyth Paltrow's cookbook the other night I came across her two recipes for blueberry muffins.  She calls one "blythe's blueberry muffins" and the other "healthier version of the blueberry muffins".  Blythe's version contains the usual butter, eggs, sugar, milk and all-purpose flour whereas the healthier version includes spelt flour, soy milk, maple syrup and agave nectar.  I was intrigued... and I happened to have enough blueberries on hand to try both.  Taste test time!

Rob is my opinionated taster who lacks a filter, which I appreciate in the kitchen.  He sampled both of the batters for the muffins, as well as doing a taste test this morning.  I wish I could say that the healthier muffins won, but they didn't... that said, they were quite tasty and had they not been sampled before or after the full-fat version, I don't know that you would think they were anything but delicious!

I've made minor adjustments to both recipes.  For blythe's muffins, I used low fat buttermilk in lieu of 2% or whole milk.  In the healthier version, GP called for 1 cup whole spelt flour and 1 cup white spelt flour - I only had white so I used 2 cups of white.  Aside from a difference in taste, the major difference I noticed between the muffins was that the blythe muffins rose considerably more (and therefore were larger) than the healthier muffins... that is about it!  The Blythe muffins are pictured on the left above and the healthier version is on the right.

Blythe's Blueberry Muffins
Yield = 1 dozen muffins
Active time = 15 minutes; Total time = 45 minutes


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries


 Heat your oven to 375°.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.  Whisk butter, eggs and buttermilk in a bowl.  Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in another bowl.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients; fold in blueberries.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake until muffins are golden brown and a knife comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Serve warm.

Healthier Version of the Blueberry Muffins

Yield = 1 dozen muffins
Active time = 15 minutes; Total time = 45 minutes


  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup light agave nectar
  • cups white spelt flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 375°.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.  Whisk oil, soymilk, maple syrup and agave nectar in a bowl.  Combine spelt flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients; fold in blueberries.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake until muffins are golden brown and a knife comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Serve warm.


Blackberry Buttermilk Cake


We have had some truly awesome blackberries so far this summer - plump and full of flavor and perfectly ripe. When I saw the Blackberry Buttermilk Cake in Bon Appétit, I thought it would be the perfect way to incorporate the delicious berries into our 4th of July party, as well as serve alongside the Cherry Hand Pies.

I am typically not a cake person - I'll take a scoop of ice cream, a slice of pie or a brownie any day over a piece of cake. I find most cakes to be too dry -- this one, however, is incredibly moist thanks to the buttermilk and the layer of blackberries. You could almost eat it for breakfast like this breakfast cake, but I have resisted doing that... so far!

If I served this again, I'd add a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top of each slice. That wasn't practical given that we were outside, but it would be a nice touch.  I made this cake one day ahead of time. If you prepare it in advance, be sure to dust it with powdered sugar just prior to serving as the powdered sugar will have soaked into the cake. I do think it is best served shortly after baking.

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake
Bon Appétit, July 2011
Special Equipment - Use a 9"-10"-diameter springform pan 


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan and parchment
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour (sifted, then measured) plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)


  • Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan; sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup sugar.
  • Sift 2 1/3 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup butter and remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Pour batter over berries in pan; smooth top.
  • Bake until cake is golden brown and cake bounces back when pressed gently with fingertip, about 1 hour 25 minutes for a 9" pan and about 1 hour for a 10" pan. Start checking the cake at 45 minutes - reviewers stated that their cakes baked quickly. Minute took 1 hour 10 minutes but I covered the top loosely with tinfoil at 45 minutes to prevent over-browning. 
  • Garnish cake with fresh blackberries or whipped cream.


Berry Baskets

The arrival of summer makes me reminisce about summers spent in my yard in Palmer Lake, playing in my treehouse, reading in the hammock and picking raspberries. The trick to picking raspberries at our house was that you had to beat the black bears to the patch or all the berries would be gone! It is still a bit early for picking berries here, but there is an abundance of berries in the markets and I can picture them sitting on my kitchen counter in any one of these berry baskets (before I turn them into a pie, of course). I first saw these at Anthropologie, but there are similar options available elsewhere and in some fun colors (red!).  




Classic Strawberry Shortcake with Rhubarb Compote

I am often enticed by the cover of the (many) food magazines that I get each month. The photography is impressive and does exactly what it ought to - it draws you in and makes you think that you need to cook that recipe NOW. This reminds me that I still need to make the Spiced Chocolate Torte wrapped in Chocolate Ribbon from the December 2010 cover of Bon App tit. I don't even like cake and still that recipe is calling to me...

When Fine Cooking arrived this month with a gorgeous shot of Classic Strawberry Shortcake on the cover, I knew I had to give it a try. Shortcake is one of my go-to summer desserts... the biscuits are easy to make and can be made ahead of time and you can use whatever fruit is in-season and looks great at your local farmer's market. This week I received rhubarb in my Door to Door Organics delivery and was inspired to add a little something extra to my strawberry shortcake - a layer of rhubarb compote. I think that a fruit shortcake dessert can often be a little dry, and usually you compensate for this dryness with more whipped cream. By adding a layer of compote, you can increase the moistness of the dessert with a healthier (and delicious) fruit layer instead of additional whipped cream (but by all means, still use whipped cream!).

This dish truly takes no more than 45 minutes of total prep time and is a great dessert for making ahead of time. The biscuits and the compote can be made in advance and the fruit can be sliced... then your guests can create their own shortcake masterpiece!

Classic Strawberry Shortcake with Rhubarb Compote
Adapted from the Classic Strawberry Shortcake recipe from the May 2011 issue of Fine Cooking

For the strawberries
1 lb. ripe strawberries, hulled (about 4 cups)

For the biscuits
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream; more for brushing
1/4 cup buttermilk

For the whipped cream
1-1/2 cups heavy cream

For the rhubarb compote
2 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup sugar (or additional sugar if you prefer the rhubarb sweeter)

Prepare the compote
Simmer rhubarb slices, sugar and 1/2 cup water in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Simmer until rhubarb softens, approximately 5 minutes. Cool mixture to room temperature, gently stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes. Chill, covered, until ready to use.

Prepare the strawberries
Slice the strawberries 1/4 inch thick. Let the berries sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. If you prefer your berries sweeter, add sugar accordingly.

Make the biscuits
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425 F. Line a large heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment.

Sift the flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir in the salt. Using a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. You can also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for mixing the biscuit dough but be very careful not to overmix (truthfully, I am lazy and prefer to use my stand mixer whenever possible).

In a small bowl, beat the egg and heavy cream with a fork. Mix in the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream mixture. Mix with the fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just comes together; it will still look a little shaggy. Gather the dough and gently knead it three or four times. If the dough seems dry and doesn t form a cohesive mass, work in more cream, 1 tsp. at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. If you prefer to have neat, circular biscuits, roll the dough into a 3/4 -inch-thick disk. With a sharp 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, press straight down to cut the dough into rounds and lift straight up to remove (don t twist the cutter or it will seal the sides of the biscuits and interfere with rising). Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, gently knead them together, re-roll, and cut out more biscuits until you have a total of 6.

If you prefer to have free-form biscuits (like I do), simply divide the dough into 6 pieces and flatten each piece to approximately 3/4-inch-thick pieces that are as rounded as you can make them. Handle the dough as little as possible. In my opinion, this is a rustic dessert and perfectly-shaped biscuits are unnecessary.

Lightly brush the biscuit tops with cream (about 1 tbsp) and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp sugar. Bake, rotating the baking sheet once, until the biscuit tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Let the biscuits cool slightly while you whip the cream.

Whip the cream
In a large, chilled metal bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks with an electric hand mixer. (Use immediately or refrigerate, covered until ready to serve). If you prefer sweeter whipped cream, add 2 tbsp of granulated sugar.

Assemble the shortcakes
Using a serrated knife, split the warm biscuits in half horizontally and transfer the bottoms to 6 dessert plates. Spoon the berries and their juice evenly over the biscuit bottoms and cover with the rhubarb compote. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and cover each with a biscuit top. Spoon more berries and cream over each shortcake and serve immediately.

Make ahead tips
The compote can be made up to 48 hours ahead of time. The biscuits can be baked 10 to 12 hours ahead of time and reheated in a 350 F oven before serving. The strawberries can be sliced up to 2 hours ahead and the whipped cream can be made at the same time and refrigerated, covered. If necessary, lightly re-whip before serving.