Tuesday, June 28, 2005

a post-cleaning blueberry cake

I woke up Monday morning to hear the twittering of those tiny birds who are roosting on the roof, the dulcet sound of a humming air conditioner. I could smell coffee and a hint of cinammon, brewed hours before yet still pungent. I stretched out in bed, the sun shining through my window, pondering the patterns of light illuminating the piles of dirty clothes strewn all about the room. I was slightly groggy, somewhat sore (who knew mopping could work so many muscles?), and giddy with the prospect of an entirely free day.

I had planned on instituting an immediate plan of vacation-action: To Explore Boston, a city that I know sadly little of. Days after graduation I had left for Israel, returning to Boston only to begin work the next day. There has been no time yet to feel comfortable in the city, like I belong here. But true to my Brunonian background, whenever there are other ‘larger’ things to be done it seems like my productivity facilities shutdown and I immediately revert to some kind of procrastination. And after that last night’s 11-hour stint of hard core cleaning, my mind and body united to tell me one thing and one thing only: bake a cake.

Looking in the refrigerator for inspiration, I found a magnificent pint of blueberries. Poppingly ripe and almost blackly-blue, they are the soul of my blueberry coffee cake with a crunchy toasted pecan crust.

When I later pulled the cake out of the oven I could hardly wait for it to sufficiently cool before cutting a generous slice. Its smell immediately brought me back to when I was ten - the small cluster of blueberry bushes near my aunt’s lakeside house in Pennsylvania, my mouth stained blue, juice dripping down my chin, the berries roasting in the hot summer sun. The cake itself was soft and light, gooey and steaming blue with burst berries. The crust was a perfect combination of sweet and crunchy – the toasted pecans add an extra oomph of rich nutty texture.

I took my piece of blueberry cake, a steaming mug of coffee, and the new David Sedaris book out onto the shady porch. I sat there for a long while, perfectly content. Emily and Sarah, my oldest, comfiest friends, soon arrived and had no problem helping me in the cake eating fest. Later, though, we did go out to explore Boston, laugh over food and wine while perched at a breezy outdoor table, and talk about where this so-called "Real World" is taking us.

I maintain, though, that any talk of the Real World must be preceded by cake. It is much more palatable that way.

Blueberry Coffee Cake with a Crunchy Pecan Crust
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 stick softened butter
1 1/4 plus 3 tbs. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. milk
3+ c. blueberries (I like to err on the side of more)
1 egg white
1 1/2 c. toasted pecans, roughly chopped

-preheat oven to 350 and grease a 2-3 inch cake pan
-sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
-combine butter and 1 1/4 c. sugar in another large bowl, beating it until pale and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the almond extract. Slowly add the flour, alternating with the milk, until it is just incorporated.
-fold in the berries and spoon the concoction in to the baking dish.
-in another bowl, stir the egg white, pecans, and remaining sugar until coated. spoon the mixture evenly on top of the cake.
-bake for around 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and a cake tester poked into the center comes out clean.


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