Blueberry Crumb Cake {ModBak}

Like most of the rest of the country, we have had an unseasonably warm spring and early summer here. One of the consequences of this has been that many of the local fruits and vegetables are coming on much earlier than normal.

So I was only a little surprised to find fresh local blueberries at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago. Blueberries don’t usually hit until about mid-July in our area, but here is was the second week of June and they were at the market already.

I try to avoid buying trucked in fruit whenever possible, so I was holding out until I could get local blueberries to make this recipe from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I just never imagined it would happen this soon. This recipe is a combination of  a blueberry crumble and a cake. It has a thick cake layer on the bottom, topped with a mix of blueberries and crumb topping.

I began by making the crumb topping, which consisted of flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Because the butter was melted, it had more of a doughy consistency than a crumb topping made with room temperature butter.

I crumbled the topping onto the blueberries in a baking dish and set them aside while I made the cake. I found this step kind of odd, as I expected the recipe to say to put the blueberries on the batter, then add the crumb topping. It turns out my instincts were right on in this case, as I got an e-mail from Nick Malgieri after I made this recipe noting that this instruction was an error in the book. Either way, it worked out fine.

The cake batter was made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and buttermilk. After mixing it up, I spread it in the pan.

I topped the batter with the blueberries and crumb mixture.

I baked the cake for about 40 minutes, until the batter was set and the crumb well-colored.

The blueberries melted into a jam-like consistency and were delicious with the crumb topping. I thought the cake layer was a bit too thick for the amount of topping. I think if you doubled the amount of blueberries, it would be perfect.

Abby liked this recipe a lot (she has a thing for blueberries), and she wrote the official post for the Challenge. You can check it out here.

First Farmer’s Market Day, 2011

There are a lot of “Farmer’s Markets” around these days. I put the words in quotes because not all “Farmer’s Markets” are really Farmer’s Markets. To my mind, a true Farmer’s Market only allows local farmers and food artisans (cheesemakers, bakers, etc.) to sell food grown or produced locally.

So if you live in the Midwest and go to the market in early Spring to find acorn squash, corn, and tomatoes, you know you’ve stumbled on a “Farmer’s Market”. Get back in the car (or better yet on your bike) and move on.

You might think that given these strictures there wouldn’t be anything at the Farmer’s Market this early in the year. To which I would respond, have a look at this:

Sure, it’s not the same bounty I would come home with in mid-Summer, but that’s the beauty of the Farmer’s Market. What’s fresh is what you get. Now don’t get me wrong. Despite my own ideals, I’m far from a locavore. I do most of my shopping at the local supersized supermarket, and I buy what I want when I want it. But I am becoming more aware of the impact of my decisions, both on the environment (do I really need strawberries in February?) and, more to the point, on my and my family’s health.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, for starters I’m going to do more of my shopping at places like the Countryside Conservancy Farmer’s Market, where I can shake the hand and look into the eyes of the men and women who grow my food. I talked to several of them today, and they all invited us to visit their farms to see how they operate and where our food comes from.

I’m going to take the kids on several farm outings this year. Having grown up in Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I know what a farm looks, sounds, and smells like and how sustainable farmers (the Amish were green before green was in vogue) grow food. But to my kids, a chicken is something you buy in a package at the store, cleaned, cut up, and not in any way resembling a living creature. I feel like I owe it to them to teach them how this whole food chain, circle of life thing really works — blood, guts, and all.

And I guess it’s time I finally read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. As I understand it, this book is not an in-your-face, Upton Sinclair, scare the crap out of you so you never want to eat a burger again food industry expose. Rather, it’s a well-written, no-nonsense, approachable discussion about how we interact with what we eat and how our food sourcing decisions impact our health and the health of our planet.

And finally, when I do go to the mega-supermart, I’ll pay more attention to what I am buying, where it comes from, and how it was produced. I don’t promise to give up bananas, but I will plan my menu around what’s in season. And I’ll do my best to cut unnecessary chemicals out of my family’s diet.

“Hi, I’m Phyl. And I’m an omnivore,…”