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Berrilicious and the Perfect Finish

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Written by foodie pam   
Wednesday, 23 June 2010

ImageHow do you know when you've found a great dessert?  For me, it's when I want to make the dessert again (and again), almost immediately after having devoured what I made the first time.

Thanks to Bill Yosses, I've found several such recipes in his "The Perfect Finish".  While I don't think any recipe can really be perfect these are certainly perfect ways to finish a meal.

It's berry season right now and thanks to Bill Yosses I'll be enjoying my berries in luscious, berrilicious desserts as long as they remain in season.  My two favorites are the Blueberry Angel Muffins and the Blackberry Buttermilk Bundt Cake (recipes below), although he's also got a great looking strawberry cake.   

And before you say blueberry muffins? How boring?  Think again -- these aren't your standard blueberry muffins by any stretch of the imagination.  They are actually little tiny angel food cakes packed with blueberries!  If you have blueberries on hand, or if you want to use up some extra egg whites (from say some pasta making like I did), this is the perfect choice.

ImageAs great as the blueberry muffins are the Blackberry Butermilk Bundt Cake really stole my heart and is the dish I've made again and again.  The cake is topped with an orange glaze, which combined with the buttermilk, makes for a super moist and tasty cake.  Blackberries are in season in California for several more weeks so I'm positive this cake will serve as the Perfect Finish to more of my summer meals.

I can't wait to try all the other desserts in The Perfect Finish - once I get done with my Blackberry Buttermilk Bundt Cake fetish that is…

Blackberry Buttermilk Bundt with Orange Glaze

From The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark. W.W. Norton & Company (2010).

When working at Bouley Restaurant we were always thrilled to find a celebrity looking over our shoulder in the kitchen. It was just the nature of the place, I guess, and the nature of the irrepressible maître d', Dominique Simon, who delighted in telling the well-known celebrity that because of their elevated status they would be "allowed" into the kitchen. Most paid a visit to the kitchen, if only to stretch their legs between courses. One person in particular stands out, and I suppose I can talk about it now that it is more than ten years ago. The great actor Liam Neeson said something I will always remember: "I feel like my craft is like whittling wood, I want to remove all the excess until I find the perfect and smallest place to be, without anything extra." I think anyone who loves their work can relate to this, and I am always trying to find that perfect, unadorned dessert item, the one that has all it needs and nothing more, nothing less. One of the reasons I love the Blackberry Buttermilk Bundt is that it fits that bill, it has the taste of blackberries, a sweet and semiwild flavor, and the sour note of buttermilk to counteract the sugar, and finally the glaze to give it just a little edge. I put "buttermilk" in the title of this dessert because it does so much to change the flavor radically, and its sour kick is what sets this soft-textured yellow cake apart. The buttermilk tang, combined with the sweetness of the berries and richness of the butter, is what makes you want to reach for the next piece. Balance is the most important part of any dessert, or savory dish for that matter, and the blackberry/buttermilk duet here is in perfect harmony. Because of its simplicity, this cake is a good choice for a brunch.

Chef's Note: I like to use a wooden spoon to fold berries into cake batter. The rough surface moves the fruit more efficiently than the smooth surface of a rubber spatula, incorporating the berries without crushing them.

Makes 1 bundt cake to serve 8 to 10

Special Equipment: 2-Quart Bundt pan, electric mixer, cake tester, skewer

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (10.5 ounces, 300 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (14.7 grams)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (3.35 grams)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda (2.5 grams)
  • ½ pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened (8 ounces, 227 grams), plus additional for the pan
  • 1¾ cups sugar (12.25 ounces, 350 grams)
  • 4 large eggs (6.8 ounces, 193 grams), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (8 grams)
  • ½ cup buttermilk (4.25 ounce, 121 grams)
  • 2 pints blackberries (16 ounces, 454 grams)

Orange Glaze

  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 1 medium orange) (4.25 ounces, 121 grams)
  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar (2 ounces, 57 grams)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-quart anti-adhesive Bundt pan with some butter, then spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. You don't want this cake to stick! The new anti-adhesive cake pans prevent the bottom of the cake from sticking to the pan.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and mix in half the flour mixture. Mix in the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold in the blackberries.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake the cake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto the serving platter.

For the Glaze

1. While the cake cools, combine the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Using a skewer or long thin knife, prick deep holes all over the surface of the cake. Pour half the glaze over the cake, letting it seep into the holes. Let the cake cool for 20 minutes more. Pour the remaining glaze over the cake and let set for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Blueberry Angel Muffins

From The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark. W.W. Norton & Company (2010).

These muffins have so much going for them. Not only do they happen to be fat free, they're also a cake, small and fruit filled. Thus they allow you to tap into the psychic pleasure of eating cake-a virtuous cake-for breakfast, with your nice cup of coffee. For the most stupendous results, make these muffins just a few hours before you serve them; they will be buoyantly fluffy, with only a tiny bit of pleasing chewy resistance before they melt in your mouth, leaving the amazing flavors of blueberries and vanilla lingering on your tongue.

If you somehow manage to have muffins left over, toast them before serving. They can even be frozen, then toasted. The toasted muffins won't have that same airy texture, but they'll still be tasty. In fact, Melissa likes to spread toasted blueberry muffins with butter-a good antidote if you miss the fat in angel food!

Chef's Note: In order to keep the muffins light, once you beat the egg whites to their peak volume, you don't want to disturb the batter any more than necessary. That's why I toss the vanilla and berries together in a bowl, then fold half of them into the batter and top the muffins with the rest, rather than mixing in the vanilla earlier and stirring all the berries in, as you might in a conventional blueberry muffin recipe. (If you want to know more about meringue, the key to this muffin's fluffiness, see the discussion of meringue on page 15.) The goal is to avoid crushing the airiness-better to mix the berries in less evenly than to lose all that lift.

Makes 12 standard-size muffins

Special Equipment: 12-cup standard-size muffin tin, sifter, electric mixer, cake tester       

  • Nonstick cooking spray, for the muffin cups
  • 2/3 cup cake flour (2.67 ounces, 76 grams)
  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar (2 ounces, 57 grams)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (1.25 grams)
  • 1¼ cups blueberries (6.5 ounces, 185 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (8 grams)
  • 8 large egg whites (7 ounces, 200 grams), at room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (3.5 ounces, 99 grams), plus 6 teaspoons additional for sprinkling
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Lightly grease a standard-size muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, or use ungreased paper muffin cups.

2. Sift the cake flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper and set aside. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the vanilla.

3. In a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until frothy. Add 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and beat at medium until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining granulated sugar, and raise the speed to high. Beat until stiff peaks form. While the eggs are beating, preheat the oven to 375°F.

4. When you have stiff peaks, stop the machine and remove the bowl. Immediately sprinkle the dry ingredients and lemon zest over the egg whites and fold in with a rubber spatula, working carefully to avoid deflating the whites. Fold in half of the blueberries.

5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups so that each is two-thirds full. Top each muffin with a few more blueberries and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar.

6. Bake on the center rack until the muffins are lightly golden and a cake tester inserted in their centers comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tin as soon as they come out of the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Serve within 4 hours.

 

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 June 2010 )
Super difficult
Dana (Unregistered) 2010-06-26 23:41:12

Sorry, I never leave comments. but you might want to prelude this recipe with the fat that it's super difficult and time consuming. I thought I was just making muffins! two hours later, because I'm a novice cook, I have weird little egg bakes with blueberries in them! And the picture was so beautiful!
pam (Publisher) 2010-06-30 11:09:19

Hi Dana,

I'm so sorry to hear you had problems with the recipe. While they are called muffins they really are little angel food cakes which if you haven't made before I can see that it would be difficult. I'm sorry I didn't think of that when sharing the recipe...

The blackberry cake is super delicious and much easier to make. If you're up for trying something else from this book.

And thanks for leaving a comment so everyone can learn from your experience!

Pam
peggy (Author) 2010-07-05 19:52:11

I haven't had a chance to try the "angel muffins" yet, but I can definitely vouch for the delicious-ness of the blackberry cake. Yum! This recipe is definitely a keeper.
Amanda (Unregistered) 2010-07-18 13:56:03

I made the blueberry angel muffins last weekend. They are amazing! They taste as gorgeous as they look. I do agree that they are a bit time-consuming and more difficult than normal muffins, but I think it definitely pays off in the final product.

I guess the blueberry cake is up next for me
Amanda (Unregistered) 2010-07-18 14:00:55

blackberry* cake
pam (Publisher) 2010-07-19 19:09:14

Amanda - I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed the blueberry angel muffins. You'll love the blackberry cake.
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