Monday, August 19, 2013

An Experimental Recipe for Bob and Jerry: Mini Blueberry-Lemon Cakes

To start off this post, I must begin with: BOB AND JERRY, YOU ARE the BEST!!!

I walked into my little middle school library this morning, ready to help Bob and Jerry move some bookshelves—and they were done! I immediately yelled for no one to hear, "You guys are AWESOME!" and plunked the cake carrier I had in my hand down on the floor to survey their work.  They literally left nothing else for me to move.  Every other item on my floor plan, besides the bookshelves, had not only been put into place but thoroughly cleaned.  I'm telling you, school custodians ROCK.

So, what was in the cake carrier I had set on the floor? An experiment that came to mind a few days ago while I was at the grocery store, gazing at the plums.  They were on sale, and after making that frickin' amazing semifreddo for our anniversary party, plums have become my new friend.  I bought two, along with some peaches, blueberries, and blackberries.

Later that evening, as I was thinking of meeting Bob and Jerry and wanting to bake them something to thank them, I had this idea: what if I made little mini pound cakes in muffin tins, and what if I took slices of plum and laid them in the muffin tins first before I put in the batter, so that when I inverted the pan, I had this luscious slice of fruit on top of a golden, buttery cake?

In the book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman that I am reading (I told you it was going to come up again), he has a recipe for pound cake.  I decided to use that and then tweak it to include the fruit.   I love baking his way because he has you weigh almost everything.  I even weighed the eggs! If you don't have a kitchen scale, yet, you must acquire one.  Once you own one, you will not know what you did without it.  You can get a good one that does both grams and ounces and has a tare key (so you can weigh things in a bowl without accounting for the weight of the bowl) for under $25 on Amazon.

Anyway, with pound cake, the fat, flour, eggs, and sugar are all equal parts.  Easy squeezy to remember.  It's called pound cake because you used to use a pound of each ingredient to make the cake! That's a lot of pound cake.  So here's what I did (mildly adapted, once again) with Ruhlman's guidance:

1) While I heated the oven to 325 degrees, I gathered all of my ingredients and weighed them out or prepped them.

I buttered (with real butter) one nonstick muffin tin at this point, too.

Interestingly, Ruhlman says that allowing a finished batter to sit releases the air that you just beat into it, so you want it to go into the pan as soon as you are done beating it—hence buttering now and NOT later.

Here are the ingredients:
  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature (ideally between 65 and 70 degrees.  Never knew that before! I actually stuck a digital thermometer in it to check! Ha!)
  • 8 oz. sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 oz. eggs, which is about 4 large eggs plus 1 yolk, also at room temperature (I cracked them into the bowl and allowed them to come to room temperature), whisked lightly to combine (which I forgot to do and it was okay)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tblsp. of lemon juice from that lemon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 8 oz. flour
  • 72 blueberries
  • ground cinnamon
2) Now I loaded the muffin tin: in each cup I dropped 6 blueberries then sprinkled a dash of ground cinnamon on top of them.

3) With the oven hot and everything ready to go, I now made the batter.  (Note: I use a KitchenAid stand mixer which uses a paddle.  This mixer is incredibly efficient and knocks the socks off of any hand or stand mixer that you can buy.  Again, I know they are pricey, but if you can get one, or get people to pool Christmas/birthday money together to buy you one, BEG for one.  They will change the way you cook, I swear.  Anyway, because of its power and efficiency, the times I am listing will be different, i.e. longer, if you are using a regular mixer.)
  • for 1 minute -- beat the butter on MEDIUM speed
  • for 2-3 minutes -- add the sugar and salt to the butter and beat it all together on MEDIUM-HIGH until the coloring is very pale yellow and the butter mixture has grown in volume about a third
  • for 1 minute-ish -- add the eggs slowly so they blend well into the butter mixture
  • add the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla and mix in well
  • turn the mixer down to MEDIUM-LOW and add the flour, mixing only long enough to blend the flour in--which isn't very long
That's it.  Ruhlman doesn't say anything about scraping down the sides, but I stopped the mixer a few times to do so, and then ran it again to make sure everything was mixed together well.

4) Using a number 40 ice cream scoop (I use this all the time to portion out dough and batter), I plopped a heaping scoop of batter into each cup, smoothed the tops a bit, then put the tin in the oven.

I baked them for 25 minutes, let them cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then inverted them out onto a cutting board.

Will I be doing this again? YES.  These babies are firm but tender, bright from the lemon and blueberries, buttery and eggy and just perfectly sweet.

But I'll try it a bit differently next time.  What I had wanted was to be able to flip these out of the muffin tin and serve them bottoms up.  I put too much batter in the cups, though, so the tops were mounded; they didn't lay flat upside down.  I need to use less batter next time.

And—did you notice? I used blueberries instead of the plums that I had mentioned. (The plums I bought weren't looking as pretty as I wanted when I sliced one open.)  Next time I'll try it with plums with a different spice and see how that goes.

So happy with these, though.  As I bit into the first one and began to chew, I felt a big smile start to spread across my face...

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