It’s blueberry season! Every year, my sister Helen takes her daughters blueberry picking with a bunch of their school friends and their families. They go to this blueberry farm up in the hills and have an absolute blast while they’re there. Helen’s youngest daughter, Sophie, is a little blueberry-picking speed-demon and can fill up a bucket faster than you can say blueberry pie!
Anyway, whenever they go, they always make sure to bring me back a bagful of the beautiful little blue gems. This year was no exception. The berries are always so sweet and juicy. If you’ve never had blueberries fresh off the bush, you’ve got to find a way to try some. Commercially sold blueberries are good, but they pale in comparison to these ones. I think it’s time for some Blueberry Buttermilk Cake!
BLUEBERRY BUTTERMILK CAKE
2 – 2½ cups fresh blueberries
3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup demerara sugar (or white granulated sugar)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9×13-inch baking pan.
Place blueberries in a small bowl.
Take 2 tablespoons of the flour and toss it with the blueberries. Coating the blueberries with flour helps keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake as it bakes.
Combine remaining flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and beat in eggs, one at a time.
Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions until completely combined.
Fold in blueberries.
Spread batter in prepared baking pan.
Sprinkle top evenly with demerara sugar.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cake can be served warm or cool completely before serving.
NOTE: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own homemade buttermilk by placing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to the cup till it reaches the 1-cup line. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk with a wire whisk for a few seconds.
One of the nurses at work gave me her recipe for blueberry french toast several years ago. She loved it because it was very easy to make and could be prepared the night before so it was perfect to take to an office potluck. I had to agree with how easy it was to make, not to mention how delicious it was. I love biting into a little chunk of cream cheese when I’m eating it. The sweet-tart blueberries make the perfect backdrop to each creamy bite. And my blueberry sauce gives it just the right finishing touch.
I love making this casserole with brioche bread which is soft and silky and has a very thin crust. If you can get your hands on some brioche, give it a try. It makes a rich and wonderfully delicious french toast.
BLUEBERRY CREAM CHEESE FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE
14 slices of white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ozs. (1½ boxes) cream cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
Spread half the bread cubes in the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan.
Sprinkle with half the cream cheese cubes and half the blueberries.
Cover with the other half of the bread cubes.
Sprinkle with remaining cream cheese and blueberries.
Mix the eggs, milk, and sugar together.
Pour egg mixture over bread cubes in baking pan. Push bread down very lightly with a spatula to make sure top layer gets soaked. Don’t smash it down!
Cover with foil and place in refrigerator overnight.
Next day, remove from refrigerator about half an hour before putting in the oven.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Bake covered for 30 minutes; then uncover and bake another 30-40 minutes or until firm.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1½ cups blueberries
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
juice of one lemon
4 Tbsp. butter
Combine the water and sugar together in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the blueberries and simmer until most of them have burst, about 10 minutes.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the lemon juice.
Add the cornstarch-lemon mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter.
Serve sauce warm with french toast.
NOTE: My kids like a lot of sauce so when I make this, I double the sauce recipe. You could also skip it and just serve this with plain syrup if you don’t feel like going the extra step of making the blueberry sauce.
My family loves creamy, rich Panna Cotta, but let’s face it – it’s not exactly the lowest calorie dessert out there. However, I do have the Weight Watchers PointsPlus Cookbook sitting on my bookshelf, and browsing through it I was more than pleased to discover that it contained a recipe for a low-fat Panna Cotta! I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there’s nothing like the flavor of a full-cream Panna Cotta, but when you’re trying to cut down on the calories, this really was a good substitute.
LIME PANNA COTTA WITH BERRY COMPOTE
1-1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 cup fat-free half-and-half
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. grated lime zest
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
1 tbsp. water
Spray four 6-oz. custard cups or ramekins with nonstick spray.
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup of the half-and-half in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup half-and-half, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the lime zest, and salt in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, whisking, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, bring just to boil, and remove saucepan from heat. Whisk in gelatin mixture, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Pour through fine sieve set over medium bowl.
Whisk buttermilk and vanilla into strained mixture. Divide mixture evenly among prepared custard cups. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and set, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
To make sauce, combine 1/2 cup of the raspberries, the blueberries, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and the water in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil and cook, stirring often, until blueberries pop and sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/2 cup raspberries. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To serve, run thin-bladed knife around edge of each custard cup; then dip cups into bowl of hot water, holding them there about 15 seconds. Immediately invert cups onto plate. Top each with 2 tablespoons of the sauce.
ONE SERVING (1 custard with 2 tablespoons sauce) = 4 POINTS
NOTE: I followed the Panna Cotta recipe as is, but I didn’t have any raspberries or blueberries so instead of making the Berry Sauce, I made an Apricot Sauce to go with it by first draining a can of Lite Apricot Halves, and then pureeing the fruit with an immersion blender. Stir in a little squeeze of lemon juice and you’re good to go. If you want it sweeter, just add some Splenda to taste.