Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Maine Blueberry Crunch Cake

A few years ago, I was visiting family in Maine and had the opportunity to go to a church-sponsored lobster roll feast. Here are a few things you should know:

1) I love Maine. As much as I'm ready to give up (Midwestern) winters, you could probably offer me a job in Maine (coast Maine, just so we're clear, because that's the only part of the state I'm familiar with) and I'd take it in a heartbeat--even if that meant winter galore.

2) I love my family's house in Maine. My cousins own the place and it's a gorgeous old white home on the Sheepscot River. And I love their old sailboat. And kayaking with them. I wish I saw them more.

3) I love Maine blueberries and spent a lot of time harvesting them on the trip I'm writing about, along with tart cherries from their cherry tree. Maine blueberries, lowbush blueberries, are tiny little blue pearls that grow in blueberry barrens. A side note: My friend John is from a town in Michigan which hosts a blueberry festival (they grow a ton of blueberries there) and whenever I hear this mentioned, I am skeptical that his blueberries are as good as the ones I picked in Maine.

4) I do not love lobster.

But enough of listing (5 - I really like lists). So, this church-sponsored lobster-roll feast was down the street from my cousins and I went to it on my way out of town on my last day. For some small fee ($5 comes to mind, but this was in 2008 so I might be wrong) I could get a lobster roll or (_______ something else, but don't remember what -- something also "Maine-ish"), a drink and chips, and a large chunk of blueberry cake. Blueberry cake seems to be served with most meals in Maine -- certainly this is pretty typical of what the lobster shacks offer with their combo meals.

After I ate, I asked about the cookbook they had for sale. Were the things I'd just eaten found in the cookbook? The people selling the cookbook--and other miscellaneous items, typical of what you'd find at any church basement sale, assured me this was the case. I bought the cookbook.

6) I also love church cookbooks that are highly regional. There are a couple of great recipes and a bunch of horrible ones that make me laugh.

I tried several of the blueberry cake/bread recipes to no avail and gave up on it when none of those recipes worked. The cookbook moved to the Midwest with me and I didn't touch it for three years. But the other night, my mozzarella-buddy and I decided to try and make one of these recipes again. Two weekends ago, she went blueberry picking at a local berry patch and wound up with gallons of (now frozen) blueberries.

Although I'm making a point of avoiding gluten, I did try a small bite of this to see if it was the recipe and I believe it is. This is the original recipe (with a few corrections, since, for instance, the version in the cookbook doesn't tell you when to add the egg) and in a couple of weeks I hope to post a gluten-free version. The recipe comes from the 175th Anniversary of the Southport Methodist Church cookbook, and was contributed by Joyce Duncan. The batter is ridiculously thick. Don't worry about it. It all works out in the end.

Maine Blueberry Crunch Cake
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups blueberries

For the topping: mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, butter, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Sift together remaining flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix remaining shortening until light. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. With mixer on low (or by hand, if you're me), add flour mixture alternately with milk until just blended. Stir in blueberries. Pour into greased 7 x 11 pan. Sprinkle on topping and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
Despite the thick batter, look at that crumb!

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