High Altitude Baking: Blueberry shortcake crumble (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Here’s a dessert that sings “Born in the USA” so loudly that it’s downright patriotic. Fresh blueberries baked until they’re soft, sweet and juicy are topped with crumbles of tender, slightly crunchy biscuit. Served warm with ice cream, it’s homeland baking at its best and a salute to the simple pleasures of summer.
It takes about 15 minutes to get this beauty in the oven. (Ah, how I love that — so little time, such good results.) What makes it work? High-quality, ripe berries, gentle mixing of the topping and the addition of lemon zest and juice in the filling. (It really brightens the flavor … don’t even consider omitting it).
Blueberry shortcake crumble
(Make in an 8-inch-by-8-inch glass baking dish with sides that are at least 2 ½ inches high.)
30 ounces (about 6 cups) fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely-grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 ½ cups bleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons superfine sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, in ½-inch pieces, plus some for greasing the pan
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream or creme fraiche
Step 1: Heat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease the pan with butter.
Step 2: Make the filling: Wash, pick over and dry the blueberries. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, zest, flour and sugar, and stir/whisk to combine. Add the berries, and toss until all are very well coated. Pour the filling into the prepared pan (it’ll almost fill it), and set aside.
Step 3: Make the topping: Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl until blended. Add the pieces of cold butter, and rub with your fingertips until only pea-sized lumps are visible. (This can also be done in a food processor and then dumped into a bowl.) Gently mix in the sour cream (use a silicone spatula or your clean hands), and lightly knead a few times until the dough is uniformly moistened, barely comes together and is quite shaggy. (If you work it any further, the topping will be tough).
Step 4: Pluck out walnut-sized portions of the topping, and sprinkle them over the filling; they should fully cover it when you’re finished, with the berries visible in only a few spots.
Step 5: Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake until the top is cooked through and golden and the juices from the berries are thick and bubbling, from 43 to 50 minutes. If the topping is done before the filling, then tent a piece of aluminum foil over it.
Step 6: Cool on a rack for at least 1½ hours before serving. You may cool the crumble completely and reheat it in a 325-degree oven. Serve with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. It’s best served the day you make it.
This recipe is a variation of one from Bon Appetit magazine. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.