The Ghost of Shortcakes Past

COOKING ADVENTURE #74: Blueberry Summer Shortcake

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Oh. My. God.

It has been a crazy couple weeks. That’s the only excuse that I can say for why I haven’t concocted this amazing dish. But let me make it also clear that it’s been about 90 degrees here and humid every damn day for those two weeks. And the idea of cooking something in a 425 degree oven just wasn’t that appealing to me. But, I finally did it. I decided that after dark (from the 100 degree day we just had), I will finally put my nose to the grindstone and make that shortcake. I’m glad I did. There are few things to beat the heat with that are better than a soft biscuit, molten blueberry topping, light whipped cream and coffee ice cream. Very few things. When I actually have some extra time on my hands, I’ll definitely make this for a party of some kind, because, in the end, it didn’t take as long as I was thinking it would. And though it vaguely resembles a bleeding octopus/jellyfish hybrid in its final form, all I can say is that it’s the most scrumptious Jellypus that I’ve ever eaten.

Several weeks ago while watching Channel 6’s local television program 207, I was re-introduced to the grand idea of a summer short cake. It had been a long time since I’d indulged in one… at least last year. Strawberry shortcake is, of course, the one recipe that my family sticks to and enjoys time and time again. When I saw that there was also a recipe for peach and blueberry shortcake recipes, I was immediately interested in testing one of those out. Because I recently did a cooking adventure involving peaches, I thought it would be fun to go the way of the blueberry. And thus, I drafted myself into the idea of pulling off this cooking adventure.

I’m from Maine so as most of you know, blueberries are kind of a big thing up here. My hometown, glorious Union, Me has for years been the host of the Union Fair where they crown a Blueberry Queen each year. Several people I know have worn the crown or vied for it and while the idea of being royalty to all things blueberry sounds enticing, I never once went for it. I do, however, really enjoy eating blueberries and am grateful to live in the state that names it as our official fruit and is in no short supply of them.

When I finally decided to start this recipe, it was nine o’clock at night and the temperature had settled at a wonderful 75 degrees. I opened up all the windows and blasted the fans to bring in some of that sweet cool air (compared to 100 degrees at nearly 70% humidity… it was cool). I checked over the directions, which I had to hunt down because they were not readily available on the 207 website. Eventually sussing them out, I realized that they list the recipe along with the video of the original broadcast. In no mood to watch it again, I hit pause, turned up my music, and went to work.

In a bowl, I measured out 2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp. sugar, and 3/4 tsp. salt. The reasons for the random measurements are because the original recipe is for a dozen. Not in the mood to make 12, I split the recipe in half. Once I had all the dry ingredients together and mixed, I turned my attention to the wet part of the recipe. As I negotiated back to the living room to check the directions, I realized that there was a voice in the background of my music. I scrolled up the recipe page to see that the video had begun playing… all on its own. I paused it again, checked it to make sure it was paused, and went back to the kitchen. In a separate bowl, I combined 1 egg, 3/4 cup milk, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The original recipe called for buttermilk but since I don’t keep a jug of that on hand because my name isn’t Avery and I don’t live on a farm, I had to make my own.

Next, I had to melt 1/3 cup butter and add it to the liquid mixture. I pulled a stick of butter out of the fridge and unwrapped it. By the time I’d cut it and put the remaining butter back, the stick was already melting. Had I started earlier, I could have just let it melt on its own. But, time is of the essence. After a minute in the microwave, I pulled it out and poured it into the other liquid ingredients, then swished everything together with my whisk. Then, everything dry and wet got combined in the big glass bowl and I stirred it several times to make sure that everything was properly mixed.

I returned to the computer to check the directions and just as I did so, the possessed video started playing again. I fiddled with it, trying to make it completely turn off but wasn’t able to. Knowing it would start up again randomly, I quickly read the directions and escaped back to the kitchen. The directions told me to use a greased cup to put the batter on a greased pan. I frowned for some time. A cup? Why not just a big spoon? Confused but not wanting to disobey the directions (lest the ghost of shortcake’s past possess me) I used a cup to scoop out the batter.

That was dumb. By the time I found myself scraping idiotically at the bottom of the glass bowl trying to get the last vestiges of batter, I switched to a spoon. Hooray for dirtying up two dishes! I placed the pan in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes and went about creating the blueberry filling of happiness. Once again contending with the computer and the obnoxious video, I discovered that in order to make the topping, it would have to cook on the stove top for 30 minutes. I glanced at the clock. It was nearly ten. And I was bound and determined to write the blog tonight. No way was I going to spend a half an hour stirring blueberries in a pot. I’m not gifted with patience like that. Sorry.

I pulled the carton of blueberries from the fridge and noted with painful realization, that I would have to go through the entire carton and weed out the blueberries that were no longer edible. Much like my 5200 pickup of coffee beans spilled across the kitchen floor, I found myself plucking each blueberry out, inspecting it thoroughly and deciding its fate. Call it a Geese-with-the-Golden-Eggs moment a la Willy Wonka. I just wanted to make sure that my blueberry sauce was going to taste amazing. I’m glad I took that time to do that, too. There were a few gnarly looking specimens to be sure. Then, after sprinkling about a half cup of sugar on the remaining blueberries and sprinkling a bit of lemon juice, I turned the heat up to low and slowly stirred the blueberries into the melting sugar.

I’m pretty sure that one of the most peaceful moments of my summer so far has been this moment. I was practically hypnotized watching those blueberries get dark and shiny on the pot, the juices bleeding into the sugar. That peaceful moment ended when I began to get impatient. I began stabbing the blueberries with my stir stick and nearly avoided an exploding blueberry that spit some juice out and onto the counter top. After a good ten to fifteen minutes, I pulled the pot off the burner and gave the blueberries a few extra stirs. Pouring the contents into a container, I slid that into the fridge to cool.

During my blueberry fixation, I pulled the biscuits out of the oven. They had not kept shape very properly, probably because the batter was a little too soft. I was afraid they were going to flatten out into pancakes but they didn’t, thankfully. I peeled one of these biscuits from the pan and put it on a plate. The original directions say to cut them in half… there was no “half”. I scooped some of my cooled down blueberry sauce on to the biscuit. Then, I scooped some whipped cream on top of that and finally some more blueberry sauce. I had another carton of blueberries in the fridge and ended up adding a couple of those to the plate for presentation’s sake. When it came time to taste, I’ll repeat the same thing that I said in the beginning, I’m glad I made these things. Such a good end to a long wait between Cooking Adventures.

This week on Cooking Adventures (and I do mean “this week”), I’ll be attempting a delicious chicken finger recipe that I found on Pinterest.  Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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