Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blueberry Tea Cake

I'm back with something sweet to offer my neglected friends.  I took a couple of weeks off to enjoy some summer!  We had lots of fun houseguests, people popping in and out, birthday parties and bonfires...ahhhh, 'twas fun indeed.  I made this cake twice during my time off!  It was so light and fresh tasting, perfect for a summer dessert or afternoon tea.  No one could resist a slice!  It's a simple, homey cake, moist and choc full of fresh blueberries.  It has a hint of lemon and it's slathered with a decadent cream cheese frosting.  Really delightful!

Blueberry Tea Cake
Origin: (slightly adapted) Bill Granger via Leite's Culinaria

Notes:  This cake comes from Aussie chef Bill Granger, who uses terms like "scant" (just short of the prescribed amount) and "heaping" (just a bit more than the prescribed amount), just go with it, his hazy measurements worked for me!  The recipe calls for superfine sugar (not icing sugar), you can easily make your own by placing granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and processing it until finely ground but not powdery.  This recipe yields an uncomplicated 9 x 13, single layer cake.  The cake kept well for at least 4 days, popping leftovers into the fridge when it wasn't being devoured. 


3/4 cup sour cream, heaping 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking dish 
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, heaping
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
3 large eggs 
2 cups fresh blueberries 
3 cups all-purpose flour, scant 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (1 block) 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
juice from 1/4 lemon 
16 ounces powdered/icing sugar (I used 4-5 cups, I just kept adding sugar until I got the frosting consistency that I wanted)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a  9 x 13 inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper, allowing the excess paper to hang over the edge of the pan.

Combine the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder, set aside.  Place the blueberries in a separate bowl and toss with a spoonful of the flour mixture, just to coat the berries.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy.  Add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined.  Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then add the sour cream mixture and beat just until combined.

Add the remaining flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined.  Gently fold the flour-coated blueberries into the batter, being mindful not to overmix. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, either by using the parchment paper as handles or by inverting the cake onto a wire rack and then inverting it again.

When the cake is completely cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.  

To make the frosting, beat all of the ingredients except the sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the sugar and beat until smooth. Use immediately.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bloody Mary Tomato Salad

I spotted this recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other day and within 2 hours I was eating it for dinner.  Smitten Kitchen is my all time favorite food blog and I try many of Deb's recipe recommendations.  But when she starts talking Bloody Marys, I move fast.  You see, Bloody Marys are a bit of a thing in my family.  My Nanny loved them, and always added a secret ingredient - pickle juice!  As long as I can remember my Mom has ordered at least one, without fail, every time we dine out.  I adore them anytime, especially with brunch (my Hubby too!).  And my younger sister?  Well, she may have caught the Bloody Mary bug worst of all, ordering doubles every time we are out.  Geez, I guess we all sound like a bunch of lushes...but it's in our blood, it can't be helped.  I always have the classic Bloody Mary ingredients on hand so I sprung into action and recreated this Bloody Mary Tomato Salad.  All of the complex Bloody Mary flavour is there, without the booze of course, and it goes amazingly well with a good steak.

*I have to mention, in Canada, we do not drink Bloody Marys at all.  It's this odd little variation on the Bloody Mary that has become a classic Canadian cocktail and a family favorite...the Caesar!  The ingredients and taste are virtually the same, substituting Clamato juice for Tomato juice...tomato juice with a hint of clam juice!!  It's essentially the same drink, but I guess we Canuks should really call this a Caesar Salad.  Ha!

Bloody Mary Tomato Salad
Origin: Bon Appetit via Smitten Kitchen

Notes:  The original recipe pairs this salad with a nicely seasoned flank steak.  I had 2 bone-in rib steaks in the fridge so I went with those.


1 cup red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, divided
2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (3 pints or 3-10 ounce containers)
1 cup celery hearts, chopped (light coloured inner stalks and leaves)
1/2 cup brined green olives, finely chopped, plus 2 tablespoons olive brine
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chopped onion in a large bowl, pour 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar over onions and let them sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (this will temper the onion's bite).  Add tomatoes, celery and olives to the onions.

To make the dressing, whisk remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, reserved olive brine, horseradish, Worcestershire, pepper sauce and celery seeds in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Pour the dressing over the tomato salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until needed, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.  Serves 8-10.