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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

06/10/2024

~ Have a Very-Berry Blackberry-Cobbler Kind of Day ~

IMG_8581Here today, gone today.  That's the lifespan of blackberries entering my kitchen.  I've been told their dark color makes them really good for me -- even more antioxidants than blueberries.  Rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, I'd eat them even if they were on on the not-so-good-for-me foods short list.   When I buy a box of blackberries, I eat a box of blackberries.  When I pick blackberries, they disappear on the walk to my kitchen door.  I do not share blackberries -- well, maybe, probably I would, but, I've yet to be tested on this point.  That said, because blackberries require no special treatment (peeling, chopping, slicing, dicing, etc.), if I buy an extra box, and I work very quickly, I can affectively manage to get the requisite four cups of berries into a cobbler while I eat the rest.

This cobbler goes together faster than I can eat berries!  

IMG_8541A bit about cobbler:  Cobbler is almost always associated with a baked, deep-dish fruit or berry dessert that emerges from the oven with a semi-crispy top that has been made with a batter, a biscuit dough or a pastry.  There is no right or wrong topping for a cobbler -- it depends on your preference, where you live, and/or who taught you how to make cobbler.  Cobbler recipes have been printed in European cookbooks since the 19th century and were originally main-dish, protein-based meals. Cobblers in the US originated in the Colonies because the English settlers were unable to make their traditional suet puddings for lack of ingredients and proper equipment. The name is said to derive from the finished product looking like a rough cobblestone street.

IMG_85244  cups blackberries (24-ounces)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1  cup pancake mix

1  cup sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  cup milk

1  tablespoon blackberry brandy and/or 1 teaspoon blackberry extract

Sugar 'n Cinnamon

IMG_4768 IMG_4768~ Step 1. Place the butter in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish/2-quart casserole -- I like clear glass because I can keep an eye on the baking process.  Melt the butter in the microwave. Tilt the dish to evenly coat the entire bottom with the melted butter.

IMG_4772 IMG_4772 IMG_4772 IMG_4772~Step 2.  In a large bowl, stir together the pancake mix, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the milk and brandy and/or extract.  Add the milk mixture to the pancake mix mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir until a thin, semi-lumpy batter forms.

IMG_8529 IMG_8529 IMG_8529 IMG_8529~Step 3.  Pour all of the batter into the baking dish right on top of the butter. Do not stir the batter into the butter.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon/distribute the blackberries evenly over the batter. Generously sprinkle the top of the berries with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

IMG_8566Note:  While the cobbler is baking, the blackberries (or any fruit) are going to sink to the bottom of the baking dish.  At the same time, the batter is going to bubble and bake up to the surface in random spots across the surface.  The cobbler will be golden brown and will spring back slightly when touched in the center.  Walk away.  Cool at least 20-30 minutes prior to serving.

Serve steamy-hot, slightly-warm or at room temperature...

IMG_8552... w/homemade blackberry-cobbler ice-cream

IMG_9088Have a Very-Berry Blackberry-Cobbler Kind of Day:  Recipe yields 8-12 servings. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish/2-quart casserole, preferably clear glass

IMG_4817Cook's Note:  My dad loves peaches the way I love blackberries, meaning:  they are his favorite fruit. This luscious peach cobbler, which can be made without compromise using home-canned or store-bought canned peaches (in place of fresh peaches), is my way of keeping his favorite fruit-dessert world a peachy-keen place to be even when peaches are out of season: ~ Alices's Super-Simple Georgia Peach-Pie Cobbler ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2024)

06/05/2024

~Love is Blueberry Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Squares~

IMG_8921Blueberries are a fruit best served cooked.  Simmer down and read on.  When it comes to eating fresh, perfectly-ripe, high-quality, locally-grown berries hand-to-mouth, there are three seedier-types I enjoy more -- blackberries, strawberries and raspberries (in that order).  I love blueberries, but, it's my opinion that the blueberry is enhanced by cooking. Given a choice, I'll choose the blueberry jam, blueberry pie or blueberry bread pudding over the bowl of fresh blueberries any day of the week -- they even taste better after the little bit of cooking they get in pancakes.

Dare to be a buttery-rich & delicately-crumbly kind of square: 

IMG_8894Blueberries are only one of seven native North American food plants grown on a large scale and cultivated commercially.

Before I go any further, I probably should mention the other six:  Concord grapes, cranberries, strawberries, corn, beans and squash.  This means, these plants were in existence before any of our immigrant ancestors arrived in this new world and the Native Americans were eating them and creating their own recipes/uses for them long before they introduced them to the original Colonists.  That said, beloved blueberries were domesticated entirely in the 20th century and it did not take long for this "very American berry" to gain the unconditional love of the world. 

6a0120a8551282970b01538fd8320c970bThree types of blueberries supply over 90% of the market:  lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye.

Lowbush varieties (marketed as "wild blueberries" or "huckleberries") are very small, are harvested by machine and are sold almost exclusively to processing plants who make and sell blueberry products like "wild blueberry pie filling" or "wild blueberry preserves". While this sounds like they'd be at the top of the blueberry class, their flavor is actually disappointingly bland.

Highbush blueberries are the result of the hybridization of wild native plants. They are picked by hand and are sold fresh, representing over two-thirds of the total blueberries sold in our markets everywhere.  

Rabbiteyes, which are native to the Southeastern United States were/are called rabbiteyes because the berries turn pink before they turn blue -- the eye color of a white rabbit. They are very similar to highbush blueberries, which are native to northeastern North America. Rabbiteye bushes get quite high, up to 20 feet, and, they bloom earlier in the year than the highbush, which sadly, makes them susceptible to Spring frosts.  Highbush are smaller than rabbiteyes and were called highbush simply because they were/are taller than low bush varieties.

6a0120a8551282970b015433b0123c970cHighbush blueberries are what my husband Joe grows in our Central PA backyard.  The berries are larger and plumper than rabbiteyes and the fruit is juicier with a thinner skin. Their quality is compromised very little by freezing them (which is great for me because, every year, I have a lot to freeze), while the rabbiteye berry skin tends to get tough when frozen.  Rabbiteyes, eaten out-of-hand are a bit sweeter, but in my opinion: highbush berries are truly the best variety for the best price.

When selecting blueberries, it is noteworthy that size is not an indication of flavor, shrinkage is. Always choose blueberries that are plump and look like they are ready to burst. Berries that have begun to shrink and wrinkle, while usable, will be less flavorful.  AND, no matter what variety you choose to use, be generous -- cooked blueberry anything should be bursting with berries.

Part One:  The 5-Minute Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Base

IMG_8830For the oatmeal-crumble cookie base:

1  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4  cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant oats)

1/2  cup granulated sugar

1/4  cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

3/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup salted butter (1 stick)

1  large egg yolk

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing pan

IMG_8821 IMG_8821~ Step 1.  To prepare the baking pan, spray the inside of an 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan with no-stick spray, line the bottom with an 8" x 8" x 2" square of parchment paper, then spray the top of the parchment paper.  I use a baking pan with a removable bottom, which makes it easy to remove and slice the cookies squares after baking.

IMG_8832 IMG_8832 IMG_8832 IMG_8832 IMG_8832 IMG_8832~Step 2.  In a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, oats, both sugars, cinnamon and salt.  Melt the butter in the microwave and allow it to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes.  Lightly beat the egg yolk.  Stir the melted butter and the egg yolk into the dry ingredients.  A crumbly but cohesive mixture will have formed. Remove and reserve a scant 1-cup of the crumble mixture (this will be used as topping).  

IMG_8848 IMG_8848 IMG_8848 IMG_8848~Step 3.  Transfer the remainder of the the mixture into prepared pan.  Use the fork to evenly distribute the mixture in the bottom, then use a tart tamper to press the mixture together.

Part Two:  The 5-Minute Blueberry Layer, Topping & Baking

IMG_8861 2For the blueberry layer:

2  pints fresh blueberries

2  tablespoons lemon juice, fresh or high-quality bottled not from concentrate

2  teaspoons pure blueberry extract

1/4  cup granulated sugar

1  tablespoon firmly-packed cornstarch

Sugar 'n Cinnamon, for sprinkling on top just prior to baking

IMG_8867 IMG_8867 IMG_8867 IMG_8867~Step 1.  In a medium bowl using a rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly stir together the blueberries, lemon juice, blueberry extract, sugar and cornstarch, making sure the cornstarch is incorporated throughout.  Scoop and evenly distribute the berry mixture atop the cookie base. Sprinkle and evenly distribute the reserved 1-cup of cookie crumbles atop the berries.

IMG_8878 IMG_8878 IMG_8878 IMG_8896 IMG_8896~Step 2.  Generously sprinkle Sugar 'n Cinnamon evenly over the top and bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven, 40-45 minutes.  The crumble topping will be light golden and berries will be bubbling mostly around the sides of the pan.  Remove from oven and cool completely, in pan on a wire rack, 3-4 hours.  Refrigerate, slice cold, and, store in refrigerator.  

Refrigerate 1-2 hours prior to slicing into squares:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3984ec7200bPour the milk, pick one up & dare to be square:

IMG_8935Love is Blueberry Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Squares:  Recipe yields 16, 2" blueberry squares.

Special Equipment List: 8" x 8" x 2" square baking pan w/removable bottom; parchment paper; fork; 1-cup measuring container; tart tamper; wire cooling rack; large chef's knife; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a73d744130970dCook's Note:  Looking for a perfect companion to blueberry squares?  ~ Pucker up for:  Triple-Lemon Bars/Squares ~.  I am a lover of all things tart and citrusy, and, I consider the lemon the diva of all citrus.  Just call me a sourpuss.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)