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~ Love is a Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Pound Cake ~

IMG_2801Blueberries are one of seven native North American food plants grown on a large scale and cultivated commercially. Before I go any further, I 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 uses for them long before they introduced them to the original Colonists.  That said, 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 entire world.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3782a21200dThree 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.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3980d7d200bHighbush 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.

IMG_2784Yes, of course you can make this pound cake in a bundt pan, just double the recipe & bake it for about 1 1/2 hours: 

IMG_2875The inspiration for this blueberry pound cake appeared in an issue of Eating Well magazine. What caught my eye about the recipe was the use of low-fat ricotta cheese in place of low fat- sour cream or yogurt, which appealed to me.  Past that, the recipe is pretty much my own, full-fat ingredients and all, which is resemblant of any random recipe for blueberry-lemon pound cake -- the combination is common.  Yes, of course you can make this pound cake in a bundt pan, just double the recipe and bake it for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a cake tester comes out clean. 


For the dry ingredients:

1 3/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups ripe-but-not-overripe blueberries (10 ounces)

For the wet ingredients:

3/4  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (6  ounces/1 1/2 sticks)

3  large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  teaspoons pure blueberry extract

1  teaspoon pure lemon extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pan

IMG_2732 IMG_2732~ Step 1.  Just prior to mixing the cake batter in step 2 (no longer beforehand), in a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the blueberries.  Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the blueberries into the flour mixture -- this will help to prevent the berries from settling to bottom of the cake when baking.

IMG_2737 IMG_2737 IMG_2737 IMG_2737~Step 2.  In a large bowl, place the butter, sugar, eggs and extracts.  On high speed of hand-held electric mixture cream these ingredients together, until fluffy and light colored, scraping down the bowl on all sides with the rubber spatula during the mixing process, about 1 minute.  Lower the mixer speed, add the ricotta cheese and thoroughly incorporate it.  Remove the mixer.

IMG_2748 IMG_2748 IMG_2748 IMG_2748~Step 3.  To incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, use a large rubber spatula to add and gently fold the flour/blueberry mixture into the butter/ricotta mixture in 2-3 increments. Transfer the cake batter to an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" loaf pan that has been sprayed with no-stick spray.  Use the spatula to level the batter.  Place the pan on a baking pan that has been lined with a sheet of parchment -- this will keep the bottom of the cake from browning faster than the top.

IMG_2758 IMG_2758~ Step 4.  Bake cake on center rack of moderate 325º oven, 60-75 minutes (1 hour - 1 hour, 15 minutes), or, until a cake tester inserted into the center in several spots comes out clean. If, during the last 15 minutes of baking, the top appears to be browning to quickly, loosely cover with an aluminum foil sheet.  Remove from oven and cool, in pan, 25-30 minutes prior to inverting onto a wire rack cool completely, about 2-3 hours.

From first slice to last slice, this is indeed...

IMG_2823... the last blueberry & lemon pound cake recipe you'll ever want: 

IMG_2811Love is a Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Pound Cake:  Recipe yields 1, 2-pound, 12-ounce pound cake/10-12 slices. 

Special Equipment List:  fork; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", 1 1/2-quart loaf pan, preferably glass; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; aluminum foil; wire cooling rack; cake tester

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3786da7200dCook's Note: Blueberries 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. ~ Love is Blueberry Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Squares ~, and, this recipe, which contains two full pints, is loaded with blueberry flavor.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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