Patience is not one of my virtues. This I know. I also know that I will probably never muster the patience required to be a good baker. Unlike most cooking, baking is all about exact measurements. Good bakers improve on a given recipe based on trial and error and careful observation. They learn precisely how to adapt to local conditions of humidity, temperature, elevation, etc. Keeping a log of each attempt—what went right, what wrong—is the sort of smart attention to detail that any good baker employs. I keep no such log.
And so, unless I change my ways, my occasional stabs at baking will almost always be less than earth-shattering. The numinous alchemy between sugar, butter, and flour will remain obscure to me. This is where you come in, gentle reader.
See the recipe for Huckle Buckle below? It hails from an ancient spiral-bound edition of the Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book. The "new" cracks me up. Martha must have liberated this copy from her grandmother's collection. The recipe is a standard coffee cake with blueberry topping (huckleberry in this household). It's okay, not great. The baking time seems to vary. Rarely do I get the topping synched up with the fluffy cake part, and sometimes the fluffy cake part ain't so fluffy. But it could be really good, I'm sure of that, with some tweaks and additions. After all, what's not to like? Huckleberries and coffee cake should be a killer combo.
Your mission, should you accept it, is to improve upon this recipe—or come up with another one. If the latter, it should be recognizable as a sort of coffee cake (because I like coffee cake) and use either huckleberries or blueberries. I'll award two prizes, which will be a jar of pickled sea beans or fiddleheads for the lucky winners: one prize randomly selected from all the entrants and one prize for my choice of best recipe. Be warned that overly complicated recipes will have a strike against them from the get-go ('cause I'm no champion baker, remember). It might take me a while to try all the recipes, so be patient (wait, you're bakers—you're already patient!).
One last thing: Please use frozen or canned huckleberries or blueberries. We all love fresh, but most of the year we use berries we've put up.
You can email me your recipe (finspotcook AT gmail dot com) or post in the comments field. Include contact info. Contest ends on February 28, 2010. I'll compile the recipes for a future post.
My So-So Huckle Buckle
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups huckleberries or blueberries *
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
In large bowl cream shortening and 3/4 cup sugar. Add egg and beat until light. In separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture along with milk. Spread in greased 11 X 7-inch pan. Top with berries. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over berries. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done. Let cool for several minutes, then slice. Serve warm.
* We use two different techniques when using frozen berries. If the berries are frozen in a clump, we thaw and drain them; if individually frozen we add them to the batter without thawing.