Monday, February 8, 2010

The Great FOTL Huckle Buckle CONTEST!

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
1 egg
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.


Peabody said...

Hmmm, I might have to give this a try.

Ellen Zachos said...

Can we use canned berries? I put up many pints of berries every year (both frozen and canned) and I gotta say, I like the canned better for baking.

Langdon Cook said...

Peabody - I hope so. This is right up your alley.

Ellen - Yes, canned berries are allowed. You might include a note as to why you prefer them canned for baking.

Naes said...

I already see a number of improvements that could be made to this recipe that would yield better results. I'll send them over to you. I should probably disqualify myself from competition since I'm a former pastry chef :)

Kimberley Hasselbrink said...

I'm not much of a baker either, which is why I love making crisps - they're a more forgiving baked good. I have a recipe for huckleberry crisp that I love, but it uses fresh berries.

Karin said...

My family and I have used that BHG coffeecake recipe for years and faced the same challenges--sometimes runny, always needs more baking time. Never good when you want that coffeecake NOW. I always blamed the berries. Thanks for inspiring me to try to fix the problem once and for all. We're blessed with an abundance of mature evergreen huckleberries in our "yard" so have plenty of berries with which to play.

Michelle said...

Here's our family recipe for "Aunt Ethel's Cobbler" (which is actually pretty cake-like) Enjoy!

1/2 Stick Butter
1 1/2 c. Sugar
2 c. flour
1 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder

1 1/2 c. blueberries - fresh, frozen or canned (or just about any fruit)
1 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a 11x7 (or similar size) casserole dish in the oven. Remove and let butter cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, flour, salt & baking powder well.

In a separate bowl, measure out your berries or other fruits (if using canned, drain them well before measuring) and sprinkle them with the tablespoon of sugar. Toss well.

Finally, add milk to the flour mixture and mix well until a thick batter forms. Pour the batter into the buttery casserole dish. Some butter will come up over the batter, that is ok. Lastly, sprinkle/drop the sugared berries into the batter - do not stir. Bake @ 350 degrees for about 1 hour, checking every so often to ensure that the top doesn't get too brown before the middle has had a chance to set-up. If you see this happening, you can put a piece of foil over the top to slow things down a bit. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

This tastes AMAZING with vanilla ice cream, but is pretty fantastic all by itself.

I have a pic of the finished product over on my blog, if you're curious. ;)

Happy Snackin'! :) Michelle

Sherry said...

It might be too late for your contest, but I have a 2 part suggestion for you for a quick and easy Blueberry Coffee Cake. The first part is to check out the recipe for Quick Mix on the King Arthur Flour site. This first part does take a bit of measuring, but is easy. I make it with part white whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup each dry milk and buttermilk powder. After you make up the mix you are all set to make quick muffins, pancakes, scones and... coffee cake!

Blueberry Coffee Cake
2 c. Quick Mix
2/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 egg

Spray an 8 inch square pan with Pam. Mix above ingredients except blueberries. Spread in pan. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over batter. Make sure frozen berries are drained very well. Put topping over berries.

1/3 c. Quick Mix
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cold butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle over berries. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Serve while warm.

We used the Quick Mix to make dozens of fresh, foraged, service berry and blueberry muffins during an NH BOW "Cook Like a Wild Woman Workshop" last August. It saved a lot of time and they were delicious!

Jess said...

I know this looks long, but it's not complicated. You can do it, I know you can! :)

This is a delicious, moist coffee cake with a ribbon of berry filling. The vanilla sugar is essential for flavor.

Berry Ribboned Coffeecake

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, huckleberries or blueberries (6 ounces)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (only if using blueberries or huckleberries, cranberries are tart enough)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife (reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl. Or pulse sugar and vanilla extract together to make vanilla sugar.

Pulse blueberries or huckleberries and lemon juice with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).

Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined. Do not overmix.

Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon berries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Spoon small bits of the remaining batter over the top of the berries and smooth them with as gentle of a hand as possible.

Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into berry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up.

Lorna said...

Hi Langdon, you can find my submission here, complete with photos:

Thanks for running this fun contest!

Princess, Tank and Isaac: The Newfs of Hazard said...

You're a great guy with a lot of good ideas, habits and information; your daughter's cute, well fed and should grow up with good values; but your ideas about baking are totally screwed up. In your gnocchi dough post you talk about getting a feel for the dough. That's all there is to baking as well. You should get the books artisan bread in 5 min a day and healthy bread in 5 min a day. You'll make great bread with little effort. Watch the video to see how to cloak.

As for your coffee cake, if you learn what te ingredients do, you can alter your own. Shortening is dense (and tasteless). You want fluffy, go with less dense. Try half the amount of butter and half corn oil. Or all butter. Eggs make things fluffy. Before measuring out the water put a large egg in the meauring cup then fill to the right amount (so you have 2 eggs in the recipe). Add some vanilla to the measuring cup after the egg and the cake will taste even better and you'll still have the same amount of liquid. At the end, if the batter's too runny, add more flour. If too thick, add milk or water.

For the topping, flour as a thickener deadens the taste. Corn starch is better. You have to mix it with cold water so it doesn't form lumps. I hate cinnamon with blueberries. Coriander and/or a little cardamon are much better to my taste. I'l g back to the recipe and se if there's anything else. Also,you could start over and go to or or and get any coffee cake recipe and pair it with any blueberry topping recipe.

And for heaven's sake, just dump in all the non flour ingredients, mix well, then add the flour unsifted little by little.

Michelle said...

Was there ever a winner for this contest?