Blueberry Bread

Have you ever heard anyone talk about "happy accidents"? You trip and break the heel off your shoe, wander over to the store to track down a replacement, then randomly find your favorite style on sale for half off (a girl can dream, right?). Sometimes, an accident leads to a better outcome.

That is exactly what happened with Blueberry Bread - less the shoes, of course. A colleague of mine celebrated her birthday recently, and a close friend of hers happens to have a birthday the following day. She had requested my Bananas Foster Cupcakes, as last year that was her birthday baking gift from me and obviously they went over well (always my favorite news!). She said that her friend requested some banana bread, and that got me in the zone. Banana bread was one of my grandmother's best recipes. The woman could cook anything, and I mean anything, and do it spectacularly. Banana and zucchini bread were two of her famous baked goods, yet somehow I had skipped over banana bread. Oops.


Now her recipes have become a little scattered since her passing. Not to mention the fact that she kept many handwritten notes and scribbles in her cookbooks. I asked my uncle for a hand, and he sent over what he thought was the right one. Step one: get the recipe.

When I grabbed bananas for the cupcakes, they were under ripe. I knew I would be cooking them up in slices for the bananas foster, so I could handle that. But for the bread, they needed to be mashed. Hard bananas weren't gonna cut it.

Though this was a new process to me, I tried the oven-ripening method. They turned pitch black (normal) and I set them aside while I baked my cupcakes.

At this point I ran into some technical difficulties with my cupcakes. And by "technical difficulties" I actually mean idiocy, as I completely spaced on putting eggs into two - read that, TWO - batches of cupcakes (to be fair, I was using 2 mixers and making them at the same time so as to avoid doubling the recipe. Baking is science and perfect doubles don't always work! I didn't miss eggs two times in a ROW!). About 3/4 of the way through baking, I realized, "Oh man, those don't have eggs." Aaaand to the trash they went.

So I started over, made my cupcakes, got my bananas foster done, frosted those bad boys, and then it was nearly midnight. With an early start to work the next morning lingering in front of me, I left the banana bread for later and went to bed.

Due to work, I didn't get around to the actual banana bread for 2 days. But I figured, hey, those bananas are safe. That's when I began my recipe, and the story continues.

At this point it was banana time. I opened 4 bananas up. But something wasn't right. They didn't smell bad, they just looked funny and had a very faint, non-banana smell. Google, what's going on here? Sure enough, the look was normal. But I did read somewhere that the smell of what you put in banana bread determines how it will taste. And since these didn't smell like bananas really, what the heck was I going to wind up with?!

Blueberries were actually going to be mixed in as an accent to the 'naners. But since the bananas were already walking to the trash on their own, I felt lucky that I'd frozen some blueberries and mixed those dudes right in my batter.

I set out with two 8 ounce containers of blueberries. Though not officially in season, they were a great price, and even better is the fact that they freeze really well. Mine were frozen, but I took them out and rinsed them thoroughly in cold water to both clean and thaw them some.


I made the "banana bread" batter, using a cake-like recipe with heavy cream added. Adding yogurt, buttermilk, cream, or milk to a cake really adds a moisture bonus. Though the recipe I was working from used buttermilk, that's not an item I usually have, so I used my half and half. My coffee was just going to have to do without.

This recipe was slightly different from most cake and cookie recipes in that rather than stirring all the dry ingredients together and then adding it all at once into the butter mixture, you just added the ingredients (slowly, of course) right in. It did not adversely affect the cake in any way, but did get me thinking that the other method is an attempt at even distribution of dry ingredients that may not be necessary. I had never really questioned the method before - as I said before, baking is science, and the details matter.

Rather than adding in mashed bananas, I stirred in the blueberries. I was using my Kitchenaid, which anyone who owns one knows it will stir that batter like no other. What I mean by that is that it could easily smash all the berries right into the batter if put on a high speed. The advantage here was that some of the berries were still frozen, so some wound up mashed, giving the batter a lovely blue tint, while the rest remained whole. That is ideal for a blueberry dish.

I added the batter to a bundt pan that I lightly greased and floured. For a twist on the walnuts used in banana bread, I sprinkled some sliced almonds in the bottom of the bundt pan so that it would adorn the top of the cake.


It took right around half an hour and then voila, a beautiful cake was born.


After letting it cool for a few minutes, I flipped it over to reveal the full cake. I may have over-floured a bit in the pan, which is why the top has the white color. That's ok, though - I would rather it come out in one piece than struggle with chunks sticking to the pan. That makes for a far uglier cake.


The slices were soft yet heavy, as they were dense.


YUM!!!!! So this was very cake like, as is banana bread (when done right, in my opinion). Though not all breads are the same, when I think of bread I think of more work - kneading, letting it rise, etc. And also, not always a soft inside. But this was dense, rich in flavor, and soft. It was basically glorious is what I am trying to do.

And of course those frozen berries made for some awesome bursts of berry flavor throughout the cake. But do I qualify this recipe as a dessert or a breakfast? As ruler of this blog, I am going to deem it breakfast. After all, it is a bread. And since it has fruit, it's part of  well-balanced start to the day at that. Right?

What other recipes can I mess up now?

Blueberry Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 containers of blueberries (8 ounces each)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat sugar and butter together in a large mixing bowl. Gradually mix in eggs, then stir in half and half and vanilla. Slowly stir in flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Mix in blueberries, then add to pans. For a bundt pan, bake for 30 minutes, or 2 loaf pans, bake for 1 hour, using a rack positioned lower in the oven,

adapted from my grandmother's recipe

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