I am among those who believe that when blueberries are in season, as they will be for the month of July, they are to be eaten out of hand, fresh and unadorned. I am also among those who cannot resist showcasing them in cakes, muffins and tarts.
My oldest son was born on the Fourth of July, so we've celebrated with many blueberry desserts over the years. When he was a boy, we served a stars-and-stripes sheet cake with strawberry stripes and blueberry stars on a bed of whipped cream frosting. Now that he's an adult, he requested a bella blueberry sauce poured over a simple cheesecake.
Yields 12 large muffins
The food processor makes the muffins a snap, and the pound cake-like texture is a sublime weekend morning treat.
Canola oil for spraying muffin papers
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached white flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. (one small package) cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
2 large or 3 medium eggs (local, free-range eggs make a difference in taste and texture)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin cups with cupcake papers and spray with canola oil (or, if you trust your pans not to stick, spray the pan directly), and set aside. Toss blueberries with 2 tablespoons of the flour; set aside. Mix all dry ingredients; set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade, blend cream cheese, butter and lemon juice until smooth. Add butter and pulse to combine. Add milk, scraping down sides of the bowl, and process until smooth. Add eggs and pulse 4 or 5 times to incorporate. Add flour mixture, pulsing 4 or 5 times until dry ingredients disappear into wet. Do not overmix. Fold in blueberries with rubber spatula until evenly distributed. Bake 16–20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pans and papers, if desired. Serve warm.
Serves 6-8 as a topping
This sauce is most amazing served over pancakes and cheesecake. It's worth buying a cheesecake from your favorite local purveyor and making this sauce to accompany it if you need an impressive or festive dessert. The gentle cooking releases the full flavor of the berries. This recipe doubles well but does not halve effectively.
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice, optional, for citric acid if you plan to keep it a day or two
Combine all ingredients in a two-quart saucepan, mixing well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring, and immediately reduce to low. Simmer 4 minutes; do not overcook or the fruit will set up like jam and lose its saucey spoonability. Serve warm or at room temperature.