When I think of blueberries, I think of the cool summers of Western Michigan. We lived on the coast of the mitten state for several years, smack dab in the middle of blueberry country. As someone who grew up in California, I hadn’t ever picked blueberries so I didn’t know about one of little life’s pleasures, the blueberry bush.
Almost every summer we lived in Michigan, I’d round up my four children and drive to a blueberry farm near our house. We’d go inside of a large tin shed where each one of us would grab a metal bucket with a rope attached to the handle. After I tied all the kid’s buckets around their waists, we walked down a wide sandy lane until we reached the blueberry bushes.
Blueberries grow about 4-5 feet tall and the bushes are round and wide. To pick the berries, you merely take a berry branch in your hand and with a rolling of the fingers, the purple blueish fruit drops into your bucket with a satisfying, “ping.” In only an hour or two it is very easy to fill the bucket, providing you don’t keep sampling the juicy fruit.
When we thought we had enough berries for the year, we’d take them back to the fruit shed where the buckets were weighted. All the way home, I’d be fantasizing about blueberry cake, pie and muffins, knowing I’d probably eat dessert for dinner that night.
In my story, Lake Surrender, my character Aunt Nettie is renown in the area for her baking, and one of her favorite recipes is Blueberry Crumb Bread. By special permission, she’s allowed me to share the recipe with you.
Between the rich cake batter, juicy blueberries and crumb topping, I think you’ll find it’s the ultimate dessert.
Aunt Nettie’s Blueberry Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 t freshly grated lemon zest
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups fresh blueberries (15 ounces)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Blend 1 1/2 sticks butter into flour with fingertips or a pastry blender just until mixture resembles coarse meal the size of corn kernels.
Take out 1 1/2 cups flour mixture and set aside for crumb topping. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar to crumb topping. Blend with your fingertips until large lumps form.
Whip sour cream, eggs, and vanilla, then add to remaining flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in lemon zest and blueberries and put in a buttered 13 X 9 pan. Sprinkle batter evenly with crumb topping.
Bake in middle of oven. When a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean the cake is ready, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes before cutting.
Quicker than you can say “downsized, unemployed, and divorced,” Ally Cervantes finds herself with the Pacific Ocean in her rear view mirror as she and her two children head to Lake Surrender in rural Northern Michigan to live with her aunt. The dry hills of California are a metaphor for her empty soul, but she can’t afford to wallow in self-pity with an autistic son who can’t make eye contact and a precocious twelve-year-old daughter counting on her to get it together.
With no other available jobs, Ally steps through the only open door for employment, working as head cook at a dilapidated Christian camp. Problem is, she doesn’t cook and doesn’t like religious fanatics.
But despite everything, she finds herself strangely hopeful as she learns her journey ends where the lake begins. Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Main Street books in Davidson, N.C. –Lake Surrender