With the berry-picking season in full swing, there’s no time like the present to harvest buckets of berries.
As the temperature in Virginia dipped into the low 80s one day last week, my family and I decided to take advantage of this fruitful opportunity. Driving north 30 minutes to one of the many local farms in our area, we ended up at Brookdale Farms, where we picked not just blueberries, but also melt-in-your-mouth raspberries and even sweeter blackberries to our hearts’ content. What’s better is that the afternoon full of fresh air, sunshine and cartons worth of succulent, ripened berries cost us under $20!
The freshly picked berries in the backseat were certainly exciting, but the real anticipation came from the variety of ideas of what we could turn them into. A blueberry pie? Raspberry scones? Blackberry jam? Muffins? That was a dilemma for later, at home. I chose to wait and see what I had in the pantry and refrigerator before wholeheartedly devoting myself to a recipe.
I arrived home to an unopened three-pound log of Philadelphia cream cheese waiting for me in our fridge.
A week earlier, I had thrown the giant brick of cream cheese into the cart at Costco, convinced I was going to use it all to make Oreo cookie balls — recipe to come. In the week since, I hadn’t even gotten around to using a single spread of cream cheese.
Now that I had a bounty of berries in tow and the fervent desire to bake something, things were different. What better time would there be to use this large chunk of cream cheese sitting in my fridge?
And so it began: the start to a recipe featuring some type of berry and loads of cream cheese. Between flirting with the idea of baking a cheesecake and actually committing to it, I realized I lacked a major component of cheesecake crust: graham crackers. From that moment on, I knew I had to pursue a different recipe.
Ultimately, I ended up settling on a blueberry buckle, which is essentially a blueberry version of coffee cake. The buckle was apparently given its name because of the way the layers of batter rise while baking; the weight of both the berries and the streusel crumbs weigh the cake down during the process, causing it to buckle.
The end result turned out better than I expected, and I ended up using four cups of cream cheese — a whole third of my log! While it was in the oven, the fragrant smell of blueberry and cake with hints of zesty lemon and piquant cinnamon wafted from the oven for 57 minutes. It was mouthwatering.
With an entire Snapware full of blueberry buckle squares in tow, I headed out to watch the sunset at Prospect Hill — the hill you see in “Little Women” when Laurie professes his love for Jo. My friends and I feasted our eyes on the sunset while feasting on this sweet treat. There was no better way to enjoy a picnic and sunset in the middle of July. And the blueberry buckle only made it sweeter.
So what are you waiting for? Buckle up, and get (blue)berry picking!
•1 packet yellow cake mix (do not follow cake mix instructions)
•1/2 cup melted butter
•1/4 cup vegetable oil
Cream cheese batter:
•32 oz cream cheese
•1/2 cup granulated white sugar
•1 tbsp lemon zest
•3 tbsp lemon juice
•1/4 cup butter, softened
•1/3 cup flour
•1/3 cup brown or white sugar
•2 tbsp ground cinnamon
•2 cups of blueberries
PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT
1. Mix the crust ingredients together until all are thoroughly blended.
2. Press the crust mixture onto the bottom of a greased 13-inch x 9-inch pan.
3. Whisk together all the ingredients for the cream cheese batter, mixing in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice at intervals. Whisk until smooth and blended.
4. Pour the well-mixed filling onto the crust, spreading the batter evenly.
5. In another bowl, mix together the ingredients for the streusel topping. This will create a pinchable dough-like mixture that will be pinched into streusel crumbs.
6. Scatter the blueberries on top of the cream cheese layer.
7. Pinch and scatter streusel crumbs on top of the cream cheese layer.
8. Bake in the oven for 55 minutes to an hour until a toothpick comes out clean!
9. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes.9. Enjoy! 🙂
Isabella Xu is a rising junior in the McDonough School of Business. Homemade Gourmet appears online every other week.