Every once in a while I find wild blueberries in the market during berry season and when I do I become the baking fool. Typically the berries are tiny but I’m here to tell you they are packed with flavor. Years ago we were in Maine for a family vacation when I tasted fresh blueberry juice for the first time. Cool, rich and gorgeous in color I savored every drop each and every morning. We were staying at a cushy lodge in Bar Harbor and they served pitchers of the freshly made juice at breakfast. I was delighted to find the berries growing wild everywhere. We saw little, scrubby bushes while hiking through Acadia National Park all loaded with the ubiquitous blue-black fruit. The same scraggly bushes dotted the sides of roads, front lawns and street corners. It was great! Unfortunately I rarely find wild Maine blueberries in South Florida but they are available every now and again and that’s when I make, among other things, this bread. Which is more like tea cake; it’s not heavily sweetened and the fresh fruit also gives the bread a welcome tartness. It’s perfect for a breakfast on the run by itself or toasted and slathered with peanut or almond butter. Later in the day it will be gladly received with a steamy cup of tea or coffee to resist that 3:00 p.m. crash. This is one of those easy, roll with it recipes in that just about all berries work well. I particularly like the blueberry and raspberry combination but you can add cut strawberries or use strictly one kind of berry. I usually use 12 ounces of blueberries and 6 ounces of raspberries. I’m not a fan of blackberries, (way too many seeds), but I made a quick sauce to trickle over the slices. The bread doesn’t need it, I just wanted another splash of color. It’s a gorgeous sauce and takes two seconds to strain out the seeds. Just google “blackberry sauce” and it’ll pop up. Another plus of this recipe is that it yields 2 loaves so you can surprise and delight a friend who maybe gave you an unexpected helping hand with a project you were working on and, hey, there’s one left for your family. You can give one to your 93-year old father who never gets freshly baked treats and you still have one for your family. Or you can just not say anything, tuck them in the freezer and take both of them to Hawk’s Cay for Girl’s Weekend so y’all have something to munch on at three in the morning when you’re ripped and singing “Drunk On A Plane” on top of the coffee table. It’s just a suggestion. I’m a huge fan of lemon juice and zest so I included it in the recipe but I’m pretty sure you can leave it out if you like. I do have one very important piece of advice that being once you add the dry ingredients to the wet don’t overwork the batter. The batter is thick and heavy so gently mix by hand and I find a large spoon helps to incorporate the wet with the dry with the least number of over/under strokes.
Wild Blueberry Raspberry Bread
Preheat oven to 350°.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 18 ounces berries of choice, (3 6-ounce packages)
- 1/2 cup butter, (1 stick), at room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- Grease and flour or spray with nonstick cooking spray 2-8.5X4.5 loaf pans (1.5 quarts) and set aside. I like to use Pyrex.
- In a medium bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently incorporate berries so they’re all covered with the flour mixture. Set aside.
- In a large bowl cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
- Add sugar and beat well.
- Add eggs, lemon zest and juice and vanilla. Beat well until eggs are completely mixed in.
- Stir in buttermilk.
- Add flour mixture to the butter/cream cheese bowl and with a large spoon gently fold together until just blended taking care not to break berries apart. I find an overhand/underhand motion keeps the blending down to a minimum.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 45-50 minutes. Using Pyrex or glass loaf pans allows you to see how done the sides and bottoms are.
- Set pans on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before removing breads from pans.
- Allow to cool completely before slicing.