Blueberries are plentiful this time of year. Maybe you have bushes in your yard, weighed down with clusters of blueberries on their slender limbs. Or there are places around town where you can go pick your own, such as Crabtree Farms (go to crabtreefarms.org to make a reservation) or north of town at Morris Vineyard in Charleston, Tennessee.
Of course, they're available year-round in grocery stores, but they're better than ever, sweeter than honey, when they are picked locally and brought home to devour by themselves, mixed in your morning smoothie or tossed with a salad and drizzled with a nice vinaigrette.
But who can resist sweetening them just a bit more to make into some kind of irresistible dessert? From pies popping with blueberries to cobblers with the luscious berries simmering beneath tender crusts or clafoutis with the berries embedded in the batter, blueberries add a beautiful taste of summer, bite after bite.
But here's an even easier way to enjoy blueberries for a brunch or breakfast dish that easily doubles as a delicious dessert. For a decadent finish, top it with freshly whipped cream, of course — even at breakfast. You gotta get your morning dairy, after all. A light sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar on the whipped cream is also a nice touch.
Blueberry Crunch uses day-old bread, much like a bread pudding or those amazing French toast bakes. A creamy, sweet custard-like filling envelops the bread and berries making for a delicious, beautiful way to greet the day.
Blueberry Brunch Crunch
8 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 loaf (16 ounces) day-old French bread, cut into 1-inch slices (see note)
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream and vanilla. Remove crusts from bread, and arrange half of the slices in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Slowly pour half of the cream mixture over the bread. Top with remaining bread and egg mixture. Let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup blueberries.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over top. Top with remaining 2 cups blueberries and pecans.
Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Note: The easiest way to get your bread sturdy enough for making this dessert is to slice it and leave it out overnight, uncovered. Slicing exposes more of the bread's surface. Place the slices on a cooling rack — the kind you would normally use for cakes and cookies — and the bread will be ready to use the next morning. If you've waited till the last minute, stale bread can be achieved by baking it in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until it dries out. Just don't let it get too brown or crunchy.
A couple of weeks ago, I included a recipe for Hot Chicken Salad in Side Orders. The amount of mayonnaise in the recipe was omitted, and I apologize for that. Here it is again in its entirety.
Hot Chicken Salad
2 cups cooked chicken
2 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup toasted almond slices
1 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed potato chips
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine chicken, celery, almonds, mayonnaise and lemon juice, and blend well. Transfer mixture to a 9- by 9-inch baking dish. Toss together cheese and chips, and sprinkle over top of chicken salad. Bake for 30 minutes or until chips are golden brown and mixture is bubbly.
Email Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.