When I think of the Fourth of July, I think of picnics. No, not just any picnic, but an event that involves big groups of people and sometimes, yes, even spans more than one day. I’d like to say that the “more than one day” involved preparation for the event, but from what I remember, it was more about people showing up the day after to help clean up and then end up staying, breathing new life into the party. Goodness my parents knew how to have fun.
Earlier in my life, the groups were made up of extended family members who weren’t all that picky when it came to choosing a picnic spot as long as they could see fireworks. And when fireworks weren’t available, then someone’s house worked just fine. But because my father was in the Navy, we moved quite a bit. Soon, the groups that gathered to celebrate Independence Day were made up of servicemen my father worked with and their families, brought together by their orders thousands of miles from home. Those were the very, very best of times.
My memories are rich with long hot summer days, barbeques with seemingly endless supplies of food, swarms of children running barefoot through the grass, and when adults weren’t paying attention, plots to sneak sodas or sweets we weren’t supposed to have. Of course we could barely wait for the fireworks at the end of a very long day, because the Navy provided the fireworks and we always had a front row seat. The drive home cramped in the back seat of a VW Bug with my brother and sister leave a lot to be desired, however.
Each year that I plan for whatever we now do on The Fourth, dessert is always a big consideration. Maybe it’s because barbeque is barbeque. Who knows, but everyone always seems to want to know, “What’s for dessert?” after the fireworks. Thinking back on all the years I’ve made dessert, it’s always involved berries. Lots and lots of berries. But I’ve never tried to make a Red White & Blue dessert.
I thought about making a tart that resembled an American flag. I considered creating something with stars. But no. Instead, I decided to make something red, white, and blue. Therein lies the rub, because honestly, blueberries and raspberries don’t necessarily make blue and red. They make mauve and pink — not exactly my idea of anything remotely close to patriotic images and the Fourth of July.
Regardless, I’m sure they qualify as something that the young ones would connive to sneak from the dessert table while the adults are otherwise engaged. I’d like to say they’re great picnic fare, but only if you’re within arm’s reach of your kitchen where they can stay cool until everyone is ready to enjoy them!
Not Quite Blue Cupcakes with Not Quite Red Ice Cream
Makes 12 standard cupcakes
For the Cupcakes…
2 Cups + 2 tablespoons sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1-1⁄2 cups of Sugar
2 large eggs
1⁄4 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of blueberry puree (recipe follows)
1⁄2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
For the Blueberry Puree…
Bring one pound of blueberries to a boil in a sauce pan over medium heat and stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Reduce heat to low and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 1⁄2 hour) and the mixture is thick. Cool the blueberries slightly and place in a food processor or mash with a fork. Mix until smooth. For an extra smooth puree pass mixture through a fine sieve before using.
For the Cake…
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating
until each is incorporated before adding the next.
Sift dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Mix milk with 1⁄2 cup of blueberry puree and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Add wet and dry ingredients alternately to butter mixture starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated after each addition. Do not overbeat.
Fill cupcake liners 3⁄4 full of batter. Spoon 1 teaspoon of blueberry puree into the center and swirl with a wooden skewer. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back to the touch.
Cool 10-15 minutes in the pan then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with Blueberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream (see below) and top with a fresh blueberry. Daring folks will spoon some blueberry puree over the cupcake before taking a big bite.
For the Blueberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream…
5 egg whites
1-1⁄4 cups sugar
2 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
1⁄4 cup + 2 T blueberry puree
Pinch of salt
Place sugar and egg whites in the metal bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a
pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are
hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it
should feel completely smooth.
Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high until mixture has cooled completely (feel the bottom of the bowl) and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes. It will appear somewhat like soft marshmallow in consistency. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until well incorporated after each addition. The buttercream may appear curdled after the butter has been added — keep beating and it will become smooth again. Add blueberry puree and salt and beat just until combined. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes.
If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.
The recipe for these cupcakes was adapted from that of Trophy Cupcakes
Pink Creamcheese Berry Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart.
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 c. whole milk
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 c. sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. frozen raspberries, thawed
Blend the cream cheese, milk, lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the cream, pulsing just until mixed. Pour mixture into the ice cream freezer and turn it on. Add the berries to the mixture as it spins. After frozen, pour into a sealable container and freeze, about 2 hours. Stir once or twice during the setting time. Allow to sit at room temp about 5 minutes before serving.
Happy Independence Day!