by Kerry Dunnington
When blueberries come in season, late June through July, I can’t seem to get my fill of these sweet, healthy nuggets. They boast impressive amounts of fiber and nutrients and few calories–about 80 for one cup. Their uses are many and varied; blueberries add color to assorted fresh fruit, hot and cold cereals and fruit smoothies. I also fold them into muffin, pancake and waffle batter with great results and blueberries turn out memorable homemade pies and cobblers. When these nutritional powerhouses are at the height of their season I make a colorful dessert where I layer blueberries with lemon yogurt and homemade granola.
Blueberries grow in clusters and vary in size from that of a small caper to the size of a marble. They are deep in color, ranging from blue to maroon to purple-black, and feature a white-gray waxy “bloom” that covers the berry’s surface and serves as a protective coat. The skin surrounds a semi-transparent flesh that encases tiny seeds. Blueberries are literally bursting with beneficial antioxidants. Recent research examined 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capability and blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy cancer-causing free radicals.
Look for blueberries that are firm and free of wrinkles. Make sure berries aren’t soft and damaged or moldy; test by jostling the container, the berries should move freely. Blueberries should be free of moisture since the presence of water will cause the berries to decay. Fresh berries are fragile and should be washed briefly and drained if they are not organic. It’s best to wash berries just prior to use. Blueberries are best consumed within a few days of purchase. Store them in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Blueberries can be frozen with great success. To prepare for freezing–wash, drain and remove any damaged berries, spread berries on a rimmed baking sheet, place in the freezer until frozen. Transfer berries to a plastic bag, freeze until ready to use. Berries typically last up to a year in the freezer.
During last year’s blueberry season, I was creating all sorts of blueberry recipes for my forthcoming cookbook, This Book Cooks Too. For a recipe finalist Blueberry French Croissant a la French Toast, fresh local berries had gone out of season. I tested the recipe using frozen berries; taste testers didn’t recognize any flavor difference when I used fresh or frozen berries. Not only can you enjoy this recipe when blueberries are in season, enjoy it year-round!
Blueberry French Croissant a la French Toast
Blueberry French Croissant
Arrange croissant halves in a single layer in an 11x7-inch, (2-quart) baking dish. It will be a bit crowded, but the croissants will sort themselves out during the overnight soaking process. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with milk, add vanilla. Pour egg/milk mixture over croissants; turn croissants over to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Sprinkle cinnamon evenly over soaked croissants. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium saucepan over moderately low heat, combine blueberries with sugar, when sugar has dissolved, and blueberries have broken down, (about 15 minutes) remove from heat and spoon blueberry topping over croissants. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately. Top with butter and syrup if desired.
Kerry Dunnington is the author of This Book Cooks and is a member of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance & Slow Food International.
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