Friday, May 16, 2008

Blueberry picnic cake and surry bikes.

What could be more romantic than picnicing on a warm spring day, everyone dressed in their summer's best skirts and khakis, in a lively green park filled with frolicking families? This is not a hypothetical question, I actually know that answer. The answer is nothing. A perfect picnic in Colorado is the most old fashioned and romantic activity you can do on a bright Sunday afternoon.

Last Sunday's picnic in the park was an utter delight, both because of the food, and because of the atmosphere. We choose a lovely table in the middle of Wash Park. The sun was bright, the grass was newly green, the birds were chirping, and everyone was out in the sunshine enjoying the spring weather. This year I was given two springs, my first in San Antonio, my second in Colorado. Being farther south, the San Antonio spring came earlier, with daffodils bursting up from the lawns in March and the trees filling with leaves in April. Then I traveled to Colorado in May, where the trees were in their peak of full bloom and the tulips were stretching skyward in full bloom in Boulder's flowerbeds. I was a very lucky girl this year. I experienced spring twice in one year, which is a rarity given the ephemeral nature of the season.

The pleasures of spring are fleeting, as spring truly is a season of growth, and that is why it is so special that I experienced two springs. The blooms that burst from the trees are in constant growth, one day delicate buds of green in a mass of hard brown bark, the next small but firm pockets of leaves waiting to open, and the next fully bloomed flowers that burst out in glorified beauty all over the branches before quickly morphing into summer's hearty leaves. Each day of spring is different, always changing and growing. The nests of baby birds hatch, mature, and fly away within a few weeks. The dapples of sunlight that flit through delicate new leaves give way quickly to an ever increasing shade under warmer and warmer sunshine. These changes in nature are the reason spring is such a welcome season after a constant and cold winter, but they are also the reason spring feels like a fleeting, temporal season. Spring is always a period of growth and change that for most of us comes and passes with a quick, saturated joy.

The momentary natural gifts from Mother Nature are probably the best part of spring, but another joy of the spring season is the fresh fruit. I always know it is spring when the strawberries begin to look red and perpetually ripe in their little green plastic baskets, and blueberries are abundantly in stock in those tiny plastic clamshells. I also know that like the spring annuals, this ripe and affordable fruit is fleeting, so I take full advanage in these early months to eat strawberries for breakfast, blueberries for lunch, and more strawberries for dinner.

Our picnic culminated in two spectacular events. The first was the bike surry rental and pedal around the park. The second was a heaping slice of blueberry picnic cake. I wish I could share both on this post, but unfortunately there is no recipe for a surry bike ride that you can create at home. You can, however, indulge in blueberry picnic cake while sitting in the sunshine to your heart's content. I recomend it for any spring celebration.

"a simple, melt-in-your-mouth cake"
from the Colorado Collage cookbook

4 eggs, seperated
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup milk
2 pints fresh blueberries, washed, stemmed and dried

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan. In medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until well blended. In large bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Add salt and vanilla. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the remaining sugar and beat until blended. Add egg yolks and beat until light and creamy. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, baking powder, and milk and mix thoroughly. Fold in reserved beaten egg whites.

Gently shake dry blueberries with remaining 1/2 cup flour to prevent settling during baking, and fold into batter. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake 50-60 minutes or until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. (May be halved and baked in an 8x8x2 pan.)

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