We're going back to our comforts in the kitchen this summer. There's nothing like revisiting classic baked goods to make you feel like you've reconquered the basics, and there's no better time to experiment with fresh fruits than the final final month of this season. Have you seen the blueberries lately?
Salon Food's resident pastry chef Meghan McGarry of Buttercream Blondie, curated a list of four easy blueberry desserts, which will soon become summer staples in your home for years to come. From a lemony blueberry loaf, to nostalgic oatmeal cream pies, and cheesecake two ways, each is the baker's equivalent of comfort food with a seasonal twist.
"Blueberries are gorgeous right now, and I love tying in local produce whenever possible to really highlight the season," McGarry says of her inspiration. "While fresh blueberries take any dessert to a new level, they especially do with cheesecake by lightening things up."
In addition to blueberries, almost all of these desserts has a second unifying ingredient in common: bourbon. If you don't drink or you're planning to bake for the kids, don't worry. It's always optional.
"Bourbon is a versatile ingredient that balances the sweetness while also adding another layer of flavor that will comfort you," McGarry explains. "It really just pairs well with the blue berries. They make a great couple."
Salon Food recently partnered with McGarry to help bakers of all skill levels conquer your fears about baking cheesecake. The result is a cheesecake recipe that yields everything you love about your favorite dessert with all of the hard work removed. That means no springform pan — all you need is an 8x8.
This recipe is the perfect description of what McGarry does: reinventing classic desserts and taking them to soaring new heights. Her easy-to-bake cheesecake actually makes over two comfort desserts, bringing them together in a whole new way. You may have missed it when you first looked at the photo, but the crust of this cheesecake is actually an oatmeal cookie.
Cheesecake bars more often than not have a graham cracker crust, but McGarry knows how to flirt with dessert. The added bonus of an oatmeal cookie has all of those flavors that you know and love: cinnamon, light brown sugar and vanilla. The addition of bourbon takes this cookie to the next level. Combined, these cozy flavors set the stage for the whole production.
The cookie itself is exactly what you crave in an oatmeal cookie. Soft-baked and chewy, it will absolutely melt in your mouth. The cookie batter contains a hint of bourbon, which provides a cozy feeling against the sweet blueberries. The berries lend not only a fruity flavor to the cookie but also a bright pop of color. They look and taste like summer, providing a burst of freshness that really wakes the cookie up.
"I had to pry myself away from the cookies just to make the filling," McGarry says. "But it's worth it. I promise."
McGarry wanted to upgrade the filling to match this beautiful cookie, which is why she chose mascarpone. Commonly used in tiramisu, mascarpone is at the same time creamy and satisfying. A hint of light brown sugar adds earthy sweetness that enhances the flavor of the blueberries.
"The filling is really what takes them up a notch," McGarry adds. "I literally just used a mascarpone with a hint of brown sugar to sweeten it up, and that's all you need to anchor this satisfying hand-held treat."
This is a dessert that's perfect to break out at the beach or bring along to an outdoor barbecue or picnic — smiles on all who dig in, guaranteed.
An exceptional cheesecake is built on a strong foundation. For the crust, McGarry nods ahead to the fall baking season by replacing ordinary graham crackers with ginger snap cookie crumbs. Hints of cinnamon and spice instantly make the dessert more inviting and also provide balance to the sweetness of the filling, which is so light and airy that it almost resembles a mousse.
"I'm all about no-bake desserts in the summer," McGarry says. "To elevate the no-bake factor of the cheesecake, I added a vanilla bean to the mix. Light brown sugar is another ingredient that adds to the overall warmth of this dessert, and of course, the bourbon."
This loaf is super adaptable, and not only in terms of ingredients. It's a multi-functional crowd pleaser that's great for breakfast with a cup of coffee, in the afternoon with tea or as a snack all on its own.
Citrus is a great way to add flavor to loaves, and the zest from the lemon packs a special punch in the flavor department. This particular recipe is powered by lemons, but you can use any citrus you have on hand. Blood oranges or limes work well, too. If you don't have citrus in your fruit bowl? Just eliminate it.
McGarry adds fresh blueberries to this loaf, but you can also sub any frozen berries, in particular blueberries or raspberries. So if you stocked up on frozen fruit, you're in luck. For a pop of citrus-y flavor, McGarry finishes her loaf with Grand Marnier glaze. You can substitute any orange liqueur, or opt out, too.
Don't forget to follow @ButtercreamBlondie on Instagram for more ways to bake through it.