This time of year, I am always on the lookout for harbingers of spring.

When I found beautiful, fresh blueberries on sale at the grocery store last week, I couldn’t resist snatching up a few pints. And I knew just how I wanted to use them — in this week’s Blueberry Streusel Bread.

Today’s recipe is lightly adapted from a recipe I’ve been wanting to try from an excellent baking website called Sally’s Baking Addiction. Sally’s Blueberry Muffin Bread recipe is pretty near perfect, and the only ingredient modification I’ve made was increasing the amount of vanilla extract. (Why stop at 1 1/2 teaspoons when 2 teaspoons are even better?)

A bounty of fresh blueberries are folded into the batter just before pouring it into the loaf pan. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
A bounty of fresh blueberries are folded into the batter just before pouring it into the loaf pan. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

This quick bread is easy to make, using basic pantry staples like flour, butter, white and brown sugars, eggs and milk, as well as half a cup of plain yogurt or sour cream. The yogurt or sour cream adds flavor and moistness to the bread, and also provides the acidity needed to activate the leavening agents so that the bread can rise as it bakes.

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The rise for this bread comes from equal parts baking soda and baking powder. When baking soda and acid mix, carbon dioxide is created and this is the reaction that produces the rise in a baked good.

However, some recipes require more rise than baking soda alone will create, and that’s where the baking powder factors in. Baking powder not only contains baking soda, but also a dry acid called cream of tartar, and this extra boost of acid and bicarbonate really makes the difference in this recipe.

In Sally’s recipe, she includes an option to finish the top of the bread with a swirl of blueberry jam and crumbly streusel topping. I’ve tried it with and without these finishes, and the bread is infinitely better when they’re included.

The top of the batter is swirled with raspberry jam and then covered with a cinnamon streusel crumb topping. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
The top of the batter is swirled with raspberry jam and then covered with a cinnamon streusel crumb topping. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

I use raspberry jam in place of blueberry, which produces a terrific, jammy blend of berry flavors. The streusel topping is a simple blend of brown sugar, flour, ground cinnamon and melted butter that, in my opinion, takes this quick bread to the next level.

The bread itself is not very sweet at all, and the streusel crumbs on top provide just the right amount of sweetness to balance the tart flavor of the blueberries. If you don’t plan to add the streusel topping, I recommend increasing the amount of brown sugar from a quarter cup to a third cup.

For best results, Sally recommends having all the wet ingredients at room temperature before getting started, a good tip to follow whenever you see it on a recipe. Room temperature ingredients have more air than if they were cold, and this air expands as the bread bakes to create a wonderfully light and moist crumb.

The flavors in this bread sneak up on you as you eat it, and if you’re anything like us you will find it difficult to stop at just one slice. This Blueberry Streusel Bread is easy to make, addictively delicious and the next best thing to spring itself.

Made with fresh berries, this Blueberry Streusel Bread is the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of spring. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Made with fresh berries, this Blueberry Streusel Bread is the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of spring. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

Blueberry Streusel Bread

PRINT: Blueberry Streusel Bread recipe

Makes: 1 9-by-5-inch loaf

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup granulated white sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar, packed

2 extra-large eggs, room temperature

½ cup plain yogurt, room temperature (may substitute sour cream)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup whole milk, room temperature

1 pint fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons jam, any berry flavor

Ingredients for streusel topping:

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Use butter or cooking spray to grease loaf pan, making sure to coat well into the corners; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or use a hand-held mixer to beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the white and brown sugars and beat on high speed until pale and creamy, scraping down the sides as needed, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating hard on medium speed after each addition until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the yogurt and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until combined. The batter may look grainy or curdled at this stage but will come together once the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Add the flour mixture and milk and beat on low speed just until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

For the streusel topping, use a fork to mix the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until fully combined. Add the melted butter and use the fork to stir into crumbs of varying size.

Before baking, use a knife or offset spatula to swirl the jam into the top of the loaf as desired (I like to cover the entire surface), then sprinkle streusel topping over loaf.

Place pan on rack in the lower third position of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover top loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. Continue to bake for 30 to 40 minutes more, until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out free of crumbs. Remove loaf pan from oven and transfer to a wire rack, keeping the bread in the pan until completely cool, about 1 hour.

To store: Wrap bread in plastic or aluminum foil and store at room temperature for 2 days or refrigerate for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap loaf of slices in 2 layers of plastic or aluminum foil and place in a plastic freezer bag. Freeze bread for up to 3 months, or even longer in a deep freeze.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • If not adding the streusel topping, increase the amount of brown sugar to 1/3 cup.
  • To use frozen blueberries, do not thaw before using. Toss berries in 2 tablespoons of flour before folding into the batter to prevent them from sinking to the bottom while baking.
  • If using smaller loaf pans, fill to 2/3 with batter as bread will rise when baking.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.