Kaci Messerly wrote an essay about wanting to be a chef when she was 9 years old, and according to her, she’s never really wanted to do anything else. As a new front-of-house staffer at The Pritchard, she’ll be expanding her resume, but she’s not leaving the kitchen behind.
“It’s hard to pinpoint what I love about baking,” she says. “Whether I’m elbows deep, literally, in a 35-kilo batch of sourdough or at home scooping blueberry muffins, I’m genuinely just happy. Kitchens, ovens, mixers, those are my happy places.”
Messerly started the culinary program at Francis Tuttle when she was 16, where she focused mainly on pastries. Her first professional, kitchen job was working with raw/vegan pastry, and a gig as a bread baker followed.
“I expected to hate it,” she recalls. “I had always preferred pastries, but I ended up loving it – probably largely due to a fantastic mentor – and that opened up my career quite a bit.”
Baking is a precise science, a mixture of chemistry and math, and details are incredibly important. “You have to think of every factor every time,” Messerly stresses. “It seems contradictory, but you have to adapt to maintain consistency. In an industry where consistency is a must, you have to know your product one hundred percent. Everything will affect your product – including hot, humid days versus cold, dry days.”
Tweaking recipes is important, too. Growing up, the recipes came from the backs of boxes in her household, but now, she and her husband – also an avid baker – experiment with their own recipes.
“I spend a lot of time at home experimenting with gluten-free, vegan and allergen-free desserts. Taking a classic like pumpkin pie or chocolate chip cookies and making them accessible to everyone is always fun to me.”
For her recipe, Messerly wants to do what she loves: expose a broader audience to something great; in this case, a buckle. It’s not really a common term, especially in this part of the country, but she loves them.
“If a coffee cake and a cobbler had a love child, it would be a buckle,” she says. “It’s a lot of fruit packed into a moist, streusel-topped cake. I put blueberries in this recipe because they’re my favorite, but you can make it with other fruit, like cherries and even rhubarb.”
► How It's Done
9 ounces AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tbsp room-temperature, unsalted butter
5 ounces sugar
1 large egg
15 ounces fresh blueberries
3 1/2 ounces sugar
1 1/2 ounces AP flour
4 tbsp chilled, unsalted butter cut into small cubes
Using your fingers, mix together all ingredients until completely combined and crumbly.
Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and heat it to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray.
Put flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.
In a small bowl, add vanilla extract to milk and stir. Set aside.
In a bowl attached to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add egg and mix until well incorporated.
Turn off mixer, scrape the sides of the bowl, and add 1/3 of the flour mixture. On low speed, mix just until combined, being careful not to over-mix. Turn off mixer, scrape the sides again, then add 1/3 of the milk mixture. Repeat until all the flour and milk have been added.
Gently stir in the blueberries with a spatula, being careful to smash as few as possible.
Spread the buckle into your baking dish and top evenly with the streusel topping.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crispy and the center springs back when pressed.
Allow to cool in the dish for approximately 30 minutes. Slice. Enjoy!
Pro Tip: Make a large batch, cut into squares, wrap in plastic, keep in the freezer and pull out and thaw one by one for an easy breakfast.