Posted by: scootrah | October 8, 2011

“The blacker the berry…..”

The other day my afternoon walk with the dogs took us by a house up on the corner that went into foreclosure last winter. Although someone has continued to mow the lawn all summer, I noticed as we walked past that blackberry bushes had completely taken over a corner of the yard and were loaded with plump, perfectly ripe berries. You know that saying, “The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice”? Well these were about the plumpest, blackest, sweetest berries I’d tasted all summer. I figured I’d paid $4+/pint a few times at the produce stand and Farmer’s Market the month before, so these bushes were a literal gold mine of yummy savings. I returned awhile later with my iPod, a clean bucket and spent an hour picking (and eating) berries.

So what to do with 8 pints of fresh blackberries? We had blackberry-sauced pork chops, fresh blackberries in our morning cereal and on waffles, sprinkled on yogurt parfaits and berries on ice cream. I even made a delicious sweet ‘n sour sauce using the blackberries and some cherry vinegar I’d made earlier in the summer, and there were still a few pints to go. What to do?

A couple weeks earlier, my friend Leslie had given me an old recipe box she’d found at a yard sale. The recipes seemed to be from the late 1930s and early ’40s, and many recipes were cut from magazines and newspapers and glued on to the back of “Dayton Public Library” file cards. There were hand-written cards and cards that were neatly typed – lots of depression-era stuff for “eggless” recipes and a couple notes like “use this to substitute when cost of butter and eggs is too high.” After lots of tossing, editing, and trying to figure out what some of the ingredients, measurements and cooking methods were, I kept about a dozen cards to experiment and play with. One of them was simply titled “Fruit Coffee Cake” – an easy and not too sweet recipe that lets the flavor of the fruit shine. The original called for milk, which I tried, but I made it a second time with sour cream and liked that version better – more moist and a little less sweet.

I also tried this recipe using fresh peaches and it was delicious – just omit the extra Tblsp of flour sprinkled over the blackberries before you put the crumb topping on. I think the variations to fruit (and probably spices) are limitless – I’d love to know what you try in your version!  

And what did I do with the rest of the berries? I macerated them with some sugar, and when they were nice and juicy, oozing with all that delicious blackberry goodness, I froze them in ice cube trays and stored them in a freezer bag. They’ll be easy to throw into smoothies, baked goods and sauces for the next couple months and bring back that sweet taste of summer.

Fruit Coffee Cake

3 Tbsp shortening
4 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1 2/3 c. flour + 1 Tbsp flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. sour cream (or milk)
2 cups fresh blackberries

crumb topping 
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamonCrumb topping

Heat oven to 375 degrees

  1. Use a mixer with paddle attached and cream together shortening and sugar in mixing bowl.
  2. Add egg and mix thoroughly.
  3. Sift together 1 2/3 c flour, baking powder and salt, then add to mixing bowl alternately with sour cream, mixing until combined.
  4. Put mix into an 8″ x 8″ greased pan. The dough is very sticky, so use a sheet of waxed paper sprayed with vegetable cooking spray to push the mix evenly into pan.  
  5. Cover evenly with blackberries, then sprinkle 1 Tblsp flour over top of berries.
  6. Crumb together topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over berries.
  7. Bake 25 to 30 minutes.

“I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation” – Madame Benoit


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