Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blackberry Buckle

Round about these parts, blackberries aren't a fruit so much as a weed. They grow wild in every ditch, along every highway, and if they're not in your backyard, there's a bush in your neighbor's threatening to invade by next year. Blackberries are nothing if not pernicious.

They're also delicious. Who can resist those plump purple orbs, bursting with wine-y juice? Tempting and troublesome - a combination that may have contributed to legend.

An old story relays that when St. Michael cast Lucifer out of heaven, the ousted angel-turned-devil landed in a blackberry patch. To this day, it is tradition to pick the last of the blackberries (and gobble them down) on Michaelmas in honor of this notorious if unceremonious Fall.

I've always loved this tradition, and I've been serving blackberry desserts on Michaelmas Day (now the Feast of the Archangels) since I was married. I've tried a few different recipes: sorbet, cobbler, pie. My favorite has always been a scrumptious slump invented by Bainbridge Island baker Geraldine Ferraro. I may be biased, but in my opinion, nobody knows blackberries like the cooks of the Pacific Northwest.

According to tradition, you're supposed to finish off the last of the blackberries on the night of Michaelmas. Take my advice and see if this tasty, slightly tipsy cake doesn't help you do just that.

Blackberry Buckle
adapted slightly from Geraldine Ferraro via Epicurious

The original for this dish was entitled Blackberry Slump, but for a couple of reasons, I decided to rechristen it. First, slump just doesn't sound tasty. Second, blackberry buckle is cute and alliterative and blackberry slump is just, well, not. Third, according to my research, a slump (also called a grunt - really, people? The names...) is actually more of a cobbler, with a biscuit dough rolled out over fruit filling. A buckle, however, is exactly what this recipe calls for: fruit either mixed into or sprinkled on top of a cake batter then covered with a sugary crumb topping. 

For several years, I made this recipe as written to get a good feel for it, but I always sensed that a little tweaking (a very little, mind you) would improve it. As it turns out, adjusting the ratio of cake to topping to berries was what helped this dish to finally sing.

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
6 T butter, cut into 12 pieces

1 stick (1/2 c.) melted butter
1/3 c. dry white wine
1 large egg
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla extract
4 c. previously frozen blackberries, thawed and drained.
  1. Combine 3/4 c. sugar, 3/4 c. flour, and 6 T chilled butter pieces in a food processor. Pulse until crumbly. Chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 9x9'' baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl in  microwave, melt the butter (you can also do this in a pan on the stove top if your microwave isn't good at melting butter without splattering it everywhere, then transfer the melted butter to the mixing bowl). Whisk in the wine to cool the butter slightly before adding the egg and whisking well. Add 1/2 c. sugar and whisk to combine. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and combine thoroughly. Stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread thawed blackberries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the blackberries.
  5. Bake until cake is set and golden and tester inserted in the center comes clean, about 40 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with or without ice cream. We like it all ways.


  1. This recipe made my day! I had secretly been worried that because of your family's (possible) food intolerances, there would be no more classic, homey recipes to be gleaned from your blog. (Not that the other recipes you've posted lately - gluten free cookies, brown rice breakfast bowls, etc. - don't look homey and tasty too of course!)

    But I am sorry that the special diet didn't help you find all the answers you were hoping for. I hope you'll be able to minimize those symptoms you and your littles experience as much as possible, and maybe even find the ultimate cause behind it all. Until then, hopefully cooking in your home won't be too stressful.

    Thanks for the recipe. I love the thought that you always put into a dish's ingredients and execution - I know that anything I try from your blog is going to turn out great!


    1. Thanks, Jessi! I, too, am glad to have they homey dishes back on the blog (and on my table!) I will be writing a post soon on the end of The Diet, but in short: yes, we did not find the solutions we were looking for, but we did learn a few valuable things along the way! I'm excited to share those soon.

  2. We faced an almost identical journey with food. I was So.Excited when I figured out that going on an elimination diet would help my autoimmune disease, my son's skin issues, and my daughter's breathing issues. We managed to make it work for a few months, and... well, of the family, I'm the only one who felt better in the end. I know we were undoubtedly eating healthier, but the toll on our mental health was draining. (Not to mention on our wallets as well.) In the end, we returned to more typical eating, but not without mixed feelings... I am excited to try this recipe out, though. :)


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