Thursday, May 20, 2010

Georgia in My Oven: Fresh Blackberry Buckle


When I was in my early teens, my family drove to Georgia two or three times to visit close  relatives who had recently moved there from the Detroit area. My aunt, uncle, and three cousins had settled quite contentedly into a nice house on a woodsy street, in a town with a distinctly southern name--Lilburn. It was a beautiful place for kids and it stood in rather stark contrast to the suburban neighborhood they'd left behind. In fact, their new home was within easy walking distance of a spacious cow pasture.

One of my favorite memories involves the wild blackberries that grew in chaotic bushy tangles near the pasture. Quite tall and guarded by thorns, the vines resisted yielding their fruit. But one steamy morning, undaunted as only teenage girls can be, my cousin Becky and I rose early, dressed for berry picking, and buoyantly made our way down the street. Though the sun was scarcely up, the day was already a scorcher. Armed with baskets, we fully expected to come home bearing a huge load of the black beauties, which my aunt would transform into any number of fabulous treats (ahh, youth).

We knew about the thorns. We knew about the heat. We knew that our sandals and feet would end up coated with a velvety layer of thick dust the hue of wilted rose petals. What we weren't prepared for, however, were the battalions of mosquitoes that engulfed us upon arrival.

I recall a lot of arm flailing, girlish shrieking, and frantic attempts at picking. How long this went on before we surrendered is anyone's guess. All I do know is that when we arrived home and showed my aunt our haul, we were two bedraggled, perspiring adolescents with purple fingertips and an enormous number of mosquito bites. Amused, she chuckled and said something to the tune of, " . . . well, there aren't enough here for a pie . . . maybe we can make cobbler . . . did you eat a lot them on the way home?"

My aunt did make those berries into some sort of dessert, but memory fails me as to the specifics. In any case, I'm sure those were the finest tasting blackberries I've ever had. To this day I think of blackberries as something not easily obtainable, and I guess I'll always associate them with the red soil and voracious mosquitoes of that particular Georgia summer.

About this recipe . . .

This buckle recipe comes to us from Southern Grace Farms, a fresh produce grower in a Georgia town called Enigma. I figure a professional blackberry farm must know how to make the best of its own bounty, so I frequently search for good recipes within such sites. (And, frankly, that town name alone made the recipe worth trying.) This blackberry buckle is simple as can be to put together. It's kind of a cross between a very moist butter cake and an excellent shortcake, mixed together with a bowl of sweet fresh berries. Just remember: The better your berries, the better your buckle! Can't make a tasty buckle out of bad berries.

I reworded the original recipe's instructions, and adapted the ingredients and the proportions a bit.

Blackberry Buckle

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease and flour, or spray with baking spray, a 1 and 1/2 quart glass casserole dish. 

1 cup All Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup half & half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups fresh blackberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup All Purpose flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
1/8 tsp. kosher salt

In a small bowl, stir together the 1 cup flour, baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Set aside.  In a large mixer bowl, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the egg until smoothly incorporated.


Combine the half & half and the vanilla. At low speed, add in the flour mixture alternately with the liquid--three parts flour and two parts liquid, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the batter into the greased dish and spread it evenly with your spatula.

Arrange the berries over the smoothed batter. No need to press them in.

In a bowl, combine the 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, cinnamon, 4 Tbsp. butter, and the 1/8 tsp. salt using a pastry blender or your fingers to make a crumbly topping. Sprinkle evenly over the berries.

Place the dish on a baking sheet to prevent any bubbly spills, and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes. Check the buckle early on to make sure the top edges aren't overbrowning. The finished buckle may still look kind of wet in the middle, but that's okay. The sides and bottom of the buckle should be beautifully golden. This is a supermoist dessert that's gooier in the middle. Let it cool for a while on a rack.

It's delicious served warm or cold. Try it with a little unsweetened whipped cream. You'll be in blackberry heaven.

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