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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Stella said...

Hey Jane, nice memory! And this buckle sounds fantastic. I made a blackberry lemon cake this week, and it was delicious. Though I'm sure the frozen, organic berries I used were nothing like those from your childhood.
Hey, I'm from Atlanta by the way, and think I know the Lilburn area (kind of)...

faithy, the baker said...

gorgeous blackberries! must be yummy with cake!

Chele said...

Mmmmmmmm - I love a good buckle recipe. Never tried it with blackberries though so I'll keep this in mind.

Katrina said...

This recipe looks so delicious! It would be so good with ice cream. Mmm..

Susi said...

What a cute story Jane :o) I love Blackberries but hated picking them. When I lived in Seattle they were easily growing everywhere to the point where they were more nuisance than delight but now that I'm in the Southwest I really miss being able to get them anywhere but the grocery store. They just don't taste the same. I sure wish I had some of your wonderful looking buckle right now :o)

Helen said...

This is a lovely story. I remember picking blackberries with my mum and sister in our local woods. My mum turned them into a crumble, yum!

Mags said...

What a lovely post. It brought back my own childhood memories. Not of blackberries but of climbing cherry trees with buckets and fighting off the bees. (We also ate more than we brought

Great recipe. It looks delicious!

Silvia said...

Oh Jane, you've managed to bringing me back once again to lovely memories :)

Silvia said...

This happens when mu husband is talking over my head. I meant that you've managed once again to bring me back to lovely memories. As children with my sister, we were passing the summers with my grandmother in her house in the mountain, along with my 4 cousins and we were often sent to pick some berries and mushrooms in the forest and every time in the end we were shabby, dirty and ragged but very happy and free.

Anonymous said...

Terrific Recipe! Only issue we had was that it took a lot longer to brown than 40 minutes....we thought we were using the right size glass casserole dish 1.5 quart, but is it possible ours was deeper than yours? Either way, we just watched it until it got as brown as the pictures show and it was delicious!!! We are making it again to take for our "dish to pass" for dinner tomorrow night.