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Life is Sweet: Welcome back to berry season

VERA DAWSON
special to the daily

Here’s an old-fashioned dessert straight out of America’s heartland. Fresh berries are baked on top of cake batter until it buckles up over them, creating a tasty mixture of cooked fruit and soft cake, sweet and dense from the berry’s juices. Made to be served at the kitchen table, it’s as homey and simple a dessert as you can get.

Like other desserts of its type (cobblers, grunts, crisps, etc.), it’s unpretentious and casual. However, it differs from them in one important way: it isn’t served warm. The strawberries have more flavor and sweetness at room temperature; they lose a good bit of taste when the dessert is heated. So, once it’s cooled, dish it up straight out of the pan, with a little whipped cream or strawberry sauce.

The buckle is best eaten on the day it’s made. Store leftovers, loosely covered, at room temperature for another 24 hours or so.

Be sure to use ripe, luscious strawberries; they’re responsible for most of the dessert’s flavor. If your strawberries differ significantly in size, cut the tops off of the larger ones to make them the same size as the rest of the berries you’re using.

Make in a 10-inch, deep dish pie pan, preferably glass

Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet

Ingredients

1-1/2 (one and a half) cups plus 3 (three) tablespoons of all-purpose flour

3/4 (three fourths) teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 (one half) teaspoon of salt

6 (six) tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature

1 (one) scant cup plus 2 (two) tablespoons of granulated sugar, divided

1 (one) large egg at room temperature

1/2 (one half) cup of milk, preferably whole milk, at room temperature

1-1/2 (one and a half) teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 (one) pound of strawberries, washed and dried

2 (two) teaspoons of Creme de Cassis (optional)

1/3 (one third) cup of blueberries, washed and dried

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Generously butter or grease the pie pan and set it aside. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Set aside.

Step Two: Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, mix the room-temperature butter and one scant cup of granulated sugar until creamy, fluffy and pale in color (This takes several minutes). Add the egg and beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the milk and vanilla and beat again, on medium-low speed until thoroughly mixed. Scrape down the bowl as needed throughout this step. The batter may look curdled at this point; it will smooth out when you add the dry ingredients.

Step Three: Gradually add the dry ingredients, about a quarter cup at a time and, beating on low speed or by hand, incorporate them into the batter before adding more. Don’t over beat. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling it two-thirds full. (Capacities of 10-inch pie pans differ, so you may have some batter left over.) Level and smooth the top and set the pan aside.

Step Four: Put one tablespoon of granulated sugar and the Creme de Cassis (if using) in a medium bowl and mix until the sugar is dissolved. If you aren’t using the liqueur, put just the sugar in the bowl. Hull and half each strawberry and place the halves in the bowl. When all berries are hulled and cut, gently toss them in the sugar/Creme de Cassis until coated. Arrange them, cut side down, on the top of the batter, pressing in just a little. Place them as close together as you can get them. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have a few strawberries left over. Put the blueberries between the strawberries in a decorative pattern. Sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar over the top of the buckle.

Step Five: Bake on the center rack for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 and continue baking until the buckle is golden brown and springs back when you press on it lightly. If you’re using a glass pan, pick it up and check from the bottom to make sure the batter is cooked through. Total baking time in my oven is about an hour and five minutes. Remove the buckle and let it cool on a wire rack. Serve it at room temperature. Sweetened whipped cream and/or strawberry sauce are good accompaniments.

This is a variation of a recipe from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.

Vera Dawson, a Chef Instructor at the Breckenridge Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at veradawson1@gmailcom.


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