We just finished the last of the season’s strawberry crop from the Nordic Ware community garden. Eating a fresh home grown strawberry just picked and still warm from the sun reminds me that’s what a strawberry is meant to taste like. Grocery stores offers gigantic, perfectly shaped strawberries that are beautiful to look at but often don’t taste like anything at all. They don’t taste or even smell like the cotton candy sweetness of the less than perfectly symmetrical strawberries that grew outside of the factory this summer. Now we wait for the raspberries to ripen!
I love berries, especially in the summer when I can get them fresh. There’s a lot of fruit I won’t eat unless it’s blended into a smoothie. Ok full disclosure, most fruit I won’t eat unless it’s blended into a smoothie. When we splurged on a Vitamix as an Anniversary present to ourselves a couple of years ago at the end of our first week of morning smoothies my husband said, “I just saw you eat more fruit this week than I’ve seen you eat since I’ve known you.” It’s because I’m not eating it, I’m drinking it. Hello, you just made it a shake! I love almost any vegetable save for the spectacularly disgusting green pepper but I was never a good fruit eater. I have texture issues with fruit and there’s no support group for this so you just miss out on the daily recommended fruit servings. But berries always passed the texture phobias and even made their way into my love of baking over the years.
There’s a great section on fruit desserts in the King Arthur Flour Baker‘s Companion cookbook that I keep going back to. The recipes are straight forward and delicious but it’s also a fun fruit baking history lesson on American classics people have been making for years - cobblers, crisps, crumbles, buckles, and even grunts and slumps. And doesn’t summer seem like the perfect time to say, “Would anyone like more blueberry grunt?” or “Save room for the pandowdy!”
Once you get the basic recipes down and understand the differences between them you can play with your favorite fruit combinations. Both a crisp and crumble are fruit desserts with a topping but adding oatmeal is what makes a crisp topping crumbly, get it? Did you know that a cobbler can be fruit baked on top of a cake crust, or under it, or under a pie crust or a biscuit crust? So many choices! And speaking of biscuits, the first time I can get fresh local blueberries I’m going to try that blueberry grunt which is biscuit dough cooked on top of simmering fruit and definitely not the same thing as a slump!
Over the Fourth of July weekend I made a Blueberry Buckle from the same cookbook. (adapted recipe can be found here) It’s called a buckle because of the way the streusel topped coffeecake rises around the fruit as the fruit sinks so the cake buckles. It’s delicious for breakfast or dessert…. Or breakfast AND dessert (it counts as a fruit serving right??). The batter is quick and easy. Cardamom and vanilla extract are optional but I love both. Two cups of blueberries are folded into the batter (I’ve made this with fresh or frozen berries) and spread into a prepared 9x9 square pan. The streusel topping is fragrant with cinnamon and fresh lemon zest, it really smells mouthwatering as it bakes. I used a midnight blue 9x9 Procast Baker to get perfectly even baking but it was also a festive color presentation for the holiday and for the beautiful blueberries in the recipe and bonus points, it was deep enough to hold all of the yummy streusel topping! Summer berry love indeed! Turns out fruit is not just for smoothies.