Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake

Fresh Blackberries Please

I will bet most of you do not think of Blackberries and immediately think of Snakes…yes real live Snakes! Let me just say I am pretty crazy about freshly picked Blackberries, but not so crazy about snakes (sorry snake lovers). Why, you might ask, do I think of these two things simultaneously? Let me tell share with you a very short vignette….

….West Tennessee on a dry, dusty, hotter-than-Hades kind of day…lots of years ago when I was around 9 or 10…

I loved doing anything with my Grandmother (Granny) no matter if it was work or play.  I always wanted to tag along. The wild blackberries hung heavy & ripe all around so it was time to go berry-picking, the wild kind not the kind of blackberries planted in neat rows.  We were cautioned to wear “real shoes” &  to take care when blackberry picking as snakes liked berry patches.  This caution, along with many others doled out on such occasions, was met with a certain nonchalance on my part. Before this particular day, not after, nor since.

The sun was relentless as we began to pick around the outer edge of the very dense berry patch. At first reaching what was easy. But so very many large juicy black berries were just out of my reach a few feet into the patch. I wanted those berries. I boldly stepped forward with one foot lifted off the ground when I “felt” something move liquid smooth, quietly, directly beneath where I was about to plant my foot. I froze, foot midair.  Looking down I saw the snake slithering, very large & fat right underneath my berries & my foot. I am convinced to this day that I did levitate, backwards, out of the berry patch. There is something very Biblical about levitation isn’t there? And Fruit? And Snakes?

I did not pick anymore berries that summer.  I have picked since, I have bought many berries that others have picked, I am still pretty crazy about blackberries, but still not so much about snakes.

Here is a really easy not-so-sweet upside down cake that I made last Sunday using fresh local Blackberries picked by others, along with a few Pluots.

Cake

Here is what you will need to make this very dense moist gluten-free cake:

Ingredients for Upside Down Cake

1/2 stick Butter, 1 pint of Blackberries, 2 Pluots (or plums or peaches), 1 cup Raw Sugar/Turbinado, 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix, 1 cup Almond Meal Flour, the zest of 1 Lemon, 3 eggs, 2 cups Buttermilk, Sliced Almonds

Here is how you make it:

Skillet with Browned Butter

1. Place a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet with the 1/2 stick of butter over medium high heat until the butter is browned. Remove skillet from heat & set aside to cool somewhat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let me take a moment to say that if you do not have an iron skillet get one. A good seasoned cast iron skillet is just the best thing to use for all sorts of cooking. Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillets can be purchased very affordably on-line. I have many of their skillets in various sizes that I use daily.  For this recipe I am using my Great Grandmother’s iron skillet which is amazing well seasoned and is one of the reasons this cake will slip right out of the pan after it is cooked with no sticking.

Blackberries & Pluots in Iron Skillet

2. Slice Pluots & arrange in the bottom of the iron skillet over the browned butter. Sprinkle the Blackberries to cover bottom of skillet between & around Pluot slices.

Batter for Upside Down Cake

3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the cornmeal, almond flour & sugar.  Add eggs & buttermilk & lemon zest.  Blend until batter is smooth. Spread batter over fruit in the skillet. Sprinkle with a generous handful of sliced almonds.

Upside down cake batterUpside down cake batter over fruit

Batter in skilletSliced Almonds over Upside Down Cake Batter

4. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown &  bubbly around the edges & set in the center. Let cake cool in the skillet for about 10 minutes.

Upside Down Cake Baked

5. The “reveal” of an upside down cake is always the fun part. Place a plate or platter larger than the skillet face down over the skillet & then quickly & carefully invert plate & skillet right side up.

Plate

See how easy that was?

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

The crunch of the cornmeal combined with the browned butter, lemon zest & almond flavors & not too much sugar meld to make a very satisfying breakfast cake. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar if desired.

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Have you ever picked wild berries? Have you ever almost stepped on a snake? Do you connect foods you eat to events  from your past?

After I posted this my friend Diane Stopford, a Dubliner, left me a comment and a link to a poem by Seamus Heaney “Blackberry Picking” which I wanted to share with you. Thanks Diane.

Eat more Cake.

Tennessee Blueberry Shortcake Biscuits (Gluten Free)

TN Blueberries

Mid July

Summer Saturday mornings…Farmer’s Market early…a few…just a few cartons of local blueberries sitting on the plank counter just waiting for me…I am sure of this.

Blueberry Biscuits

Sunday summer mornings…lazy time to make biscuits…just a little bit sweet with blueberries..softened butter, hot coffee with milk…the best of the summer in a bite.

Here is what you  need: 1 cup fresh blueberries rinsed & drained; 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur Gluten Free Flour) ;  2 tsp baking powder;  1/4 tsp baking soda;  1 tsp salt;  1/2 cup raw sugar;  1/3 cup frozen butter (the measurement is right on the stick);   1 egg;  3/4 cup buttermilk

Biscuit Ingredients

Let me talk a bit about gluten-free flours…as the name says they are without the gluten that gives dough or pastry its elasticity, therefore pie crusts such as I made recently for my Rainier Cherry Galette or for these biscuits, have a “shortbread” quality.  The finished crust or biscuits will be more tender and crumbly than when made with regular flour. Just keep this in mind when working with a product such as this one…handle a bit more gently and the results will be amazing.

Here is how you do it:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar & salt in a mixing bowl.

2. Very quickly grate the stick of frozen butter into a bowl. It is already “pea size”!

cold buttergrated cold butter

3. Using your fingers toss flour mixture & grated butter together. Make a “well” in the center of the flour.

flour with butter

4. Crack egg into buttermilk & gently whisk together. Pour into the flour well. Mix wet & dry ingredients together until a “slaggy” dough forms.

Yogurt/Milk Mix

5. Sprinkle blueberries over dough. Carefully blend berries into the dough.

Blueberries in wet dough

6. Dump mixture out onto a floured work surface. Use your hands to form dough into a ball & then pat out into  a circle about 3/4 inch thick.

Dough with berries

7. Cut biscuits with a 2 to 3 inch round cutter & place on a lightly buttered iron skillet or baking sheet. This recipe will make around 16-20 biscuits.

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8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until biscuits are golden brown.

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Blueberries & Shortcake in a Biscuit!

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Hmmmmm…a few left over for the next concoction? Bon Apetit.

“Sunday Morning Spring Strawberries, Butter & Sugar on Bread…Breakfast”

It is so fine to have a special seasonal treat on a lazy Spring Sunday morning while working on the New York Times Crossword puzzle with a friend. This was one such morning and Wouter made us a favorite treat that his mother made for him using sweet, small strawberries as they come into season.

At first I thought “how fattening”, “how decadent”, but I, in my infinite quest to try new combinations of familiar foods, succumbed and had one of the most deliciously indulgent breakfasts. My crossword working buddy Terry Martin and I gobbled up these little treats on bread as it might be our last meal.


Wouter’s Quick and Easy Recipe for “SMSSBSB” Breakfast

1. Cut up fresh, small strawberries into thick slices. (Don’t even try this with the strawberries from the supermarket with the white centers! It will not taste the same.)

2. Take slices of a good whole grain or white bread and smear each slice lavishly with softened butter such as Kerrygold.

3. Cover butter with slices of berries and then using a fork slightly mash to gently release juices.

4. Sprinkle teaspoons of raw or turbinado sugar over berries and eat.

During local strawberry season, wherever you live, treat yourself and try this regardless of any diet or food issues you might have. This is Dutch Soul Food and should be enjoyed at least once by all.

As an afterthought I do think next time I will have a glass of chilled Prosecco, Cava or Champagne while gobbling these little open-faced berry sandwiches.

  

Yum!