I’ve always been a firm believer in dessert. Always. Even during my Weight Watchers days I believed that planned indulgences helped to keep me on track the rest of the time, and I never, ever, counted points on weekends. The meaning of indulgence has certainly changed for me over the years, and it really doesn’t get much better than this. I think Michale Pollan says it best in his latest book, Food Rules, when he says, “Eat all the junk food you want, just make it yourself.” I couldn’t agree more.
My family has had property on the Sunshine Coast of B.C. for a long time. Long enough that road names are family names, and you can’t walk much far down the beach without being stopped by someone who claims to be your cousin so-and-so; something I now catch myself doing to a younger generation, who tend to meet me with the same blank stare I used to reserve for the beach cousins. Blackberry desserts are a long standing summer tradition here. As kids we’d be sent out daily to pick blackberries and weren’t allowed back in the house until our buckets were full.
As I got older, blackberry picking turned into an activity I earnestly looked forward to, instead of a dreaded chore. Paul and I would put in at least a solid hour of blackberry picking each day of our holiday, freezing the berries we picked in single layers on cookie sheets, later transferring them into freezer bags. One year we picked and froze so many that we each had a handful of blackberries with our morning fruit and yogurt every day for nearly ten months. Amazing antioxidant goodness through the winter months, and food we’d gathered ourselves, to boot.
I’ve been hearing so much griping about the cold spring and summer the west coast has had thus far, I was pretty surprised to arrive on the coast and find the blackberry brambles along the side of the road already laden with plump pick-able berries. And sweet! We hypothesized that the slow ripening this year has given the sugar in the berries a chance to really develop. Whatever it is, the berries are awesome this year; another couple of weeks of heat and the blackberries are going to be completely insane around here – get your buckets ready, people, for serious. I spent about an hour picking solo, not really even needing to work my way too far up the road, and I had sufficient berries for this duo of blackberry desserts.
A simple berry crisp hot out of the oven paired with a cool and creamy iced cream is a classic combo. I decided to do blackberries two ways, incorporating them into both the chilled dessert and the hot one. I macerated some of the berries with granulated sugar, and after letting them sit for about a half an hour, pushed them through a sieve to strain out the bulk of the seeds – but left enough in (mostly by virtue of having a really crappy sieve) to give the dessert some rustic character. When mixed with milk and cream, the mixture turned a shocking pink colour which carried over nicely as it was churned and frozen. It made a fairly loose iced cream at first, but firmed up well with some time in the freezer.
The remaining berries went into a simple blackberry crisp. Some years when we pick blackberries for desserts it seems like you can’t use enough sugar, but the berries are so sweet this year, it didn’t take a lot. Between the berry layer and the crisp topping there was only 1 1/2 cups of sugar – which may sound like a lot, but this crisp fed 12 people and there were leftovers. The crisp topping was made from a combination of butter, brown sugar, oats, Bob’s Red Mill 5 grain rolled hot cereal mix (oats, wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and flaxseed), and all purpose flour, all rubbed together with fingers until the mixture held together but crumbled in bits the size of garden peas.
I was worried that the combo of blackberry iced cream and blackberry crisp may be too much blackberry, that the crisp would be better suited to a more neutral accompaniment, like vanilla. The blackberry-blackberry combo complimented well, however, and no bowl was left uncleaned. My mother in law says this one is worth the extra inches on the hips. I say she is a very wise lady.
Blackberry Iced Cream Recipe:
You’ll need an ice cream maker for this. Mine requires that the canister is frozen for at least 12 hours, so some foresight is necessary unless you have a freezer big enough to store your ice cream canister in there full time, or a fancy ice cream maker that doesn’t require any pre-freezing.
4 cups fresh blackberries, mashed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups whipping cream
Mash the blackberries. Add sugar, stir to combine, and set aside for 30 – 60 minutes. Pour mixture into a sieve, and use the back of a wooden spoon to push the berries through the mesh. Discard the seeds. Add milk and cream. Start your ice cream maker, and pour the whole mixture in. Follow the directions for your ice cream machine – mine mixed for around 30 minutes. Scoop the iced cream into a freezer container, and chill in the freezer to firm up.
Blackberry Crisp Recipe:
I used a blend of rolled oats and Red Mill 5 grain rolled hot cereal mix (oats, wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and flaxseed) which was delicious. You could use all oats, however, if you can’t find a similar blend. I used all purpose flour in the crisp topping because that is what was in the house, but I would also try using whole wheat or spelt flour, or a blend of flours, in it’s place. I recommend putting the baking dish on an old cookie sheet to catch any blackberry that may overflow when the crisp heats up – it’s a bit of a nightmare to clean off of the bottom of your oven.
8 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2/3 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup 5 grain rolled cereal mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup loose packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 C. Toss blackberries with granulated sugar and 2 Tbsp of all purpose flour. Place in a 9 x 13 oven proof dish. Set aside. In a large bowl combine butter, oats, rolled cereal mix, flour, and brown sugar. Use your fingers to work the butter into the dry mix until the mixture is well combined and the butter is in bits the size of small green peas. Carefully sprinkle over the berries. Bake until the blackberries are bubbling and boiling, and the crisp topping is golden. Cool slightly before serving with a scoop of cold blackberry iced cream. Yum.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2010