Early spring means strawberries, and the season for them is short here. Strawberries have always been my favorite fruit, but this year, they had a contender. Blackberries start showing up at farmers’ markets at the tail end of strawberry season, and they only make a few appearances before they’re gone for another year. I started looking for them about a week too early wanting to make sure I didn’t miss them. Then, at last, on a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, there they were in baskets all lined up and waiting, looking juicy, perfectly ripe, and ready for dessert. No disrespect to the strawberries, but I was just more eager for blackberries this year. I’d been reading the review copy I received of Farmers' Market Desserts by Jennie Schacht, and the Basket of Berries chapter had given me several good ideas. Just about any berries can be used in these desserts even though several are shown with strawberries. The strawberries and cream roll cake looked good as did the mixed berry pavlovettes with lemon-lime cream. But, when I read the recipe for the strawberry buckwheat tea cake and learned that it was made with browned butter, my decision was made. I used those prized blackberries instead of strawberries of course. The inspiration for this tea cake was strawberry and buckwheat pancakes. By adding browned butter to the cake batter, it becomes reminiscent of a buttery stack of pancakes. There’s also thick yogurt in the cake giving it great texture.
The first step of this recipe is aromatherapy in the form of browning butter. One stick was melted and then swirled in the pan as it became nutty-smelling and more delicious by the minute. That was left to cool while AP flour, buckwheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt were combined. Then, Greek yogurt, eggs, and vanilla were added to the butter, and that mixture was stirred into the dry ingredients. Last, the precious blackberries were folded into the batter, and the batter was spread in a square baking pan. Now, some of the berries were to be set aside and tossed with sugar so the juices would start running, and then the berries and resulting juice could be used to top the whipped cream served on the pieces of cake. I have a thing about not wanting much sugar with my berries because I like them just the way they are with a little tartness peeking through here and there. So, I left the remaining berries plain and there were no running juices to drip over the whipped cream. I did, however, follow the suggestion at the beginning of the book to add creme fraiche to the whipped cream.
The book offers ideas for fresh fruit from every season as well as dried fruits and nuts. There’s a first-prize peach pie that promises to deliver a perfect proportion of crust to filling. There’s also a sweet cornmeal cake made with fresh corn kernels and berries that I have to try while I can get local corn, and I’ve already made one of the ice cream desserts that I’ll post soon. This book may make you eager for certain growing seasons to arrive, but when they finally do, you’ll have some great desserts to make.