High Altitude Baking: All-day berry buckle (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Have your way with this berry buckle — serve it plain or fancied up, at breakfast or brunch, as a snack or even as a dessert. Its versatility and simple goodness make it a first-rate, go-to pastry. Keep one in the freezer, and you’re ready for anything.
If you use it to end a meal, then a berry or vanilla sauce or a scoop of ice cream are a nice accompaniment.
Helpful hints: You can use any berries or a combination of several. If you’re serving the buckle for brunch and/or prefer a neutral to mildly sweet taste, reduce the sugar by a tablespoon or two. When measuring the flour, be sure to gently spoon it into the measuring cup without compressing it; too much flour will result in a dry buckle.
If you double the recipe, bake it in two 8-inch pans, rather than one larger one; the buckle’s texture is denser and heavier if baked in a large pan.
All-Day Berry Buckle
(Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above.) Make in an 8-inch round springform pan or an 8-inch round metal cake pan with 2-inch sides. Yields 6 to 8 servings.
2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup bleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, (spoon and level)
Scant ½ (one half) teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into very small pieces
1 medium egg
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk or whole milk
1 cup berries (don’t thaw if frozen)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. If using a springform pan, flip the bottom over so the lip faces down, and re-lock into place. Grease the pan with a vegetable oil-flour spray. If using a cake pan, line the bottom with a parchment paper round and grease it.
Make the topping: Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into small pieces, add to the bowl, and pulse until the dry ingredients are uniformly moistened and the mixture forms small clumps. Refrigerate.
Make the buckle: In a 4-cup measure or small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk to mix well; set this aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, butter, egg, lemon zest and vanilla, and beat with an electric mixer to blend (if the butter isn’t soft enough to blend completely, it may look curdled). Alternate the flour and milk by adding ¼ of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the milk at a time, ending with flour, mixing on low speed only until the dry ingredients are absorbed; don’t overbeat. Gently stir in half of the berries by hand with a rubber or silicone spatula (try not to break the berries).
Scrape the stiff batter into the prepared pan; smooth and level the top. Scatter the remaining berries over the top, and softly press them into the batter. Sprinkle on the topping.
Bake until the buckle rises, the streusel topping is golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, from about 25 to 35 minutes (time will depend on temperature of berries; frozen ones will take longer).
Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes, run a knife between the pan edge and the buckle, pressing toward the pan, and then remove the sides of the springform pan. If using a cake pan, cool until barely warm, invert, remove pan and parchment paper, and re-invert so top is up. Serve slightly warm, or cool completely and re-heat pieces before serving. The buckle can be double-wrapped and frozen; thaw in the refrigerator.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards), is a chef instructor with Colorado Mountain College’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.