Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blackberry Bliss

Once again, things are not going too well out here at the farm, and once again, I turn to baking as an outlet for my stress.  My grandma's health has been getting worse everyday, and lately my grandfather hasn't been feeling too well either.  It's really difficult to watch someone you love experience that much pain.  I sit on the bed holding my grandmother's hand as she moans in pain, watching her chest fight to keep moving up at down.  She breaks into tears at least 5 times a day, still struggling to cope with her diagnosis, and the psychologist within me tries its best to comfort her.  The last few days have been especially hard, watching her experience more pain and become less coherent.

Yesterday was another rainy, gross day, which kept me from going for my run.  Most of you are probably thinking, "Wait!  Run?  Hannah doesn't run!"  I know, I know, I really hate running, but lately, I have taken up running (well, it is me after all, so it's really more like jogging), to relieve some of my stress.  Being here 14 hrs a day, I really just need to get away, clear my head, and think about nothing but the repeated rhythm of my feet hitting the ground for 40 minutes.

It's been raining for three days now, and I really just needed to do something to relax, so I turned to my old therapy: baking.  Since it's the start of berry season, it's time to clean out the freezers of any remaining berries from last summer.  In my freezer, that was 4 gallon-size bags of blackberries.  They don't really freeze too well, because they lose a lot of their flavor, so the best thing to do with them is cook them in order to concentrate their flavor.  I've had my heart set on making a pie for a while now, but when I mentioned a blackberry pie to my grandmother, she scoffed and told me that it was too much work, and that a cobbler would be much easier and better tasting.  Yes, even when bed-ridden she holds all the control on this farm.

The two of us sat on her bed, digging through her old recipe boxes and cookbooks to find her favorite blackberry cobbler recipe.  I absolutely LOVE old cookbooks, so I was really grateful to be able to find out what all her favorite recipes were in each of them.  We eventually decided on Betty Crocker's recipe.  She told me not to bother with the biscuits, just to use Bisquick instead, but when I looked at the box, it expired 3 years ago (like most other things in their pantry and fridge), so I decided to just make the whole recipe.

Blackberry Cobbler (with my changes to Betty's recipe)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
1 1/2 Tbs baking powder
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs shortening (I used softened butter for a more golden biscuit)
1/2 cup whole milk

Add all ingredients except milk to bowl.  If you don't have a pastry cutter, cut in butter or shortening with two forks
Cut in butter until the size of small peas
Add milk and stir together (DO NOT OVER-STIR! - They will be rocks!)

Fruit Filling
3 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
1/2 Tbs butter
*the recipe calls for 1/2 tsp cinnamon- but I don't believe that cinnamon belongs with any fruit except apples and raisins, so I omitted it*

You can add berries still frozen
Slowly add boiling water to sugar and corn starch in sauce pan
Bring to boil for one minute, until mixture turns mostly clear
Add berries and stir until they are coated evenly.  Remove from heat.
I got creative and added some leftover pound cake from this post to the bottom of a well-buttered baking dish.
Pour fruit mixture on top of pound cake (you may need to re-submerge the pound cake) and dot with butter.
Spoon mounds of biscuit dough as evenly as possible on top. 
Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes until biscuits are golden and berries are bubbling.
I thought that the cobbler was a little sweet.  It could have been because the berries lost their tartness in the freezer for a year, or it could be due to my spontaneous pound cake addition, or because I just like fruit without a ton of sugar.  You could decrease the amount of sugar, or add an additional cup of berries.  Either way, the rest of my family loved it, and there's already only one piece left.  Looks like I might be making my pie after all.

Not so pretty when portioned out, but still delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
 Love and cookies,

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