07 August 2012

Something Is Ripe in the State of Oregon

That would be berries. The glistening warm gems that make this state enviable. You’d have to be crazy to go on vacation during July or August and miss berry season.

The players are all here—blueberries, raspberries, marionberries. There’s always that dilemma when you come home with a batch of berries. To eat or not to eat right away, that is the question. ‘Tis nobler to make a dessert worthy of your friends and family, but it’s hard to resist popping a handful of succulent berries in your mouth every time you open the fridge.

Normally I make sorbets because they’re fast and easy and never fail to delight. Or I stuff berries in the freezer. But I turned to my red-stained copy of The Berry Bible, by local author Janie Hibler, required reading for Oregonians. When I spoke to Janie, she was elbow deep in, you guessed it, baking with berries, as any good berry cookbook author does on an Oregon July day.

The Berry Bible covers a mindboggling array of varieties and facts as well as how to choose, wash, freeze and cook with berries. You need no instructions for eating them. Among the many sweets, sauces and cocktails, there are savory dishes with heavenly titles such as Slow-Roasted Pacific Cod with Marionberry Sauce.

Everyone knows that berries are loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants called phytochemicals. But let’s all admit that’s not why we eat berries. We eat them because there is such a thing as light and fluffy Marionberry Biscuits (below), a recipe in the book that hails from Sisters Bakery in southern Oregon. I used a combination of raspberries and marionberries but you could use any berry you like. These biscuits—the size of a train car—have a low effort-to-dazzle ratio.

The dough calls for buttermilk. I always have Bob’s Red Mill Buttermilk Powder on hand so I don’t have to buy liquid buttermilk every time a recipe calls for it. You can also put 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a cup of milk as a substitute. The dough is divided in half. Cut each half in 8 sections (above).

Pile the berries on each little mattress of dough.

Using the second half of the dough, top with the other 8 cut pieces.

Finished biscuits with buttermilk glaze on top.

Recipe: Marionberry Biscuits

(If you don’t have either flour, substitute regular flour for the bread flour. For the cake flour, also use regular flour but subtract 2 tablespoons for each cup. It’s not a perfect substitute but it’s better than no biscuits!)

2 c bread flour

2 c cake flour

1/2 c  granulated flour, plus extra for the berrie

1/8 t coarse salt

2 T baking powder

4 T (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 pints (3 cups) fresh berries, rinsed and drained


1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/2 t vanilla extract

2 T buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- x 13-inch pan.

2. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter until crumbly.

3. Whisk together eggs, 1/4 cup water and buttermilk. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Pat each half out to a 6- x 8-inch rectangle, then cut each rectangle into 8 biscuits. Place half the biscuits in the prepared pan and top each with about 1/3 cup berries. Sprinkle with sugar if desired. Place the remaining 8 biscuits on top and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

5. For the glaze: stir together the sugar, vanilla and buttermilk until smooth. Drizzle on slightly cool, but still a bit warm, biscuits. Serve warm. Best eaten the day they are made.

(I made half the batch of glaze and also served the biscuits with a dollop of plain greek yogurt.)