I’ve more than mentioned here how seriously we take our raspberry picking Up North. They dazzle, those razzles. Right now the berries are finally so ripe they practically fall off the bush at the mere whisper of “hello,” before the hand even approaches.
When we picked this week, a whole hand filled before you could get it back to the basket. Many went into my mouth, but more than a few fell to the ground. My reaction to that (OH NO!) disturbed the zen mood of the picking place every time a berry fell. I mumbled that the lost berries were the result of my small hands, but I admit it had more to do with greed.
Mama was extremely selective in her picking. That was her explanation when she saw my four quarts and my sister’s four to her three. She inspected ours and turned her nose up a little, saying she only picked the finest berries.
Come breakfast the next morning, she lifted a berry high up off her plate and said: I picked this one. It is perfect.
We come by this naturally, as the Lebanese affinity for all fruit (the apricots are coming, promise) is a hallmark. I like to brag about that, and the fruit-laden table that is the backdrop to every evening’s visit in Lebanon and no doubt wherever we are around the world.
Our fruit is often eaten in place of dessert. I find this practice mildly offensive, with my proclivity to sweets in their homiest or most elaborate forms. With the raspberries, they are, as Mom says, quite perfect in their natural state, but then one has to do something special with them, especially when there are so many and we’re going back for more soon.
My brother Richard, who has a special place in his heart for the U-Pick raspberry in Harbor Springs, will be pleased that for them even the most creative recipe idea in me is going to be sweet and beautiful rather than savory. He let me know he was none to pleased last week with my cherry salad. When he saw the words “cherry” and “parsley” together pop up in his inbox, he kept right on moving through the email and didn’t even click through. Brother!
Probably I should have put it like this: Cherry, Walnut, and Parsley salad…that way he’d have seen walnut and while that wouldn’t thrill him at all, at least he might have clicked over before parsley killed it for him.
We got to talking with Linda, who runs the U-Pick raspberry patch, about what they do with all of the berries. Sell them to the local markets and restaurants? Nah, they just put too high of a price on them, she said. We like to keep them for the people. Real affordable.
When I asked her what she likes to do with the berries in her own kitchen, she said she freezes them for later mostly. I was quiet for a moment and thankfully she said that also her raspberry crumb cake is quite nice. That sounded quite nice to me too, and if my brother clicked through and read this far, hopefully it sounded quite nice to him too.
Raspberry-Rose Crumb Cake
This recipe is adapted from SmittenKitchen.com, where it is a blueberry coffee cake.
For the Crumb Topping:
5 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Cake:
2 cups minus 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rose water
3 cups fresh raspberries
1/2 cup milk, whole or 2 percent
Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a small mixing bowl, prepare the topping by whisking the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips, working the mixture until it is coarse crumbs.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl or in the stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until they light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and rose water and mix until they are incorporated and the batter is smooth. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture just until they are combined. Mix in half of the milk, then alternate mixing in another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, the remaining milk, and the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Scatter the raspberries over the top of the batter and gently press them in, just by about 1/2-inch. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the raspberries.
Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a plate. Turn the cake over onto another plate to have the top facing up.