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Somehow I got it into my head that I should go berry picking today.  It was the perfect opportunity – I have the day off since I worked the weekend, the weather is warm but not too hot, and here in Oregon it’s the tail end of the strawberry season and the beginning of raspberry and blueberry season.  I almost went for the strawberries, but couldn’t resist the allure of raspberries – my parents have a few bushes, and raspberries have always been one of those fruits that I eat in small quantities straight from the bush.  I almost never buy them, but I adore them.  Blueberries I can get from the church property, and those might be getting close – they were still green last weekend when we went to check on them.

So, I went to Sauvie Island and picked 6 pounds of raspberries.  It’s definitely the beginning of the season – there were hordes of red berries that weren’t quite ripe, which makes me want to go back in a week or two and load up again – as long as my freezer can take it.  I was single-minded, and trying not to carry extra stuff through the fields, so no photos from the farm.  Although, while I was waiting in line to pay for my loot, a girl from a group of arriving u-pickers snapped a picture of my box of berries, which kind of cracked me up.  They were all wearing cute sundresses, and I would’ve liked to see what they looked like after an hour or two in the sun, crawling halfway into bushes to get at the ripe ones.

So then I came home with my haul and went into a recipe-hunting frenzy.  I threw a bunch in the freezer on a cookie sheet, shifting them into ziploc bags once they hardened up, and right now I’ve got another sheet-full in the freezer – about 10 cups so far.  Some I’ll leave for eating by the handful.  But I also wanted to find a few recipes – those recipes that I always bypass because they call for fresh raspberries and are thusly prohibitively expensive when you haven’t just paid $10.50 for six pounds of raspberries.

I started with a batch of the super-simple raspberry jam from How to Be a Domestic Goddess – you just heat raspberries and sugar separately in the oven, then mix them together and let cool.  Still cooling, so the verdict is out on consistency.  I don’t have canning equipment, and I’ve never really made jam before, so this was a gentle start.

Then I made a chocolate cake.  Yeah, I know, chocolate cake does not feature fresh raspberries.  But I had two goals: I’ve been wanting to try this recipe from Orangette with the perhaps insane thought of maybe baking (and freezing, then defrosting) several for our wedding reception.  I wanted to see how easy it was to execute and how it tasted.  Plus, I love chocolate cake, especially dense fudgy ones.  The second goal was to serve the cake with whipped cream and raspberries – either fresh or in the form of the aforementioned raspberry jam, especially if it ends up slightly runny.  The cake is no thing of beauty, but that’s not the point.

Finally, I made a batch of raspberry sherbet from A Perfect Scoop – raspberries, milk, sugar, and lemon juice.  Sweet, a little tart, and a little creamy.  It’s also super easy (once you’ve picked the raspberries, of course) – you throw everything in the blender and puree it, then strain out the seeds and throw the rest in your ice cream maker (it’s a space-hog, but I do love mine).

And there you have it!  A day completely taken up with raspberries.  Now I just have to clean out the sink and remember what I was going to make for dinner…

Where oh where have I been?  The thing about an internship, as opposed to online classes, is that it takes me away from the house.  And the computer.  And the ability to procrastinate by blogging.

I just got two new cookbooks, and they’re making me bewail my lack of free time more than ever, because I feel baking-deprived.  I finally used my giftcard and got How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson and the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. I’ve been flipping through both and drooling ever since they arrived in the mail.

I’d heard of Domestic Goddess before but I think I was always put off by the pictures of Nigella Lawson – she doesn’t look like someone I’d want to bake with or eat with. But then Babelbabe (or Babelbake, as I just typoed) recommended it, and I suppose it’s a lesson in not judging a book by the author photo – I adore her tone and the recipes look delicious. My first attempt – and the first recipe in the book – was the Madeira Cake. It’s a simple loaf cake with a hint of lemon and a lovely golden color.  Not too sweet, but a lovely buttery flavor.

She says, “this is baking at its simplest and most elegant. There’s no folderol or fancy footwork: you just feel humble and worthy and brimming with good things.” To which I say, amen. I love to eat baked goods – I could happily live off of them – but it’s just as satisfying, if not more so, to bake. It’s as much about the process and activity as it is about the end result – although Nigella’s right in saying that people are much more impressed by a simple, home-made dessert than a fancy dinner.

And the process is still satisfying even on my most scatterbrained day – I started to add cornstarch instead of baking powder, my lemon wouldn’t zest, there was flour all over my shirt, I almost dumped an egg into the compost instead of the bowl, and my waxed-paper lining smoked like crazy in the oven. Even if the cake had flopped, it was worth it for the sweet, lemony smell of baking filling the house.

The only whole grains I have on hand are whole wheat, cornmeal and amaranth, so I might need to make a trip to Bob’s Red Mill before I try some of the recipes from Whole Grain Baking. I want to make a whole-grain bread, and the cornmeal-blueberry pancakes, and the orange cloud pancakes, and the coconut scones, and and and…I’ve always found my King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion reliable and thorough, so I’m excited to dip into the whole-wheat version. There are a handful of duplicate recipes (like Morning Glory Muffins) but a ton of new ideas and flavor combinations.

Now I just have to pick a recipe for the 4th of July…

August 2022

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