Wild Blueberry Buckle From the Bakehouse

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A long-standing classic returns for a special appearance this summer!

I can’t recall when we started making Blueberry Buckle, but it’s been a classic and a fan favorite pretty much ever since. If you haven’t had it, it’s a wonderful crumb-topped, cinnamon-scented, butter-enriched, and blueberry-laced coffee cake that you can eat, happily, any time of the day.

Blueberries are one of the most wonderful of Native North American foods. They are a big part of the culture and cooking of the Ojibwe people. Dried blueberries were one of the best indigenous sweeteners and were long used medicinally—they have lots of antioxidants, nutrients of all sorts, can help lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease, and a dozen other good things.

The name “buckle” it seems is a comment on the puffing and cracking that typically happen along the top when it bakes. Blueberry Buckle became popular after the publication of Elsie Masterton’s 1959 Blueberry Hill Cookbook. I know the book through Masterton’s daughter, Laurey, a wonderfully kind and inspiring caterer and creative leader in her hometown of Asheville (where French Broad Chocolate is also located). Laurey was a longtime ZingTrain client who lost a long battle with cancer 10 years ago, in 2014. Her life message was a good one: “Don’t postpone joy.” Ten years later, I use the Blueberry Buckle’s annual appearance to hold Laurey’s memory close to heart.

The Blueberry Buckle is about as versatile a baked good as you can get. Great for breakfast, and excellent for dessert with a scoop of vanilla gelato. Because it can stand up to the sun without melting (no chocolate!), it’s ideal to pack for picnics. It’s a beautiful, delicious idea for a gift. Buy a bunch and keep them stashed in the freezer for special Sunday mornings as we move out of berrying season into the fall. Thinking in the Ojibwe tradition, it turns out it’s really good drizzled with maple syrup, also an essential element of pre-Columbian cooking of this region. You can eat it just as it is, or add a bit of whipped cream. Maybe better still, put some good butter into a skillet over medium heat, and when the butter starts to bubble lightly, add slices of the Buckle and cook it until it’s golden brown. Flip and repeat. Top with a bit of real maple syrup. If you want to cross culinary continents, a freshly cut slice of the Buckle is terrific with a great olive oil drizzled on top—I’d opt for something on the gentler side, like the ROI oil we get from the Boeri family on the Italian Riviera.