The Marionberry is is named after Marion county, which encompasses our state capital (and the first place I lived in Oregon) and according to the official Marion County website, "...is the largest producer of agriculture among Oregon's 36 counties." Woo! Go Oregon!
(warning: this post is mostly about the berry)
August 18, 2010
Name of cakes: We Are Awesome! Shortcakes
Constituents: individual genoise shortcake cups syruped with marionberry syrup and filled with marions, served with whipped cream
I can still remember as clear as yesterday the first time I ate a marionberry. Sadly, although I've lived in Oregon pretty much since 1991 it was only a couple of summers ago. I had poured myself a bowl of Heritage Flakes with rice milk and sprinkled marionberries over the top. The first spoonful was delicious, sweet cereal grains, but the second spoonful! The marionberry exploded in my mouth with such brilliant juicy purply flavor, it seemed like they should always be spelled in purple bold all-caps, with a period for badassness: MARIONBERRY.
It was awesome.
Apparently they are called the cabernet of berries, because of their complex flavors. Its true; they are sweet and tart and sort of like the best most ripe Chester Blackberry ever, but different. They taste like a plush purple silk velvet pillow feels. Also, they have a short season of just July, and when are they are around Oregonians are a little frenzied for them. I could have sworn their season extended into August, but when I started looking for marions at the end of July I discovered that it was the last week of the season! And most places didn't have any! And the farmer's markets sold out in the first few hours! And then I found a produce stand which had a few last flats and I snatched one up! And hooray! And then I left for Toronto and then for California, and then I looked at my marions stashed in the refrigerator and oh no! Moldy berries!
I was so sad. However, frozen marions are just as great as Rose says they are, and I resigned myself to using frozen berries. I just felt that since the darn berries actually grow within driving distance from my apartment, I really ought to use the fresh ones. But oh well.
Today Cookie and I ventured out to Sauvie Island Farms for more blueberries, and as we walked past their marionberry patch, I stopped to take a few photos for the blog. Cookie noticed a few ripe berries still hanging on the nearest vine and sampled one for herself. One berry was enough for her to suggest we spend our afternoon gleaning marions for the cake. Which we did. It only took an hour to get a pound.
And there was great rejoicing.
And so....on to the cake.
A couple of months ago I found one of those individual Mary Ann shortcake specialty pans for only 8 bucks, so I decided to give in and just get it. You know I am not a specialty pan fan, but...8 bucks.
The little genoise shortcakes are actually pretty quick and easy to make. There was a time when genoise sounded tedious and stressful, and never came out properly, and I am glad that for the most part that time is over. The fun part of making genoise batter is when you beat the warmed eggs and sugar for 5+ minutes on high in the KA. That part is fun for two reasons: the egg mixture becomes fluffy and gorgeous, and you can do 5 min of cleanup in the meantime.
Once the eggs have had their 5 minute transformation, about a half cup is whisked into the warmed beurre noisette and vanilla extract. The wondra flour is then folded into the remaining eggs in two parts, followed by the beurre noisette mixture. The batter is scraped into the pan and baked for 15 minutes.
The cakes are turned out of the pans as soon as they are finished baking and left to cool.
I have a public service annoucement:
If there were any need to prove that making sure the amount of batter per cup is important take a gander at this next photo.
See how the cake in the back left is already finished baking, but the two giant ones in the front are not? Yeah, that's why it is important to make sure the same amount of batter goes into each cup. Cakes were overbaked by the time those behemoths finished baking.
In the meantime, the gorgeous MARIONBERRIES. have been macerating to pull out the juices. It broke my heart a little bit to dump all that sugar on the marions, I mean they're straight off the vine delicious, but I knew the juice was going to good use.
I got a little confused by Rose's directions about making the marion syrup. The recipe says to macerate the berries until they release 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of syrup. The syrup is then reduced to 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp if using the additional 2 tbsp of Chambord. If omitting the Chambord, the recipe says to reduce the syrup to 1/2 cup (2.4 fl oz). Do you see the math problems and typos? When omitting the Chambord, it should be 1/4 cup instead of a 1/2 cup, but it really should be the 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp and when using the Chambord you should reduce to 1/4 cup (the 2 tbsp will come when you add the Chambord).
Did that make sense? I got tired just typing it all out.
Since these marions were fresh, after many hours of macerating they released only 1/4 cup of juice. In the notes below the recipe Rose says that if subbing with other berries, use fresh berries and you'll get about 1/4 cup of juice. So I went with that.
The juice/syrup is painted on the shortcakes to flavor and moisten. I was nervous this wouldn't be enough juice to thoroughly moisten all the cakes. What could I do? I could have made a sugar syrup to dilute the juice, but I didn't want to dilute the flavor. So I left them as is, and hoped an overnight rest would help moisten the whole cake.
Look how cute they looked today--like little kids who got into their mom's lipstick.
Next up, the berries are spooned into each cup and left to rest for no more than an hour while the whipped topping is made. There were two choices for the topping: whipped creme fraiche or whipped cream. In a cheap moment I chose the whipped cream, but in hindsight the creme fraiche would have been much better.
The heavy cream is whipped with sugar and vanilla until it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon. And now....time to eat marionberry shortcake!!
So how were the marionberry shortcakes?
Well, the cakes were a little drier that I would have preferred for genoise. That is due to the overbaking, but it will be interesting to see how the leftovers are tomorrow. So far, I have found my genoise cakes even better 36-48 hours after being syruped.
The berries are still as bright and complex as they were straight from the vine, and macerating in sugar didn't leave them too sweet. I certainly enjoyed these shortcakes, and I am glad I found fresh berries. However my favorite way to eat marions remains right out of hand, preferably while still standing in the berry patch, juices staining my fingers and mouth purple with Oregon's summer bounty.