So far, it’s been a good year for berries! A cold winter and abundant spring rains have given the plants what they want. You will not hear me complain about the past winter nor about the rains (yet, at least…)
I am actually harvesting red raspberries… thanks to a bout of happy garden laziness. The raspberry canes that fruited last year should have been cut down at the end of the winter. For a number of reasons – none of them very good – I never cleaned the patch. And what’s the result? Raspberries in June! Not something to do every year as the patch would rapidly becoming an awful mess, but every 2 years, or every year on half the patch alternating which half is cut in March. Remains to be seen, however, if the fall harvest is as abundant as before. Still raspberries in June is pretty nice.
I have written before before about my fondness for red currants. I simply adore their brilliant tartness, when mixed with other berries, or by themselves with a light sprinkle of sugar, or in the easiest jelly in the world, one I make every year.
This year, I am also harvesting black currants. When I planted them, I had cassis on my mind, the syrupy dark purple liquor from Burgundy that’s also made in the Ile d’Orlean, in Quebec. I somehow imagines that the berries have the same flavors. Not so. Certainly not raw.
Black currants needs to be cooked for that haunting flavor. Otherwise it’s just another tart berry, and one not particularly remarkable at that. Pleasant but nothing special. Cook it however, and you’ve got something really special.
This year, I an harvesting enough black currants to play: preserves, cordials, compote etc . I was attracted to that blueberry cake recipe from King Arthur Flour, and reworked it a little to make the Black Currant Streusel Cake below. The currants remain very sharp in the cake. Serve it with black currant compote though, and the magic really happens! And if tea time or dessert, pour an infusion made with lemon verbena, mint & black currant leaves. The cakes freezes well, so make 2 and freeze 1.
Black Currant Streusel Cake With Black Currant Compote
Yield: one 9″ x 13″ coffeecake, or two 8″ round coffeecakes
Black Currant Compote
2 cups black currant compote
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup lemon sugar * (use regular sugar with a drop or 2 of lemon oil, otherwise)
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
6 tablespoons (90 g) soft butter
3-4 drops lemon oil, or 1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
8 tablespoons (1/4 lb/ 115 g) very soft butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh black currants, stems removed (at least)
Make the compote: in a non-reactive saucepan, gently bring to boil the currants, water & sugar. Lower heat and cook until berries burst and start to give up their juice – about 7 minutes
Make the streusel: whisk together sugar, flour, and salt. Gently toss the candied ginger until it well coated. Work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles granola, some larger chunks, some smaller. Sprinkle on the lemon oil and toss again to combine. Reserve.
Make the cake: cream butter and sugar until light colored and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time,occasionally scraping down the bowl to incorporate all batter. Beat in sour cream and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the batter, mixing until just combined. Do not overwork.
Gently fold in the currants until well distributed throughout the batter. Pour into the pan(s) (greased and line with parchment paper) and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the lemon streusel until the batter is completely covered.
Bake for 30-35 minutes in a preheated 350F or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes before serving with black currant compote. Maybe with a cup of lemon verbena and black currant leaf too.
Perfect on a rainy afternoon, on the porch.
* lemon sugar: bury peel of organic fragrant lemon in a jar of sugar for at least a month before using.