Orangette turns two
Hooooo boy. I just don’t know where the time goes. You wake up one morning, start a blog, and all of a sudden, two years have gone by. It makes me feel a little like my mother, who greets my birthday each year with the same slightly bewildered question: “How can it possibly be that my daughter is [insert ever-increasing number here] years old?” I mean, really, people, how can it possibly be that my Orangette is two years old? I tell you, I just don’t know where the time goes.
This sort of occasion seems to call for a new unit of measurement, something more expressive than boring old calendar days. They’re too intangible, anyway. They don’t mean much. You know, I hardly even remember the day when I sat down and started this site. I had only moderately lofty goals and slightly shimmery dreams: I wanted a place to write and a few readers to keep me accountable, that’s all. But what I got was something much better than that, something with a life of its own, and a big, happy, lusty one at that. I got stories—two hundred or so, thus far, and a few more up my sleeve. I got an easy excuse for long afternoons at the stove, and for tearing through bags of flour and sugar faster than should be allowed by state law. I got you and you and you, dear readers, new names and faces and friends. Hell, I even got a fiancé. Talk about hooooo boy.
Put that way, this site feels much older than her years—and gladly so. Thank you, all of you, for making it fly by so fast, and for making it so, so fun.
Inspired by Saveur, June/July 2006
I was up in Bellingham this past weekend with Brandon, celebrating our negative-first anniversary—one year till our wedding, get it?—when I remembered Orangette’s birthday, which, by complete, utter, and mind-boggling coincidence, is the same date as our wedding: July 29. [We didn’t plan it this way, I promise.] I’m pretty bad with birthdays, I guess. But this dish, which we had whipped up the night before, seems as fitting and celebratory a birthday offering as any, especially for a late-July baby.
For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, where blackberry bushes are standard-issue backyard shrubs and common roadside attractions, it’s high berry season. Nearly everywhere you look, there’s a little cluster of purply-black orbs just waiting to be picked. The berries for this dish came from our own backyard, in fact, and from a bush that we only noticed a week or so ago. [Suffice it to say that it will never go unnoticed again!] It’s a classic berries-and-cream number, but better, because the cream has been whipped and sweetened—and then brûléed. Served heaped in a single bowl, family-style, it looks like a series of soft little mountain peaks—baby Mount Rainiers, maybe—capped with caramelized sugar instead of snow. Cool and lightly sweet, airy and rich, it’s one of the few things that’s better than a plain blackberry eaten straight from the bush. It’s eminently worthy of a birthday.
1 cup heavy cream
6 Tbs superfine sugar
3 – 3 ½ cups fresh blackberries, gently rinsed and dried on paper towels
2-3 Tbs demerara or other raw cane sugar
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add half of the superfine sugar, and beat very briefly to combine. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining superfine sugar until well combined. Add the blackberries, and fold gently to mix.
Carefully scoop and scrape the blackberry mixture into a 9-inch pie plate or serving dish of similar size. Liberally sprinkle the top with demerara sugar. Using a kitchen torch, evenly caramelize the sugar until it turns bubbly and golden brown in some spots. [Pay no attention to the color or evenness of the brûléed spots in the photo above. Our torch started to run out of fuel, so our brûléing job was pretty weak.] The cream will melt and run a bit under the flame, but don’t worry, that’s good.
Place the brûlée in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to let the sugar harden slightly. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Note: If you find yourself blessed with leftovers, as we did, try sticking the stuff in the freezer. We spooned it into a Tupperware container, pressed a bit of plastic wrap against the surface to keep it from getting icy, put on the lid, and froze it. It doesn’t get smooth like a churned ice cream, but it’s crisp and airy and refreshing. Brandon says that he—gasp!—almost likes it better this way.