A few weeks ago, my friend Mary and I went to visit my grandmother in Chicago. My grandma has had an incredibly interesting life. A Poland-born Ukranian, she was raised on a farm and then wrenched from her childhood home and pawned into slavery before she was sixteen. The soldiers who took her wanted her older sister, but her mother said, “No, no. Take this one instead!” And gave them my grandma. She speaks somewhere around eighteen different languages and spent her formative years traveling Europe. She was a military nurse, which I believe is how she met my grandfather. Having spent the majority of her life living out of a suitcase, she’s a very stingy lady. She doesn’t waste or throw away anything and certainly doesn’t mince words. Her house is like a crazy combination between a thrift store, a trash heap, and a museum. You just don’t know where to look first. She’s one of my favorite people in the world and is very wise 🙂 I hope that none of that came across negatively…I say all of these things with the utmost affection.
Anyway! When we got there, she whipped out the gardening gloves and some big bowls and hauled our butts down to the garden to pick berries from the gooseberry bushes growing next to the gate. These things were absolutely laden with plump, juicy berries!
Besides being my lifelong best friend, Mary is also my cooking buddy! She and I made this gooseberry crumb cake after taking home a tupperware the size of a hubcap filled with fresh, handpicked gooseberries! We adapted this recipe from Kevin’s Closet Cooking blog. Thanks, Kevin! P.S. If you want to see a picture of the end result, visit his site. We forgot to take pictures once it was done because we were too busy stuffing our faces…:)
Gooseberry Crumb Cake
Start off by plucking the flower and stem ends off of the gooseberries. If you have as many as we did, you’re definitely going to appreciate having a second (or third!) set of hands 🙂 This task is a little time consuming, but…oddly, enjoyable. I think it’s the repetition and the pure domesticity of baking that puts me into this calm mindset wherein I completely love doing menial tasks like that. Anyway! Prep the berries and then rinse them thoroughly before tossing them in a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. Kevin’s recipe calls for two cups, but we added close to three, I think. Partially just to use up the gargantuan stash of berries and partially because that makes for more berries per bite 😀
For the topping, mix 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger, and a pinch of salt with a half cup of melted butter.
Next, combine 1/3 cup of sour cream, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. In another bowl, mix a 1 3/4 cups of flour with 1/2 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder. The original recipe calls for cake flour, but we used regular old all-purpose flour with perfectly delicious results. (The only differene between cake flour and AP flour is that cake flour is a bit finer. If you want to be really particular, you can sift your AP flour to give it a similar texture to that of cake flour.) Drop six tablespoons of softened butter (cut into pats or slices) into the dry mixture before mixing in the wet ingredients a bit at a time. Grease an 8×8 baking dish and then pour in the majority of the batter. Spread the gooseberries over that and then top with the remaining batter and the crumbly brown sugar topping. Bake at 325F for about an hour.