Half of Kitsilano is in easy walking distance of Vanier park, and any blackberries there would surely be picked over. So I only brought three small containers that I could hide in my backpack, not wanting to arrive with a bucket at a show that was already over.
Imagine my surprise.
The whole wild area of the park, on the trail that winds east from Chestnut street, then north to the boat yard and the water, has been taken over by blackberry bushes. And there were plenty of ripe berries, especially in two zones: the ones you can get if you’re willing to squat, and the ones you can get if you’re tall and have a long reach.
Between us, we covered both possibilities, and could have filled our containers three times over, easily. And they were good berries, the kind that confirm my belief that a good blackberry is better than any other berry, period.
Being able to walk to the berries and home again was an added pleasure.
Free food within walking distance? No wonder I’d had my doubts.
Later that afternoon Mary came over to work on the Yoga on 7th website, and staying for dinner. Mary, Alan and me: a family that’s been forming over the past 10 years of running the studio together.
So I was planning a simple family dinner, with a simple family dessert.
I’ve wanted to make the Canadian Blackberry Roll again ever since blackberry season started. It’s an old-fashioned recipe, one that I made while doing promotions for the Edith Adams Omnibus, a collection that came out in 2005.
Edith was the Betty Crocker of the Vancouver Sun, the newspaper where I spent 10 years as a food writer. She specialized, in the early days at least, in printing recipes from readers, and this one, printed in the 12th annual prize cookbook, published in 1948, came from Mrs. N. P. Frost, of Abbotsford.
Along with her recipe submission, she wrote: “Blackberries are hanging ripe and luscious on the bushes in the pastures and vacant lots, so here is my favorite recipe for our own Canadian Blackberry Roll.”
Being an old-fashioned dessert, it’s simplicity itself to put together, just a standard biscuit dough, rolled out into a rectangle, spread with melted butter, sprinkled with sugar and blackberries, rolled up like cinnamon buns, and baked.
The list of ingredients is short and the only thing it asks for that you wouldn’t naturally have in your pantry is fresh blackberries.
I added an extra half-cup of berries because the two cups called for seemed scant. In fact, the extra half-cup probably contributed to the two breaks in the dough that appeared as I was shaping it into a circle – the recipe below is for the original amount.
In fact, it didn’t matter at all. Yes, more juice came out into the pan, and there was no question that the blackberry roll wasn’t going to come off the parchment paper, but it still looked, and tasted, fantastic, with a pure, clear taste of blackberry against the biscuit.
We had it with crème fraîche instead of the recommended milk or cream. And I used butter instead of the “shortening” that was called for.
For the gluten-free majority in the family, this ought to work just fine with a gluten free dough – the one you used in your cinnamon buns seems like a natural candidate.
Because I can’t for the life of me think what’s especially Canadian about it, I vote we re-christen the recipe Old-Fashioned Blackberry Roll.
Adapted from the Edith Adams Omnibus
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups blackberries
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cups flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ice cream, whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) with parchment paper.
- Combine sugar, blackberries and lemon juice in a bowl. Set aside.
- Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter, add milk to make a soft dough. Roll out into a 12 by 14 inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.
- Spread the dough with melted butter. Cover dough with the berry mixture, leaving an inch along each of the long sides.
- Starting with the long side, roll the dough up like a jellyroll, pinching the ends of the roll closed.
- Transfer the roll onto the parchment paper. With scissors or a sharp knife, cut the top crust of the roll at 3-inch intervals. Sprinkle the crust with a tablespoon of sugar.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.
- Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream or crème fraîche.