Aug 23, 2010

Marionberry Shortcakes

I had never heard of a marionberry (except for the former mayor of Washington, D.C.) who is in no way connected to the berry, which you can tell because he spells his last name "Barry." Then, after I tasted them, even frozen, I got all sulky: why do marionberries only grow in Oregon? What's so special about Oregon? Why don't they grow in Minnesota? (Answer: they like warm days and cool nights in the summer and temperate winters). Why can't I buy them in Minnesota? I can buy pineapple. I found out that everyone's crazy about marionberries. The Oregon legislature wanted to make it the state berry of Oregon, something that you'd think everyone could get behind. But the raspberry growers got all bent out of shape, and accused the legislature of being anti-raspberry. Anyway, I liked these marionberries a lot.
I also liked being able to use my Mary Ann pans. (I always want to call them Mary Janes, but those are shoes, aren't they?)
They're just little sponge cakes, and not difficult to make except for the beurre noisette. It's a sign of how far I've come that I can now read a recipe and just say to myself, "oh, just make a little beurre noisette," instead of "what the heck is she making me do now?" Just to make things interesting, I decided to time exactly how long it took for the butter to turn the right shade of brown on low heat. 16 minutes. If I had the nerve, the next time I'd just turn the heat to low, set the timer for 16 minutes, and go work on the crossword. But I won't.
This is another one of those cakes that's based on the miraculous transformation that eggs make after being beaten for five minutes. After three minutes, I looked at the eggs and I thought, "Those are done enough." Because I'm a rule-follower, I continued for the entire five minutes plus one more for good measure. I'm so glad I did!
Just a few hours later, I happened to be reading a story on Rose's blog where she talks about her only failed genoise. And why did it fail? Because she made the mistake of thinking, “Why do I have to beat the eggs and sugar for five whole minutes on high when after three minutes they look thick enough and don't seem to be getting any thicker or fuller in the bowl?" The exact question I asked myself! However, because I was more dutiful at following Rose's instructions than she was at following her own, my genoise did not fail.
If any of you had trouble finding frozen marionberries, this is what they look like--from the frozen foods section at Whole Foods.
At least, I am assuming they were the real thing. Apparently there is a big problem with counterfeit marionberries, which are harder to grow and more costly than regular, bigger, seedier, less tasty blackberry varieties. Some people are paying top dollar for the fake marionberries, and then wondering what all the fuss is about.
I sugared them lightly and doused them with framboise (misreading the directions, which do not call for the framboise to be added until the syrup is made--however, I don't think it hurt a thing).
The final thing to do before composing the shortcakes was to whip some lightly sweetened creme fraiche--easier than whipping cream. I warned people that it would be tarter than whipped cream, fearing that someone would think the cream had gone bad, but everyone loved it. Jim insists he likes it better than whipped cream. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it did seem to go exceptionally well with the faintly exotic marionberries.
I served this for dessert after making Korean lettuce wraps for dinner. You wouldn't think that would be a match made in heaven, but the shortcakes were a surprisingly appropriate ending for the meal.
I bought three bags of frozen marionberries, so I have plenty left for another batch. It's hard to repeat recipes when a new one is calling out to you every week, but I'll have to find time for more of these lovely summer treats.

Pat" "Very good. I love the berries and the creme fraiche. In fact, the cake is my least favorite part of the dessert."
Lisa: "I think all three components are equally good. The cake could be just a touch less sweet, but then I'm very sensitive to sweetness."
Jim: "Delicious. I like the way the syrup soaks into the cake, and I like the faintly caramel-y flavor of the cake. What makes it taste like that?"


Melinda said...

I like the Mary Ann pan, too. And, I want to call it a Mary Jane pan also. Great (and confused!) minds must think alike.
I love Marion berries and miss them.
I am proud they only grow so beautifully in my Oregon. I think the Oregon grape is still our state flower.
Don't even get me going on our state animal, the beaver. My nursing school graduation pin has a beaver on it, gnawing on some wood.
It seems that earlier Good Samaritan graduates pins had a beaver on their pin but he was laying down and was deemed to be a lazy beaver. So they thought it needed changing. I have the busy beaver graduate pin.
And you can snicker now!
This has nothing to do with your lovely cakes which I wish I could have a taste of. It is just a story I thought would amuse you.

Jenn said...

Marie, lovely post as always. I got that exact same frozen Marionberries - though at Vitamin Cottage. Whole Foods have the frozen boysenberry (any Rose recipe featuring those? :)).

I love that you time the beurre noisette. Why don't you pull up a chair by the stove and do the crossword puzzle while checking on the butter every few minutes? :)

Katya said...

that sounds delicious. i suppose I'm going to whole foods...or at least to the farmer's market for blackberries, although it's pouring rain here.

Marie said...

Can a mind be both great and confused? I hope so. You are right--I did snicker when I thought of you accepting your busy beaver pin. I hope you don't still wear it. I'm not sure it would give your patients confidence.

I'm not as good at multi-tasking as I once thought I was. There are no boysenberries on the horizon that I know of, but I'm sure that Rose could do something fabulous with frozen boysenberries if she put her mind to it.

These marionberry shortcakes are just the thing to eat in a rainstorm!

Beth said...

This looks so delicious. Yummy, just so yummy.

Maria said...

That looks so delicious! I admit, I would not go to the trouble of using marionberries to make these. I'd use some locally grown olallieberries or boysenberries. Or even blackberries.

Also, the first time I saw marionberry pie at a grocery store, I wondered why that particular politician got his own pie.

Marie said...

Thank you!

When I served these shortcakes and said they were marionberry shortcakes, my guests looked confused--they also wondered why that politician got his own shortcake. I think the marionberries are very closely related to olallieberries (I always want to say ooh-la-la berries).

Mendy said...


Those look fabulous. Everything done right. Thanks for the whole foods berry tip and the link to those lettuce wraps. They sound great too!

Hanaâ said...

Your Mario-n-Barry topped Mary Janes look tasty :o) Sorry, that’s probably not funny… You did a great job with the mini-genoise cakes. I clicked on “Rose’s failed genoise” link and it brought back memories of my first genoise. It was perfect! I thought, what’s the big deal about? My fourth try or so (which was a big deal because I was taking it to a dinner party the next day), was disastrous :o) Your whipped crème fraiche (storebought or homemade, btw?) looks luscious and perfect for this dessert.

faithy said...

I'm seeing that everyone is making mini versions..looks yummy! I bought strawberries to bake but then realised that I have no space to at all to mix my batter or do anything. I NEED a bigger kitchen and my own study desk! I'll skip baking till September. I'm currently making gumpaste decorations and have lots of things all over the kitchen and dining table...:S

gartblue said...

gosh! .. I wish we have all these berries lying around where we live .. but I guess I'll have to contend myself with all year long and no berries.

Forgot my camera again and will update soon, my strawberry version of it.

evil cake lady said...

loved you post marie! i just assumed marionberries would be our state berry--those pesky raspberry growers.

i bet boysenberries would be a superb substitution for this recipe.

i just got back from a trip to montana, where it was all about the huckleberries! so many delicious berries out there!!

Rose Beranbaum said...

unless my mind is out of synch since i'm on vacation, i believe the marion berry is a felicitous cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, which means the growers of all three should consider themselves kissing cousins (in my humble opinion). and i'm another one who thinks of them as mary janes!
i didn't know about ersatz marion berries--for shame.
beautiful and informative and of course humorous posting!
i know i'm on vacation but i couldn't resist, even in this humid weather, to develop a recipe for pralines for the next book. do you suppose the "word verification" below which is sicke is trying to tell me something?

Rose Beranbaum said...

PS i've just read everyone's postings and i must add that i'm really awed by all of them.

when we were in seattle last month i got to taste fresh marion berries for the first time along with boysenberries and humongous blackberries and awesome strawberries and decided that this is really the place for a baker to live!

Marie said...

The Korean lettuce wraps were excellent! Not authentically Korean, maybe, but good food.

I had the same kind of beginner's luck with buttercream, and the same kind of don't-see-what-the-fuss-is-about reaction. Then I had a series of failures, and am only now getting back in the buttercream groove. (Hope I haven't just jinxed myself). I used to make creme fraiche, but since I've been able to buy Organic Valley, I don't bother to make my own.

We have lots of berries, but no durian!

I'm not sure I've ever had boysenberries. That must be another superior Oregon berry. My dad's favorite was huckleberry pie. My mom was always searching them out, but rarely finding them. She must not have known about Montana.

I saw a family tree for a marionberry somewhere on line, and I think the raspberry is one of its ancestors, but maybe not a parent.
We should probably all consider each other kissing cousins--but somehow we don't!
I'm very happy that you came up with this marionberry recipe, and now one of my life goals is to eat some fresh ones.
Love pralines!!!

Katya said...

Finally put mine up--tiny blueberries proved too valuable to waste.