from heart to hands to table

Lemon Blackberry Sticky Buns


You know how it is said that in our last moments, our lives flash before our eyes? Imagine that’s true – what snippets of your time here will you want on that last, final film reel? Sometimes, in beautiful, simple moments, or when I’m remembering something comforting and nostalgic, I feel that tiny camera in my mind’s eye click … another moment saved.

For me, blackberries take me back to the beaches of White Rock, BC when I was just little, visiting my Granny and Grandad. There were many highlights of those beach days: the beach itself, the sand castle competitions, the seemingly endless pier with the buckets of freshly caught crabs and fish. I also loved the trains; at least one would chug by every evening and under careful supervision, I’d place pennies on the tracks to be flattened by the train as it whizzed past. Those wafer thin copper ovals were prized most highly in the treasures that inevitably went home in my plastic pail, along with softly worn green and aqua beach glass, a pearly shell or a perfectly round stone.

Another thing I recall so dearly from those sunny summer days was picking blackberries. On the beach-facing street at the bottom of the town there are shops only on the one side. As you cross the street you pass through dense blackberry brambles on wide gravel paths. Climb a few steps and there you are, at the train tracks. Then, on most parts of the beach, you climb back down the other side through more brambles until your feet meet stones and sand, eventually the Pacific.  Armed with a bucket and some time you can bring home a bounty of deep, dark warmly sweet berries. As a small girl, I’m sure my picked contribution was paltry but I loved it and I can easily recall the smell of the sea air and the warm berries, so ripe they would almost burst as they were picked. Usually our bounty was enjoyed over vanilla ice cream or if it had been a particularly rigorous pick, a pie, lovingly made by my Granny.

This recipe is obviously a departure from pie, and does not require sun-warmed berries picked by suntanned innocents between the sea and the train tracks. It does require some patience, some confidence (yeasted dough? yikes!) and of course a whole lot of love. Make these for your house guests and knock their socks off, make them for your grandchildren and start a new summer taste tradition. Make them for someone you love and make some memories. Happy berry picking, happy baking, happy summer.





Lemon Blackberry Sticky Buns

Unless you have tireless arms or a very heavy duty hand blender, you will want to make this dough in your stand mixer. The advent of the dough hook takes a considerable amount of labour out of making these by hand, but doughs like this were made long before every kitchen had a hulking huge mixer, so if you must do these by hand roll up your sleeves and get in there … they’ll be worth it. 

For the sweet dough:

5 C all purpose flour, divided – plus more for kneading and rolling

1 Tbsp dry yeast

½ C light brown sugar

½ C milk

½ C butter

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp almond extract

grated zest of 2 lemons

½ C sour cream

4 eggs

In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the standard paddle attachment, mix 3 cups of the flour, the yeast and the brown sugar. Add the lemon zest and mix well.

In a small pot on the stove, melt the butter completely. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk, vanilla and almond extracts. Add slowly to the flour with the mixer running slowly. Increase the speed and beat the developing dough until it is smooth and very soft. Add the sour cream and beat again until incorporated. With the mixer running at a medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully mixed in before adding the next one. Add one of the remaining cups of flour and mix. Remove the paddle and swap in the dough hook. Incorporate the final cup of flour. Mix on medium, with the dough hook, for another full minute. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it steadily for at least 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky or wet. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover it with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise for at least 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

The dough is ready to proceed when it has doubled in volume. Give it a good punch to deflate it and gently knead it for a minute or so. Let it relax while you prepare the filling:

½ C butter, softened

1 C light brown sugar

the juice of a lemon

2 cups of fresh blackberries

Mix together the butter and sugar. Mix in the lemon juice. Set aside, along with the berries.

To assemble the buns, roll out the dough on a well floured surface with a well floured rolling pin. Aim for a rectangle that is about 18 inches wide by 12 inches tall. No need to trim it neatly, just try for a general rectangular shape. Spread the whole surface with the lemon, sugar, butter mixture, leaving about an inch (along the long side) bare. Sprinkle the blackberries all over the buttered dough. Starting from the top of the dough, gently pull it down towards you and begin to roll it up, stretching to accommodate the berries. Keep rolling, trying to keep the log you’re forming nice and even. Don’t worry if it is lumpy from the fruit. roll until you reach the bare strip in front of you. Use that bare dough to pinch closed the log so the berries and butter aren’t escaping.

Cut the log into 12 even pieces and pack them, cut side up, into a well buttered 9×13″ baking dish. Cover and leave them to rest, about another 2 hours until they have puffed and filled the dish. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the buns for 30-40 minutes until they are bubbling and browned all over.

Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before you ice them.

For the icing:

1 C icing sugar

¼ C sour cream

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or one vanilla pod worth of seeds, discard the pod or save for another use.)

Mix well until you have a smooth, pour-able glaze. Add a bit more lemon juice if it seems too thick.

Serve the buns warm or room temperature.

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