Forager’s Delight: Blueberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake

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I have a massive issue when it comes to foraging. Some would call it my gift. Others (like my berry-picking friends) would call it my curse. You see, deep in the incomprehensible double-helix thingy of my DNA structure, I have an unmistakable gene for hunting and gathering. I love it. But not in the way you love your favorite sweater or lasagna on Fridays. I mean, I love foraging in a way that were I left to my own devices I would gather to my heart’s content and never come home. You would find me 4 days later up on a mountain picking berries happy as a clam but desperately needing a shower.

As I’ve said before, I don’t have an “off” switch when it comes to foraging. Which is one of the main reasons I always bring a friend with me whenever I embark on my little gathering excursions. Because someone has to be there to make me stop.

skillet cake up closeI’m not sure exactly what it is that drives me to harvest Alaska’s wild bounty. I suspect it’s a mixed bag of reasons, one being simply: FREE FOOD. But it’s roots are much deeper than that. There is something so satisfying about hitting the jackpot and discovering a trove of currants, or that Devil’s Club buds are at the perfect time for harvesting. And I wouldn’t engage in a single foraging expedition if the results weren’t also delicious. I am continually amazed at the plentiful variety of edible plants growing in our own (enormous, massive, breathtaking) Alaskan backyard.

I also believe that I’m most at peace in nature. And we have a lot of that in Alaska. I mean, just look at the scenery from the berry-picking expedition with my friend Erica from last week!

This blueberry skillet cake is nearly fool-proof, which is perfect for those of us that are slightly baking-impaired. It comes together in very little time and I love bringing the whole skillet to the table for serving. Delicious with homemade whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, it’s also perfect on it’s own and makes a great breakfast treat. Lately, my taste buds have been craving desserts that aren’t super sweet, and this cake fits the bill. It’s not nearly as sweet as your standard cake, which is due in part to our tart Alaskan blueberries. I’ve made it with raspberries from my backyard and it’s slightly sweeter, but equally delicious.

And so, I encourage everyone to get outside, pick some berries. And see if the foraging bug bites you, too!

For more recipes like this, check out the Chena Girl Cooks blog.

Alaska Blueberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake
Serves 8-ish (Adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 extra tablespoon for skillet
2 cups Alaska blueberries (fresh or frozen)**

(1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Whist together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk just to combine.

(2) In a 10 inch oven-proof skillet (I used my trusty Lodge Cast-Iron), place one tablespoon of butter in the skillet and pop it in the oven until it’s melted and the skillet is hot (3-5 minutes).  Take the skillet out of the oven and swirl the butter to coat the bottom.  Pour the batter into the skillet, and scatter the blueberries on top.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

(3) Bake in the middle of the oven until it is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes.  Let cool before slicing it.  This is great served either warm or at room temperature.

**Substituting Alaska raspberries for the blueberries is equally delicious.
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Heidi was born and raised in Fairbanks, and grew up in and around the waters of the Chena River. She graduated with a degree in History from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and received her law degree from Willamette University. A lawyer by day and self-taught home cook at night, she is passionate about cooking and creating tasty, uncomplicated food. She is also a firm believer in buying local produce and products whenever possible, and is an avid fisherwoman. She currently lives in Anchorage with her trusty terrier, Milo.

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