May and Sweetcakes have been on fly-by, standby, and are quickly saying goodbye. Some travel for fun, some travel for work, lots of activities for the kiddos, and somewhere in the mix, a month hot enough that there are already jalapeno peppers and ripe strawberries in the garden. The lavender is purpled. The red-hot pokers are poking up into the sky, taller than I’ve ever seen them in my yard.
I’d like to say I’m eeking the most from every minute, but Sweetcakes is a little overwhelmed at the moment. All good things to be overwhelmed by – TeenGirl Sweetcakes has had drama and show choir performances and is graduating from middle school; TallManBoy Sweetcakes has gone on a band trip to Disney; Mr. Sweetcakes and I had a weekend getaway, just the two of us; and there’s an exciting new opportunity at work. All of this, and May is nearly done flowering.
It’s Memorial Day weekend already and I’ve not had enough of a red rock fix to get me through the sweltering months. Tasters, this is something I need to fix soon. The way that southern Utah desert calls to me is primal, something as necessary to me as air--preferably dry desert air that smells of sagebrush.
I spent a lot of time traveling with my grandparents when I was young, and those times are some of my best memories. And those times helped shape who I am. And I want my children to feel that same connection to something that large and peaceful and unnamable.
Recently I made blackberry shortbread bars for bookclub. These ladies are amazing women who always have an interesting perspective on the books we read together, and an even better perspective on life in general. And they enjoy a good party. The blackberry bars? They were tasty, although the true baking delights were two lovely cakes that I should hunt down recipes for.
Any blackberryfest would be lonely without a little Sylvia Plath (and perhaps, even lonely with her), don’t you think?
Blackberry Shortbread Bars
adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe
Makes 16 squares
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) whole blanched almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 31/2 cups blackberries
- zest of 1 lemon, freshly grated
- 2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment; butter lining. Dust with flour; tap out excess.
Grind the almonds in a food processor until fine.
Sift flour, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Add the almonds, whisk until well combined; set aside.
Put 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sifted confectioners’ sugar and the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in grated lemon peel.
Add flour mixture in 2 batches; mix until a crumbly dough forms.
Press all but 1 cup dough onto bottom of pan.
Toss berries with fresh lemon zest; scatter over dough.
Crumble reserved dough on top, then sprinkle chopped candied ginger on top. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.
Cut into 16 squares; dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Make it more decadent: Serve with dollops of whipped cream.