At Boulevard, chef/owner Nancy Oakes, a dessert lover, has a way of breezing into the pastry kitchen and loosely outlining what she wants: "I'm thinking: memories, childhood. Cupcakes and Rocky Road. I want chocolate and marshmallow. Can we do something fun, something nostalgic?". The pastry chef would then brainstorm for a day or two, working to match a plate to Nancy's vision. Sometimes it took a few tries, but when Nancy finally announced "that's IT!", we all breathed a sigh of relief (little puts more stress on a time-crunched kitchen than recipe testing).
"Huckleberry Buckle!" Nancy declared one morning. "Don'cha love saying that? Huckleberry Buckle. I think that would be nice for the menu. It's summer, we should have it! Huckleberry Buckle."
Growing up in New England, blueberry buckle showed up at various picnic tables of my youth, accompanied by grilled meats, local corn, a cooler full of beer, Aunt Ginny's pickles, and a game of horseshoes or Jarts. Tasty and simple, it was almost like a coffeecake, covered with a streusel topping.
With desserts listing at ten bucks a pop, this isn't quite what Nancy (from Massachusetts, by the way) was looking for...but close. Keep the integrity, up the punch.
What (pastry chef) Jessica Sullivan came up with is easily my favorite item to come out of that kitchen. Served with (what I like to call) a huckleberry gumdrop, vanilla ice cream with a huckleberry swirl, and a drizzle of huckleberry caramel, this is, as they say, as good as it gets. It remains a buckle, but a better buckle (that's fun to say, too), one that is both crisp and juicy, buttery, tender, and tart.
Huckleberries are expensive and near impossible to find commercially (they're usually supplied to restaurants by professional foragers, who closely guard their livelihood). I've made this at home with blueberries and while it's not quite as intensely flavored, it's still wonderful. If you're lucky enough to have access to wild blueberries, you'll come pretty close.
Boulevard (Blueberry) Buckle
This isn't a recipe as much as an outline, using simple components you most likely already have in your recipe box, or can easily obtain.
Line the bottom of a sheet pan (not the sides, as they will get too dark) with pie dough to which you've added a pinch of cinnamon. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, coarse sugar if you have it. Prick all over with a fork and bake fully, checking halfway to pat down any bubbles that may occur. Cool completely.
Prepare- adding some chopped ginger or lemon zest- your favorite butter cake batter (pound cake, upside-down cake, coffeecake, etc. One that contains sour cream- or creme fraiche- is particularly nice. I like the upside down cake recipe from Baking With Julia).
Pour the batter over the cooled pie shell, filling the pan 2/3 full- you want just a thin layer of cake, so split your recipe in half, if necessary. Completely cover the batter with a single layer of berries.
Bake at 350 degrees until the edges turn golden. Remove from the oven, then cover the cake with a layer of your favorite streusel topping. Continue baking until streusel is browned and crisp.