Kitchn Love Letters

The Best Alton Brown Recipe Isn’t the One You’re Thinking Of

updated Sep 8, 2020
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Credit: Patty Catalano

When you think of a classic Alton Brown recipe, what comes to mind? Is it a sizzling fried turkey lifted from a hardware store ladder rigged with a pulley system? What about box fan-dried beef jerky? In spite of all of the quirky hardware hacks and clever kitchen tips, I believe Alton Brown’s greatest recipe is one most fans have yet to try.

Eleven years ago I walked into Alton Brown’s studio for my first day on the job. On that day, I answered the door for the FedEx delivery driver, and was promptly asked, “Do you have any more of that blueberry buckle to share?” No, I didn’t. And, to be honest, at that moment, I wasn’t even sure what blueberry buckle was.

Credit: Patty Catalano

What Is Blueberry Buckle?

A buckle is a streusel-topped coffee cake made with fresh fruit. It’s named for the way it “buckles” upon baking. Despite its humble appearance, the buckle is more cake than quick bread. And it’s incredibly delicious.

To make it, you need cake flour, with its fine texture and lower protein content, rather than all-purpose flour. Cake flour gives the buckle a delicate and tender crumb, while still being able to keep fresh blueberries suspended in the batter. Other than the fruit, it’s flavored simply, with a touch of ground ginger in the dry ingredients. The batter is mixed using the creaming method, where softened butter and sugar are beaten until light and fluffy. An egg goes in next, followed by the dry ingredients and milk in alternating succession.

Credit: Patty Catalano

The 15 ounces of blueberries Alton calls for in his recipe is just about one and a half dry pints. I regularly forget to buy two packs of berries for this cake, but have had great success substituting just about any other fruit I can find stashed in my freezer. I always make sure to cut larger fruits — like strawberries — down to blueberry size.

As you begin to fold in the mountain of berries, you may worry there’s too much fruit, that you got the ratio wrong. Don’t.

The crumble that tops it is a mixture of cake flour, sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, and butter. I like variety in my crumble size, so I stop short of working the pats of butter into uniformly pea-sized crumbs. The larger bits are a sweet and crunchy contrast to the tender, fruity cake, while the dusty sugar melts into a golden caramel crust. It’s really no wonder that FedEx driver was so hungry for another piece. It’s been 11 years and I still can’t get enough.

Credit: Patty Catalano

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. And we decided to start sharing some of our absolute favorites with you. Here’s a peek into what we’re cooking and eating in our own kitchens.