I’m so glad that Birkenstocks are acceptable again. Almost cool. Over the past couple of years I’ve seem them on fashionable New Yorkers, and I just bought a pair. I had forgotten how comfy they are. They’re still not exactly good looking, but I like them. They feel sort of age appropriate in a nice way.
I think it was 1995 or 1996 last time I slipped my feet into a pair of new Birks. I was a junior in high school. I had saved up money from my job at the doughnut shop to buy them and I was pretty sure they were the epitome of cool. Before I could afford the real thing I had a fake pair from Payless. Quasi-birks. “Quirks." Even after I bought the new ones, I kept the impostors to wear in inclement weather. I was very practical.
Sometimes too practical. Once I wore my Quirks to a party straight out of a TV producer’s idea of Suburban American High School. There was one of these parties every weekend. I was always an inconsequential guest, permitted to attend only because my girlfriends were pretty and popular. I felt like an impostor. Going through the motions. Half-heartedly playing beer pong.
Most of these parties were not that memorable, believe it or not. But this one I remember distinctly. It was raining—hence the Quirks. But once we got there, I was so humiliated to be wearing lame shoes. I’m sure not one person noticed or cared (such is the fate of the inconsequential guest), but I thought they gave me away. Impostor girl with the impostor shoes.
But then I looked down to see how mucked up the Quirks had gotten. Spilled beer. Mud. Grass stains. And I was so very pleased that I had had the foresight to wear them. Not only was I the type of dork who worried about keeping cork sandals clean, but the thought of clean sandals waiting for me at home actually made me happy. No wonder I wasn’t one of the cool kids. It can be reassuring to catch sight of your true self, whoever that is, and embrace your quirks.
No matter how many times they come in and go out of style, Birkenstocks will always remind me of the nineties. As I break in my new pair, I’ve been thinking fondly of the other stuff I liked back then. Flannel. Frappuccinos. Felicity. Rusted Root (ugh). The combination of raspberries and chocolate. Molten chocolate cakes with raspberry coulis. Raspberry chocolate truffles. Chocolate raspberry mousse. Dated but delicious. Dated but sure to come back into fashion again. Think of this week’s recipe as my attempt to get ahead of the cycle.
Deborah has a boatload of raspberries from her prolific brambles. There are pounds and pounds of them in the freezer. So I decided to do her a favor. Chocolate Raspberry Buckle. The oats and the almonds create a sweet, chewy streusel top to the tender fruit-and-chocolate-studded cake. It’s a good combo. Even better served warm with ice cream. I’m eating some right now. It’s raining. And my new Birks and I are clean and dry and pretty darn comfortable.
Chocolate Raspberry Buckle
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature but not too soft
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt. Add the butter and knead it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it is evenly moistened. Add the almonds and toss to combine. Set aside.
2. Butter a 10-inch oven-safe skillet. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fold in the raspberries and the chocolate. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Top with the streusel mixture, squeezing it into small clumps. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm.