Mary Mac’s Blackberry Sonker

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Kin to buckles, betties, cobblers and slumps, the sonker is another of those hot bubbling, blissful berry desserts, topped with biscuit dough, and whatever amount of whipped or iced cream self-restraint will allow you to pile over all. (Go ahead and stain your teeth purple–this one’s worth it!) And it comes from one of the best restaurant-dessert makers out there: Mary Mac’s Tea Room.In 1940s Atlanta, single moms and tearooms went hand in hand. Throughout the city “tea rooms”, homey restaurants serving hearty, Southern “meat-and-three” meals, helped many single mothers support their families. During the tea room heydey, Atlanta had more than 14 in operation. Mary Mac’s has outlasted them all. Originally operated as Mrs. Fuller’s Tea Room, the place was purchased by Rose Bowl Tea Room owner Mary McKinsey, in 1951. Mary changed the Mrs. Fuller’s name to Mary Mac’s in 1953. Margaret Lupo, who had operated a lunch place in downtown Atlanta called Margaret’s Tray Shop bought Mary Mac’s in 1962. Under Margaret’s 30-years of leadership, Mary Mac’s grew into the Atlanta institution it is today. Since 1994, current owner John Ferrell has ensured the same food traditions carry on. He’s lovingly written about them all, along with 65 years of Mary Mac history, in Mary Mac’s Tea Room cookbook, from Andrews McMeel. This recipe is just one sample of what all Ferrell has included.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Filling Ingredients

  • 3 pints fresh blackberries, washed and drained, with a little water clinging to the fruit
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar plus additional for sprinkling on the crust
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Biscuit Dough Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • For the biscuit dough:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Gently combine the blackberries with sugar, cornstarch and flour in a medium bowl and pour into the baking dish.
  2. Make dough: Combine flour baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter with fork or two knives until mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add milk and stir in with a fork just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead the dough together gently before rolling and cutting.
  3. Pat the dough on a floured surface into a 9-inch round of about inch thickness. The size and shape may be adjusted to suit your baking dish. Place the dough on top of the berry mixture and tuck in the edges. Make 3 or four slits in the pastry with a sharp knife for steam to escape. Dot the top of the pastry with butter. Sprinkle a little sugar over. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking another 20 to 25 minutes, until filling bubbles around the edges and through the slits in the pastry. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

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