All posts tagged: berries

New Zealand’s Passion for Pavlova

At one time I thought of New Zealand as the land of extreme sports, flightless birds, Flight of the Conchords, magnificent scenery, Maoris, fine wine and the films of Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings. Then I spent last month in this island nation and learned of our shared passion for the meringue-based dessert pavlova. All pavlovas begin with a crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside meringue. The addition of vinegar or lemon juice helps the meringue to achieve its chewiness. So, too, does low, slow baking. Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, lightly whipped cream and fresh fruit are heaped on top of it. Although berries, kiwi and mango are popular options, the traditional filling is passion fruit. Meringue, cream and fruit. That’s it. That’s all there is to “the pav.” It sounds like such a simple, uncontroversial dessert. Yet it’s not. For almost a century debate has raged over whether New Zealand or Australia invented the pav. Australians claim that Perth chef Herbert Sachse made the first at the Esplanade Hotel in 1935. Kiwis …

Czech Strawberry Dumplings

With strawberry season right around the corner, it seems like a good time to talk about Czech strawberry dumplings. Until two years ago, whenever I heard the phrase “dessert dumpling,” I imagined a cinnamon- and sugar-dusted apple bundled into a buttery pastry and baked until golden brown. The thought of a whole strawberry boiled inside a casing of cheese-laced dough never occurred to me. Then I made several trips to the Czech Republic and learned how to make jahoda knedlíky or strawberry dumplings. After that I forgot all about those apple pie-like treats. It’s been said that no traditional Czech dinner is complete without the inclusion of a dumpling or two. A staple since the Middle Ages, the plump, round dumpling can be either sweet or savory. The latter tends to use potatoes and potato flour as its base while the former features flour and/or breadcrumbs and a filling of whole, locally grown fruit such as strawberries, plums or cherries. Shaped into balls, both types of dumpling are boiled, drained, sliced in half with a …

Fruits of the Forest Tartlets

It’s time, once again, to talk about elderberries. Back in season and growing with a vengeance on an old friend’s farm, they present me with the annual challenge of what to do with quarts and quarts of bold, earthy fruit. Last year I featured these tiny, bluish-black berries in a colorful sweet that I’d dubbed “Elderberries and Cream.” Consisting of stewed elderberries layered between white bands of homemade, vanilla-laced whipped cream, this uncomplicated dish was perfect for elderberry fans. Unfortunately, those preferring a milder last course were better off just skipping dessert for Elderberries and Cream was a heady, strong-flavored confection. This year I’ve opted for a treat that will satisfy a variety of tastes. Rather than only showcase elderberries, I’ve gone for all of summer’s fabulous foraged fruit—or at least all that I can pick at my friends’ farm—and made a dessert with the “fruits of the forest.” Years ago a family friend introduced me to fruits of the forest pie at the Tavern in New Wilmington, Pa. The memory of that deliciously complex …

Danish Raspberry Slice or Hindbærsnitte

Hindbærsnitte is the latest addition to my ever-growing list of international dessert crushes. Some people liken it to homemade Pop Tarts. Others equate it to thumbprint cookies. Neither comparison comes close to the sweet splendor of this lovely Danish cookie. Inspired by Viennese confections, hindbærsnitte was born in Copenhagen in the late 1800s. The legend goes that in 1850 Danish bakers went on a long-term strike over unfair wages. To keep the country in breads and sweets, bakers from Austria were hired to fill the vacancies. Their time in Denmark and the culinary traditions that they shared would influence the creation of many Danish baked goods, including hindbærsnitte. With its flour- and almond-based dough and thick, fruity filling this cookie does remind me of such Austrian specialties as Linzer tortes and augens. The literal translation of hindbærsnitte is raspberry slice. Its name more or less explains the treat — baked cookie dough blanketed by raspberry preserves, topped with another sheet of baked dough and then sliced and iced or iced and sliced. The order of …

Sailing away in Raspberry Meringue Boats

Sometimes my timing is off. During the last days of summer I collected and baked a rare autumn treat, ground cherries. On the first day of fall I took a field trip to a community supported agricultural garden and picked a quart of a beloved summer delicacy, raspberries. That they had not already been scavenged by birds, bees and other berry fiends amazed me. That they retained their brilliant ruby color and sweet, juicy flavor at the end of a long growing season was even more shocking. How lucky could I get? Although I’d spent much of the summer simmering, pureeing and swirling fruits into desserts, I didn’t want to toss these fresh-from-the-vine beauties into a blender or pot. Such gorgeousness should be showcased and not transformed into a lumpy, red mass. Rather than just serve them whole with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, I turned to an old family favorite, the meringue. A simple sweet, it would be the perfect foundation for these exquisite berries. If your ancestors are French as a smattering …

Bewitching Black Currant Palmiers

A few Sundays ago I lucked out and found fresh, plump red and black currants at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market. Unlike the red currants, which I’d churned into sherbet, I took a fairly traditional approach with the larger, purplish-black fruit and cooked up a batch of black currant jelly. Why jelly? Like their red relation, black currants contain a large amount of pectin, the substance that causes foods to thicken and gel. To make black currant jelly, I simmered the fruit with some sugar and lemon juice. Once the berries had softened and the sugar had dissolved, I strained the reddish-violet syrup into a glass bowl. I allowed it to cool and set and — voila! — I had black currant jelly. Because I’d wanted to do more with currants than just make preserves, I came up with a twist on an old family favorite, palmiers. Made from puff pastry, this simple French cookie gets its name from its palm leaf-like shape. Depending on where you live and how you perceive its appearance, you may …

Elderberries and Cream

A little over a month ago I spent a morning picking elderflowers at my friends’ farm in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Last weekend I returned to find one lone cluster of white flowers and an inordinate number of reddish- to blackish-purple berries drooping from the limbs of their elderberry trees. Since my last visit those pert, little flowers had transformed into August’s big bounty, tart and spicy elderberries. As with all of this summer’s foraged fruit, elderberry collecting is a new undertaking for me. Sure, I’ve been the beneficiary of others’ wild berry gathering, adding elderberries to mini apple pies and boiling them into violet-colored sauces. However, this would be my first venture into harvesting them. Thankfully, the task turned out to be quite easy. Just look for the darkest fruit, snap off the sprays of berries and shake them into a big bowl. As I said, easy! Berries picked and shucked, I took my share home and tried to think of creative ways to use two pounds of this fruit. After washing and removing any remaining …

The Blackberry Fool

This week in the world of seasonal fruit I’ve got a bumper crop of blackberries. The largest of all wild berries, blackberries have long been both treasured and trashed. Give me a bowl of these dazzling, violet-black orbs and I’ll rave about their gorgeous color, plump shape and tartly sweet, purplish juice. Invite me to pick and eat them from a backyard copse and I’ll grumble about their brutally thorny, trailing vines that leave my fingers bloody and their copious seeds that wedge in between every tooth. I’m not the least bit surprised that the British have dubbed this fruit “bramble.” This is one prickly drupe. In spite of its drawbacks I do adore blackberries. Along with consuming them straight from the stem I like to feature them in a fool. A classic British dessert, a fool is as simple as its name sounds; it consists of mashed raw or cooked fruit folded into homemade whipped cream. Spoon this concoction into delicate, etched glasses or bowls and you have the elegant and ethereal English sweet. …

In Honor of Mother’s Day, My Mom’s Strawberry-Yogurt Pie

Although it’s been a whirlwind of a week, I couldn’t let Mother’s Day pass by without sharing a recipe in honor of my late mother and all the other hardworking moms around the globe. Among the many things that my mother was, she was a huge fan of sweets. At dinnertime she was more apt to enjoy a slice of seasonal pie or quick bread than eat the meal over which she’d labored. At breakfast, while I choked down grainy, bland and much dreaded Cream of Wheat, she nibbled on iced, fruit-filled pastries or glazed May’s donuts. Craving a cookie? We always had a box, bag or tin filled with chocolate chip, date-filled oatmeal or sugar cookies on hand, just in case the need arose. When my mother spoke of her own late mother, she talked of weekends spent making fudge, divinity candy, meringues and cakes. Needless to say, I come from a long line of sweets lovers. If a sweet tooth is hereditary, there’s no question from which side of my family mine came. …