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Sep 28, 2016
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Blackberries’

By the Book: Sweeter Off the Vine by Yossi Arefi

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

BTB_Aug16_Round2_1

 

Sweeter Off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season won me over with its meticulous organization and moody, saturated glamour shots of fruit. It seemed like the perfect choice for this time of year, when it’s possible to mark the weeks off a calendar by what’s available at the farmers market.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the farmers market for this recipe. Timing didn’t allow, so instead I started with disappointing peaches (for which there is no excuse this time of year), the wrong brown sugar, whole-wheat pastry flour instead of whole-wheat flour and a pantry unexpectedly devoid of rolled oats, requiring a last-minute grocery run. What’s the opposite of mise en place? Don’t answer that.

With such a preamble, it’s no surprise I wasn’t thrilled with these pie bars. The crisp topping needed significantly more butter to hold it together, and the filling could have done with more fruit. However, I’m wary to blame this all on the recipe since I estimated my fruit weights and eyeballed the required ½ cup butter. The whole idea is great – as someone who likes piecrust more than filling, this hits my dessert sweet spot – and there’s a potential here that made me want to try again. Though my version leaned toward dull, this should have complex flavors (warm baking spices, sweet fruit and nutty brown butter and oats) and textures (chewy crust, giving fruit and crunchy topping). On the other hand, with two different crusts and double bake times, next time, maybe I’ll just simplify and make a cobbler.

Difficulty: Intermediate. Nothing is technically difficult, but there are a lot of steps to keep track of.
This book is for: Fruit lovers and farmers market shoppers
Other recipes to try: Caramelized apple fritters, apricot and berry galette with saffron sugar, cherry and rhubarb slab pie
Verdict: Despite not entirely living up to their potential, these pie bars were still more interesting than the Home Baked brownies from last week.

 

BTB_Aug16_Round2_2

 

Nectarine and Blackberry Pie Bars
Makes about 24 bars

Whole Wheat Crisp Topping (see recipe below)

Crust
¾ cup (170 g.) unsalted butter
1 cup (125 g.) all purpose flour
1 cup (130 g.) whole wheat flour
⅓ cup (60 g.) firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ tsp. salt

Filling
1¼ lb. (560 g.) nectarines (about 4 medium)
½ vanilla bean, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup (50 g.) sugar (less if the fruit is particularly sweet)
½ tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Pinch salt
1¼ cup (200 g.) blackberries

• Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or a quarter-sheet pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the foil.
• To make the crust: Melt the butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn light brown, and the butter has a warm and nutty fragrance, about five minutes. Remove the butter to a heat-safe container and let it cool to room temperature.
• In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar and salt. Pour in the cooled butter and stir gently until a ball forms. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake the crust until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
• To make the filling: Pit and coarsely chop the nectarines. Use the tip of a knife to slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; reserve the pod for another use. Add the sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon zest to a large bowl and use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds and zest into the sugar. Stir in the spices, flour and salt. Add the nectarines and blackberries to the sugar mixture and toss gently to combine. Pour over the partially cooled crust. Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top.
• Bake the bars until the topping is golden brown and the fruit begins to release its juices, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

Whole Wheat Crisp Topping
Makes about 3½ cups (390 g.), enough for one large crisp or two pies

½ cup (65 g.) whole wheat or rye flour
½ cup (62.5 g.) all purpose flour
½ cup (45 g.) old-fashioned oats
½ cup (100 g.) firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ cup (115 g.) unsalted butter, softened but cool

• Combine all of the ingredients except for the butter in a medium bowl and give a quick stir to combine, making sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Add the butter and use your fingertips to mix everything together until crumbs form. Use the mixture immediately, or store in a ziptop bag in the freezer for up to 1 month. You can use the crisp topping straight from the freezer; just add a couple of extra minutes to the baking time of your crisp or pie.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

Just Five: Midsummer Midnight Cocktail

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

082113_justfive

 

I enjoy a strong drink. No Cosmos or lemon drops for me, nothing too sweet and sugary. Yet for reasons I don’t understand (My gentle demeanor? My predilection for pink?) I am frequently served drinks that taste more like black-cherry Kool-Aid than straight whiskey with a hint of black pepper.

When summer fruit and fresh herbs are so readily available, I have a strong desire to make a boozy smoothie. This cocktail is sweetened with agave nectar, whose depth matches better with the caramel-vanilla flavors in the bourbon. Blackberries are sweet, yet tart. I considered making this with nectarines or peaches, but that would be too sweet for my taste. The mint gives it a nice bite and works well with the bourbon (think of a mint julep). For effervescence, I tried ginger ale and ginger beer, but I found it was too busy mixed with the mint. Club soda gives this drink a bit of sparkle without added sugar. And the color? Well, that’s how this drink got its name.

Midsummer Midnight Cocktail
2 Servings

8 blackberries
12 mint leaves
2 tsp. agave nectar (Maple syrup can also be used.)
2 oz. bourbon
8 oz. club soda

• In a shaker, combine 6 blackberries, 10 mint leaves and the agave nectar. Muddle until well-combined.
• Add the bourbon and plenty of ice and shake hard for 30 seconds.
• Strain into 2 martini glasses and top each with 4 ounces of club soda. Slap the remaining 2 mint leaves between your palms and garnish each drink with a leaf and a blackberry.

 

 

Stocking Up on blackberries

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

072011_blackberryBlackberries don’t always get the love they deserve. They’re usually not quite as sweet as some of their berry brethren and they can be as seedy as Skid Row. But the berries we found at the Maplewood Farmers’ Market last week were a delight, with just enough astringency to provide a welcome bite.

Blackberries have a particular affinity for peaches. Lucky for us, peaches are in season right now as well. Last week’s peach ice cream found new life when we carefully mixed in some of the berries from Centennial Farms. We’re contemplating cooking them down a little and swirling them through a pound cake batter or puréeing them to use in these fruit-filled homemade marshmallows. A friend took some of the berries and baked them into a rich custardy French tart known as clafouti. It’s traditionally made with cherries, but blackberries work just as well.

Blackberries, which could also easily go into cakes, muffins or salads, are easily affected by moisture and can get moldy fairly quickly. Counteract this by storing them in the crisper drawer and only washing them right before use. Drop a few in a glass of Prosecco for a refreshing summer quaff. But given the high temperatures this week, with no relief in sight, the best way to enjoy blackberries might be to position a cool bowlful next to you on the couch and eat them straight up, no chaser. Then you’ll feel the blackberry love.

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