red fruit summer pudding

IMG_7840A perfect, perfect dessert for summer gatherings in Oregon, this lovely, solid, old-fashioned British chilled pudding is laden with sweetened berry and cherry juice.  I use red currants, raspberries, and tayberries from the garden, plus a glut of sour cherries and a good slosh of homemade cranberry liqueur.  Life is good.

It’s fine to use dark berries, but I like the study in red.  In fact, this recipe is based on one for blackberries that I wrote for the Register-Guard a number of years ago, since disappeared (see purple pic below).

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Also nice: you can take the crusts and layer them in a small bowl, then use any remaining berry compote to make a red fruit summer pudding for a solo breakfast, comme ça:

IMG_7837Just press and chill just like the big pudding.

This dessert is a show stopper and should be made for an otherwise humdrum potluck at least once a year in July, when the sour cherries are ripe.  If you are fortunate enough to have access to endless flats of berries, like we are in the Willamette Valley, it’s not terrifically expensive, just a small luxury, but the costs may be prohibitive elsewhere. Sorry!  :)  You could use frozen and thawed fruit, but it’s not really the same.

Red Fruit Summer Pudding

Serves 8-10.

The proportions in this recipe are for an 8-inch glass mixing bowl. Use glass to see how well the juice has soaked into the bread.  You may use a 1-1/2-quart soufflé dish or large glass loaf pan, but there may be fruit left over. Frozen fruit may be used for this recipe, and it actually helps if the raspberries are frozen so they’ll release more juice. Plan for an overnight refrigeration.

  • 6 cups raspberries, preferably pre-frozen
  • 6 cups fresh, pitted sour cherries with juice
  • 2 cups red currants, gooseberries, or a mix of both
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red fruit liqueur or a little kirsch
  • 1 loaf firm, high-quality white bread (I’ve used Market of Choice’s crumpet bread with good results; don’t use sourdough)
  • extra berries for garnish
  • whipped cream for serving

In a stockpot, bring the 14 cups of berries and sugar up to a simmer. Cook until the sugar is melted and the berries release their juices, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the kirsch.

Remove the crusts from the bread and slice it into 1/2-inch slices if you are not using pre-sliced bread.

Line bowl with plastic wrap to ease the removal of the pudding. Use enough wrap to let it hang over the sides for folding over the top when you finish.

Place the slices of bread around the bottom and side of the bowl, overlapping the slices slightly and cutting pieces to fit the holes where necessary.

Set aside and refrigerate one cup of berries with juice for the final presentation.

Working slowly, ladle 3-4 cups of berries and juice over the bread, pressing juice and pulp into the bread on the sides of the bowl as well as the bottom. Pour half of the berries into the bread-lined pan, and spread them over the bottom layer of bread to cover the entire surface.

Add another layer of bread on top of the berry and bread layer, placing and cutting pieces as before. Spread out about half the remaining berries on the sides and bottom of the layer of bread.

Cover with a final layer of bread, and add the remaining berries and juice.

Fold the plastic wrap over the bread on top. Before placing in the refrigerator, find a plate or other flat surface to fit on top of the pudding, inside the bowl. Weigh down the plate with a large can of tomatoes or large bag of beans. Refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, unfold the plastic wrap and use it to help invert the pudding onto a large serving plate. Remove the bowl and the plastic wrap. You may see spots that are not fully stained with juice. Use the reserved juice to color in these spots, and pour the rest on the sides of the pudding. Garnish with extra fresh berries.  Cut into slices and serve with whipped cream.

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juicyberry pie: recipe for all juicy berries

IMG_7819

Since my haskapberries went bonkers this year, I thought I’d turn some into pie.  The texture of these berries, which look like elongated blueberries and taste like a combination of tart boysenberry and wine grapes, is soft and juicier than blueberries.

Haskapberries!  I think I finally picked the last of them yesterday.  Not bad for a crop that ripened in the third week of May this year.  The berries sweetened and softened on the bushes, too, making even the annoyingly clingiest bush easy to pick.

IMG_7529This recipe is an adaptation of my blackberry pie recipe, but it works for haskaps and all juicy berries, really.  The main idea is to showcase the raw berry flavor and texture, but hold together the filling with a “paste” of cooked berries with a little thickener added.

Why am I so convinced this is the way to go?  Ah yes, my juice factory with the last haskapberry pie I made:

IMG_7666Tasted great; bled like a stuck pig.  So yeah, trust in me…I fail for you!

Plan ahead: the pie crust, the berry sauce, and the finished pie all need to be chilled before serving.  You’ll also need to buy some Clear Jel, a modified food starch that doesn’t break down after time, like corn starch does; you might substitute corn starch for less satisfactory results.

IMG_7664Juicyberry Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie.

  • 5-6 cups fresh haskapberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, or any juicy berry
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Clear Jel
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 prebaked and cooled pie shell (see recipe below)

The day before or several hours before you assemble the pie: prebake and cool a 9-inch pie crust.

In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of berries and water. Mash berries well. Heat until boiling on medium high heat. In a small bowl, mix Clear Gel and sugar. When berries are boiling, add sugar mixture to berries, stirring constantly for one minute to set the starch and thicken the juice. When thick, remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Don’t omit the cooling process.

(Whoa!!  A note from our sponsor about blueberries:  You might want to add the fresh blueberries to the hot slurry mix instead of waiting for it to cool down so they soften a bit.  Your goal is to have a fresh tasting pie, not cooked, but blueberries benefit from a little taming.)

Pour cooled sauce over top of rest of fresh berries in a large bowl.  Stir gently to combine with sauce, trying not to break berries. Chill well, at least an hour before serving.

Slice with sharp knife and use pie server to aid transfer of servings, as the pie will be looser than pies made with cooked fruit. Top with whipped or ice cream.

Prebaked Pie Crust

1/4 cup cold water with ice cubes in it
3/4 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I’ve tried soft pastry flour and white whole wheat; it never works as well as just plain ol’ flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
9 Tbsp. (4 ½ oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

About 30 minutes before you plan to make the crust, throw butter and a bowl of iced water in the freezer.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend, then  add the chilled butter.  Pulse until it looks like a coarse meal (the old way is to say ‘alligator’ six times) and the butter is in tiny pieces but still very visible.  Measure out 1/4 cup of water from your chilled bowl of ice water, then add the vinegar to the water.  Slowly add the water-vinegar mixture to the flour meal, pulsing until the dough starts to come together.  You want it to be right on the borderline between crumbly and a clump of dough.  You may need to add a tiny bit more water.

Gather the dough and mound it on a clean surface.  Now here’s the fun part.  Take egg-sized bits and press down with the heel of your hand, “smearing” the butter and flour together.  Then shape all the dough into a disk about 1 ½ inches thick, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it for a few hours to two days.

When you are ready to roll, take the dough out to soften for 15-30 minutes (you want it cold but pliable, and not sticky).

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle with the diameter of about 11 inches. As you roll from the center outward, turn the dough so you ensure it doesn’t stick.  Add flour to the surface and your pin as needed. Transfer the dough gently into your pie dish, and press it to shape.

Trim any dough to about an inch larger than the dish edge, then fold the dough under, pinch all along the top, and prick dough with a fork all over, including the sides. Place the pie crust in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Bake the empty pie shell (this is called blindbaking, and helps combat sogginess) for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown, on the lower third of the oven.

Cool the pie shell to room temperature before adding filling.

 

strawberry candy

IMG_7662As happy as I am to usher in strawberry season, it’s really just a prelude to raspberry season for me.  I’m not really a huge fan of strawberry jam, since I find it discolors more quickly than other berry jams, and the pieces are often too big and slippery.  My favorite preparation for strawberries is, instead, dehydrated slices that taste sweeter and cleaner than other dried berries do when dried.

IMG_7591Sliced at 1/4-inch thick and dried until crisp at 135 degrees, they make great additions to trail mix, cheese plates, oatmeal, and granola.  The trick is to slice them evenly (do not follow my example here), get them fresh, pick a large, solid variety (Hoods or Tillamooks work well; avoid Seascapes or Shuksans) and make way more than you think you’ll need.  I sometimes wait until the end of the season so I can get a deal on a flat after everyone has tired of eating these delicious morsels fresh with cream, as we do.

Have little strawberries left over?  I’ve stopped using supermarket California strawberries for my annual strawberry clay facial mask because of the pesticides (no, I’d never eat them).  So make a facial from nice organic Oregon ones instead!

duck egg leche flan for pi day

IMG_5784Of the fowl I coddled recently on a two-week farm stay, I became a duck supporter.  Go Ducks!  I had heard that ducks have a presence that chickens lack, and it’s true. Their soft, smooth heads and facial expressions just charmed the pants off me. And they don’t have roosters who insist on pecking me and they’re not geese, period.  Seriously, a plus.

I was helping out some family farmers who needed livestock coverage in nearby Cottage Grove, a bucolic little rural town of covered bridges, plant nurseries, bookshops, and great breakfasts.  Part of my daily job was to process dozens of eggs from 24 chickens, a single egg a day from the horrible four-goose thug team, and whatever eggs the six ducks saw fit to lay.  I also had to milk two goats, an endeavor I enjoyed quite a bit, and one I’ll write about later.

IMG_5966So I suddenly found myself in the middle of the road of my life, surrounded by eggs.  I’ve been experimenting quite a bit.  I was reminded how delicious a classic béarnaise sauce is with a ribeye steak.  I learned that, despite a promising concept and the heart willing, leftover béarnaise sauce does not a good scrambled egg make.  I’ve made a glorious caramel duck egg bread pudding, a single goose egg chilaquiles (above), frittata, aioli, and Alice B. Toklas’ tricolor omelette with spinach and saffron layers, draped with tomato sauce.

And, my friends, I made this.

IMG_6024Duck egg leche flan with blood orange.  Doesn’t look like much, does it?  But o o o o that simple appearance belies a rich, deep, exquisite flavor of almost savory sweet egg custard, and the whole thing is bathed in caramel.  It’s a Filipino specialty, and traditionally relies on creamy water buffalo milk and a sour lime called a dayap (similar to a calamansi), but now uses pantry ingredients.  I opted for the “traditional” version with evaporated milk and condensed milk, managing to source some organic varieties of both.  For some thoughts on the rich variety of recipes using different kinds of dairy and eggs or whole eggs, click here.  I may still try it with cream and honey, but I present you with my first go, which was absolutely delicious.

The recipe uses 12 duck egg yolks.  If you ever find yourself in duck egg heaven, you won’t regret making it, since duck eggs are noticeably richer than their chicken cousins, but farm-fresh chicken egg yolks would work too.  It just wouldn’t be as rich.  And I hate to be a snob, but I wouldn’t bother making this with grocery store eggs and their pale yellow, tasteless yolks.

The traditional mold, a llanera, can be replaced by a cake or pie dish or ramekin.  A ramekin will give you less caramel on top, so screw that.  I found it much more reliable to bake the flan in a water bath versus steaming it (also more traditional).

What to do with the duck egg whites?  Well, they’re thicker and richer than chicken eggs, so they don’t work the same way in cakes and pastries.  I suggest beating them to soft peaks and making chiles rellenos out of them, which is what we had for dinner the night of the flan.  Yes, it’s decadent, but hey, I’ve got farm work to do.

Duck Egg Leche Flan with Blood Orange

Serves 12, very rich.

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 12 duck eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 can condensed milk (best quality), 14 oz.
  • 1 can evaporated milk (best quality), 12 oz.

Prepare a waterbath for a 10-inch cake pan or deep pie dish using a roasting pan or similar that will allow you to fit the dish in the pan and add hot water.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place your cake pan next to the stove.  In a light-colored skillet, melt and caramelize the sugar on low heat.  As it melts, gently push the unmelted sugar into the melted sugar to help keep the heating constant.

Watch the skillet constantly, especially near the end, as burning is quick and fatal.  You want a medium-dark brown color, but dark brown will impart a bitter flavor, so take it off the heat immediately when done, and pour it into your reserved cake pan, tilting the pan for a thin layer and ensuring that the caramel goes on the sides as well as the bottom.

Place the pan in the roasting pan, and add very hot water to about midway up the side of the cake pan.

Zest the orange and squeeze about a tablespoon of juice.  Add to egg yolks in a medium bowl, and whisk.  Reserve whites for another use.  Whisk in condensed and evaporated milk, then pour batter into caramelized cake pan.  Place pan into water bath prepared earlier, and cook until just set, about 1 hour.  A knife inserted in the middle should come out almost completely clean (the caramel will make the tip wet).  Don’t overcook.

Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours.  Carefully slide a thin spatula around the sides of the pan, then invert onto a dish quickly.  Be sure the dish is large enough for the liquid caramel on the bottom.

Serve with whipped unsweetened cream, berries, or supremed blood oranges, grapefruit, and limes tossed with a little Grand Marnier.

silky wild plum jam

IMG_3945Well, the bright side is that I keep getting tiny signs from the universe that there’s a branch over my head just laden with juicy, impossibly blueberry bloomy blue fruit, ripe for the plucking.  It’s just a matter of timing and overcoming myopia and finding a stable ladder. I’m trying, and so far I’ve been pelted on the head a few dozen times and threatened by an overhanging spider and infested with earwigs and ants enjoying their lunch.  I’m pretty sure something dropped down into my bra and bit me where the sun don’t shine.  But always a little fear in pleasure, in possibility.

So. Jam. To measure the sugar you need and get a sense of the yield, you’ll need to imagine how the plums will reduce to a purée once cooked. I filled a standard colander with 5 and a half pounds of small plums, and used 4 cups of sugar in a single 5-quart pot. It yielded 7 half-pints. Your needs will vary.

This jam is all about found fruit, especially the ornamental “cherry plums,” the golfball-sized drupes that cover those pesky feral plum trees that spring up all over the place, including your yard. I had a yellow one in Berkeley, cut down a red one in my yard in Eugene, understood when the neighbors cut down the burgundy-foliaged one in their yard.  It also works for Damsons or Santa Rosas or any juicy, smallish fruit fresh from the orchard.  The recipe is adapted from Linda Ziedrich‘s damson plum recipe, in fact.  I kept the flavor simple, as it really can’t be improved.  You might add a slug of slivovitz at the end, or perhaps a tiny bit of clove.

You won’t be cooking this one terribly long, a blessing in the heat. Plums have plenty of pectin; that’s the silky texture. Wild plums have clingstone pits, so plan on cooking them in and straining them out later.

Silky Wild Plum Jam

I like what plum skins do to jam, coloring and flavoring it, but if you strain them out with a food mill, the jam will be a wonderful soft, clean, pure texture — perfect on skin, as a friend says.

  • Small cherry plums
  • Sugar (3/4 cup per cup of plum purée)

Rinse ripe plums just after picking, and place in covered pot with a bit of water (no more than a half cup).  Simmer for about 10 minutes until the skins burst, then uncover and stir, pressing the flesh down with a spatula or spoon. Simmer for another 10 minutes until plums have fallen apart.  Pits may or may not rise to the surface.  You will be lucky if they do.

Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle.  Skim, strain, and squeeze the pulp from the skin and pits.  You might try a mesh colander or a food mill.  This process may be difficult and messy, as some plums won’t yield up their pits easily, so you may find even a food mill ineffective.  If worse comes to worse, don a pair of food service gloves and pluck the pits out with your fingers, squeezing them to get all flesh off.

Once you have a pot full of delicious pulp, measure it.  For each cup of pulp, add 3/4 cups of sugar and begin the jam process.

Wash your jars, rings, and lids, and heat the lids according to the package instructions as you’re heating up the waterbath canner.

Cook jam down over medium high heat until it thickens and passes a gel test (perhaps 15 minutes?), stirring very frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot.

Remove from heat and let sit for a couple minutes.  Skim foam from top. Spoon the hot jam into jars carefully to reduce bubbles, leaving 1/4-inch head space.  Wipe rims of jars and adjust lids and rings.  Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

berries with frothy custard clouds

IMG_3571I have my repertoire of berry recipes indexed, if you’re interested, but my new obsession is berries with frothy custard clouds…or as the Italians call it, zabaglione.  The first time I had it, I was a teenager, and thought it was the most exquisite dessert in the world.  I’m not sure if I’ve been disabused of that notion.

It wasn’t just the taste of the custard. I said the word to myself repeatedly, slowly, sensually: zah-BAG-lee-OHN. As a word, it was a marriage between other things I loved to say: zamboni and linguine and Sierra Lione.  It was much nicer, indeed, than the French word sabayon, a similar custard, the cookbooks told me, but one that seemed vastly different to me — almost smug in that way the French can be. No, zabaglione was what I wanted to float away upon if I could choose any liquid for Lethe.  Zabaglione, take me away…

And as a young adult who reads more about the world than circles it soon discovers, I realized I had been saying it incorrectly.  ZAH-bahl-YOH-nay.  Makes sense, no?  Much closer to sabayon, much further away from my version of linguistic heaven where custard canoodles on the perfectly shaven-smooth clouds of West Africa.

Nevertheless, it’s still good, the perfect summer evening dessert.  With three ingredients: farm fresh egg yolks, sugar, and marsala wine (the sweet, fortified wine you can find in better supermarkets, but for godsake don’t buy the cheap stuff), it’s easy to count on it.  Use the best eggs you can. Ones straight from the chicken will yield a lemon yellow custard; supermarket eggs, even good quality, will give you more of a pale froth.

You’ll need a strong arm.  It’s a thin custard, sometimes served like a soup, but you’ll need to froth it to triple its volume.  I’ve long loved the small drama of walking around a dinner party whipping cream by hand with a big whisk.  Whipping the zabaglione takes just as long, anywhere from 10-15 minutes, and you really want a full volume.  Pour it into long, skinny glasses over your favorite fresh berries, either macerated with a bit of sugar and marsala or just left nude as the way you found ’em.

And don’t skimp, you frugal American, as I did in the photo.  I saw a version at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco a couple of months ago that was served absolutely overflowing a tall pilsner (?) glass, frothing down over the sides of the glass and piled up a little on the charger plate.  It was a disaster and fabulous and a showstopper.

If you’re interested in stabilizing the custard and serving it cold, see Elise Bauer’s recipe or others for the incorporation of whipped cream.  You might also try Marcella Hazan’s cold red wine version, reprinted here.  Just don’t put any extra flavoring crap in it, like vanilla.  It’s perfect the way it is.

I was charmed by Giovanna Zivny’s history of the recipe, which reports the old fashioned way was to make the custard using the egg shell as a measurement, with a 1:1:2 ratio (egg yolk: sugar: marsala), so that’s how I eyeball it when I add the sugar and wine.  Egg shells, however, differ in size and it’s an utterly bad way to measure things, not to mention the recontamination issues when handling egg shells in a dish that’s already suspect because the eggs aren’t completely cooked.

Also notable is that Zivny never uses a double boiler, so it’s not essential, but if you don’t your custard won’t be as frothy and will surely curdle on the bottom. Also, you might need to worry about the higher level of heat if using fragile glasses.  Does that stop me?  No.  But you might be more particular, or have nicer glasses.

Zabaglione

Serves two, preferably lovers, and preferably on a warm summer night.  Whisper it to your partner in a husky voice: ZAH-bahl-YOH-nay is served!

  • 3 eggs, as fresh as possible
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Marsala or another fortified or sweet wine
  • 2 cups or more fresh berries of your choice

Separate the eggs, place the yolks in a small bowl, and reserve the whites for another use.

Clean and slice berries, if necessary, and place in tall glasses or wine glasses.

Prepare the double boiler by placing 1-2 inches of water in a medium saucepan, then place a stainless bowl on top of the pan. Note you’ll need a large bowl to accommodate the whisking and triple-volume of the final product.

Bring water to a gentle boil on medium-low heat.

Whisk together the wine and sugar in the heated bowl until sugar dissolves.  Add eggs, whisking constantly, and whisk them for 10-15 minutes, until the custard has thickened slightly, tripled in volume, and is very foamy and pale in color.  If the eggs start to cook, turn the heat down to low and remove the bowl for a few seconds.  Be careful, as this custard, like all custards, will break if overcooked.

Serve immediately, pouring the custard over the berries until barely overflowing.

the juices of june

IMG_3534My hands are Oregon hands, stained wine-dark with the juices of June. My arms, too, are speckled with red, but that’s my own blood from being stuck, a reminder of the thorns that accompany the best pleasures.  On my t-shirt there’s a mix of berries and blood.  The juices of June.

Within moments of returning home, I was in the garden picking handfuls of raspberries and black raspberries.  I didn’t need a bowl, not where those berries were going.  My right hand man gave me fingers to pluck; my left was bowl and scoop.  As soon as I filled up my primal vessel I did as the cavemen (in Oregon? Sure — poetic license), yes, the cavemen did: stuffed the entire handful in my mouth.

Because I can.

My lust for these berries won’t be sated for another month.  I planted another row last year, and it’s still not even remotely enough.  I’ll u-pick them, buy flats at the market, buy flats at the farm, buy them in restaurants and pick them at friends’ places.

It’s gluttony, I know, and thanks to teaching the Professeur, M. Brillat-Savarin, for so many years now, I know the difference between the gourmand — the delicately attuned lover of food with a capacious palate and appetite for the finest and most appropriate foods for his class — and me, the glutton.  It doesn’t matter where and how when it comes to raspberries, I just want to stuff my face with them.  Even when I lived in California, I’d buy those horrible cellpaks of ‘Willamettes,’ which are harder and larger than some of the other Oregon varieties of raspberries so we trade them to our neighbor to the south for their inedible monster “strawberries.”  But unlike the strawberries, I’d buy those horrible cellpaks with their nasty kleenex pad and eat raspberries all in one sitting, just so I could take some edge off the craving.

Here in Oregon, I can eat the soft ones and the sweet ones, the acidic ones and the monstrous ones, the golden ones, the dark ones and the pink ones and the warm ones bright in the sun.  We have a month of fresh raspberries ahead.  I like raspberries far more than strawberries, which are delicious but always seemed a little obvious to me, kind of like a sweet plump girl who means no harm and doesn’t quite get the jokes.  They have a dumb-looking bonnet and they get turned into cartoons.  Raspberries, on the other hand, lent their name to that gross gesture of blowing spitty air out of your mouth.  Raspberries have a bit of punk in them.

And if raspberries have an edge, black raspberries are rude boys.  Raspberries I always knew, but I remember very well the first time I spotted black raspberries under the stairs leading down to my grandfather’s dock in northern Michigan.  I’m not sure how old I was, but I must have been close to the ground, even though those steps were steep.  Anyway, they were feral and growing through the stairs to scratch the legs of little girls.  I had to eat them.  I knew I’d get pricked and didn’t know if they were poison or not, but they were glossy and becoming and beckoning.

My parents weren’t in sight, and my grandfather was busy gutting fish down the dock.  He held a chinook aloft and showed me the egg sac.

“You see this? Rich people pay good money for these fish eggs,” and with a snort he dumped it all with the guts in the bucket.

Rich people, thought I, would pay me good money for these shiny berry eggs.  So I’m going to taste them.  And when I did and their wild dark tart sweet seedy little bits entered my mouth for the first time, I realized some things were too precious to be sold to rich people.  My black raspberry empire thus ended where it began, in Manistee, Michigan.

Now I grow them and I still don’t have enough, but I know I’m the luckiest girl in the world for just one second in June when I collect them by the handful and take that very first mouthful, unadorned.  I close my eyes and am grateful, hardly possibly, for another year.