It is time once again for my annual raspberry post. You see, early June is my time to contemplate all things raspberry. Why now? What’s stopping me from meditating on the delights of baked and fresh raspberry dishes in, say, April when spring starts, or July when everyone is making juicy fruit crisps? The answer is simple really: raspberries are actually in season now. Not in April or July. Now. Sure you can buy raspberries all year long; and if you’re a commercial grower I’m sure you can extend the season from early spring to late summer or even fall. But if you are a home gardener, this is your raspberry moment.
One thing to know about growing your own raspberries is that you can pretty much forget about the vines for most of the year. In my backyard, they sit alongside a fence near the barbecue. Throughout the summer they pretty much act as a green foliage background to cover up the fence. When summer is done, their leaves change color a bit and then start to fall, memories of their luscious fruit barely concealed by the apples that are ripening heavily above them. By the time winter arrives, I’m focused on pruning, cutting back dead wooden stalks to make room for younger shoots that will emerge soon, the skeletons of old flower buds that once housed berries now dry and sitting vacant. When spring arrives I am struck with just how lovely the small white flower buds are, peaking out of the verdant green leaves that are new and growing toward the sky. I’m always amazed at just how tall those vines then become in the span of a month or two, maturing and getting leggy like a young teenager until they reach the lower limbs of my apple tree. And then just when I’m getting ready for summer, the berries appear. It’s clandestine at first, with only a few hiding under lower leaves, their rich raspberry red peeking out. Excited and anxious to taste them, my family stands right out amidst the vines, eating as we pick, with none making their way into the house. Each day more berries ripen, until we are overwhelmed with them a week later, the vines literally drooping, laden with fruit.
It seem miraculous just how big my patch has become, and numerous the berries. After all, I planted only one lone vine in a gallon pot six years ago. Since that time, my patch has grown from a small one-foot area to 10 feet, now spanning half my side yard. Even better is that these vines are thornless, so I can let my kids romp through them on berry-picking missions without worrying about scratched arms or poked faces.
So what do we do with our haul of berries? In years past we have eaten our share of berry shortcakes and I’ve also tried my hand at making raspberry jam. This year, however, I decided to focus on making tarts. After years of purchasing expensive pastry cream and fruit tarts from La Farine, I thought it was time to get over my fear of making the perfect crust and cream filling. When all was said and done, my trusty pie crust recipe (which is really BAB blogger, Kim Laidlaw’s crust recipe) worked beautifully, and the pastry cream (a Williams-Sonoma recipe) couldn’t have been easier to whip up. My husband even said he liked the tart better than La Farine’s, although I wonder if he just liked saving the money.
So if you find yourself with some sweet ripe raspberries, try making a tart. It’s really the nicest way I can think of to bask in the season.
Recipe: Seasonal Raspberry Tart with Pastry Cream
A summer tart made with freshly prepared pastry cream, a flaky crust and just-picked raspberries.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Yield: 1 10-inch tart
2 cups fresh raspberries (washed and air dried)
1 batch pastry cream (see recipe below)
1 batch of tart dough (see recipe below)
1. Fit tart dough into your pan and blind bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Be sure to set some foil or parchment paper on top of the dough and then weigh it down with either pie weights or dried beans (which will become inedible after baking) to keep the dough from bubbling up in the oven.
2. Remove tart dough from the oven and remove the pie weights/beans and parchment paper/foil. Bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
3. When crust is cooled, spread the pastry cream along the bottom and then nestle the raspberries on top. You can dump them all on or organize in circles for a more uniform appearance.
4. Serve as is or top with whipped cream.
Recipe: Pastry Cream
(From Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home by Chuck Williams and Kristine Kidd, printed with permission from Weldon Owen)
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 1 cup
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well blended. Slowly add about one-third of the hot milk to the bowl with the yolk-sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Then pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer.
Remove from the heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a heatproof bowl. Gently stir in the butter until melted, then stir in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Poke a few holes in the plastic wrap to hasten cooling. Let cool, then cover tightly and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.
Recipe: Flaky Pie or Tart Dough
(Adapted from a recipe by Kim Laidlaw)
Prep time: 10 minutes + 30 minutes refrigeration
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: Enough for one 10-inch tart
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water + 1 tablespoon
1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, and salt. Sprinkle the butter over the top and process for a few seconds, or just until the butter is slightly broken up into the flour but still in visible pieces. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture evenly, then process until the mixture just starts to come together.
2. Dump the mixture out of the bowl onto 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Press the dough together into a mound and then wrap with plastic and press into a flat disk. Refrigerate the dough until chilled, about 30 minutes or up to 1 day, or freeze for up to 1 month.