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Snacking, In Cobblers, On Tarts

Posted: May 30, 2012 - 9:02am
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Not only are berries such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries among the most colorful fruits on the planet, they are also some of the healthiest. Fact-based evidence suggests that the same compounds (anthocyanins) responsible for giving berries their glorious red, blue and purple hues also contain properties that can help fight the aging process, cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancers.
Not only are berries such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries among the most colorful fruits on the planet, they are also some of the healthiest. Fact-based evidence suggests that the same compounds (anthocyanins) responsible for giving berries their glorious red, blue and purple hues also contain properties that can help fight the aging process, cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancers.

The berries pictured here speak for themselves. Both delicious and beautiful,  "super food" berries are little dynamos of nutrients whose intense blue, purple and red hues serve as  visual indicators of the powerful antioxidant compounds  they contain. Science aside, there are emotional ties to enjoying berries, too, as many of us, including me, recall berry-picking excursions when more berries were eaten in the wild than were actually  taken home. Sometimes outings provided enough berries for making a pie or cobbler, but mostly we ate fresh-picked berries out of hand, or as toppings for tarts, similar to the delicious pastry cream tart featured here. Today, I buy more berries than I pick, and when they are in season and prices are good, I buy a lot. Keeping berries from spoiling can be a problem, however, so this tip shared by Sun City resident, Caroline Kennedy, whose mouth-watering recipe for "Peach-Blackberry Cobbler" follows, is particularly valuable: "Wash berries in a bowl with 3 cups of cold water mixed with a cup of white vinegar. Drain in colander and rinse un der cold running water. Place berries in a salad spinner lined with three layers of paper towels. Sp1in for 15 seconds, or until the berries are completely dry. Alternatively, lay berries on a terry cloth towel and cover with another towel until dry. Store berries in a paper towel-lined sealable container, keeping lid slightly open to allow excess moisture to escape. Raspberries last a week, or more. Strawberries, a lmost two weeks." If you decide to freeze your berries after they are rinsed and dried, chill them thoroughly in the refrigerator before freezing. Not only does chilling the berries hinder freezer burn, but also the berries will freeze faster, which helps to minimize damage to the cell structure of the fruit.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Easy Peach & Blackberry Cobbler

Recipe courtesy Caroline Kennedy, Bluffton
"Full of peach and blackberry flavor. Next time use blueberries or
raspberries in place of blackberries." -- Caroline Kennedy


1 recipe piecrust or half of a (15-ounce) box of refrigerated piecrust (1 roll)

For the filling
6 firm but ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
2 cups fresh blackberries, picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg     
1/2 cup granulated sugar, separated
Unsalted butter for greasing baking dish   

For the egg wash
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk

Vanilla bean ice cream, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. In a large bowl, gently toss peaches and blackberries with cornstarch. Mix in lemon juice and nutmeg, taking care not to break up the fruit. Pour mixture into prepared dish, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar over all; set aside. Roll out pastry to fit the top of the baking dish. Place pastry over the filling and crimp the edges. For the egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and milk. Using a pastry brush, evenly brush the pastry with the egg wash. Cut a few slits in the pastry to vent, then sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining  cup of sugar. Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and juices slightly thickened. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with ice cream, if using.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Glazed Strawberry - Topped Pastry Cream Tart

Dough for a 9-inch tart shell (recipe follows)
2 1/2 cups pastry cream (recipe follows)
3 cups washed, hulled and sliced strawberries
Fruit glaze for brushing strawberries (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the tart shell: Using a 9-inch non-stick tart pan, fitted with a removable bottom, press the tart dough onto the bottom and firmly up the sides of the pan. Prick the bottom of the dough in several places (this is called "docking") then freeze for 20 minutes. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and set aside. To fill the tart shell with pastry cream: Once the pastry cream is cooked to the consistency of mayonnaise, remove from heat and pour the pastry cream into the pastry shell. To prevent a skin from forming on top of the pastry cream, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface, then refrigerate for 2 hours. When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap, garnishing top of tart with sliced strawberries. Once all the strawberries have been placed, brush them lightly with fruit glaze and serve. Makes 1 (9-inch) tart.

For the tart shell and pastry cream

Recipes courtesy "Pie it Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes & Other Pastries Reinvented," by Gesine Bullock-Prado; Stewart, Tabori & Chang, publishers (www.abramsbooks.com).

For the Sweet Tart Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Easy Peach and Blackberry Cobbler
Recipe courtesy Caroline Kennedy, Bluffton
"Full of peach and blackberry flavor. Next time use blueberries or raspberries in place of blackberries." -- Caroline Kennedy

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into chunks)
1 1/2 tablespoons beaten egg
1 1/2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract


In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the blade attachment, pulse together the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, condensed milk and vanilla. Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, while pulsing; continue until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently knead it until the dry ingredients are fully integrated and the dough holds together, being careful not to overwork it. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the Pastry Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a simmer over medium-high heat. At the same time, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, vanilla and salt until smooth and well combined. With the mixer still running on low, to prevent splashing, carefully pour the hot milk/cream mixture down the side of the mixing bowl and into the sugar/egg yolk mixture. Raise the speed to high and beat until the ingredients are well blended. Transfer the mixture into the saucepan, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure you get all the stray bits of cornstarch and sugar. Whisk the custard over medium heat until it thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise. Kitchen Ade Note: At this point, continue with recipe as directed above. (Makes 2 1/2 cups.)

Fruit Glaze for Tarts
1/2 cup good quality fruit preserves, such as apricot, peach or berry (I like Harry & David brand)
2 tablespoons water

In a small saucepan, over low heat, heat preserves and water until bubbly, then carefully strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits of fruit or seeds. With a pastry brush, brush warm glaze over fruit. Makes 1/2 cup.

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