Patty’s blackberry crostata (that wasn’t)

A crostata is type of pie, an Italian baked dessert tart with an open face. It has a bottom crust and a filling, but no top crust. The pastry is folded so it comes up over the edge of the fruit and forms a small rim.

I won’t write this step-by step because if you can’t make a pie already, frankly you’re doomed. Here is the abbreviated version:

  • Roll a pie crust flat and place it on a cookie sheet
  • Make filling: mix 2-3 C fruit with ¼ C sugar & 2 TBSP flour
  • Place filling on crust, stopping about 2-3″ from the edge
  • Fold the crust up and over the edge of the fruit pile
  • Use your google-fu to view methods of folding the crust
  • Bake at 218°C / 425°F for 30-35 minutes
  • Cool and devour

I made mine with blackberries, which tasted wonderful, but alas not quite so picturesque:

And it all seemed to be going so well! Until I started rolling the pastry, and then I started swearing like a sailor and shouting in rage. After it finished baking and we sampled it, I changed my mind. This tasted great. Pie + blackberries = win.

Pie crust is the bane of my existence. All of my pie crusts are uneven, torn, patched, and could not be called “round” even if you were being generous. They become something which I not-so-fondly refer to as  “Frankencrust”.

Sorry pie crust, it’s not you, it’s me.

It has to be me, because this recipe in the hands of other people works out well, which leads me to believe the problem is my pastry rolling technique, or lack thereof.  I’ve tried making the pasty in advance, refrigerating the pastry before rolling, the counter and rolling pin are nicely floured, used a chilled marble slab, rolling from the centre in the method described by others, and still no luck.

Boyfriend says I am too hard on myself, and that the taste is important, not the look. I just can’t help from wishing that I could “get it”. I want to make a pie that looks so awesome you say OMG WANT NOMNOMNOM. Not something that looks like it fell off the reject pile.

I thought a crostata was the answer I had been searching for. A pie with half the crust, how easy this will be. Hah. My cookbook has a lovely picture of a crust folded over like some ninja pastry origami, and while I knew my first attempt would probably have room for improvement, I wasn’t expect this.

If a pastry with half the amount of crust isn’t the answer, all I can do is keep trying. Boyfriend is wholly behind this idea.

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Patty’s blackberry cream puffs

A flaky pastry bursting with freshly made whipped cream and tart blackberries is a wonderful way to start your morning.

It’s a good thing I love blackberries because I still have quite a lot of them. Last night I was musing over what to make with them, using ingredients I already had in the cupboard, as I was chatting with Best Friend.

Our conversation reminded me of the day in high school that Best Friend made éclairs on a whim (the first and only time she made them), and they were perfect. This led to inspiration, since a cream puff and an éclair are the same pastry, just shaped differently, and I thought the cavernous insides of a cream puff would be the perfect place to use some berries. Voilà!

My relationship with pastry is wary at best so I used a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which is available on Amazon.ca. It’s a good hardcover with a ring binding, lots of pictures and useful tips.

Time required: 1.5 hours

Yields: 12 pastries

Cost per pastry: $2.17

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $26.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • beaters and mixing bowl
  • cookie pan
  • parchment paper

getting started

Pastry ingredients:

  • 1 C water
  • ½ C butter (one stick)
  • ½ TSP salt
  • 1 C flour
  • 4 eggs

Filling ingredients:

  • 1 C heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 2 TBSP icing sugar
  • ½ TSP vanilla
  • 2 TBSP granulated white sugar (set aside)
  • 2-3 containers of blackberries (set aside)

Good to know before you start:
Place the mixing  bowl and beaters in the fridge now to chill them for the whipped cream – some people will say you don’t need to do this but I find it helps to make a fluffy cream

Don’t stuff the pastry with the filling until ready to serve, to prevent sogginess

Instructions:

Step 1 – preheat oven to 205°C / 400°F.  Line cookie pan with parchment paper (oops, forgot to do that).

Step 2 – measure out flour and set aside.

Step 3 – in a sauce pan, combine water, butter, and salt. Heat to boiling.

Step 4 – as soon as it boils, add all the flour (don’t let it sit boiling away or it will start evaporating). Stir vigorously until dough forms a ball, and remove from heat.

Step 5 – let mixture stand on counter for 10 minutes. Then beat in eggs, one at a time.

Step 6 – drop 12 heaping spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet…. hmmmm, something is amiss!  Oh well no matter.

Step 7 – bake 30 minutes and tops should be golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer pastry to wire rack. Cool at least 40 min. (Wishing I had remembered to use parchment paper because they did stick to the pan a little.)

Step 8 – meanwhile in chilled bowl with beaters on Medium; beat heavy cream, icing sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Some people recommend you wait until the cream is beaten to add the sugar and vanilla but I wanted to get back to my Assassin’s Creed game.

Whipped cream is so easy to make, I’ll never understand why people buy it in stores when the homemade stuff is so much better.

Step 9 – wash and drain the berries.  If the berries are tart sprinkle sugar onto them and toss.

Step 10 – once pastry is cooled, use sharp knife to cut a seam near bottom of pastry, and if you look inside you’ll see it’s fairly hollow.

Step 11 – stuff those bad boys with as much whipped cream and berries as desired!! In this one, the cap of the pastry is filled to capacity. XD

Verdict: Delicious! A perfect addition to afternoon tea or to round off a meal. I suspect this will be equally tasty with blueberries or raspberries, or whatever else you fancy, or drizzled with chocolate ganache. If you have never made this type of pastry before you might be surprised by how few ingredients are required, and how quick and easy it is to make.

Playlist: Meat Loaf

Patty’s blackberry lemon loaf

I remember the first time I ate blackberries. I was in the woods with Dad exploring rural Nova Scotia in the summer, and he pointed out the blackberry cane and said they were good to eat. My first impression was “most delicious marvelous”.

I bought some blackberries the other day and wondered what I could make.

Getting started:

Time required: 3 hours (40 min prep, 1 hr baking, 1 hr cooling)

Yields: one loaf

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $32.00

Kitchen implements I used: loaf pan 8″ x 4″

Ingredients:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 TSP baking powder
  • ½ TSP baking soda
  • ½ TSP salt
  • ½ C to ¾ C sugar (less for sweet berries, more for tart)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • ½ C milk
  • 2 lemons (squeeze ¼ C lemon juice)
  • 1½ C blackberries, washed and drained

Step 1 – preheat oven to 177°C / 350°F.  Lightly grease and flour loaf pan.

Step 2 – using large bowl, whisk together: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt.  Divide this in half.

Step 3 – using medium bowl, whisk together: sugar, egg, vanilla, and vegetable oil.

Oops, forgot the vegetable oil.

Step 4 – stir half of the dry mix into the wet.

Step 5 – stir in milk and lemon juice. Added the forgotten vegetable oil.

Step 6 – stir remaining dry mix into wet.

Step 7 – fold in berries.  Don’t over stir the batter now or the berries will bleed (unless you want purple streaks through the loaf, if so go crazy)

Step 8 – spoon batter into pan, use spatula to flatten it out

Step 9 – bake 40-50 minutes, when loaf is done toothpick comes out clean (I baked this for 55 min and found the top a bit overdone). Run a knife along the edges of the loaf to loosen from the pan.

Step 10 – let loaf sit in pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan, then cool one hour before slicing. Oh bloody hell not again!!

Sigh. This is now the 5th time my cake-like creation has cracked in twain. On the other hand, I did get a really interesting picture that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

I’m getting really tired of this!!

Verdict: it tasted lovely but looked hideous. I’m at a loss as to why this keeps happening. Next time I’ll reduce baking time by 10 minutes, but I’m not sure what to do to prevent the splitting. <sad face>