Note: I had every intention of sitting down today and writing out the rest of my tips for better bread baking. But it is too hot to even think about baking bread, and so I offer up this more refreshing post instead. Despite the heat, I am planning to make sourdough onion rye tomorrow, so hopefully that will inspire me to finish the list. Check back soon!
I recently celebrated a major success in the garden. After eleven years, I finally harvested my first raspberry crop. It wasn't big enough to make jars and jars of jam or anything (oh, just the thought makes my mouth water), but it was deinitely more than the two or three berries that made up previous bounties.
I have planted various types of raspberry canes at least six different times in at least six different places, but for one reason or another (poor soil, not enough sun, poisoned by the roots of a nearby walnut tree), they never did very well. And then two years ago, my little brown raspberry-growing thumb turned green. That was the time my Latham red raspberry canes arrived in the mail before I was ready for them. Not only had I been unable to locate 30 linear feet of suitable growing space that was safe from marauding sheep, but the moonsigns were also wrong--it wasn't a good time to plant (and I needed all the help I could get).
If the roots are sufficiently moist, most mail-ordered plants and canes and even trees can usually survive a few extra days in their original packaging. I was looking at weeks. Desperate, I decided to temporarily plant them (much too close together) in the mounded-up soil along the south-facing side of the greenhouse. They went wild.
Inspired, last April I purchased six baby raspberry plants at a nearby farmer's market for fifty cents apiece. They were "suckers" that had been dug up from the seller's garden, which meant that they were already accustomed to our inhospitable climate. I was assured that they were trouble-free and would produce delicious berries all summer long. I planted them along the north-facing side of the greenhouse and mulched them with lots of hay and sheep manure. They are so happy that some of them are already covered with blossoms.
But back to my ruby red bounty. What to do with them? What to do? Something so precious as one's first raspberry crop requires thoughtful consideration. No gobbling them up straight from the colander. No burying them in brownies or smashing them into a sauce. They should be presented in their original luscious beauty, but in a way that will make the small harvest go further. Aha! I dusted off my recipe for Really Raspberry Tartlets.
I created this recipe years ago when I was still living in California. I would buy pints and pints of both red and golden raspberries from Kozlowski Farms at the Thursday Night Farmer's Market and make two-toned tartlets. In her book, The Berry Bible, author Janie Hibler explains that "when seeds of red raspberries are grown, about one out of every 1,000 produces yellow or apricot colored fruit rather than red. Other than color, these raspberries are the same as typical red raspberries. The most widely grown cultivar is Fall Gold." I believe Kozlowski Farms was the first commercial grower of golden raspberries.
These sweet little treats combine two of my favorite things--cheesecake and berry pie--into one wonderfully easy dessert. And although I often say that fresh garden bounty is best enjoyed unadorned, I think these tartlets actually bring out the flavor of the raspberries. (And your friends and loved ones will be much happier than if you just served them a tiny dish of seven or eight naked berries.)
They travel well and are perfect for all kinds of meals and settings. You can pack them on a picnic or brush them with a red currant jelly glaze and serve them at a formal dinner. You can arrange them on a large platter garnished with fresh mint leaves and set them out at a buffet. They require no silverware, are not messy, and can be eaten standing up.
I call them Really Raspberry Tartlets not because of their overpowering berryness (though I suppose you could pile a lot more berries onto them if you wanted to), but because that is what they are: a really nice way to showcase your raspberries, really simple to make, really easy to gobble up two or three before you've realized it.
They are made with a very friendly cream cheese pastry which you do not even have to roll out. I actually taught an entire class devoted to this delightful dough called "Never Fail Cream Cheese Pastry To The Rescue." If you have never produced a decent crust in your life, you can successfully make one with this recipe. Variations of it abound in cookbooks; it is a caterer's secret weapon.
I do suggest that you make enough to allow for more than one tartlet per person, as they tend to disappear rather quickly. As always, I encourage you to use organic ingredients whenever possible.
Really Raspberry Tartlets
Makes 10--May Be Doubled
1 cup flour
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
Using an electric mixer, mix together flour, cream cheese, butter, and salt until a dough forms.Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours). If chilled longer than 1 hour, let the dough warm up at room temperature for about 20 minutes. If you are in a hurry, you can place the dough in the freezer to chill for 15-20 minutes.
Divide the dough into 10 balls and place them in a standard size muffin pan. Press each dough ball into the bottom and up the sides of the muffin cup to form a shell. Bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned, about 20-25 minutes. Carefully invert the pan to the remove baked shells, and cool on a wire rack. (Note: the pastry shells can be made a day in advance or even frozen).
Cream Cheese Filling:
8 ounces (one package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Approximately 2-1/2 cups fresh raspberries (you can also use blackberries or blueberries)
1/2 cup red currant jelly (optional)
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the lemon juice. (May be made a day ahead; chill until ready to use.) Spread a heaping tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on the bottom of each cooled pastry shell. Arrange the berries on top.
For a more formal presentation, just before serving, heat 1/2 cup red currant jelly in a small saucepan and use a pastry brush to glaze berries with the warm jelly.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. The tartlets will keep for several days in the refrigerator (though they will not look quite as pretty as when first made). The cream cheese filling will soften and almost melt into the pastry shell, giving them a different (but very nice) taste and texture.
© 2005 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres - and where it's okay to eat raspberry tarts for breakfast because after all, they do contain fruit.