Friday, August 26, 2005

Berry good

As the summer days grow warmer, the berries grow in abundance.

First come the strawberries, sun ripened and too delicate to transport. But no bother, we can keep them right here, and enjoy their sugary sweet goodness while they last. Then as the days are at their longest, the raspberries begin to become fragrant on the vine. Delicate and perfumed, they have a touch of elegance. Blackberries enter the scene when the warm august days linger and an evening walk along almost any neighborhood road can become a picking opportunity. They are deep, almost musty, but taste so good that the stains their dark juices leave on fingers and mouths are quickly overlooked. Labor day brings two tiny cousins to us, the blueberry and the huckleberry. These are sometimes mistaken for each other, but vastly different flavors distinguish the two. The blueberry is sweet, delicate, with a tender skin and very few seeds. The Huckleberry has a bold flavor that hits loud sweet and sour notes, has exactly 10 seeds inside, and a thicker skin that offers just enough resistance for each berry to burst between the teeth.

Here are two summer berry desserts that were used to showcase these summer delights.

First was on the menu in late July when the second cycle or strawberries came, raspberries were perfect, and the first blackberries were ripening in the long summer days. The there berries are left intact and piled on top of a lemon cream tart. The filling is made of a basic lemon curd with a twist on the method. Lemon curd is commonly made with plenty of butter, often added at the end to a hot lemon-egg-sugar mix whisked over a bain marie until thick. The butter melts while it is whisked in, leaving a glossy, translucent curd. This curd is cooled to 140 degrees before it is mounted with the butter. The butter is added slowly while the curd spins in a blender. After all the butter is incorporated, the blender is left to run for 5 minutes. This creates a texture that is creamy, light, and very delicate while the flavor is unchanged. The sauce underneath was an ever changing mix of berry puree's depending on availability.

The second dessert was the market menu feature last week, a "Rainbow-berry" sorbet. This was a sorbet terrine featuring the last of the seasons strawberries and raspberries, and the first of the seasons huckleberries. The sorbets were intense representations of the berries they came from. Sweetened just enough to let the berry flavors scream through, each berries individual characteristics were allowed to shine. To garnish the sorbets, we took a miniature version of a dessert that is commonly associated with berries, the shortcake. To the side is a little buttermilk shortcake filled with dense vanilla whipped cream, and scattered across the plate are fresh blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Nothing compliments berries like more berries!

September is coming, the kids are going back to school, and I am excited for the prospect of autumn fruits like apples, pears, and plums. But before I can invite them into my kitchen, I had to say this proper good bye to the berries. Until next year.......


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