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Blackberry Noir

Blackberry Noir

Playful desert combining elements of blackberry, honey, anise, and dark sugar on a Cajun style pastry dough

The other day, I made a mistake, a bad thing, that led to an idea, which ended up being a good thing. There is no innovation without adventure, and what better way to adventure in a kitchen than by messing around with the established ingredients? It began as a recipe for cherry turnovers, which unfortunately bled through the otherwise well-fluted seam and smoked up my kitchen; but the resulting flavor had a sharp and original kind of sweetness to it. I combined it with notes from an older original from years ago, using blackberries instead, and came up with this wonder. It has an accent to its taste not different from a sweeter form of licorice root, and is surprisingly filling without any foul notes of bleached white sugar in it. I’m hoping to return to this after consulting with my sister, to create a gluten-free version (it seems to be prime for it). Serves four to eight, depending on how much of an appetite your guests have saved.

Pastry Cups

Note the pricks along the bottom. If air or grease evaporates and expands beneath the pastry while it cooks, it can contort it. The ventillation prevents that.

Simple Pastry Dough:

  • 2c all-purpose flour
  • ¼ t sea salt
  • ½ c cold unsalted butter
  • ½ c cold whole milk

This pastry dough is derived from one of my favorite pastry recipes, but as any experienced baker knows, there’s more to a good pastry than simply its recipe. If you have a feel for pastry making, feel free to experiment; I intend to return to this after some meditation on it. It’s hard to find anything that this Cajun dough is not good with, but I feel that maybe I can improve on it, even further, in the future. I’ll put up a detailed explanation at some point, but for now, there is a wonderful video tutorial at the link if you are curious. Simply combine flour and salt; pastry-cut in butter until granular and homogeneously distributed, shaped kind of like small marbles. Gradually add milk and fold mixture until combined. Wrap into ball, cover in plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least one hour.

Grease four 10 oz. custard cups (or if unavailable, muffin tins). Heck, even cupcake tins will do if you’re willing to work with much smaller quantities of material per pastry, but it might be a little difficult to separate afterward. (Custard cups are cheap.) I recommend using a little bacon grease or coconut oil, though butter and lard are acceptable in a pinch. Failing that, canola or vegetable oil will also work, but I don’t recommend olive in this instance.

Cut dough into quarters, roll out into four square sheets with a rolling pin and pastry board, and place dough in custard cups. Fold ends of dough over the side, push the center against the bottom (did you remember to grease the cup??). Ventilate the bottom of the pastry with a fork, to prevent deformation in the oven.

Berry Mixture

Combine everything before stirring it together, spices last. Grind the anise stars until you only have coarse chunks of petals left, no need to overdo it. The flavor will seep out on the stove.

Combine:

  • 16 oz blackberries, frozen is fine
  • ½ c dark brown sugar
  • ½ c honey

Grind together in mortar:

Add spices to blackberry mixture, pour into pot or wok and heat, on low, stirring periodically to prevent separation of honey. (If you don’t have the patience or attention for this, find someone who does to help—smoked honey has its uses but this isn’t one of them.) Mixture should begin to bubble slightly before being removed from heat. Using a ladle, pour blackberry mixture evenly into dough cups. Fold hanging edges of dough over the cups.

Heated Berry Mixture

Stir periodically to keep the honey from sinking to the bottom. Heating it creates a more unified filling, you will find that the flavor changes dramatically.

I recommend against trying anything clever like sealing them at the seam. Kudos to you if you accomplish it, but the dough will be slick from the blackberry juice and reluctant to seal; all you are likely to end up making is a mess. You will find that the corners hang fashionably in place over top when left alone, and after a short while in the oven they seem to seal on their own.

Unbaked Blackberry Noir

It’s acceptable for the edges to simply hang over the top like this, they will recline and partially seal as they bake.

Bake for at least ten minutes in a stove at 400° F. The surface of the tart will be visibly darkened, but not burnt. (If you overfill the custard cups with berry, there is a chance that it will boil over, try not to do this. If it does happen, you can usually do a quick clean-up with a spatula and scrape it off of the bottom of the stove before it chars there and smokes up your kitchen. Take precautions not to burn yourself, 400° is a lot cooler when it’s on paper.)

Serve in the custard cups, best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (The juice seeps through the bottom of the pastry and goes everywhere, and who wants to waste good blackberry juice?) Enjoy!

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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Recipes

 

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Banana Chai Bread

I’m not generally a big fan of bananas. However, banana bread is a secret weakness, particularly when it has been modded, mucked with, and spiced up in original ways.

I would like to complement this with a picture or two, but we’ve already eaten it all. That’s how good it was.

You will need:

1 bunch ripe bananas; the riper the better
1 can condensed milk
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla (or roughly a cap full)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch sea salt
cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper
nutmeg
clove
1 ½ cups flour
molasses (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Peel the bananas, and mash them into a paste in a baking bowl. Add the condensed milk, stir until homogeneous, then add the dark brown sugar. Afterward, add the vanilla, the baking soda, and the sea salt. Measurements of the spices are to taste, but I recommend about a tablespoon of cinnamon, half a fresh ground nutmeg seed (roughly a teaspoon), four or five ground cloves, and for personal taste I used a little more than half of a teaspoon of black pepper. Taste it as you go to come to a consensus on what works for you, there isn’t any egg or anything harmful in it yet (depending on just how ripe those bananas were).

Add the beaten egg, stir everything together, and gradually add the flour, stirring as you go. You should have something of the consistency of pancake batter. Pour it into a baking dish. Mine was an old round ceramic baking dish, but these are relatively hard to find; any bread pan will do. Drizzle the molasses over the top of the batter—do not stir it in—and cover if possible. Bake for roughly thirty minutes, when it’s finished you should be able to insert a knife into the center and pull it out clean. Allow the bread to cool.

Banana Chai Bread has a charming peppery after taste without being intrinsically hot or sacrificing sweetness. It makes an excellent breakfast with a little cream cheese or condiment molasses, and is an excellent compliment to a spiced tea.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Recipes

 

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