Ever thought of grating your shortbread dough? Perhaps frilly doesn’t quite capture these bars. Airy doesn’t quite fit either, but compared to other shortbread I’ve made, that’s exactly what they are. You see, instead of the dense texture associated with many recipes for shortbread bars, these are light (but no less buttery) because you shred the frozen dough on the coarse holes of a grater before baking. The final product is almost chewy, with an open-crumb texture, something that you wouldn’t get if you just rolled the dough. By avoiding the use of pressure, the dough bakes with all the air pockets between the grated pieces, melding into an almost fluffy result which crumbles and melts in your mouth. The glue for the two layers is the saskatoon berry filling.
Here on the Canadian prairies we have a native berry called a ‘Saskatoon’. These berries are very special …. the kind of special that only comes once a year. Saskatoon berries look much like blueberries, but in fact are part of the rose family which includes apples, cherries, plums and of course roses. Trying to explain their flavor to anyone who has never tasted them is difficult and elusive. They’re sweet, dense, rich, seedy, slightly blueberryish, more almondish, a bit apple-y, dusky and deep. Like I said …. difficult to explain!
At this time of the year when these little gems are available, I always like to make numerous things with them as they work well in either sweet or savory applications. They certainly make a nice filling for these shortbread bars.
Grated Shortbread Bars w/ Saskatoon Berry filling
In a saucepan, combine berries & water & simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. In a separate bowl, mix sugar & cornstarch; add to berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice & vanilla; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, cardamom & salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in butter & lemon zest. Mix ONLY until combined, divide in half & wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Place in freezer until slightly frozen.
Remove one ball of dough from the freezer. Using the large hole side of a 4 sided grater, grate dough into a 4 1/2" x 14" baking pan. Pat the dough but don't press it, so it gets evenly spread in the pan.
Carefully place the saskatoon filling evenly over the crust. Grate remaining ball of dough & carefully spread on top.
Bake for 40 minutes or until shortbread is golden. Cool to room temperature on rack. Cut into 14 bars. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
- I found that if I placed the pan of bars in the freezer for about an hour, I was able to cut cleaner slices.
Some might consider clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-tee) just a lazy cook’s way to pie or cake, but its truly luscious comfort food complete with a French pedigree. Born in Limousin, in southern central France, a couple of centuries ago to showcase its fresh cherries. Very likely, the creation of a hurried & harried home cook with a glut of cherries to use up. Traditionally made with unpitted black or tart cherries. The pits supposedly added an almond flavor when baked.
The name clafoutis comes from the verb ‘clafir’, a rustic old word that means ‘to fill’ because after you arrange the fruit on a buttered baking dish, you fill the pan with eggy batter. It bakes into a light, custardy confection with a consistency somewhere between pudding, pancake and soufflé.
Clafoutis is a dessert you need in your life. It is neither difficult nor time consuming and it requires few ingredients.
The first time Brion & I ever tasted clafoutis was actually in France in 2001. Strangely enough, I’ve never got around to making it even though we had enjoyed it.
By using one simple batter recipe, you can make a variety of clafoutis by changing up the fruit and flavorings you use. Of course, there are some who would say that a clafoutis made with any fruit other than cherries would be properly called a ‘flaugnarde’, but what’s in a name when it comes to comfort food!
Place all batter ingredients into a blender. Blend until well combined.
Butter a large pie dish & sprinkle the 1 Tbsp sugar evenly over the butter. Pour the batter into the dish, then sprinkle the saskatoon berries evenly throughout the mixture. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the surface of the clafoutis & place in the oven.
Bake until the clafoutis is puffy & nicely browned on top, about 35-40 minutes. To check if its done, remove it from the oven & gently giggle the pan. It should shake softly, but not look overly liquid. You can also test with a knife tip to ensure its set.
Dust with powdered sugar if you wish & serve immediately.
Pudding cake is kind of a magical concept that lies precisely at the intersection of cake and pudding. When you mix it, it looks like a very light cake batter. But, as it bakes, it separates into two layers. The top is the lightest cake ever and the bottom (in this case) is an intense lemon pudding with some fresh ‘seasonal’ saskatoons.
Of course, overtime, there have been many versions of this classic dessert developed, all of which are no doubt delicious. You have to love a dessert that practically garnishes itself, right?! Sometimes, old recipes really are the best.
Lemon Saskatoon Berry Pudding Cake
Saskatoon Berry Compote
In a small saucepan, combine berries, sugar & 1 tsp lemon juice; heat until bubbling. In a separate dish, combine cornstarch & water; pour into berry mixture. Stir until thickened & remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 6 ramekins (or a 10-inch glass dish). Divide the saskatoon compote between the ramekins; set aside.
Grate 1 Tbsp of lemon zest. Squeeze 1/3 cup lemon juice. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt & 2/3 cup sugar. In another bowl, whisk together YOLKS, milk, lemon zest & juice. Add to the flour mixture; whisk until completely blended.
In a bowl, beat WHITES until soft peaks form; add the 1/4 cup sugar slowly & beat until medium peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of the whites into flour mixture; our this mixture over the remaining whites. Whisk together using a folding technique to keep from deflating egg whites.
Pour the batter into ramekins & place them into another larger pan. Fill the bottom pan with water as high as it can go without floating the ramekin dishes.
Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on the size of ramekin dishes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- I flipped my little puddings over so all those pretty saskatoon berries could sit on top.
CELEBRATING LABOR DAY!
Although, we have not officially reached the first day of fall (Sept. 22), this part of the year often begins with a tinge of melancholy. Even so, there are many ways to appreciate Canada’s most sentimental season.
Part of our country’s appeal is its four season’s: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are entering the season of the fall harvest and the leaves on the trees begin their transformation to stunning shades of orange, red and yellow.
Labor day week-end gives us an opportunity to enjoy family and friends before summer is officially over. Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will play a big part in the week-end gatherings.
I’m sure you are all familiar with ‘slab’ pies. If not …. a slab pie is a shallow pie baked in a rimmed baking sheet instead of a pie pan. These are a genius way to serve a crowd with less fuss and less mess. Almost any fruit pie recipe will work in this format. Just double you pie recipe, bake it in a jelly-roll pan (15 x 10 x 1) which are a little smaller than the typical baking sheet and have 1-inch sides. Most will serve 15-20 people.
For the sake of choice, I went with four different fruits in one slab pie. That should cover it I think!
Fresh Fruit Slab Pie
Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter & sugar until light & fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla & lemon zest; beat another minute, or until blended. Add flour & salt, mix until fully incorporated, taking care not to over-mix the dough.
Turn dough out onto paper-lined baking pan & evenly press into the bottom & about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 F. With a fork, prick crust all over & bake for 20 minutes until JUST PALE golden in color. Remove from oven & cool slightly on a wire rack.
In a small saucepan, combine rhubarb with 1/4 cup water. Simmer 5-7 minutes ONLY until slightly softened. Strain rhubarb juice into a one-cup measure. Set aside. Place rhubarb in a dish until ready to assemble pie for baking.
In a bowl, combine oats, brown sugar & flour. Add butter & mix until coarse crumbs form; stir in pecans.
To reserved rhubarb juice in one-cup measure, add cherry juice & 3 Tbsp lemon juice. Add enough water to make one full cup. Return juice/water to small saucepan; add sugars & cornstarch. Cook until mixture boils & thickens.
Place rhubarb, saskatoon berries, peaches & cherries in partially baked crust. Form each fruit in a diamond shape to give it a bit of pizzazz!
Drizzle hot sauce evenly over entire slab pie. Sprinkle streusel topping over all & bake in a 350 F oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.
Saskatoon berries are very high on my list of nostalgic memories from my childhood. How these little berries can evoke such a flood of treasured thoughts is amazing. Our family farm was located in Southern Alberta, (Canada). If you were to stand on our farmhouse, west veranda, the sight of the ‘foothills’ came into view (foothills are an upland area that flank the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains).
How wonderful it was to be able to pack a picnic lunch on a Sunday afternoon and be able to drive there. It was like a whole different world. A landscape of long ridges and rolling hills covered in native lodgepole pine, aspens and spruce trees. The small streams wound their way through meadows of dwarf birch, willow and prairie grasses. You could easily come across some of the beautiful wildlife such as elk, moose or deer that lived there.
This is where our family would go to pick saskatoon berries. Very often we were accompanied by family friends or relatives. It was such a great time, everyone picking berries together, eating Mom’s fabulous fried chicken and potato salad (etc. etc.) for our picnic lunch. I was looking at some pictures from those times. We must have had some hot dogs on one occasion and I burnt my mouth it seems. What priceless memories!
With ‘saskatoon season’ in full swing, Brion and I thought it would be great to pick our own this year. It certainly can’t get any fresher than that. We chose the U-Pick farm called GROVE BERRY PATCH. This is a family owned and operated farm with 20 acres of saskatoon berries and 1 acre of raspberries, black currants, highbush cranberries and vegetables. They are located 1.5 km south off Highway 16A on Spruce Valley Road, Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.
It was such a nice little adventure. The morning was beautiful and the atmosphere of the berry farm and its family owners was very enjoyable. We picked a pail full of gorgeous saskatoons in a short space of time. I had originally started out with thinking I would post one recipe but of course, its turns out to be three. They consist of some Saskatoon Rhubarb Tarts, Saskatoon Butter Tarts and some Saskatoon Cream Cheese Tarts. Yum!
We are adding a few pics, not only of the tarts but some from the berry farm as well as a couple from my childhood days. Hope you enjoy the blog.
Saskatoon Berry Tarts
Filling for SASKATOON RHUBARB TARTS
Filling for SASKATOON BUTTER TARTS
Filling for CREAM CHEESE SASKATOON TARTS
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt until completely combined. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork.
Measure the vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, then add enough ice cold water to make 1/2 cup. Pour over flour mixture, gently stir with a fork ONLY until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for a minimum of an hour so it can chill well. When ready to use, Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 3 1/2" cookie cutter, cut out tart shells & place them in tart pans.
Saskatoon Rhubarb Filling & Streusel
In a small saucepan, combine saskatoons, diced rhubarb, sugar & cardamom. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine water, lemon juice & cornstarch. Whisk together to make a slurry. Add to to saucepan & cook on medium heat, stirring until mixture becomes thickened. Remove from heat; add vanilla & allow to cool before using.
FOR STREUSAL: Place all streusal ingredients in a small dish & combine with finger tips until crumbly. Spoon berry filling into tart shells & top with streusal. Bake at 375 F. until pastry is golden.
Saskatoon Butter Tart Filling
FOR BERRY TOPPING: In a small saucepan, mix together berries & water; simmer for 10 minutes over low-medium heat. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar & cornstarch then add to the berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
FOR BUTTER TART LAYER: First beat together eggs. In a saucepan, melt the butter then add sugar, vanilla, cream, raisins & beaten eggs. Bring to a boil over medium heat & boil for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
TO ASSEMBLE: Place a heaping Tbsp of butter tart mixture into each shell, then fill remainder of the tart shell with the berry topping mixture. DO NOT MIX. Bake at 375 F. for 15-18 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool before removing from tart pans.
Cream Cheese Saskatoon Tart Filling
FOR BERRY TOPPING: Crush 1 cup of saskatoon berries & place in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Simmer about 2 minutes. Strain & return berry juice only to saucepan. Combine sugar & cornstarch; add to sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick & clear. Remove from heat & stir in remaining 2 cups of saskatoons to glaze & stir gently. Pre-bake tart shells.
FOR CREAM CHEESE LAYER: In a small bowl, blend together cream cheese, lemon zest, sugar & heavy cream. Divide cream cheese mixture between baked tart shells. Top with generous portions of berry topping & serve.
- The pastry recipe will yield about 48 mini tarts. I had doubled the pastry recipe because I wanted to make all 3 kinds. It's so nice to have some in the freezer for future use.
- If you make the pastry in 2 separate batches it seems to be nicer for some reason.
- If you happen to have any filling left over, it freezes well for another time.