FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBERRIES BAKED IN A PIE
I have always viewed the pie as truly all-American. Other countries have their tartes, fine delicate beauties, perfect rounds of tissue paper-thin golden pastry, slivers of jewel-colored fruits, flavorful and ripe, swirled in the most impeccable of flowerlike designs and glazed shiny like a diamond flashing in the sun. Some countries serve tortes, dense and rich, more often than not cake-based, sweet layers of jam and slathered with creamy frosting or blanketed under dark chocolate ganache and decorated with delightful chocolate frills or pearls of chopped nuts or swirls of whipped cream, as dreamy and beautiful to stare at as to eat. I’ve had my share whether in France or Hungary, in Michelin-starred restaurants following perfect meals or in gorgeous salon de thé, all red velvet swags and gilded touches.
Yet as far as pie is concerned, there is something oh-so-American in spirit in their simplicity and their over-abundance. Two- crusts instead of one, jammed packed with as much fruit as you can pile into the shell before it tumbles out all over the table, impossibly thick pies made out of the most unlikely things from pumpkin to sweet potato to molasses to peanut butter, flavors seen no where else. Or light as air cream pies that reach to the skies, oodles of whipped cream piled to dizzying heights adding to the utter sigh-heaving pleasure. Lemon, with or without the cloudlike mountain of sweet meringue, tangy and fluorescent, coconut or chocolate, coffee or banana, Americans’ can-do spirit translates into “can make a pie out of anything”.
And pies celebrate! What is Thanksgiving without pumpkin or apple, redolent of cinnamon and Autumn? Or Christmas and Mince or Pecan, so sweet to soothe the worst sweet tooth in the room. Blueberry and cherry pies standing at attention like Revolutionary War soldiers up and down every Fourth of July picnic table buffet and cream pies tossed one after the other into faces at every school fête or State Fair amid screams of delight.
We didn’t get pies very often at home when I was a kid. Desserts were usually cakes, Bundt or marble sheet cakes. Or dad made his magical choux puffs filled with pudding or his sweet fruit compote. If we were lucky, Mrs. Rosenberg sent over a marvelous sweet Noodle Kugel studded with raisins. I remember mom made banana cream pie, bananas layered with boxed vanilla pudding all atop ‘Nilla Wafer cookies. I loved it! I do have a hazy memory of poor mom actually making a cream pie from scratch: as she carefully lifted it up off of the countertop and turned to very carefully carry it across the kitchen to place in the preheated oven, whoops she lost her balance and the whole pie flipped over and landed with a splash onto the floor.
Pies were restaurant treats for me. Dinner or lunch at one of those all-night chain Family-style Restaurants or the local diner would invariably end with a huge slice of pie: I was forever torn between choosing the chocolate cream or the lemon meringue. A seafood dinner out at a southern Florida-style restaurant would call for either the Key Lime or the very decadent Mud Pie. Cake we could eat at home, but pies were “restaurant fare”, as American as the diner and the drive-thru.
Now, I make my fare share of Pumpkin, Lemon, Cherry and Apple Pies at home, the more “American” the better. It brings something from “home” into my home. My sons’ friends love these exotic treats, so different from what they are used to, so extraordinary. Yet summer’s bounty of beautiful, delicate berries calls for something a little more elegant. These luscious jewels, blackberries and raspberries, shouldn’t be crammed packed all tumbled and jumbled together like any other more ordinary fruit. Each berry should remain whole in all of her glorious perfection, each mouthful offering a burst of juice and flavor simply surrounded by a smooth, silky cream filling to emphasize the beauty of the fruit and adding that note of elegance and sweetness.
Not really American, yet not French either, this is a wonderful, unique pie, if you will, or tart, if you prefer. It is luxury itself.
BLACKBERRY RASPBERRY CREAM TART
1 Sweet Pastry Crust (see here for recipe and step-by-step instructions)
½ pint each fresh blackberries and fresh raspberries, rinsed very quickly if need be
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
2 Tbs flour
½ cup (125 ml) crème fraîche ( I used 0% fat fromage frais which is similar to quark)
Gently roll out chilled pastry dough and fit it into an 8-inch (22 cm) pie dish or springform pan. Trim and flute edges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Stir the flour into the crème fraîche until thoroughly blended. Whisk this into the egg/sugar mixture until blended.
Take the tart crust out of the refrigerator and evenly distribute the berries in the shell. Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet.
Pour the cream filling slowly over the berries to cover evenly but not push the berries around.
Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is browned and the cream filling is puffed and set in the center. The filling may or may not brown, depending on your oven.
Allow to come to room temperature before serving.