CORNMEAL SHORTCAKE WITH BERRIES
Makes 6 generous servings.
Note: In the South, the shortcake biscuits in this dish are often served warm. If you bake them ahead of time, place them on a baking sheet and warm in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes or so before serving. Then "dress" the shortcakes with the berry sauce and whipped cream and serve right away. From Joyce White.
• 11/2 c. all-purpose unbleached flour
• 1/3 c. fine-grain cornmeal, such as Indian Head or Arrowhead Mills
• 1/4 c. sugar
• 21/4 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
• 1 egg, at room temperature
• 1/3 c. buttermilk or 1/4 c. plain yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp. water, at room temperature
• 3 c. blueberries or blackberries
• 2 tbsp. lemon juice
• 1/3 c. honey or sugar, or to taste
• 1 tsp. ground or grated allspice
• 2 tsp. grated lemon peel
• 2 or 3 tbsp. B&B or Benedictine Liqueur
• 1 c. heavy cream, chilled
• 2 or 3 tbsp. sugar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
To prepare the shortcake: Sift the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large, shallow bowl. Cut the chilled butter into 1/2-inch size pieces (or smaller) and place into the bowl and stir to mix well. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, quickly cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal and then set aside.
Place the egg into a small bowl and beat briskly with a fork for a few seconds. Then stir in the buttermilk or the yogurt mixed with the water and again beat swiftly until well-blended. Sprinkle the egg mixture over the flour and cornmeal mixture and, using a fork, quickly stir the dampened dough together and then gather into a disk or ball.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and dust with flour if it sticks. Knead the dough lightly a couple of times. Then roll or pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 -inch thick and 8 to 9 inches in diameter. (At this point you can set the layer of dough in the refrigerator and chill it for a few minutes, if desired.)
Then, using a floured 21/2-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into biscuits. Form the scraps into a ball, roll again, and cut again into biscuits. You should have 6 or 7 biscuits.
Place the biscuits on a lightly buttered baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Set the pan of biscuits on the lower oven shelf and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the biscuits are puffy and lightly browned. Watch carefully and don't overbake the biscuits.
Remove the baked biscuits from the oven and set on a wire rack. Then, using a serrated knife, split each biscuit in half horizontally and set aside.
To prepare the topping: Rinse the berries with room temperature water and drain in a colander; set aside. Combine the lemon juice, honey, allspice and grated lemon peel in a medium saucepan. Place the pan on medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the liqueur and cook the sauce over medium heat until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the berries and immediately reduce the heat to low. Simmer the berries, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until they begin to release their juice, but remain whole. Remove the berries from the heat and allow to cool in the pan.
To serve: Pour the heavy cream into a small chilled bowl, stir in the sugar and mix well. Using a hand beater, whip the cream only until it forms soft peaks.
Spoon about 1/3 cup of the berries and juice over the bottom half of the biscuits, dividing evenly. Add a dab of the whipped cream. Replace the biscuit tops and dab on the whipped cream again. Serve the shortcakes immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: The mango and papaya add a Caribbean edge to this delectable dish. From Joyce White.
• 1 quart fresh strawberries (4 c.), hulled
• 2 c. raspberries or blueberries
• 2 ripe mangoes or 1 large papaya
• Juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1/2 c. honey or turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw, or more if desired
• 2/3 c. water
• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, nutmeg or mace
• 1/4 c. orange flavored liqueur, such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier or Cointreau
• Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
If the strawberries are large, slice them into halves or quarters. Place them with the other berries in a large glass bowl.
Carefully peel the mangoes and cut into 1-inch pieces, discarding the pits. Or, peel and dice the papaya, discarding the seeds.
Add the mangoes or papaya to the berries. Squeeze lemon juice over them, mix well, and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine in a small saucepan the honey or sugar, water and spice. Set the pan on moderate high heat and bring the sauce to a gentle boil, stirring. Cook the sauce for 4 or 5 minutes or until the syrup thickens. Stir in the liqueur and heat a few minutes longer.
Remove the syrup from the heat and pour over the berries and mango or papaya, mixing well. Cool and then chill the fruit for 1 hour or longer.
At serving, spoon the chilled fruit into chilled glass bowls or large red wine glasses, ladling over the syrup. Top each serving with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.
CLASSIC SUMMER BERRY TART OR PIE
Serves 4 to 5.
Note: My only and beloved sister -- 16 years my senior -- was the head cook in a cafe in our rural village in southern Alabama. This is hers. From Joyce White.
• 1 fully baked 9 or 10-in. pie or tart crust
• 3 to 4 c. strawberries and blueberries
• 2 c. whole milk, divided
• 3 egg yolks
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, or more if desired
• 2 tbsp. flour
• 2 tbsp. cornstarch
• 3/4 c. granulated sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, or more if desired
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 2 or 3 tbsp. orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier, if desired
• 1/2 c. raspberry, currant or strawberry preserves or jelly
• 1 tbsp. orange liqueur, rum or apple juice
Remove stems from the berries, rinse and drain in a colander. Place drained berries on a double layer of paper toweling and dab lightly to dry. Allow the berries to continue air drying while you prepare the custard:
In a medium bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk, egg yolks and vanilla extract, then beat briskly with a fork until well-blended, and set aside.
Combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a heavy medium-size saucepan. Stir in the remaining 13/4 cups milk, whisking to combine well. Place the pan over medium high heat and bring the milk mixture to a gentle boil, stirring well. Add the butter and mix again. Cook the milk and flour mixture, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until it is thick and smooth, watching carefully to prevent scorching.
When the milk mixture thickens, remove the pan from heat and stir a few tablespoons of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolk mixture and whisk until well-blended. Continue whisking in about half of the hot milk to the egg yolks, beating briskly after each addition. Then pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the hot milk and beat until well-blended.
Place the saucepan back on the heat and cook the custard over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the custard comes to a boil again and is as thick as mayonnaise.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum or liqueur, mixing well. Pour the custard through a fine strainer into a large bowl. Set the bowl on a wire rack and cool thoroughly, stirring occasionally to release steam. When the custard is at room temperature, cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and chill until cold, at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
To assemble the pie for serving: If using preserves, press through a fine sieve into a small heavy pan to remove seeds. Then stir in a generous tablespoon of liqueur or rum or brandy or apple juice.
Place the pan on medium low heat and heat the preserves or jelly just for a few minutes or until melted, stirring briskly. Remove the pan from the heat.
Brush the bottom and sides of the pie or tart crust lightly with a couple tablespoons of the melted preserves or jelly. Spoon the custard into the pie or tart shell, spread evenly, filling just to the top of the rim of the pie or tart pan.
Arrange the berries in a concentric circle over the top of the filling, then spoon the remaining melted jelly or preserves over the berries. Serve the pie or tart immediately. If you must refrigerate, allow the pie or tart to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving to warm up the pastry.