Raspberry Curd for Santa Baby

‘Twas the night before Christmas and what should appear

But Raspberry Curd in a glass ever clear.

A quick pause for Santa all loaded with gear,

While a mouse in the corner did hear him recite

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!”

Snack for Santa

Just in time for Santa! A Raspberry Curd with perfumed brightness that will add a punch of color and flavor to any holiday table.  In lieu of fresh berries, we use individually quick frozen raspberries, easily accessible in the frozen food section of most grocery stores.

In about ten minutes, a luscious curd is created by suspending raspberry essence into an egg-based cream and gently cooked while butter is whisked in until thick and voluptuous. Cornstarch also ensures perky firmness for filling tarts and cakes.

Raspberry curd is the basis of many exquisite specialty desserts.  With little effort you will have a handcrafted gourmet accompaniment for anything chocolate, pound cake, fresh pears, ice cream, and other delights.  Fill individual shells, cookie squares, a chocolate tart crust, or layer a cake with the curd.  Create a fast parfait or mousse by folding the raspberry curd into sweetened whipped cream. Treat it as you would any exotic jam or jelly.

Raspberry Curd

This is a quick and easy curd if all ingredients are prepped and ready to go.  

2 ½ cups fresh or 12-oz frozen raspberries, thawed
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest, grated
½ c cold butter, cut in ½” cubes

  1. In a blender or food processor, puree the raspberries with cornstarch and press through a medium sieve into a 1-quart non-reactive saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the puree thickens, remove from heat.
  2. Rinse blender and pat dry; add the eggs, sugar and lemon zest; blend until light, about 1 minute.
  3. With motor running on low, slowly pour in 2/3 cup warm puree and blend to distribute evenly.
  4. Rinse the pan, pat dry, and pour in the egg-berry blend. Over medium to medium-high heat slowly whisk a piece of butter in at a time. Continue whisking and cooking until mixture approaches a boil; steam will begin to rise and the curd will thicken (about 8 minutes). Do not boil.
  5. Pour through a clean, dry sieve and cover the surface lightly with plastic wrap to avoid a film from forming. When cool store in refrigerator for two weeks. Yield: 2 cups.

 

Jell-O Update

Jell-O, that sweet kid’s treat, for many of us still conjures up threats of hospital food, or perhaps memories of the dreaded marshmallow-studded lime mold.  There was a time I even struggled with jellied cranberry sauce, especially when it was sliced and served right out of the can.

Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I still like the idea of Jell-O.  Especially during this summer heat wave we are experiencing, I’m looking for nearly anything that is refreshing, cool, light, easy―in no particular order.

Top of my list these days:  fresh berries.  Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries… they are everywhere and I can’t get enough of them.  Since I’m spending more time dreaming of ways to enjoy them, beyond from my tiny freezer, it’s inevitable that gelatin considerations would eventually surface.  With its natural suspension capabilities, gelatin is an obvious vehicle for my berry mania.

But seriously, Jell-O needs an update:  something beyond refined or synthetic sugar based, dye laden, and artificially flavored.  Good idea, bad execution.

A few facts:  gelatin is a protein collagen derivative from animal bones, skin, connective tissues (an industry issue for many animal rights advocates). As a healing agent gelatin can improve hair and skin quality, strengthen nails, and aid in joint and bone health.  It can act as an appetite suppressant, soothe the tummy, and even promote sleep.

I recently revisited good old Knox Gelatine to give it a try as a simple fruit/juice bundle and I’m pretty happy with the results.  Besides no sugar, flavor additives or color, it contains 6 calories, 0 g. carbs per serving.

If Knox Gelatine is an issue, there are other options: consider Great Lakes Gelatin, a kosher beef gelatin from grass fed cows, free from preservatives or added sugars, minimally processed. Or, agar-agar powder,  a vegan option preferred by many.

With all the new fruit drinks on the market, coming up with a fruit and juice combination is actually fun.  Of course, the ratio of liquid to fruit will change based on amount of fruit used. Since I like plenty of fresh fruit, to the point it is nearly packed, I was scrambling for additional containers.  To unmold, warm the container briefly in warm water, loosen edge with knife, give it a jiggle and flip it out.

Final wrap:  here’s an extremely unscientific comparative between mango Jell-O with raspberries and apple juice/gelatin with raspberries/blueberries.  For both, I used small individual yogurt containers, let them set for 3-4 hours and unmolded them into parfait glasses.   Results:

The Jell-O:   sweet, the mango flavor tasted artificial; in combination, they masked the raspberries’ fresh flavor.  The color was a bright gold and showcased the fruit nicely; it held its shape well, almost rubbery.

Mango Jell-O & Raspberries

Mango Jell-O & Raspberries

The Gelée:  the apple tasted mild but fruity.  After the Jell-O, it seemed bland and not sweet enough. It improved after the second or third taste, and the flavors of the raspberries and blueberries really popped   The color was natural but pale in comparison; it held its shape, though not as resilient as Jell-O.  Final note, the apple juice was a basic off the shelf supermarket brand.  I would recommend a good organic variety, perhaps a filtered variety.

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberries suspended in apple cider are a model here.  Use any appealing combination of seasonal fruit and fresh juice. Figure one envelope (1Tbsp) gelatin for every 2 cups liquid.

Ingredients

1 packet Knox Gelatine
½ cup water, divided:  ¼ cup cold water (or liquid), ¼ cup boiling water
1 ½ cup complementary excellent quality chilled fruit juice of choice: apple cider, mango, cranberry, pomegranate, etc.
2 cups (or more) washed fresh fruit:  raspberries or other berries, grapes, cut up plums, peaches, etc. or any combination

Method

  1. Soften gelatin in ¼ cup cold water for 1 minute.  Add ¼ cup boiling water and stir to dissolve the granules completely.  Stir in cold juice.
  2. Fill 3-4 individual 1-cup molds, parfait glasses, or a 4-cup mold with fresh fruit.  Pour the cooled liquid over the fruit.  Cover to keep fruit below surface and chill until set, 3 to 4 hours.

Bread + Berries = Pudding

What do you get when you combine bread and berries together and let them set in the fridge overnight?  An unpalatable gob, perhaps?

That was pretty much my take whenever I considered Summer Pudding, that most cherished of British sweets. I could not wrap my brain around seriously wasting the season’s best fruit on this bizarre idea.

In all fairness, maybe it is another case of availability being the mother of intention:  or, when you’ve got bread and berries, you just make pudding.  Here, a mold is lined with bread slices and filled with berries that have been briefly simmered with water and sugar to create fruit syrup, which binds it all together.  It is then weighted down and pressed until it forms a congealed mass.

I know.  It still doesn’t make the heart race.

And so it was, until recently, while reading Judith Jones’s charming recollection of Summer Pudding for One in The Pleasures of Cooking for One:

“I always remember my childhood summers in Vermont as a procession of summer puddings made with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or currant as they came along. This old-fashioned dessert couldn’t be simpler to put together, and you can do a single portion in a small cup mold…”

Well, I certainly value Judith’s perspective.  After all, she was most influential in getting Julia Child first published.  Besides, making only one serving meant I had very little at stake―especially since I had a half loaf of Banana Swirl Bread still breathing heavy in my larder.  And, it is berry season in the Willamette Valley.

Raspberries

Raspberries

It didn’t take long to accumulate plenty of berries:  raspberries, marionberries, strawberries, and tayberries (a new blend of raspberries and marionberries). In that same amount of time I also learned more about the magic that occurs in Summer Pudding.

Currants are not imperative here, but they provide a clue pertaining to why they are valued for more than their taste.  Currants are especially high in pectin, followed closely by other berries such as strawberries, blackberries and the like. Pectin becomes the active ingredient that binds and transforms these simple ingredients into something utterly bewitching.

Just in case you don’t have a loaf of Banana Swirl Bread, any firm homemade or Pullman style loaf that is not too light will provide the necessary structure to hold this all together.  Ina Garten’s Summer Pudding uses further insurance by inserting layers of bread in the center of her mold for increased substance.  I suspect this is more of an American conceit, and likely viewed as unnecessary by the average British cook.

If you have additional syrup, set it aside and save it to enjoy with the pudding.  To unmold, slide a knife around the pudding and turn it upside down onto a plate.

Raspberry, Marionberry and Tayberry Pudding

Raspberry, Marionberry and Tayberry Pudding

Serve it with more fruit, sweetened whipped cream, crème fraiche or yogurt. By the way, Summer Pudding is really good for breakfast―about as long as I can wait.Maybe it will bring out the kid in you, too!

Summer Pudding

Summer Pudding

You know, the British may be on to something here―Summer Pudding is light, fresh, and happy―and it certainly makes me smile.  Mixed Berry Pudding 1

Summer Pudding for One

Inspired by Judith Jones, The Pleasures of Cooking for One, also online article by Felicity Cloake, www.theguardian.com.

 Ingredients

1/3      c  raspberries, fresh
1/3      c  blackberries,, blueberries, currants, and or strawberries
1          tbsp sugar or to taste
1/4      cup water
2          slices homemade bread, trimmed and thinly sliced, approx.
Sweetened whipped cream or yogurt, additional fruit for garnish
 
Directions

  1. In a small saucepan place the washed fruit, the sugar and water. Over moderately heat, simmer 3 to 5 minutes or until fruit is softened but not mushy.  Taste the syrup, it should be pleasantly sweet, add more sugar if too tart.  There should also be enough syrup to fully moisten the bread liner, adjust liquid as necessary.
  2. Line a one cup mold with the bread slices: line the bottom of the mold, then cut triangles or rectangles to run up the sides fitting firmly without gaps.  Cut a round to fit on the top, which will be the bottom when unmolded, and set it aside.
  3. Arrange the fruit and syrup in the mold and place the reserved round on top. All the bread should be moistened. Place a small plate with a can or other heavy object on top to weight it down evenly.  Enclose it all with plastic wrap.
  4. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Unmold, running a knife around the sides.  Serve with sweetened cream or yogurt, and a few fresh berries.     Yield:  1  serving