Sunday, June 16, 2013

Wild Berry & Baked Brie Tartlets

Either I somehow managed to miss the juneberry season, or it really wasn't very good this year. In April, when the flowers were blooming, I went around and ID-d a bunch of trees, doubling the number I knew of in my neighborhood. Despite double the number of trees, I actually harvested less fruit than last year, which is a shame, because I was really looking forward, and I had several recipes that I wanted to experiment with.

Despite early indications of abundance, most of these
berries were eaten by birds before ripening fully.
The birds seemed to notice the poor season as well. They striped the trees bare long before the majority of the fruit was ripe. Also, usually they stay in the upper branches, since my neighborhood has a lot of constant car and sidewalk traffic, and this leaves the low-hanging fruit for me. However, this year the birds were everywhere, even sometimes within arm's length of me, as I harvested. They also seemed to do fly-by "strikes" on the fruit--where they swooped in and pecked at a berry while continuing to fly. This meant that a lot of the fruit I could get was unusable, as it spoiled once pecked at.

Anyway, complaining aside, I got enough berries to make this dessert. It's not particularly creative, there are numerous recipes where berries (usually blueberries) are baked with brie; however, I wanted to make something a little less sweet, and completely home-made, without the preservatives and other additives found in pre-made phyllo dough or ready-to-bake crescent rolls. 

You could make these mini tarts with any wild berry. I am sure they would be good with blackberries, mulberries or blueberries, and probably some of the wild cherries as well. I like them with juneberries because I prefer juneberries cooked to raw, I find it makes the flavor and texture of the edible seeds more appealing.

These tarts aren't very sweet, and can be eaten for breakfast or a snack, just as well as for dessert. If you are in a hurry, or don't like baking (I don't), you could skip making the dough and use pre-made phyllo or crescent rolls. There isn't a whole lot of sugar in these, but you could omit what there is entirely and they would still be good.

Wild Berry & Baked Brie Tartlets

Makes about 18 mini-tarts

For the Crust
2 1/2 cups flour. Used here: 1 1/2 cups of all purpose + 1 cup of whole wheat
2 sticks of butter, frozen
3-6 tbs of ice-cold water
2 tbs of sugar, divided (optional)1 tsp coarse salt
  1. Thinly slice your frozen butter. I aimed for slices between 1/8 - 1/4 inches thick.
  2. In a food processor, mix your flour or flours, salt and sugar. 
  3. Add the butter to the food processor and pulse 2-3 times. 
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water, and pulse 3 times. 
  5. Check consistency by pinching some dough between your fingers. It should just adhere to itself easily, but not be sticky.
  6. If the dough isn't holding together, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse after each tablespoon, until it just holds together when pressed.
  7. Remove dough to a floured surface. gently press into a rough ball, or 2 balls if the size is easier to work with. Cover or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

These berries I harvested when they were redder than I like,
but if I had waited I don't think I would have gotten any at all.
For the Filling
4 cups of juneberries, or other wild berries
6 oz of brie
1 tbs of sugar (optional)
1 tsp of vanilla flavoring (optional)
  1. Rinse your berries
  2. Add the berries and sugar and vanilla (both optional) to a bowl. Stir and let sit for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to come together.
Making the tarts
You have a couple of options here. I found the easiest and best was to use a muffin tin, lightly greased with olive oil, and rounds of dough about 3" in diameter. I also experimented with making squares, about 4" on each side, and folding them like fancy pasties. I don't recommend this, as they were more difficult to work with, they tended to come apart while baking, and they didn't have as nice a berry to crust ratio. Still there are some pictures of them at the bottom.
  1. Rinse your berries
  2. Add the berries and sugar and vanilla (both optional) to a bowl. Stir and let sit for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to come together.
  3. Grease your muffin tin, I used olive oil. Pre-heat your oven to 350.
  4. Roll out your dough to about 1/4" thick, a little thinner is best.
  5. Slice the crusts off your brie if you don't like them. I generally don't love brie crusts, but find I like them better baked. Slice your brie into squares approximately 1.5" squares, 1/8" thick. 
  6. Cut your dough into 3" rounds, they don't have to be exact. Lay them into the bottoms of your greased muffin tin. Place a piece of brie in each. 
  7. Fill each up with berries, and drizzle a little of the liquid in the bowl over each. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust has started to brown. Serve immediately, or store in the fridge and reheat before serving. 

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