Berries indigenous to our province are hearty and flavouful and they deserve all our attention in the kitchen. I know they’re hard to pick and expensive to buy, but no other fruit delivers the intense sweet-sour bite of a bakeapple.
For both those reasons, let’s celebrate the golden berry with two special desserts.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to come across recently picked bakeapples, then you must let them shine, and this is the dish to do it. A traditional dessert with sweet berries, this version I believe is superior in every way, but of course it will work using any fresh berry, or mixture of berries, that you favour.
These biscuits are tender and delicious, good enough to serve on their own with a dab of butter or jam. Cool them completely to make slicing easier, but no harm if you want to serve them warm, with little crumbly bits mixing on the plate with bakeapples and cream.
This should make 8 generous servings, with maybe a scrappy-dough biscuit left over for the cook.
2 cups bakeapples (1 pint jar)
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (no other)
2 eggs (divided)
1 cup sour cream (preferably not low-fat)
1 tsp. cold water
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Combine bakeapples and 3/4 cup of the sugar. Allow to sit for half an hour or so and taste the berries. If they are too tart for your liking, add the remaining sugar — or even more if you wish. Allow them to rest another couple of hours — refrigerate if you do this step any earlier. Stir in lemon juice.
For the biscuits, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, your fingers or a food processor. You’re looking for some large and some small pieces of butter. Whisk together one of the eggs and the sour cream and stir all at once into dry ingredients. Work with a fork until fairly well combined then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold and turn the dough until most of the flour is incorporated, but don’t overwork it — you’re not going for kneading, rather gentle folding and patting. Roll or shape into a 1-inch slab then cut out 8 biscuits using a floured biscuit cutter or a large drinking glass.
Place at least 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Whisk the second egg with 1 tsp. cold water and brush the tops of the biscuits. Bake at 450 F for 12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack and cut in half crosswise with a serrated knife.
To assemble the shortcakes, whip cream with sugar and vanilla — if you’re not a veteran whipper, you will find this is much easier to do if the cream is icy cold. Put the bowl, beaters and cream in the freezer for 10 minutes and you will be amazed at the results, especially on a warm day.
Place the bottoms of the biscuits on serving plates and top generously with sweetened bakeapple mixture. Spoon on big dollops of whipped cream and lay on the tops of the biscuits, maybe jauntily tipped on their sides to get the full visual effect of the bakeapples and cream.
Phyllo pastry and bakeapples are a match made in heaven. They couldn’t have come from places any farther apart but when they found each other, angels sang.
This dessert makes 8 generous servings and it is best the day it’s made, but you can put leftovers in a hot oven for a few seconds and the dough will crisp right back up for you.
Be sure to taste the bakeapples before you begin to see how tart they are. Start by adding half the sugars, taste again, and add more as needed.
2 cups bakeapples (1 pint jar)
1/4 cup amber rum (optional)
1/2 cup each white and firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
8 sheets thawed phyllo pastry
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
2 tbsp. turbinado or other coarse sugar
Bring bakeapples, rum and sugars (to taste) to a boil and simmer together, uncovered, about 30 minutes.
You want the liquid to reduce and the bakeapples to break down, but you’re not going for full-on jam. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, salt and butter, stirring until butter is melted. Refrigerate as long as you can — overnight is best.
Thaw the phyllo, preferably in the fridge, and take out 8 sheets — a couple of extras won’t hurt. You can refreeze the rest.
Working with one sheet at a time and keeping the rest covered by plastic wrap or a damp cloth, brush phyllo lightly with melted butter using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Stack the phyllo one sheet on top of another. Brush the top with a little more butter — depending on how heavy handed you are you may need to melt a bit more.
Spread the cold bakeapple mixture down the long side about 1 inch from the edge and leaving 2 to 3 inches at the ends. Roll pastry once over the filling to enclose it, then once again. Fold in the ends. Continue rolling until you have a neat package.
Lift carefully onto a parchment paper lined or lightly greased baking sheet. With a serrated or very sharp knife, cut shallow slashes into the top about 2 inches apart. Brush with a little melted butter and sprinkle on the turbinado sugar.
Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until deeply golden brown. Cool slightly then cut into fat slices.
Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or a dusting of powdered sugar, or just as it is.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.