Rustic Raspberry Tart – Easy and Oh So Satisfying

Well, because of that blackberry failure I told you about, I’ve been craving berries. Not to mention that the two extended power outages have wrecked havoc on things in the freezer. After snow induced 24 hour freezing power outage one, I decided to pop the oven on and make a very easy rustic raspberry tart.  I’ll be sharing this with the Decidedly Healthy or Horridly Decadent swap, which is mostly from scratch. So, I’ll link you to the recipe I like for the pie crust – but know this time around I resorted to fast and easy Pillsbury. For U.S. folks, I do think we should all launch a campaign to them to get them to return to the folded rounds of pie crust. This rolled business is ridiculous as either  the inside of the roll is too cold to roll and breaks or the outside is too warm, floppy and won’t bake up as well. Most business books will forewarn that the biggest mistake most make is not knowing when to stop pouring money into something and admit it was the wrong choice. Coke did it for classic Coke, but that’s unusual. I say we all respond to their @Pillsbury tweets with a “please bring back the folded piecrust – if Coke could admit their mistake and move on – you can as well!” Sigh, but you don’t come here for me to stand on my soapbox and preach, so back to baking.

So, pie crust. I often grab Martha or Barefoot Contessa’s recipe – but most have you (with good reason) putting your dough in the fridge every little bit. What happens for me is that when I take the dough out of my fridge to roll – it’s a hard block that I end up wacking with the rolling pin and having the worst time rolling out. Doing a bit of attack, putting it back in the fridge, attacking some more. Not handling yet rolling out a solid brick isn’t as easy as they’d have you believe.  I do keep solid Crisco and generally go for the crusts with some butter and some solid shortening. But, when I’m not up for that much strenuous exercise in the kitchen, I go with Jacques Pepin rustic pie crust – just butter, flour, salt, ice water. It works and it’s yummy.

I also like this as it’s less than a pie – more servings for four. Oven to 375.

Piecrust – Jacques Pepin rustic pie crust or Pillsbury (you can’t use a formed in pan crust here)

2 cups raspberries or one packet (12 oz works, you get more with squashed & frozen )

2 Tablespoons sugar plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling

2 Tablespoons flour

If you’re using frozen berries, let them mostly thaw in the packet. A few cold and stuck together is ok but you don’t want a mass of frozen block. In a bowl, stir the sugar, flour and raspberries to distribute the flour and sugar evenly.  I like to make this in a pie pan as the berries do bubble over and it contains the “damages”. Place your crust flat into your pie dish. Mound the berry mixture in the center, keeping it about an inch and a half from the edges of the bottom of the pie dish. Take the edges of the pie crust and gently tug and fold it toward the center – from the picture you can see you don’t try to get all the way to the center but just come in enough to have a nice strong edge. Lightly sprinkle the white sugar over the top. Bake about 45 minutes (start checking at 40 – you want the crust to start to brown). Cool enough to not damage yourself or guests. Great with yogurt for breakfast or vanilla ice cream for a rich dessert (or plain when the power is out!).

This picture linky parties I participate in are linked at the bottom of this post.

Of Festivals and Cakes

Did you know that snakes emerging from their dens was the original weather omen of spring? Punxsutawney Phil and groundhogs are new to the game, perhaps a tad cuter, but the timing is traditional. For those of us north of the equator, it’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  In the Irish tradition, it’s called Imbolc.  Others may observe the Feast of St Brigid (the Irish goddess Brigid, later Christianized), plain old Groundhog Day or Candlemas/Purification of the Virgin. The obligatory tomb in Ireland aligned with the rising sun flashing in on the dates of Imbolc and Samhain (Halloween to most) can be found in County Meath.

As it generally marks the beginning of spring, this festival is a time of new beginnings – first ploughing, first planting, new romance, pregnancy of the herds. Time to clean out winter by burning the greens brought home at solstice. Hearth fires, candles, or a bonfire if the weather permits, represent the return of warmth and the increasing power of the sun.

And, as with all the festivals, special cakes are baked. 

I enjoy giving a nod to the seasons and I’m not quite up for the gardening chores yet – so, baking it is. I’ve been pondering what kind of special cake to bake to acknowledge the season – a horridly rich chocolate cake as a contemporary consideration of special or throwback to tradition with a bannock or soda bread?  I also have an oat scone recipe I love (no light fluffy sweet muffin imitations in a triangle shape here, a scone that has substance) and oat cakes fit the traditional concept while large round scored bannocks today can be considered a scone. Like everyone else, I’ll do my soda bread next month. And, if I’m going to make it, I want to enjoy it. So, although original griddle cooked bannocks were unleavened and made with only barley or oats – I’ll go for a more contemporary take on a Bannock recipe that’s more pleasing to today’s (and my) palate. This version could be called a scone – it is very light and flaky, like a good biscuit, but not sweet like some of the marketed scones you might find.

Bannock, adapted from Gourmet’s all white flour recipe at

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
½ cup old fashioned oats (the kind you cook for 5 minutes to get oatmeal, no instant)
½ cup whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small squares (less than an inch) NOT room temp, think pie dough or biscuit
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries, raisins or currants
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Given that I like the ease kitchen appliances bring, I prefer to do use my Cuisinart when crumbling butter with flours. I use the 4 cup Cuisinart Pro Plus compact Food Processor; I don’t cook for huge groups often so this totally meets my needs. When I do this recipe, I do it in parts. I place the whole wheat flour, oats, butter and 1 cup of the flour in my smaller processor and pulse in bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal with small lumps.

I then place 1 cup AP flour, the baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in my mixing bowl and whisk those. Add the crumbly butter mixture from the processor in and blend.  If you have a larger processor – just toss all the dry ingredients in the bowl with the butter chunks and pulse. If not using a processor, whisk together flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a bowl and blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender. Like a biscuit or pie dough, the lighter your touch, the flakier this will be.  Pour in buttermilk, stirring until the dough just comes together. Add your dried fruit.

You might need some of that additional ¼ cup of flour now.  I like my dough just a tad sticky so I don’t knead it so much as give it a few good rolls while in the bowl then just let it sit 5 minutes. Note that it also can’t be so sticky that you can’t shape it or get it to your baking surface.  I shape mine on a floured surface and pat it into a 1 ½ to 2 inch-thick round that I score.  

Bake it on a pizza stone (an ungreased baking sheet works as well). Bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 35 minutes.

Transfer bannock to a rack and cool to warm. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

I’m resurrecting this post for two “favorites” parties. It’s now August and we’ve just passed the harvest festival of Lughnasadh (Aug 1st) – the time of first harvest and celebrations of gratitude to ensure the impending harvest is plentiful and safely reaped before winter sets in. Those of us blogging no longer consider late rains, issues of mildew or early frosts. But here in wine country we’re still connected to the seasons for the continued health of the local economy, I know the vintners breathe a deep sigh of relief after their successful “no rain” no mildew” harvests and each winery hosts their own parties to celebrate. In Europe and Ireland people continue to celebrate the holiday with bonfires and dancing. The Christian church established this day as ritual of blessing the fields. As bannock is traditional for this harvest as well, thought I’d pull up this post and bake one myself. To see other bloggers favorite posts, check out Half Past Kissin Time’s Saturday Sampling or the Gallery of favorites at 21st Century Housewife.

Standing stone photo from Wikipedia.

This post is being reborn at the Gallery of Favorites that Alea at Pre-meditated Leftovers hosts with April of The 21st Century Housewife


My “go to” Shortbread Cookie

Those of you who’ve read a bit of my blog will notice I like “go to” recipes. Years ago I’d tried a “new recipe” at Christmas Eve – pasta with a cream sauce and chestnuts from a favored magazine source. It was horridly bland in the most unpalatable way. That was the first and last time I served a recipe I hadn’t tried first (yes, everyone does learn this lesson and luckily 1. It was a side dish and 2. They were very close friends, so they didn’t write off having dinner with me in the future).  It had looked so good in the magazine.  Lesson learned, I have and continue to build my arsenal of recipes I want to repeat. These are the recipes I share, the food I serve guests or add to baskets as gifts.

Enter Barefoot Contessa Pecan Shortbread Cookies. You’ll find that although traditional shortbread is flour, sugar and butter plus flavorings, recipes and variations abound. Some use superfine sugar, some confectioner’s sugar and others plain ol sugar. Some add cream cheese (is it even then a shortbread or should it be called a sugar cookie? I’m not the food police, although these musings cross my mind). Flavorings run the gamut of extracts, citrus rind, nuts, cocoa, dried fruits and more. You can dip in chocolate, drizzle icing or serve with neither – plain being oh so perfect with a cup of tea. Rolling the dough instructions can be very thin or thick (Martha’s shortbread hearts say 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick, Ina’s recipe on Food network ½ and Ina’s recipe at Martha’s site ¼). I like the thicker style and it’s nice to know you don’t have to be perfect in rolling them out – just cut them all the same size and watch your cooking time. Oven temps also vary.  Originally, I’d planned to use a shortbread mold I have (I have this ‘thing’ for bakeware). I’ve used the recipe from Brown Bag Cookie Art in the past, based on the consideration that it’s in their best interests to have a super recipe so you bake shortbread often and therefore want to use more and more of their molds. I liked their plain shortbread cookie (requires confectioner’s sugar) but the mold didn’t capture the detail as much as I liked. I’d browsed the web and found a blog showing pics of that blogger’s cookies from the tart size molds noticing that, although she professed to making cookies in these molds all the time, hers also didn’t capture the mold detail. It’s something I’ll pursue later (refrigeration I hear is the key plus pressing the hell out of it when you put it in the mold). Given the crunch of holidays, I decided I’d use Wilton’s mini multi cutter (looks like it’s supposed to cut three oblong brownies from one pressing) to give myself a standard shape.

I wanted a classic shortbread recipe when searching what to settle on. The Brown Bag Art recipe was good, but I knew there was something a bit better out there. Searched Food Network, Martha and various web sources. Narrowed my search at Martha Stewart to “published prior to 2004” as those are the recipes her empire was founded on. I sometimes think with the proliferation of recipe mags and shows and blogs there are those who run out of really good ideas and just throw together more combinations of spice or more and varied ingredients into standard recipes – sometimes it may work for a flavor palette that builds, but the majority of the time I find I prefer the simpler, cleaner taste without tumbling too many strong flavors together. (I do like Indian food, but if I had it more than a few times/week I’d be craving something like steamed broccoli with butter and a dash of salt only).  

Found the recipe published in the magazine in 1992, before Ina had a following more than her store and she was a guest on Martha’s show. The notation “These cookies were always the first thing to sell out at the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten’s gourmet store in East Hampton, New York” sold me. The interesting bit is that Martha’s site just has a 2 by pure almond extract – so I added 2 teaspoons. In checking a similar recipe on food network, Ina adds the equivalent of ½ teaspoon (Food Network recipe is this doubled without the sugar sprinkled on just before baking). I really like the strong almond extract flavor. I like it when the cookies are still slightly warm from the oven and that sweet almond taste is very strong and I love it a day later when the almond taste has mellowed but still comes through in the cookie’s flavor.

Barefoot Contessa Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 1/4 ounces pecan halves, toasted
½  to 2 teaspoons pure almond extract (depending on your tastes, I’ll always go full 2 teaspoons)
  1. Cream together butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until mixture is light in color, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add flour, salt, pecans, and almond extract, and mix until combined and the pecans start to break up.
  3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Using 2 1/2-inch diameter fluted cookie cutters, cut cookies, and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Return to refrigerator 1 hour more.
  4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle cookies with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

I like to cook them just until you can see very light browning at the edge. For molds, this is a must. For shaped, some folks demand they’re taken from the oven before any coloration from baking, others, like me, go with the slight toasting color. I wrapped these simply using the paper liner that is used to separate the foil cupcake liners (just press the opposite sides with your finger and you have a perfect oblong) and holiday treat bags. These aren’t going in the mail and the light bags can easily be placed around your food basket without crushing items beneath.
Pecan Shortbread Cookies – Martha Stewart Recipes

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 This post is being resurrected for Ina’s Garden over at 21st Century Housewife (shortbread is good for Indian Summer afternoons as well as holiday baking!) and participated in the following linky parties: