These are the berries of my childhood. I will never be able to think of gooseberries and not think of my mother.
Gooseberries and currants are both small, tart, and juicy. They are common to Central and Northern European cuisine, so I think, when my mom moved to Canada and was able to, she planted a bush of each in the backyard to remind her of her home. I still vividly remember sitting on the ground between both of those bushes, alternating between plucking the tiny red jewel-like currants, and the larger, veined gooseberries. Both would pop in the best way in my mouth, releasing their juicy tartness. They would usually end sweet, but it was the tartness that I do remember most. They weren’t so tart that it stopped me from continuing to pluck those bushes bare. To this day, I’m not really sure if I ever left anything for my mom to work with, but she obviously didn’t mind 🙂
For ages, you wouldn’t really see them in the markets here in North America. Unless of course, the demographic of a specific grocer was European, and thus the demand for those berries warranted bringing them in. So it was always a hit or miss event if I came across these little gems each summer. But when I did, I would bring a pint home and just eat them as is.
Thankfully these days, the farmers have gotten more adventurous in their choice of crops, so now we’re finding gooseberries, currants, elderberries, Saskatoon berries etc at our farmers markets as soon as the season is ripe.
The other day I was walking past a fruit stand set up outside on one of my favourite streets in Toronto, Roncesvalles Ave. I peeked in, and yes, there they all were: gooseberries, currants (not just one, but all three colours!) and Saskatoon berries (kinda like blueberries, peculiar to Canada I think) So I couldn’t resist bringing home several pints! They’ve been showing up on yogurt every morning for a few days now. And of course they make a lovely topping for pancakes and crepes. They fit into the dimples of waffles perfectly. And then there is all the baking.
I love berry tarts and pies. I think my favourite one is this Jewelled Berry Tart, because every berry is accounted for. A truly Summertime tart. Here’s the recipe: Summer Berry Tart.
This past weekend I made this new tart as well. Or should I call it a galette? Or crostata? No matter what we call them, these are the easy peasy tarts that take the pressure out of getting pie crust together and doing a designed top. Mine is extra easy since it uses ready made puff pastry. All you have to do is thaw and lay the sheet of pastry out on a baking sheet. Cut off the corners to create a wonky circle shape, and fill the middle. Then the edges get folded back over the filling a bit, and it gets baked off. In no time it’s ready for ice cream!
So about the filling. All the berries (use at least two cups worth. Some honey, lemon juice and cornstarch, and that’s it. Of course, I couldn’t just leave it at that. So I warmed up the honey and added rosewater and saffron to it. And stirred it up and then let it cool slightly. Use a runny honey that doesn’t have an overwhelming flavour. Go for a more delicate wildflower or clover honey in this instance. Because you really want the rosewater and saffron to shine. They both add slightly exotic notes to the final honey. And of course, plenty of fragrance!
The filling of berries, honey and cornstarch get stirred together and mounded up in the middle of the pastry. After the edges of the pastry are folding inward over the filling, I give it a brushing with an egg wash, sprinkle some turbinado sugar over it all, and finish with sliced almonds scattered over the edge. These will give the final crostata the best crunchy contrast.
In no time the juices are bubbling away, the crust and almonds are a lovely golden brown, and the kitchen smells amazing. Pull the crostata out and let it cool before slicing. You want the juices to settle and set before slicing it all up. But when you do, and add a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream, you will be in berry heaven! It also makes a great breakfast, just sayin!
Gooseberry and Currant Crostata with Rosewater and Saffron Honey
Sweet and juicy berries come together so easily in this quick to prepare crostata or open faced tart. The honey is scented with exotic flavours, and the crust is brushed with egg and topped with sugar and almonds. In no time, all you need is a big scoop of ice cream!
- 2 cups mixed berries (I used gooseberries, currants, saskatoon berries and blueberries) Use what you can find! If you have slightly more than 2 cups, that's fine too!!
- 1/4 cup runny honey try to use a mild flavoured honey, like clover or wildflower
- 1 1/2 tsp rosewater
- 1 tsp saffron threads crushed
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch
- 1 sheet of puff pastry thawed in the fridge
- 1 egg for egg wash mixed with a little water
- turbinado or raw sugar for finishing
- 2-3 tbsp of sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Rinse and sort through the berries, removing any stems (snipping off the tops and tails of the gooseberries with a pair of scissors) and place all of them in a medium bowl.
Place the honey in a small sauce pan and warm over medium heat to a gentle bubble.
Add the rosewater and the saffron and stir until softened and fragrant. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
To the bowl of berries, add the honey, the lemon juice and the cornstarch or arrowroot starch and stir to combine well.
Open the packaging of puff pastry and lay out (either in the parchment paper it came in, or if there is none, then onto a fresh piece of parchment paper. Roll out to a rough 10 inch (26cm) circle (don't worry too much about shape). In my case, the puff pastry is practically at this size to begin with, so I just place the entire sheet (sitting on the parchment) onto my baking sheet.
Trim away the corners on a 45 degree angle, so that you won't have excess pastry in those spots when folding the pastry over the filling.
Mound the berry filling onto the pastry, leaving a good 1 inch border. (the border can be slightly larger (1 1/4 inch, if you like)
Gently fold the edges up and over the berry filling, pleating as you go around. Press gently to get the folds to stay.
Brush the entire border with the egg wash. Sprinkle the pastry with turbinado sugar.
Take the almond slices and sprinkle the edges with them, pressing them in very gently where needed.
Place the baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven and bake until the juices are bubbling and the edges are golden brown. This should take between 25-35 minutes. But each oven is different.
Remove the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Once cooled a bit, use the parchment to remove the crostata to the cooling rack itself.
You will want a really good sharp serrated knife to cut through the almonds and pastry.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Inspired by Blueberry Chamomile Galette by Half Baked Harvest