Himalayan Blackberry Pie

blackberriesShould we thank Luther Burbank for introducing the Himalayan Blackberry to the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century?  The plump, juicy berries have supplied us with delicious pies, syrups and jams that burst with flavor, but on the other side, some folks would chose to curse him for bringing West Coasters a botanical nightmare.

This overbearing plant can make grown men shed tears of frustration. I’ve seen folks drop to their knees in anguish because green thorny tentacles were spotted slithering over, under and through the backyard fence …for the 15th year in a row.

So, should we thank or curse Mr. Burbank for bringing the blackberry to the Pacific Coast?  I think most of us would agree that he did us a favor. In spite of their dauntless proliferation, this native blackberry tantalizes our taste buds with a unique and magnificent flavor. Granted, it’s a love-hate relationship between Northwest residents and the Himalayan Blackberry, but love conquers all when the deliciously fragrant pies come bubbling from the oven. Truly, it’s one of the finest desserts on God’s green earth.

Favorite Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened margarine
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, optional

Yield: 2-9” crusts

Sift together salt and flour into medium sized bowl. Mix margarine and sifted ingredients together, using a pastry blender. Add water, a little at a time, until mixture resembles dry oatmeal. Stir with a heavy-duty wooden spoon. It’s much simpler to make pie crust in a food processor, just through in all the ingredients, including the cold water, and process until mixture resembles dry oatmeal. Divide dough into two large balls.  Cover with plastic wrap until ready to assemble pies.

Roll out each ball of dough (one at a time) on a lightly floured board. Gently place the first crust in the bottom of the pie pan. Do not stretch the crust while fitting into the pan and leave at least 1″ extra hanging over the edge of pan. Using a fork, generously prick the entire bottom and side of crust (this is to prevent crust from becoming doughy). Pour filling into the bottom crust as directed; dot with small pieces of butter, if desired.

blackberry pie w slit crust
Above is one technique for venting a top piecrust.

Roll out the top crust. While it’s still on the board, use a sharp knife to cut a design so the pie will have a vent while it’s baking. I usually cut a stem with tiny “leaves” along the stem but tiny Xs or hearts, circles, etc. are perfectly fine. Carefully fold the crust in half and lay it over the top of pie. Crimp the edges using your fingers or a tool that’s specially made for crimping pie edges and trim off excess crust that’s hanging below the crimped edge.

rolled pie crust w holes
Above is a simple technique for venting a top piecrust.

Cook’s Note: Bottom piecrust can be pre-baked in a preheated oven at 350° for about 10 minutes if your bottom centers aren’t cooking all the way through to the center the way you’d like.

blackberry pie slice

Blackberry Pie

6 to 8 cups fresh blackberries, washed and drained
1-cup granulated sugar (less if berries are especially sweet)
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
left”>4 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1-teaspoon cinnamon and 2-teaspoons sugar mixed together (set aside)

Preheat oven to 450°. Sift together sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, flour and salt. Sprinkle dry, sifted mixture onto blackberries. Mix gently to coat the berries. Pour berry filling into pie pan that’s been lined with (unbaked) piecrust. Drop small pats of butter over the top of filling.

Add top crust that’s properly vented; crimp crusts and cut off excess crust. Sprinkle finished top with reserved cinnamon and sugar mixture. Cover the crimped edge with strips of aluminum foil to avoid burnt crust. Remove strips 10 to 15 minutes before removing pie from the oven.

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40 to 45 minutes longer or until bubbly in center. Cool the pie on the counter and then chill it completely before cutting it into individual pieces. This helps the pie retain a well-defined shape.

Cook’s Note:  Place a large piece of aluminum foil on the lower rack below the pie in case it overflows, which is a good practice when baking any type pie.

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Making Berries Last Longer

cleaning berries

Berries will last longer if they’re gently run through a salad spinner after they’re washed to remove excess water. Pictured is a suggestion to line the spinner basket with a towel before spinning berries dry to protect them from bruises or cuts.

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Ask Cynthia a Question – July 28, 2015

berry pieDorine asked: My homemade berry pies generally turn out runny even after leaving them in the refrigerator overnight. It’s very discouraging. What am I doing wrong?

My answer: Here are a few suggestions you might try. 1) For berry and cherry pies, use Minute Tapioca instead of flour. The conversion from flour to tapioca is on the box. 2) Vent the bottom crust with lots of fork pricks and cut large vents into the top crust so the liquid can evaporate. 3) Don’t cut the pie until it is completely cool, preferably refrigerated overnight. 4) Bake the pie longer, and 5) if you live at a high altitude, getting things to thicken properly might prove to be challenging.

When all else fails, an extra scoop of vanilla bean ice cream will cover flaws in the pie and I guarantee that no one will ask, “Why is this pie runny?” Good luck Dorine, and thanks for your question.

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Peggy’s Chile Rellenos

chile rellenosMy friend, Peggy, was visiting us from Idaho last month and she made a batch of her famous Chile Rellenos. We ate them for a few nights in a row and still wanted more. Perhaps that’s why my thoughts turned to Mexican food for this month’s newsletter.

At any rate, Peggy and I are both Norwegian but I can guarantee that the Mexican recipes in this month’s blog will be especially tasty albeit with an Anglo influence.

Peggy’s Chile Rellenos

6 large fresh, Anaheim Chiles
1-cup all-purpose flour
1-egg
1-heaping teaspoon baking powder
Milk to taste
1/2 to 1 cup Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided into eighths
1 can Hatch Enchilada Sauce (Tex-Mex Style)
Sour Cream, if desired
Green Onions, diced, if desired

Directions: Blanch the chilies and remove the skins. Set chiles aside to cool.

In the meantime, combine flour, egg, and baking powder in a medium bowl; stir in milk until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter. If you don’t like a lot of dough around the chilies, make a half-batch of batter.

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass-baking pan with cooking spray and place a small amount of Enchilada sauce in the bottom of pan. Split the chilies lengthwise; add 1/7th of the shredded cheese and some onions to each chile. Place the stuffed chile in the pan and repeat until all the chilies are stuffed.

Pour the batter over the chilies, and then, according to taste, pour Enchilada sauce over the batter. Finish with the shredded cheese.

Bake uncovered for 40 to 50 minutes, or until chilies are tender and batter mixture surrounding the chilies is cooked through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and/or green onions, if desired.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

chile rellenos out of oven

Chile Rellenos when they come out of the oven.

 

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Enhancing Your Tortillas

Corn-tortillas

Lightly toast both sides of corn or flour tortillas on a hot griddle to enhance their flavor; it makes the difference between mediocre/doughy tasting tortillas and tortillas that are especially tasty.

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Ask Cynthia a Question – June 22, 2015

Tex-Mex-appetizerMarie: What is the definition of Tex-Mex?

My answer: The best way to explain it is to direct you toward this article:

Francis Lam writes If it isn’t really Mexican food then What is Tex-Mex? which is posted on the Splendid Table food blog (which you’ll notice is also our Blog of the Month). It’s an interesting article that made me realize that Tex-Mex is a real cuisine and not a term to be tossed around casually…especially in Texas. It also gives pictures and a recipe for what looks like a killer Shrimp Cocktail.

For more information, Wikipedia has a detailed explanation of Tex-Mex cuisine defined as cultural fusion cuisine of American cuisine and Mexican cuisine.

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7-Layer Tex-Mex Dip

7-Layer Mexican DipThis is a recipe that’s been around for a long time and each time I make it, it’s like I’m tasting it for the first time. Terry Webb, a firefighter’s wife from Kent, Washington, shared it with me back in the 1970s, and I’ve been making it for get-togethers ever since.

Two changes I’ve made to the recipe is I swapped bean dip for black refried beans (the bean dip was too salty for us). I’ve also turned it into a main dish by adding cooked, seasoned and crumbled ground beef or shredded chicken on top of the sour cream layer, then create remaining layers as directed, serve in haystack form as pictured above or individual tostada style as shown below.

7-Layer Tex-Mex Dip

3 medium ripe avocados, peeled and mashed
1-tablespoon lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
1-cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-1 1/2 ounce packet taco seasoning
3 medium tomatoes, chopped and well-drained
1 large bunch green onions with tops, finely chopped
2-3 1/2 ounce cans ripe sliced olives
2-10 1/2 ounce cans black refried beans or bean dip
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Tortilla chips

Mash peeled avocados in medium bowl with lemon, salt, and pepper; set aside. In a separate small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise and taco seasonings and set aside.

Spread black refried beans (or bean dip) onto large platter and top with avocado mixture. Spread sour cream mixture over avocado layer. Sprinkle with chopped green onions, then chopped tomatoes, and then chopped olives. For the last layer add the shredded cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Use your favorite tortilla chips as dippers, or serve tostada style by layering the dip onto crisp fried tortillas (as shown below).

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

7-Layer Mexican Dip3
Tostada Style 7-Layer Tex-Mex Dip

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