September 09, 2013

Mixed Berry Upside Down Cake

I have to finish writing about summer before I can begin to prepare for fall. Please, just let me savour these last few moments. Hibernation mode will start soon and I need to store some energy before I begin my descent into burrowing under sweaters, blankets and mugs of hot chocolate. Scientists believe the function of hibernation is to conserve energy when there is no sufficient food available. 

I know from this time of year until Christmas, there is plenty--if too much--sufficient food available. Fruit preserving is a tradition that stemmed from the need to store the warm season's bounty over the winter months. According to many purists in the preserving world, good jam comes from good fruit. Technique, organization and strategy are crucial when it comes to preserving big batches of fresh fruit. You want them to be the right ripeness, taste, sweetness and acidity.

My strategy involves driving 20 minutes outside of town to Heeman's, a local strawberry farm and garden centre. Some people think because they are preserving fruit in large quantities that it doesn't have to be the best. I know that when I make pies, tarts and cakes that the fruit is just as important as the cake. The same goes with preserves: the love that goes into it is the same love you get when you open a can of jam in the winter months. 

Summer is also probably the only time I enjoy salads. For the rest of the year, salads can wait. I am not really the best of friends with salad. If I had to pick a salad as my favourite I would probably say Greek Salad or as I like to call it, "Cheese Salad." Seriously, am I not the only one who eats all of the vegetables and saves the feta cheese for last?

I remedied this salad by adding fresh watermelon to the salad, as well as tomatoes and cucumbers, and it was a more pleasant experience. My deciding factor in ordering a salad at a restaurant is seeing whether or not it comes with bread: "Where is the carb portion of this salad? I'm sorry. I need like, a bun or something, maybe a pita."

You certainly can't get fresh fruit or make meals like this in the winter. You also don't get farmer's markets, fresh local fruit and outdoor festivals. But now after some summer produce hoarding, I have enough fruit to make berries, tarts, pies and preserves for many months. This tart is like a custard pie with fruit mixed in and seems, but probably isn't, lighter than a traditional cherry pie. If you're sick of pie, this recipe is a good option and always looks nice when you can see the patterns of fruit scattered around the tart like marbling. 

Cherry Clafoutis Tart (recipe from Butter Baking) 

Ingredients: For the crust:

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cups unsalted butter
pinch of salt

For the filling:

2 cups of milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp flour
2 cups cherries, pitted


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F and butter a pie dish or tart tin.
2. To make the crust, add icing sugar to a stand mixer, then add the flour and salt. Mix on a low speed to combine. Add the butter on a low speed until a dough forms.
3. Pit and slice the cherries and set aside.
To pre-bake the crust of the Cherry Clafoutis, I placed parchment paper over the crust and then poured some uncooked black beans on top to weigh it down. This step, also known as "blind baking," is important because it prevents a soggy crust when you add the filling and sometimes the filling takes less time to cook than the pastry.
4. Pre-bake the crust for about 25-25 minutes.

5. For the filling, add milk, sugar, vanilla and salt to a small saucepan. Place on medium heat and bring to a slight boil to dissolve the sugar.
6. In a separate bowl, crack one egg, then add the flour and whisk together. Add the remaining eggs and whisk to combine.
7. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the heated milk.
8. Take the tart out of the oven and pour half of the filling onto the crust, then place the cherries around the tart.
9. While the tart is on the oven rack, carefully pour the remaining custard filling onto the tart.
10. Bake for 25-35 minutes.

When it is cooled, dust icing sugar on top of the tart. I also made mini versions of the tart in small ramekins. These were stored in the freezer and made perfect weekday desserts, although the crust got slightly soggy when re-heated. For the best result, eat as soon as it is cooled from the oven the first time you make it; everyone else will appreciate this sentiment as well.

There are pies, tarts, crostatas all to make with fruit and then there is fruitcake. theKitchn wrote a great piece on how to make an upside down cake with almost any fruit. They did not mention how to make an upside down cake with any pan though. With fruit comes the sweet nectar of those fruits and that sweet nectar can leak, spill and stick to everything it touches. This recipe also uses less sugar and butter than traditional cake recipes to let the natural sweetness of the fruit shine through. For this cake I used fresh blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and rhubarb. 

You're not supposed to flip this cake when it comes out of the pan as the point is that it is already upside down. I love those moments when you uncover or flip a cake for the first time and for a second you think everything is ruined. Then out of the somewhat sticky fruit ashes emerges a beautiful tasting (sometimes not always a looker) type of cake. 

In the winter, there is different kind of fruitcake. I absolutely love holiday fruitcake and have made it myself for the last few holidays. And guess what? It is also the kind of fruit (and cake) that lasts for many, many months until you're longing for summer again and even perhaps a fresh salad.

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