Tag Archives: swans island

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread WedgesIt’s never fun to come home from vacation, but I think I did it right this time. Returning over the holiday weekend left me ample time to relax, grocery shop, meal prep, put up all the new things I bought in Swan’s Island and Portland, and watch all of The Good Place season 2. I’m calling it a success.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Getting back into the groove yesterday wasn’t too terrible, but a piece of my heart is definitely still in Maine. You know, where it’s not 95 degrees.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Two days before I packed up to go home, my sister and I walked a good stretch of the North Road at a snail’s pace, picking upwards of a quart of tiny wild blackberries in about two hours. It might sound dull, but I can assure you that Eliot and I were anything but bored.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

The vast majority of the berries we found were the blackberries we expected, but we also spotted a blueberry patch and two teeny raspberries. All the apple trees were starting to turn, too. Maybe one day I’ll vacation a little later so I can enjoy them.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve written before about how I consider baking (and cooking) to be a form of active meditation; I feel the same way about foraging for berries. It’s easy to get lost in the simple process of plucking them from bushes and interacting with nature in a very tactile way. Berry-picking is probably the only time in my life where I am able to peacefully, fearlessly coexist with bees and that I’m not mad about a few good scratches from thorns. If anything, they’re little badges of honor.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve made pies with my foraged berries the last three years I’ve been on Swan’s Island, but decided to keep it easy this year, opting instead for these Blackberry Shortbread Wedges.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

They’re a slight adaptation of my Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars (and their apple counterpart), this time baked in an 8-inch round pan. The resulting wedges (or bars or whatever you want to call them) are served up almost like pie, and have a thick, buttery shortbread crust that is difficult to stop eating. You could certainly serve these at room temperature, but my fellow vacationers and I preferred them straight from the fridge. There’s just something about the combination of cold, tangy blackberry filling and rich shortbread.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

You’ll notice in the photos that I didn’t line the pan with foil or parchment—that’s only because I didn’t have any at our house. Instead, I greased and floured the pan and then sliced and served them directly from the pan. You may follow my lead here, or line the pan with foil and lift them onto a cutting board before slicing. I’ve written instructions for both methods in the recipe.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

However you choose to go about making these, I urge you to do so in these last weeks of summer. We saw pumpkins for sale as we drove out of Maine on September 1st, and while I am all for pumpkin after September 20th, I’m going to enjoy these end-of-season berries while I can.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges
makes one 8-inch pan, 8-12 wedges

Filling:
3 cups fresh blackberries
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, or line with aluminum foil, leaving overhang, and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make blackberry filling. In a medium mixing bowl, combine blackberries, lime juice, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture for topping.

Pour remaining shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Pour blackberry filling over the top, leaving behind any excess liquid. Spread berries into an even layer.

For the topping, use your fingers to pinch together small portions of the reserved shortbread mixture. Scatter them over the top of the blackberry layer.

If your pan is on the shallow side, place it on a rimmed baking sheet to collect any light overflow. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Move bars to the top rack and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until barely golden. Tent with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, or until cold.

If pan was buttered and floured, slice and serve wedges directly from the pan. If it was lined with foil, use overhang to remove to a cutting board. Peel off foil before slicing and serving.

Leftover Blackberry Shortbread Wedges will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. They will soften over time.

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

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Blackberry Pie

Blackberry PieI hope you have a place like Swans Island.

Blackberry PieI don’t necessarily mean an island off the coast of Maine with one store and a population of 300 (but I highly recommend it). I mean a place that you find endlessly enchanting. For my parents, it’s Santa Fe. For my older sister, it’s Isla Mujeres, Mexico. For me, it’s this little island four miles out to sea. I just can’t get enough.

Blackberry PieThe appeal of this place isn’t the broad spectrum of activities–in fact, it’s the opposite that keeps me counting the days between trips. Whereas in New York I am constantly bombarded with people and noise and tasks that must be dealt with right-this-second, on Swans Island, a car passes the house once every ten minutes, the only consistent sound is that of a bell on a lobster boat floating a mile away, and there is literally nothing I have to do. As Swans Island has limited phone and internet access too, this is a place where it really is possible to get away from it all.

Blackberry PieBlackberry PieFaced with a lack of activities, each of my friends and I have found ways to pass the time. Almost all of the things we do together (hiking, beaching, cooking, etc.) take place in the afternoons, so we each have to find a way to while away the mornings. Adam has been tearing through a book, VJ has put together 2.5 puzzles, and I have been wandering the sides of the road with a saucepan in hand, foraging for berries.

Blackberry PieThe last time I was here, I found mostly blueberries and raspberries–Blue-Razz Pie was the result. This time, the vast majority of the berries have been blackberries, so Blackberry Pie it is.

Blackberry PieBlackberry PieBlackberry PieThis pie, y’all. It’s made with my Whole Wheat Pie Dough and a super simple blackberry filling. Just fold some sugar, cinnamon, lime, and cornstarch into a few cups of fresh blackberries and it’s good to go. Now you can concentrate on the top crust.

Blackberry PieWhile you may top your pie however you like, may I suggest a lattice? They’re very easy and I love all the pockets of blackberry filling that peek through. Start by laying a few strips of dough parallel across the top of the filling. I cut my strips in different widths because I think it’s cute.

Blackberry PiePeel back a couple of the strips of dough and lay one perpendicularly across the filling. Then place all the strips back in their original positions.

Blackberry PiePull up the strips you didn’t move the first time and lay another strip across. Keep doing this until you don’t have any room left.

Blackberry PieBlackberry PieBlackberry PieCrimp the crust, brush it with egg wash, and give it a good sprinkle of sugar.Blackberry PieBlackberry Pie

Bake until beautiful and serve a la mode.Blackberry PieBlackberry Pie

Share with friends and definitely go back for seconds. It’s vacation, after all.Blackberry PieBlackberry Pie

Blackberry Pie
makes one 9-inch standard pie

1 recipe Whole Wheat Pie Dough or other good crust
4 cups fresh blackberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
juice of 1/2 lime

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
sugar, for sprinkling

On a floured surface, roll out one disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter and fit it in the pan. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine blackberries, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, salt, and lime. Fold with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until everything is evenly coated. Transfer filling to prepared crust, discarding any excess liquid. Refrigerate.

On a floured surface, roll out the other disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter. If you’d like a lattice crust, slice the rolled dough into strips (see photos above for instructions). If you want a full top crust, lay the rolled-out dough on top of the filling and cut a few vents. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang, and crimp the top and bottom crust edges together. Refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Make the egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush the entire exposed crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes, tenting with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly.

Let pie cool completely on a rack. Slice and serve with ice cream, if desired.

Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Blackberry Pie

Blue-Razz Pie

 If, hypothetically speaking, I ever wanted to leave New York City for good, I know exactly where I would go. I’d pack my life into a moving truck, drive ten hours north, hop a ferry, and set up camp on Swans Island, Maine. There would be an initial shock, leaving a city of 8 million people and taking residence in a town of 300, but I’m sure I’d adjust quickly. 

As I doubt I have any talent for lobstering (the primary profession among citizens of Swans Island), I think I’d build a little pie shop next door to the general store and live out my days wearing cute aprons, rolling dough, and serving warm slices of local berry pie a la mode. Oh yes, that’s the dream. Or at least it is today.

I’m currently vacationing on Swans Island with my dear friends VJ, Shira, and Liz. As there are two Lizzes here, I have been dubbed Betsy for the purposes of this trip. There’s not much to do here–there’s one store, no restaurants, no TV. Wi-Fi is available only from the porch of the public library and the vestibule in the post office. We’re completely out of our normal routines, instead filling our days with reading, relaxing, building fires, and making meals together. It’s absolutely glorious, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are not terribly thrilled that we’ll have to drive back to Brooklyn on Saturday. 

Liz and I have spent several hours walking down the side of the main road foraging for berries. When I was here last year, I found tons and tons of wild blackberries, but they’re not quite ripe yet. Instead, we’ve done some light trespassing in the name of blueberries and worried about ticks while picking raspberries in a ditch. We have not been arrested or had any ticks, thank goodness, but we have managed to collect just enough berries for pie.

When Liz and I met a year ago, we bonded over our mutual love of pie. She is a filling person, while I prefer the crust–a perfect balance, if you ask me. We have made at least fifteen pies since, including one November evening where we baked three apple pies before virtually passing out during the final game of the World Series. Every single one has been an enjoyable (and delicious) collaboration, but I think the Blue-Razz Pie we made today is my very favorite. 

  And how couldn’t it be? We worked as a team, scouring every bit of woods up and down North Road in an effort to make this happen. On our first visit to the WiFi porch at the public library, we each rushed through checking our email and social media so that we could squat in a ditch and pick blueberries. Yesterday, we took a six hour sojourn to the mainland for provisions and even though we were exhausted when we got back to the island, we put on long pants and went out to gather raspberries near the Back Cove. Our foraging was cut short by rain, but when we got home, Liz cut together a batch of Cream Cheese Pie Dough and we planned to get up the next morning and make pie first thing. 

   She stirred together the filling while I rolled and cut dough. We cut out hearts with an ancient cookie cutter we found in the back of a cabinet full of mismatched pots and pans. Everything got a brush of egg wash and a sprinkling of sugar before being popped into the oven. And forty-five minutes later, we pulled out the most beautifully browned pie, full of bits of wild raspberries and blueberries and smelling like magic. 

 There’s something really amazing about biting into something you made with someone you adore. This pie captures what I love about my friendship with Liz: the teamwork, the creativity, and the sweetness. I can’t wait to make another one. 

 Blue-Razz Pie
makes one standard 9-inch pie

1 recipe Cream Cheese Pie Dough
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
juice of 1/2 lime

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 teaspoon water

On a floured surface, roll out one disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter and fit it in the pan. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine blueberries, raspberries, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and lime. Fold with a wooden spoon until everything is evenly coated. Transfer filling to prepared crust. Refrigerate.

On a floured surface, roll out the other disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter. You may use a cookie cutter to cut shapes in the dough before laying it over the top of the filling. If you want a full top crust, lay the rolled-out dough on top of the filling and cut a few vents. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang, and crimp the top and bottom crust edges together. Refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Make the egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush the entire exposed crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45-55 minutes, tenting with foil at the 20 minute mark.

Let pie cool completely on a rack. Slice and serve with ice cream, if desired.

Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.