I always stop for blackberries. They usually make appearances at the most opportune times – on the walk to the beach or driving along some Sonoma County road. If it’s a particularly sunny spot, I know it’s going to be a sweet intermission. It’s hard to say no to free berries. Who does that?
Berry foraging is a brambly bliss – stained fingers are a must but so are cuts and scratches. I’m short so I make my way around the shorter branches, stretching and contorting around thickets of miniature daggers. I prefer shorter sleeves so the thorny branches don’t turn me into a marionette. It’s hard because it’s so cold and foggy on most summer days, but if it’s sunny, I lose all of my layers and get to work. It takes a lot of berries to fill two galettes.
Of course, I’ll be lucky if you go home with half of the berries I find – it’s hard not to eat them straight off the vines. I practically turn into a wild animal.
My first summers in Northern California were dotted with random blackberry diversions, but I’ve since located my favorite foraging spot in the quiet hills of Sausalito north of the city. I’m sure no one picks berries there. At least, the bushes look marvelously full every time I’m there.
If you are a San Franciscan, you’ll know that there are plenty of locations in Golden Gate Park with lots of berries. But those comes with stares and competition. Also, fog. Another thing to be weary of is picking berries close to the Pacific water. The ocean winds are particularly good at moving sand, so if I pick berries by the beach – it’s going to be very sandy, which tends to interfere with the texture of juicy berries. Then again, the seeds prevent me from chewing them. I just chuck them whole into my waiting belly.
My favorite way to indulge in a large harvest of wild berries is to make a rustic tart using the Tartine method ( flakier than pie, but only requires a little bit more work). If I have particularly unripe berries, I combine them with fresh stone fruit or other berries to make a sweeter tart. I make galettes with just tart berries, but that means plenty of sugar. I made the mistake of under-sugaring my tart once and it used a lot more ice cream than usual.
Did I mention how much I love this galette with tea?
Freeform Rustic Fruit Galette: Adapted from Tartine
Makes 2 8″ galettes
Please note that this pastry recipe does not sure a food processor, but it’s worth the extra effort. Just hand roll your dough and let it chill while you prep some fruit. This recipe is a hafl-recipe from the Tartine cookbook – it’s a more home-friendly portion that’ll feed a small family or two hungry eaters over the course of a few days.
1 c. cold butter, cut into chunks
1/2 c. very cold water
3/4 ts Salt
1 1/4 c. cold AP Flour
1 1/3 c. cold Pastry Flour
3 c. fresh fruit
If you are using fresh-picked berries, be sure to wash it and let it dry thoroughly before making dough.
1 egg yolk
1 tb heavy whipping cream
(1) Place flour and salt in a heap on your clean working surface and place chunks of butter on top. Don’t worry about mixing everything at the beginning.
(2) Coat the butter with flour and roll it out until you get strips of flat butter coated in flour. Keep your rolling pin as clean as possible by putting flour on top of the butter.
(3) Once all of the butter is in thin strips, pour cold water over the mix and use a dough scraper to combine the butter/flour with the water. Next, form the dough into a mass and begin rolling and folding the dough like below:
(4) Repeat rolling and folding until you get a smooth, pliable dough (photo below). If you plan on using it soon, roll this out until you have a large rectangle (10″x7″) – if not, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate. I prefer to keep mine compact since it stores well. You’ll need to roll it out and divide it into smaller portions for the size of the tart you’ll need.
(5) When you are ready to make the tart, be sure to divide and roll out your pastry into rounds. Let it chill while you heat your oven to 375 F and prepare your fruit.
(6) Tasting your fruit is an important step here. For my not tart berries, I used 2TB of sugar per 1 1/2 cup of berry on an 8″ Tart. I mix the sugar with some cornstarch – usually 1TB and reserve 1 TB of this sugar/cornstartch mix. The rest can be tossed with the fruit. You can increase the cornstarch to achieve a less juicy tart. I prefer my tarts to have only a little bit of juice – so vary this according to your fruit and personal taste. You can always bake a small test tart.
(7) Once you’ve prepped your fruits, remove the dough from the fridge and dust the bottom of the tart with the reserved sugar mixture. Place your fruit on top and fold the edges into a circle. Brush the tops with the eggwash (1TB of cream and 1 egg yolk) and sprinkle some coarse sugar on top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and then bake until golden – approximately 40 – 60 minutes depending on the size of your tart. You can use a metal spatula to check under the tart for done-ness. If your oven is tricky and bake things unevenly, rotate your tart about 25 minutes into the baking process. If your sugar crust is getting too dark – cover it with aluminum foil or reduce the temperature to 350 F.
(8) That’s it! enjoy it with some ice cream, coffee, or tea!
(9) You can freeze the tart with its fillings, for up to two weeks. Just don’t glaze it.