Friday, 26 October 2012

Magical Saskatoon Berry and Maple Tarts, with a Punjabi Twist

Magical Saskatoon Berry and Maple Tarts, with a Punjabi Twist

It’s bookclub time again, and this time for a book set on the Canadian Prairies, home to the Saskatoon berry. 
This berry grows wild all over the prairies, and even into the mountain areas, where it doesn’t taste quite as delicious.  Unlike blueberries or even huckleberries, the prairie Saskatoon berry has a smoky and floral taste.  Comparing Saskatoons to blueberries or huckleberries is like comparing mangoes to peaches.  The Saskatoon has a gorgeous but pronounced perfumed taste.
a meeting of the twains
The other great Canadian icon—maple syrup—compliments the Saskatoon, and for extra sweetening, I’m hauling us bookclub members all the way to the Punjab, the most logical spot in the world for a tasty sugar known as jaggery.  (They’re used to my ways.)

This combination of flavours in itself is magical, but the magic intensifies because of the impossible pie type of crust, which means that this batter makes its own crust.  Better still, you toss the ingredients into a blender, and the batter makes itself in a couple of minutes.
What more can you ask for than a fabulous blend of flavours, a touch of the Punjab, and a quick crust that makes itself?  This recipe is actually fairly healthy too—the berries are high in anti-oxidants, the distilled tree sap known as maple syrup is full of healthy minerals, whole wheat flour graces the mix and walnuts and eggs are thrown in for good measure.  Why, you could live on ‘em.

½ teaspoon butter for the pans

The blender does it all!
¼ cup melted butter, cooled a bit
1 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup light cream (around 12%)
½ cup whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup jaggery (easily found in Indian groceries)
3 eggs

1 cup Saskatoon berries

I used three buttered mini-muffin pans for these, as my bookclub ladies aren’t the type to eat a large amount of sweets.  Also, these are little two bite treasures that don’t require the hostess to put out extra plates or cutlery.  I lightly buttered the pans so sticking catastrophes didn’t happen.  Use butter and no other greasing agent, if you want the best flavour.
Pour all the other ingredients into a blender, except for the berries.  Whiz for a minute or so, till they’re liquefied.  Don't whiz for much longer as this will toughen the eventual crust.

I used frozen Saskatoon berries, the only kind available at this time of year.  In the past, I’ve often gone into the wild to pick my own, but these came from the grocery.  In the future I’d like to direct you to Joanne’s new U-pick Saskatoon farm, but that will be another posting when her trees start to produce fruit.  (She's a member of the bookclub, and a budding Saskatoon berry farmer as well.)

Saskatoons  in a half cup measure-- they're little!
Back to the present, pour the batter into the greased muffin tins, filling them a bit less than two/thirds full.  Drop the berries into each cup, distributing them evenly.  Now each cup will be closer to three/quarters full, so when they bake, they’ll rise up nicely but not overflow the pan.

Fill them up about this full.
Bake at 350F for between ten to fifteen minutes if you are using mini-muffin pans.  Try twenty to twenty-five for regular sized muffin pans.  They are done when they smell gorgeous, are slightly golden, and a toothpick comes out clean. 

The maple and Saskatoon flavours linger on the tastebuds, making this an especially satisfying dessert.  These will suit the discussion of Who Has Seen The Wind quite well.  

This novel used to be standard fare in the Alberta curriculum, but I think in modern times, watching an episode or two of Corner Gas gives a more convincing impression of our prairies.


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