One of the worst parts about being away from California during the late summer is missing out on berry season.
Fortunately, one of the best parts about being at the cabin outside of Bozeman at this same time of year is the ability to pick berries right out the back door. And I am happy to say that on this trip, I had the opportunity to pick berries with one of the best berry pickers I’ve ever met.
Little George would spring up out of bed just after the sun had come up over the valley, and the sun was starting to reveal the dew drops on the trees and broad blades of grass in the meadow. He would climb up the steps in his adorable jammies, barefoot, and ask those of us still sleepily poking around the kitchen one of two questions:
1. what was for breakfast?
2. was it time to pick berries yet?
As you can imagine, I loved both of these questions equally. Really, it seemed that my mornings didn’t really get rolling until Little George would come up the stairs. Even sweet Gunner’s little tail would wag at this development of the day.
Usually breakfast was on offer first, and then, after changing out of those so-cute-jammies, a small crew of us would head to the berry patch, tucked into the thicket under the aspen trees behind the house armed with our little berry buckets ready for action.
Now when I say that Little George was eager to go berry picking, I might not be doing his interest justice. This sweet boy LOVES his berries. Loves to count them, loves to hunt them, loves to stick them on his fingers as if they were little Russian soldier hats and then eat them off one by one. In George’s dreams I imagine that he travels down berry-cobbled streets in a berry studded carriage to berry thickets rife with sweet gems of fruit – thornless, rich, bright – and falling off of the branches into his tiny hands. So there is no one more eager to pick, and eat our pickings than George.
This aside, there are several advantages to picking berries with a three-year old. The first of which has to be that they are small enough to see the low hanging fruit that we taller, older folk cannot. The second of which is decidedly that – once they spot those yet-to-be-discovered treasures – their tiny arms are small enough, their fingers focused enough to pluck those little bits from their branches and plop them into their little buckets. The only problem with picking berries with a three-year-old is that so often not many of the berries plucked make it into the bucket at all and instead get deposited right into a mouth instead. Little George was pretty great about instituting a “one for me, one for my bucket” rule, at the least.
And so, we returned home from our little morning outings with plenty of berries to snack on that day, and for breakfast the next. And, it was this continued supply that got me thinking about making some things that I’d been meaning to try for a long time here in the Montana kitchen.
A few months back, a friend and fellow chef introduced me to Musette Bakery – known in New York for their tasty, supposedly sinful treats for jersey-pockets and within their repertoire lies a pop tart. A pop tart! Be still my heart! Those cardboard-esque, yet tantalizing pastry treats that were off-limits in my childhood re-created in a wholesome, jersey-worthy edition? This I had to try. Luckily for me, several weeks later, I encountered one in a little bakery in Marin County that had fresh raspberry versions on offer. I ordered one up immediately and was absolutely NOT disappointed. And, moreover, I was convicted to try this at home.
So, one morning this past week, when the early morning clouds were threatening to spit rain all day, and when we still had an ample supply of raspberries wanting to be eaten (as well as a fresh supply of amish butter of all things) I crept up the stairs of the house ever so quietly and put a pot on the stove. Homemade raspberry jam was going to be the first ingredient in my pop tart and it was time to do this thing. And, an hour or so later, we were eating pop tarts for breakfast as we were planning our adventures for the day.
As I set out to pull this one together, I was searching for a literally from-scratch experience in the kitchen. I also wanted the formula to use as few ingredients as possible, to be as straight-forward and successful as can be. Admittedly, I’m quite pleased with the result and I can’t wait to try it a few more times in different iterations. (Next time: vanilla bean glaze?! A bacon + cheddar + herb version? What about smooshing some cinnamon + sugar between those flaky pastry layers?!) This said, the recipe is one of the more fussy that I’ve shared here, and admittedly the next few times that I make pop tarts at home I likely find myself making homemade jam from scratch to pull it off and if you want to short-cut the jam making and use your favorite jam (or another favorite filling,) I second your emotion. There isn’t any short-cutting the care that you must take with this dough, however. The presence of egg makes this a sturdy dough – very pop-tart-esque but the butter will still require you to work as quickly and efficiently as possible so as not to allow butter to melt out, and to keep the kitchen cool and the oven off until you’ve shaped your tarts.
Once you get the hang of the dough, it is absolutely possible for you to have some on hand at all times so that you can roll out tarts on a moment’s notice. In fact, this is the best part about this recipe — the possibility of recreating something with whimsy, and seemingly sinful in a way that is completely suitable for your everyday breakfast.