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Black Caps and Cream

July 7, 2010

Wild black raspberries have been one of my favorite seasonal treats since I was a child (did you know they’re also called black caps? I didn’t until recently, and I now love them even more.) We had a large black raspberry bush tucked in the back of our yard, tangled in with trees and brambles and rocks, and my brother and I awaited with great anticipation the moment that we could fight the thorns and pick a bowlful (a bowlful was usually all we could get, since the birds seemed to have black raspberry radar and would devour them the instant they ripened. )

Black caps have flushed into ripeness the past two weeks around Ithaca, though their season is ephemeral and they’re gone as quickly as they come. All the more reason to savor them, berry by berry, black juice staining your fingers, while they’re here.

My friend Emily is lucky enough to have several black raspberry bushes growing in her yard, and she brought me a bucketful (!) the other night. Seeing as it’s been H-O-T here, I couldn’t imagine turning on the oven to bake them into a cobbler or crisp or pie…all I wanted to do was douse them in a good spoonful of creamy, cool crème anglaise.

Which, in fact, I’m thinking may be my preferred method of eating any kind of berry this summer. This vanilla custard sauce is easy to make ahead and have on hand for a simple dessert that really lets the berry shine. Use farm fresh eggs with their beautiful orange yolks, and your custard will be a gorgeous sunny yellow color.

We had friends over for lunch this past weekend, and after a light meal of bread, salad with peas, mint, feta, and radishes, and a smokey chickpea spread, I served this for dessert.

It was glorious.

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Black Caps and Cream

While this dessert is glorious with wild black raspberries, the sauce is equally wonderful paired with just about any berry. Figure a heaping pint of berries for 4 servings. Spoon the berries into individual bowls and pour the crème anglaise over the top — simple and delicious.

For the crème anglaise (basic recipe from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman)

Makes about 2 cups sauce

Ingredients
8 oz milk (1 cup)
8 oz cream (1 cup)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 oz sugar (1/2 cup)
7 large egg yolks

Directions
Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan, add the split vanilla bean, and bring to a simmer. Shut off the heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Scrape the seeds from the bean into the milk/cream mixture and discard the pod (or store it in sugar for vanilla-sugar).

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar for about 30 seconds (to help the sugar start dissolving.)

Also, fill a large separate bowl with a 50-50 mixture of ice and water, and place another bowl into the ice bath. Set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl (this is where you’ll pour the cooked custard.)

Bring the milk/cream mixture back to just a simmer, then slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and continue stirring over medium heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon.

Pour the sauce through the strainer into the bowl set in the ice water bath. Stir the sauce with a spatula until it’s cooled down, then refrigerate until ready to use.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2010 5:25 pm

    This looks delicious. The color contrast makes it look even better!

  2. Emily permalink
    July 8, 2010 6:48 pm

    Yay! So glad you found a good use for them, and this post is seriously making me drool. Creme Anglaise and berries sounds like the perfect solution for a summer dessert!

  3. July 8, 2010 10:55 pm

    It must be great to have friends with berry bushes, that looks so delicious! In Hawaii most of us have friends or relatives with mango trees.🙂

  4. July 10, 2010 12:11 pm

    You’re blogging again! Thank goodness.🙂

  5. July 12, 2010 10:48 am

    I too LOVE black raspberries. I recently blogged about them as I have fond memories as a kid, stumbling upon the black raspberry bush at our cabin. My preferred method has always been with simple vanilla ice cream so our preferences are pretty similar. 🙂

  6. July 14, 2010 5:16 am

    This food looks delicious.. thanx for the recipes, i’ll try it😀

  7. July 14, 2010 2:36 pm

    I read this last night and couldn’t get the idea of berries and cream out of my mind. Thanks for the fantastic idea! I have a feeling I’ll be trying this out very, very soon…

  8. August 2, 2010 11:58 pm

    I love black raspberries but never enjoyed picking them… My Mom would do the leg work though and then I would swoop in and eat all the berries, she used to call me her little bird for that reason.

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