Black Caps and Cream
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.
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
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
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.