It’s mulberry season! I have a couple of young trees and they are in their second year of bearing fruits. The excitement that I felt when I first saw the blooms this year cannot be described! Because the trees had grown so tall and they were touching the high tension wires, people from the Electricity department had given my trees a severe pruning. So much so, that I thought that my baking-with -mulberry dreams were shattered. So the sight of the creamy wispy blooms that were much more than last year’s brought me much joy.
Known as gudraithai in Dimasa, my mother tongue, the fruit is so named because it does look a bit curly. The name translates to ‘curly fruit’. When I was a child, we did not have a tree in our garden. So we went picking mulberries from other people’s gardens! And picking meant, literally picking the fallen fruits from the ground as the branches were high up. There was no way we could get to them! But that gave us such a high, scrambling for the ripest and the deepest of purple ones. And later, we would flaunt the stains on our mouth and clothes, much to our mother’s consternation. But now, with all of us living in our own homes, the mulberry tree in my mother’s garden, planted not many years ago, is a feasting point for birds and children from the neighbourhood.
We always had the fruit raw. It was only in recent years, with fruits from my mother’s garden that I started baking. I happened to be in Haflong during the season and baked a tart. It turned out to be delicious! These berries do not travel well. I remember once my brother, on one of his trips home, brought them for me and in the process, stained his favourite shirt! Sometimes, common sense flies out of the window!! Cuttings that my mother sent did not initially survive. We live in a low-lying area and when it rains, the soil turns very soggy and remains in that state for most part of the year. But with one area, next to the boundary wall raised, the cuttings survived and I can happily pick the fruits from my own trees!
With the fruiting from last year, I could use the fruits in baking to my heart’s content. The fruits started to ripen in late February and my birthday cake was a mulberry cake. I thought I would continue the tradition of baking the same cake this year too. But the fruits started ripening only in the first week of March. So the first thing I did was make mini pies. For the filling, I added chopped strawberries to whole mulberries with a bit of grated ginger. The taste was great! Next on the line-up is a mulberry (only) pie. Back when I was younger, I’d never have imagined myself baking with all our locally available fruits. In fact I’d never have thought that most of them were bake-able! But food blogging has truly opened my eyes to the wonders that can be achieved by what is available around you. By kindling a passion that was already in me and was waiting to be explored!
With this mulberry pie, I wanted it to be a little different. So I worked on the crust after looking at images on dear old Google. I had made purple dough before by using a paste of ripe Malabar spinach seeds (again from my mother’s garden). But this time I used beet juice. These berries are special and they deserve a casing that is a bit out of the ordinary.
For the pastry:
The coloured one.
- 100 grams butter, chilled and grated
- 200 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- About 3 teaspoons beet juice
Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in till the mixture is crumbly. Add the yolk and beet juice and bring the dough together. Make a ball of the dough, flatten it (easier to roll out) and chill in the fridge by wrapping it in clingfilm. Let it rest for at least 40 minutes.
I had some roasted beets and I ground them in the mixer. But sqeezing out the juice turned out to be a messy process so I plonked the lot in a pan and made a beet reduction by adding water. I used the juice from there.
For the regular pastry, I used 50 grams of butter, 110 grams of all-purpose flour and 1 egg yolk using the same process. If you find the mixture a little dry, you can always sprinkle a bit of chilled water to the dough. Let the dough rest for at least forty minutes.
If I plan things ahead, I let the dough rest overnight. Usually when I invite people over. Then the dough gets plenty of time to rest and the pastry turns out well.
I didn’t use any sugar in the dough even if it is supposed to be sweet pastry. I think I can cut out all that extra sugar. And with the remaining pastry dough (if there is any left over) I can always use it for something savoury. Like a quiche.
I used an 8″ tart tin with a removable bottom. Since I had picked up some of the fruits from the ground (they had fallen as I was actually putting them in a bag standing on the ladder) I rinsed the fruits and placed them in a colander for as long as I needed to roll out the dough, cut it into strips and cut out the leaves and flowers.
Take out the rested pastry discs. Wait till you can roll them out. Take half of the beet-coloured dough, roll it out a little bigger than the size of the tin. I had greased the tin using the bits of butter that got stuck in the grater. Roll the disc on the rolling pin, lift it and gently unfurl it on the surface of the tin. Press on the edges, both bottom and top. Again with the rolling pin, trim off the overhanging dough by running the rolling pin on the edge. Use a fork and prick all across the surface so that the pastry bottom does not rise up when it is being baked. Then let it rest in the fridge again as you prepare the filling. Gather up the dough pieces, roll into a ball and let it rest in the fridge till you are ready to roll and cut again.
- 300 grams ripe mulberries
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1.3 cup cornflour
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger
- Dots of butter
By this time, the water had drained off so I mixed all of these together, except for the butter. Set the mixture aside and start with the lattice ( from both kinds of dough) and leaf cut-outs. Once the strips are ready, take the bottom half from the fridge and place the prepared filling in the base. Dot the mixture with small knobs of butter.
Then start with the lattice. I interspersed two colours and used both colours for leaves and flowers. you can make the design as per your wish, Once that is done, trim off the edges and place the pie in the fridge for about an hour. Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at 200 C and then bring the temperature down to 170 C and bake for another 30 minutes or so. The surface will turn golden brown and the fruit will bubble away. Remove from the oven. After ten minutes or so, remove the tin by placing it on an upside down glass. Be very gentle while handling it at this stage as it make break. Cool on a wire rack.
Cut into wedges and serve with mint leaves and dollops of cream.
The pie turned out delicious! I did not remove the mulberry stems and they blended into the jammy mixture. The amount of sugar I used was just right for me. However, if you like it sweeter, you cam always add a bit more.