Food & Drink

My Mum’s Little Berry Pies Are the Laziest Summer Dessert

The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.

My mum is the kind of lady who packs one pair of pants for a week-long vacation. She requests only the gift of my presence on birthdays. And you best believe she cuts up my dad’s old work shirts to use as cleaning rags. Unsurprisingly, Ma applies this unfussy attitude to dessert. My favorite invention born of these genetic compulsions: her super simple, flaky-jammy puff pastry pies.

Memories of eating these little tarts with melty vanilla ice cream, pools of hot custard, or fluffy peaks of whipped cream are imprinted on my inner child brain like a wax seal. I evoke them every time my meditation app insists: Go to your happy place. These days, Mum’s pies are my preferred dinner party dessert. The “recipe” takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish, requires only a handful of ingredients, and makes good use of whatever past-its-prime fruit you’ve got lying around.

How to make my mum’s berry pies:

Turn on the oven to 350°. While that heats up, defrost 1 sheet store-bought puff pastry on its paper liner for about 10 minutes, until it feels more like pliable dough and less like a shield. Slice the pastry into quarters and transfer the rectangles to a parchment-lined sheet tray. Score an oval into each quadrant, leaving about a half-inch border; be careful not to cut the pastry all the way through.

Transfer 12 oz. (usually two plastic clamshells) fresh berries to a bowl. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are all good, but you’ll want to dice the last one into quarters. Hardier winter fruit like apples or pears should be sliced as thin as possible. Stir in 2 Tbsp. store-bought jam (strawberry and apricot are my favorites, but anything you’ve got will do) along with 2 tsp. water, and 1–2 tsp. fresh lemon juice. Evenly spoon the mixture onto each pastry rectangle, staying within the scored lines. Food waste is bad (hi Mum), so make sure you scrape all that jammy liquid onto the pastry.

In another small bowl, beat 1 egg with a fork. Using a pastry brush (or the back of a spoon or your fingers), spread a thin coating of egg on the exposed border of each pastry rectangle. This ensures the dough will transform from beige to golden. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over each pastry.

Send them into the oven for 20–25 minutes, until the edges are bronzed and puffed and the berries are soft and bubbling away in their own juices. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. You know they’re ready when the fruit has solidified a bit, the bases are firm when tapped, and the temperature wouldn’t burn the roof of your mouth if you, say, shoved one in your gob whole. Serve with something creamy.

If there are any leftovers, cover individually with plastic wrap and store in the freezer. To reheat, pop them in a 200° oven for about 15 minutes. And back to a happy place you’ll go.

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