Last week we were in North Carolina for my brother Ryan’s high school graduation. We spent a whirlwind 23 hours in Durham seeing family and friends, eating and drinking and laughing and dancing. One of our last stops out of town was barbeque with my brothers at the famous Allen & Son’s in Chapel Hill. As a way to pack as much south as possible in our trip, Dan and I had a (very late) breakfast of chicken biscuits about an hour before we were supposed to be at my brother’s farm. So when we rolled into Reid’s driveway, I didn’t think I was in any position to eat anything, let alone slow cooked pork in a vinegar based sauce topped with cole slaw. With a side of fried okra. And sweet tea.
However, it turns out I am always in a position to eat something. Which is what I realized when I spotted Reid’s blackberry bush, bursting with ripe fruit, and started stuffing my face. I ate, and ate, and ate, and then I made a few references to children’s books about hungry bears. And then I ate more blackberries. And when we left North Carolina, I was unable to think of anything else.
At the Baltimore Herb Festival a few weeks ago I picked up a purple basil plant, something that is the strangest combination of sweet and a little savory, warming almost. I spent the drive home from North Carolina daydreaming about blackberries, then blackberries and basil, then blackberry and basil pie. And ginger whipped cream. So while I was planning the menu for our housewarming party, I knew what was happening for desserts. It was a give in. It was all I could think about.
The day before the party I baked off eighteen or so little pie shells. The pied dough was infused with honey and basil and baked the shells in a cupcake pan, all by their lonesome. The next morning I hit a major roadblock when I realized (at the farmer’s market) that blackberries aren’t in season yet in Maryland. So, I adjusted and mixed a pint of North Carolinian blackberries with two pints of black raspberries. I tossed the berries in honey (that I purchased during our bbq lunch at Allen & Son’s) and minced basil.
And it was so good. They weren’t very sweet, but the honey was warm and inviting. The blackberries and raspberries were tart and juicy, and the basil pulled everything together. I was happy with them, and I think my guests were too. The real star of the show, however, was the sprinkler.
Blackberry Purple Basil Tart
2 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of powdered ginger
5-10 leaves purple basil, minced
1 1/2 sticks butter (cold)
4 tbsp shortening
4 tbsp honey
1/3 cup water, cold
3 pints blackberries (or black raspberries)
1/4 cup honey
Handful of purple basil leaves (or regular basil), minced
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp powdered ginger
Start with the dough. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, ginger, and basil. With your fingers, work in the shortening. Chop the butter into squares and cut that in with your hands, until the texture resembles cornmeal. Stir in honey and water. The dough should form a loose ball. If necessary, add more water/flour. Wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate for at leas an hour.
After your dough has chilled, break off pieces the size of ping pong ball and roll them out. Place the dough rounds into a greased cupcake tin, trimming the edges so that they are neatly sized. Bake the shells at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve these, mix your berries in the honey and the minced basil. Then, use a beater or stand mixer to whip the cream, sugar, and ginger until stiff. Serve a scoop of blackberries in the shell, topped with whipped cream.