Finding free, wild-growing food in the city gets my heart racing and my culinary juices flowing, especially when it comes to berries–especially mulberries and juneberries.
Mulberries and juneberries are good fresh, but I usually prefer them in pies and jams. A touch of sweetener and a squeeze of lemon helps round out their flavors. When I forage these berries in the city, I always make sure to ask permission before I pick on private property. And I try to sweeten the deal with an offer of jam – or even a berry filled pastry.
Frozen puff pastry makes baking with these berries really easy. I cook up the berries, season to taste, and stir in a few spoonfulls of cornstarch mixed with water – until it bubbles and thickens – making a delicious compote or pie filling. Once this is cool you can fold it into a sheet or even squares of puff pastry, – and bake till golden for a wonderful, sharable treat.
Note: The filling also makes a great warm sauce for pancakes, yogurt, or any dessert. It can also be transferred to a jar, chilled and used as a jam or compote. If you want a thinner sauce or compote, just reduce the cornstarch to 2 tablespoons. It is also fine to reduce or increase the sweetener without affecting the consistency of the compote.
Get the backstory to this recipe by listening to Tagan Engel describe city foraging on a recent episode of Seasoned.
Tagan Engel's Mulberry or Juneberry Pie Filling and Hand Pies
For the pie filling (or compote) - Makes 3 cups
- 4 cups mulberries or juneberries (or a mix of both)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
- 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced (keep these separated)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch, plus 3 tablespoons water (stirred together)
For the hand pies
- 1 recipe for Mulberry or Juneberry Compote (see above)
- 1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed according to directions on box NOTE: The weight of 1 box of puff pastry varies slightly depending on the brand. Look for one that is around 1.1 to 1.4 pounds for 2 sheets. Some brands are made with butter or non-hydrogenated oils which is preferable. (You can also use pie dough in place of puff pastry.)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 egg, plus 1 tablespoon water - mixed well
- 1/4 cup coarse sugar for garnishing dough before baking (optional)
To make the pie filling (or compote)
- Place berries (fresh or frozen) into a medium sized pot.
- Add ½ cup water, sugar, and lemon zest. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 6-8 minutes until berries are tender.
- Stir the cornstarch and water well, and pour into the simmering berries, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and any milky color disappears.
- Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice.
- Let cool and use as a filling for hand pies or a full sized pie.
To make the hand pies
- Heat oven to 400°F.
- Unroll (or unfold) one piece of thawed puff pastry leaving it on the paper it comes rolled in. If your puff pastry does not come rolled in parchment paper, you can place each one on a piece of parchment or foil big enough to line one cookie sheet. Sprinkle a little flour on both sides of the dough, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough on the parchment paper, increasing the overall length by about 3 inches. Repeat with the second sheet.
- Cut each sheet of dough into 6 even squares (or rectangles that are close to square shapes). Scoop ¼ cup of cooled compote onto one side of each square of puff pastry leaving at least ¾ inch space at the edge of the dough. Brush the edges of each square of dough with egg wash. Fold puff pastry in half and press the edges together firmly with your fingers. Using the tines of a fork, press the edges of each hand pie firmly to further secure them from leaking. You can dip the fork in flour if it is sticking to the dough. Use a knife to cut a small slit in the top of each hand pie for steam to escape.
- Brush each hand pie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar (this is optional). Bake for 15-18 minutes until the pastry is golden all around.