Blackberries. They’re the berry that signifies the end of summer and the beginning of fall. The days are still hot but with a slight haze surrounding the sun that let’s you know you better slow down and savour those last few golden days while you can.
They’re also the carefree berry. The one that you never buy in the store, or go pick on a farm or grow in your garden. There’s no need. In this part of the world they grow rampant and wild everywhere. They’re not native to BC and are considered by many to be an invasive plant.
But oh what a lovely invader it is! Running mad across trails and scrambling along tree branches overhead. The thorns try to grab you as you pass by and you find yourself caught up almost as if they’re saying “slow down… try one… it will be so good…” The berries are big and plump and glisten in a way that raspberries just can’t. You can’t resist them! So you stop and you pick them by the handful because there’s just so many. And you cram them into your mouth all warm and sun ripened. And the next thing you know you’re covered in juice and feeling like a sheepish little kid caught stealing cherries.
I found my first batch several weeks ago. I was out for my evening run along my usual trail and as I came round the corner where I finish up, I could smell them. The sun warms them up and the scent is a heady, thick, sweet, inviting aroma. I looked but didn’t see any until I was nearly 30 feet further along and there they were. The first few. I stopped in my tracks and started picking. I ate as many as I could and then I filled up my hands and munched away as I walked home. I couldn’t hide what I’d been doing!
So that meant it was time to go picking down at the shoreline. This is something that always flabbergasts me. Blackberries, in season, cost a fortune in the shops. And yet, people buy them. They buy them when they literally grow right under their noses in every park, near every beach, city, suburbs or rural. They are everywhere!
Maybe it’s the thorns. Sam and I went to one of our usual haunts at Mud Bay and there I was in cropped yoga pants and a tank top, no hat and my little tupperware bucket. We ran into so many people with their giant ice cream tubs, in long sleeved clothes and boots and big floppy hats. I came out scraped and scratched and had more than one occasion where I had to delicately separate myself from an overly enthusiastic and amorous thorny vine.
Sam loves berry picking. He picks his own raspberries in the garden at home – oh so delicately. He’s smart enough though, to know not to get too close to the blackberry bushes after a run in with a thorn in his paw. So he patiently waits on the path for me and I throw him berries as I pick. More went in his tummy than mine, I’m sure. Look at what a happy puppy he was!
The funny thing was, I knew as soon as I got home how I wanted to photograph these. I had bought the beautiful silver platter at Value Village a few weeks earlier for a whopping $3 and had been waiting for the right thing to use it in. I knew this was it. I had so much fun shooting them and for once, the photos are almost exactly how I imagined they would be in my head. That makes me awfully happy!
I also knew that I wanted to make a galette and I wanted to have pears in it. I seem to recall my mum making a blackberry pear jam when we were kids and I thought it would be a really good flavour combination. And I’d never made a galette but they always look so beautiful. I also knew I wanted to use goat cheese and I got the idea for sweetening it with honey from this Food Network recipe. As a total aside, did you know that Melissa is actually Greek for honey bee and Meli (my nickname) is Greek for honey? Appropriate, yes?
I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. Normally I make a flat tart and partially precook the pastry and then spread the cheese mixture on it, with limited success. But because this couldn’t be precooked, I spread the cheese mixture on right after rolling it out and then added the fruit and the result was much better. The cheese absorbed a lot of the fruit juices so even after a couple of days in the fridge I didn’t have soggy pastry on the last leftover bits.
However, I found that the filling really sank after coming out of the oven and the pastry didn’t so it looked a bit empty. I think part of that may have been that I didn’t fold it up as neatly as I could have. No matter though, the pastry/fruit ratio still worked and it was delicious. I ate far more of this than I care to admit!
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 sheet of store bought puff pastry, thawed but chilled
- 3 ounces of soft goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- ½ pear (I used a bosc pear), sliced
- 8 oz blackberries
- ¼ cup milk
- granulated sugar for the crust (2-4 tsp)
- preheat oven to 400F
- dust your work surface with flour and roll out your sheet of puff pastry till it’s about 10x10inches
- move the rolled out pastry to a parchment paper lined baking tray
- in a separate bowl, mix goat cheese and honey until you have a very smooth and spreadable consistency
- Spread the middle 8 inches of the pastry sheet with the cheese mixture. I found working with a knife was easier than a spatula. Be careful as the pastry will tug and pull
- arrange blackberries and pear slices in the middle of the pastry sheet
- pull up the edges of the pastry to wrap the fruit, leaving an opening in the middle. It doesn’t need to be perfect – it’s supposed to look rustic!
- brush pastry with milk – this will help the edges pinch and stick together
- sprinkle pastry with sugar and gently press it into the crust
- bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and fruit is soft and bubbly
- dust with powdered sugar after cooling if you wish
Food Photography Tips
I thought I’d talk quickly about the two blackberry photos as they’re different from what I normally post. I knew I really wanted to play off all the dark shades and use the silver as the contrast. The setup was really simple.
The top photo was lit with natural light from the left and instead of trying to create more light by using reflectors, I used black foam board in the back and to the right, to absorb as much extra light as I could so that the light I did have was targeted right on the fruit and the silver tray. It also gave me a nice dark background to shoot against.
The second photo was back lit with black foam board to the right. I shot the 1st image with a 100mm macro and the 2nd with my 50mm. Both were at f/2.8, ISO1600 and +1/3 exposure compensation. Normally for an overhead shot I’d shoot at a much higher f-stop but in this case I really did want the added depth of field.
But as you can see, it’s all about manipulating light and sometimes, dark “reflectors” can really add mood and dimension to your photograph.