Raspberry Fool With Wild Chamomile Shortbreads

There is nothing assured about wild food gathering. Maybe the season is poor, or late, or your regular spots have a scant yield and you have to search elsewhere. You just never know.

These days, with COVID-19 and war-related disruptions in food supply, exacerbated by fire and flood, gathering groceries in the North has become just as unpredictable. It’s the first week in July, the Alaska Highway is washed out, trucks are delayed and store shelves are alarmingly bare.

Just a few days ago, when planning these recipes, I was able to find butter and whipping cream. I can’t find them today. I don’t know if they will be available by publication time. If not, I apologize in advance.

But I do have some ideas for substitutions. You may still have coconut oil in the cupboard—that would work well in the shortbreads, nicely complementing the lemony-pineapple-y flavour of the wild chamomile (Matricaria discoidea, also known as pineapple weed).

Rendered, solidified pork fat might do in a pinch but would definitely add an animal flavour; perhaps not so welcome in such a delicate cookie. And there’s always good old margarine, the solid kind.

If you can’t find whipping cream, try making a thick custard with 2 cups of Sunnyside Farm milk, available in several retail stores (if you can get there on time), and 3 to 4 large Little Red Hen or other local eggs. (Yesterday my grocery store was well-stocked with Yukon-raised eggs.)

Beat the eggs well, add half a cup of sugar, heat the milk, whisk it into the eggs, then pour the whole thing back into the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring until thick. Flavour the custard with a tablespoon of birch syrup. Cool and proceed with the recipe.

The wild chamomile is just coming into season now, in my usual spots, and the flowers last for a couple of weeks, so you should be good if you go out soon. And the wild raspberries, judging by the hillsides and alleys in downtown Whitehorse, are about three weeks away.

In three weeks’ time, I’ll bet we have become that much more adaptable, that much more keen on supporting local producers, with a heightened interest in gathering wild foods. We might have resolved to dedicate more time to gardening next year (yay, kale!). For sure we’ll have been reminded again not to take anything about our food supply for granted.

Raspberry Fool
Yield: 6

Raspberry Fool

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raspberries, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream or thick custard

Instructions

  1. Thaw frozen raspberries in a sieve set over a bowl. Drain any juice that has collected in the bowl and use it as a base for a refreshing summery drink.
  2. Tip raspberries into a bowl and mix thoroughly with 1/4 cup of sugar. Mash berries and sugar to a rough purée with the back of a spoon.
  3. In another bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Add remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and whip until stiff peaks form.
  4. For a marbled effect, fold the raspberry purée into the cream by the spoonful, until the mixture is nicely streaked. Hold back any remaining purée to serve on top.
  5. Spoon into glasses and chill for an hour. Spoon leftover purée on top and finish with a shortbread set at a rakish and charming angle.
Wild Chamomile Shortbreads
Yield: 30

Wild Chamomile Shortbreads

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dry wild chamomile (1/2 cup fresh) leaves and flowers (crumbled if dry, finely chopped if fresh)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) salted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉ and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Melt butter in a small pot and stir in chamomile to infuse. Remove from heat and transfer butter and chamomile to a mixing bowl. Leave on the counter at room temperature until butter solidifies—it should still be soft, but not liquid.
  3. Beat in sugar, followed by the flour. Press dough into the bowl and cut in half.
  4. Shape each half into a rectangular log, pressing firmly with the hands. To make it easier, once the log is roughly shaped, place on a piece of parchment, or plastic, and wrap tightly. Press the log between the hands and against the counter until it is firm and no longer crumbly. Freeze dough for 10 minutes.
  5. With a sharp knife, cut each log into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange on baking trays and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool to room temperature before serving. 

Notes

Wild chamomile or pineapple weed is a member of the Asteraceae family; if you have allergies to foods in that family, best avoid it.

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