The following is a guest post by Zoe Dubrow, a PhD Candidate in plant pathology at Cornell University. She works on virulence mechanisms of bacteria that cause disease in a variety of crops including cabbage and banana. In her spare time, Zoe loves baking plant science themed cakes, cupcakes, and anything else sweet. You can find more of her baking adventures at www.thebotanistbaker.com or on her Instagram and Twitter @zoedubrow.
So, you’ve germinated your seeds, watered and weeded, and watched over your groundcherries all summer and now they’re finally ripe. Whenever I have fresh berries growing in my yard, I’m tempted to eat them straight away, but if you have enough self-control to save some you might be thinking about what to make with them. Searches for baking with raspberries or blackberries result in thousands of recipes, but there are significantly less available for groundcherries. This weekend I did some experimenting (and a lot of de-husking) to come up with a few recipes that I think make groundcherries even more delicious.
There seem to be a lot of desserts that could be modified to feature groundcherries. To me, groundcherries taste sweet and mellow with notes of pineapple and tomato. I thought they would pair nicely with citrus flavors or do well in savory bakes. Maybe a groundcherry goat cheese tart with a bit of rosemary? In the end I chose to focus on sweets to start. Groundcherries have a fairly high water content, so like with many berries take caution when making pies and crumbles or there will be too much liquid. I decided to go in a different direction and started out with a nice groundcherry breakfast treat. Scones are one of my favorite things and are surprisingly easy. No yeast involved, so they can come together in less than half an hour. I tend to make currant scones, but groundcherries were an intriguing alternative. I took a cup of groundcherries and dried them in my oven at 170˚ for 6 hours until they were reduced in size by half, wrinkled, and lightly caramelized. The next morning, I pulled up my family’s scone recipe (thanks Mom), made a batch of dough, and folded in the dried groundcherries (pictured above). These scones can also be frozen before being baked and pulled directly out of the freezer and into the oven for breakfast in 15 minutes. The dried groundcherries added lovely pockets of sweetness and texture to the scones. They can easily be devoured plain, but I figured I might as well stay on the groundcherry theme and make my favorite scone topping. A curd. Normally this would be lemon curd, but I had a good feeling about groundcherry curd. I juiced the groundcherries by simmering and mashing them and straining out the seeds and pulp. A bit of lemon juice to make the curd a tangy seemed like a good idea, so I added the juice mix to eggs with extra yolks with a little bit of sugar. Cook the mix while whisking until it thickens at 170˚ and your groundcherry curd is ready to go! It’s something that seems fancy, but is actually quite easy and if you ever compare homemade curd to store bought, you’ll never be able to go back.
Speaking of fancy desserts, I recently got back from working with colleagues in a lab in Toulouse France. I ate a lot of pastries while I was there, but one of my favorites were these tiny almond snack cakes called financiers. Made with browned butter, almond flour, sugar or honey, and egg whites, financiers are dense lightly sweet cakes often stuffed with a single berry. I think the Physalis husks are so beautiful and imagined a financier baked in a mini muffin tin with a groundcherry in the center still attached to its husk. The muffins are small enough to eat in one bite and can be picked up by the husk, kind of like eating a maraschino cherry off the stem.
Groundcherries are just so pretty that I couldn’t help but show them off in something a little more extravagant. The curd from the scones was so tasty that it seemed like it would be perfect as a tart filling. The key with curd tarts is to pre bake the crust, fill with the curd and then immediately pop it back into the oven for a few minutes. This prevents your crust from getting soggy, and results in an even and well-set filling. One sweet tart crust and a second batch of curd later and I had a beautiful canvas to do a little decorating. I plucked some edible flowers (nasturtiums, pansies, and lavender) from my garden and some blueberries and pomegranate seeds from my fridge and arranged them in a crescent around the edge. My roommates enjoyed it for an after dinner treat later that night.
The recipes for these treats are attached, so give them a try or incorporate groundcherries into your own classic recipes! Happy Baking!
Groundcherry Curd: https://thebotanistbaker.com/groundcherry-curd/
Groundcherry Scones: https://thebotanistbaker.com/scones/
Groundcherry Financiers: https://thebotanistbaker.com/ground-cherry-recipes/
Groundcherry Tart: https://thebotanistbaker.com/sable-tart-crust-ground-cherry-curd-tart/