Motor City Mulberry Mini Tarts: A Recipe

mulberry with leavesStep One: You’re gonna need a lot of mulberries.

  • In 2009, consider purchasing a home in Detroit that needs approximately 8,000 man-hours and $50,000 of work. Ignore the fact that you don’t have that kind of cash and don’t really have a solid plan for getting it.
  • Your schedule and Laulo’s only leave each of you with about 5 hours per week to work on the house. Don’t do the man-hour math. Buy that house.
  • Be completely overwhelmed for the next five years and counting.
  • In 2010, realize that you don’t own the massive lot next door even though the home’s previous owners fenced it in.
  • Contact the dude who does own the lot. When he tries to sell you a scrap of land that’s worth maybe $500 for $3,000, let it go to hell. Just because the fence runs from your house to the edge of the lot doesn’t mean it has to be your problem.
  • In the spring of 2011, have a few conversations with Laulo about how an awful lot of mulberry seedlings seem to be popping up.
  • In the summer of 2011, wonder what happened to all of the mulberry seedlings. Realize they’re buried under all of the blackberry canes’ and thistles’ vigorous summer growth.
  • Look across the street at your neighbors’ immaculate lawns. Accept that you’ll never be close.
  • Move into the house in 2012. Grumble a lot about how fast mulberry trees grow.
  • Take in a feral dog in 2013. That’s pretty much how you spend your time for the rest of that entire year.
  • In 2014, realize that the neighbors across the street are beginning to go back inside every time you come out. You still don’t own the lot next door but it might be time to knock the jungle back a bit anyhow. You know, to keep the peace.
  • Carve a few paths through the undergrowth so you can see what’s what.
  • Holy shit, that’s a lot of mulberry trees. And look at all of those blackberries!
  • Pick a half-pound or so of each. Taste a bunch of ’em.
  • Realize you don’t really care for mulberries. Well, now what?
  • To the internet!

Step Two: Find a good recipe. Here’s one.

From the link above:

  1. 4 cups mulberries
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1/4 cup flour
  4. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1tbsp cold water
  6. 1 tbsp milk
  7. 1 pie crust ** (recipe at bottom)
  • Seems simple enough.
  • Wait…pie crust recipe?
  • Think back to every other time you’ve tried to make pie from scratch. Remember all of the burnt, powdered, slimy, and otherwise terrible crusts.
  • Try not to let the overwhelming sense of failure send you out for a six-pack before you’ve figured out what you’re gonna do with all of these fucking mulberries.
  • Remember being in Kroger last week and thinking about the mulberry tree maze the lot next door has become.
  • Open the freezer and take out the shortbread and phyllo mini-tart shells you almost forgot you’d bought. Set ’em aside to thaw, or something. Yeah, they probably need to thaw first.

Step Three: Look at the original recipe’s Step One.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Seems simple enough. Done.

Step Four: Gather your ingredients.

  • Realize you only have 3 cups of mulberries. You could pick more but it’s like 11:30 PM and besides you’ve had enough of the damn mulberry trees for one day. Decide you’re going to make up the difference with 50% blackberries from your yard and 50% cherries that are on their last legs even though you just got them at the Eastern Market yesterday. You’re never going back to that vendor, that’s for sure. Yeah, you’d better use those cherries before they go bad.
  • Spend 15 minutes pitting and dicing a half cup of cherries. Wonder why pitting cherries takes so damn long. Start reflecting on your life and wonder why every little thing takes so damn long. Get depressed. Spend a few minutes talking yourself out of taking a shot of whiskey. Expend all of your energy on not drinking and stop paying attention to the fact that you’re slicing very slippery fruit with a very sharp knife.
  • Cut your finger.
  • Wash your hands and put on a Band-Aid. Pit the last two cherries. Tell yourself this is why everything takes so damn long, you have to learn to pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Think about the chess dude at Weekend Youth Group Camp who told you to look at the entire board once in a while. Remember how you were all like, wow, man, that’s a total metaphor for life and laugh a little bit at what a sap you were at 16. Vaguely wish you could go back in time to give yourself supportive little head pats at judicious moments.
  • Cut the same finger on your other hand.
  • Wash your hands and put on a Band-Aid. Curse a lot more this time around.
  • Realize that’s it for the fruit. You can move on to the next step.

Step Five: Per the original recipe, toss the other ingredients in the bowl, like so:  

2. In a large bowl, mix berries with sugar, flour, cinnamon and water.

  • Seems simple enough. Wait…where’s the cinnamon?
  • Realize you’re out of cinnamon. That wouldn’t be a problem, except it’s after midnight already and you’re in a damn food desert anyhow.
  • Remember the cinnamon honey you bought at Eastern Market just last week. Get that.
  • There’s only a thin film of honey inside the jar. Roll your eyes at your honey fiend SO and put a little hot water inside the jar to dilute the honey. Swish it around a lot and dump it in.
  • That doesn’t smell very cinnamon-y.
  • You do have allspice. Yay! Get the allspice and toss in a couple of pinches.
  • That’s better. Mix it up!
  • Wait, now it’s all goopy. Right: mulberries are crazy delicate. That would explain the dark purple stains all over your hands. And…shirt?
  • Dammit.
  • Change into your Who Cares? shirt. Put on the Fuck It All sweatpants while you’re at it.
  • The filling is even goopier after sitting for a few minutes, since the watered-down honey and the juice of dozens of smooshed mulberries have combined to make it into a soup. Well, the extra liquid should either evaporate or turn into a nice glaze in the oven, right? Probably. Yeah, this should work out fine.

Step Six: Fill the mini tart cups.

  • Hm. You should probably get a pan. Cake pan? Nah, too deep. Cookie sheet it is.
  • Look for the cookie sheets. Wonder where the hell you’ve been putting them lately. Grumble at yourself for not finishing the kitchen reno yet; if you’d finished by now, they’d have a regular place and–
  • –remember where you’ve been putting the cookie sheets.
  • Get an oven mitt and open the little storage shelf at the bottom of your 400 degree oven. Take out a cookie sheet.
  • Set it on top of the stove and wonder how long it will take to cool down.
  • Look at the time.
  • How did it get to be 1 AM? Grab a shortbread mini tart cup and a soup spoon and start filling those fuckers up. Ignore the slight hissing sound the not-quite-thawed cups make when they hit the blazing hot cookie sheet. It’ll work out. Probably.
  • Get ready to pop the tarts in the oven. Realize you haven’t even tried the filling yet to see if it sucks.
  • Taste a bit.
  • Huh. That’s missing something.

Step Seven: Make a crumble topping for your mini tarts.

  • Crumble topping is easy peasy: equal parts brown sugar and flour, and just enough butter or margarine to make it crumbly.
  • Wait, where’s the brown sugar?
  • Dammit.
  • Break open the Martha White Cinnamon Streusel mix you bought a few weeks ago and open the streusel topping packet. Use that instead.

Step Eight: Bake them tarts.

  • 10 minutes at 400 degrees oughta do it. That will give you just enough time to fill the phyllo dough mini tart cups.
  • Wait. Did you only take one cookie sheet out from under the oven?
  • D A M M I T.
  • Repeat Step Six. Well, most of it. Try to keep your voice down, all of the cursing is going to wake Laulo and you don’t even know yet if these stupid things are going to be tasty enough to make good apology snacks.
  • Get mulberry juice under both Band-Aids and into both cuts because you’re rushing. Wonder how something so bland could sting so much while you’re washing your hands for like the two dozenth time since this thing started. Run upstairs because you’re out of Band-Aids downstairs. Talk the dogs down from their panic attacks when those idiot teens from up the street suddenly set off a bunch of firecrackers.

Step Nine: Whoops.

  • Well. That was longer than 10 minutes.
  • Take out the tray of shortbread tarts and put the phyllo dough tarts in the oven. Check the time and tell yourself ten minutes, no more in a very stern internal voice.
  • Now say it out loud, maybe that’ll work.
  • At least nothing smells burnt. Maybe this first batch is salvageable after all.
  • Steel yourself, and take a close look at the shortbread tarts.

Step Ten: Okay. That isn’t so bad.

  • The juice in some of the tarts boiled over and a couple of the berries look like they exploded kind of but overall they look fine.
  • Whew.
  • You’re out of flat Tupperware with lids. Grab a spatula and that cake pan you were eyeing earlier and start scooping the tarts off of the cookie sheet and setting them in the cake pan.
  • Oh. The shortbread on some of these didn’t handle the juiciness well. Press that one together, yeah, that oughta hold. Okay, now do this one.
  • Most of these came out okay. Cool!
  • Hey, this might make a good bit for the blog.

Step Eleven: Find a notebook. Nah, that one’s no good. This one’s better. Oh, and a pen.

  • Jot down a few notes and an outline for your post.
  • Draw a couple of quick-and-dirty sketches in case you want to make a mini-comic later.
  • …dammit.

Step Twelve: You really need to find your kitchen timer.

  • How did it get to be 2 AM already?
  • Huh. Mulberry-blackberry-cherry tarts must take forever to actually burn. The juice inside ’em does get a little explodey around the 20-minute mark, though.
  • Spatula, check. Cake pan, check.
  • Get to scoopin’.
  • Awesome Pro Tip: phyllo dough mini-tarts come off of the cookie sheet easier than the shortbread ones. They’re less stable on the spatula, though, so try not to let them tip over when you’re setting them in the cake pan. Yeah, that’s good. Okay, now this one. Careful…wait, wait!
  • Get a spoon.
  • Flip the tart over and scoop the filling back into the shell.
  • Okay. Take your time with the rest of these, now. Good…okay, good. Just stay focused. I know there are like twenty of them left, but you can get ’em in there without making a mess if you can just pay attention for another few minutes. Just…okay, just…dammit.
  • Two fucking minutes, that’s how long you had to focus. Maybe three. What is up with you today?
  • Whatever. Just get the damn spoon.
  • Okay, now…wait…
  • Never mind. This one is a total wreck.
  • Perfect for tasting!
  • Hey, that was pretty good. Nom. This will make a good blog post.
  • Hm. Better take a few pictures, then.

Step Thirteen: Unlucky for some. 

  • Your camera’s broken and your MetroPOS phone takes horrible photos. You’ll have to use the Kindle.
  • Pick four of the least-depressing tarts and arrange them on a cute plate. Scoot the cherry pits and Band-Aid wrappers out of the frame and take some photos. This is going to be kind of a pain in the ass, because the Kindle’s lens is on the wrong side so you have to hold it at a weird angle with one hand to get the food in frame and contort the bandaged finger on your other hand at a different weird angle to push the Take Photo icon.
  • Take something like fifteen pictures even though it’s annoying because you’re just that mighty.
  • Check your photos.
  • Well. Those are a little blah. Food photography is rough. Maybe some garnish?
  • Hey, there’s mint in the garden!
  • Go outside and head for your garden patch, which is buried behind five years’ worth of overgrown mulberry trees and blackberry canes.
  • Pause halfway there when you realize that it’s 2:30 AM and neither your house lights nor the streetlights are illuminating the garden patch at all.
  • Relax, you know where everything is. STRIDE FORWARD WITH CONFIDENCE BECAUSE YOU ARE MIGHTY.
  • Trip over a mulberry tree stump.
  • Fall flat on your stomach directly under a full-grown mulberry tree that’s been dropping berries for days.
  • Scrape smooshed mulberries from your clothes with your bare hands…whatever, your fingers are completely purple already. Smile inside because you were wise enough to change into your Who Cares? shirt and your Fuck It All pants. Hell, some purple stains on this drab around-the-house wear might even be an improvement.
  • Your forehead itches. Scratch it.
  • Use your forearm to wipe mulberry juice from your forehead.
  • Dammit. For real this time.
  • At least you don’t have to go out in public tomorrow.
  • Feel your way toward the garden patch. Snap off a couple of sprigs of what you hope is mint and not, say, poison ivy. Because that would just fucking figure at this point.
  • Go back inside and look at the plants.
  • Mint. Hallelujah, or something.
  • Wash your hands and face. Take a quick peek in the mirror.
  • Your forehead looks bruised, which is okay. It’s preferable to looking like you wiped mulberry juice all over your own face in an absentminded moment like a goddamned five-year-old.
  • Arrange the mint on the plate with the tarts. Tell yourself it looks chic.
  • This time, you’d better stretch before going into the requisite Twister poses to take more pictures.
  • Scroll through your photos. Wish they were better.
  • You know what? Screw that. They’re perfect: you wanted pics of the tarts, you have pics of the damn tarts. They look like what they are. The photos are perfect and the tarts are tasty.
  • Nom down on another one of those fuckers and set the rest aside for later.
Motor City Mulberry Tarts
Motor City Mulberry Mini Tarts

Super Pro Tip: Well, the shells got kind of mushy after a few hours. Adding just under 1/8 cup flour to the filling and getting far less liquid into the shells than I did will prevent that.

Taking the damn things out of the oven on time so they don’t all boil over helps too.

Super Duper Pro Tip: If you use two packages of mini tart shells, you’ll have about a cup each of mulberry-blackberry-cherry goop and streusel mix left over. Stir that mess together and then blend it into the muffin mix. Makes, um, however many muffins the muffin mix makes.  Or if you’re all fancy and organized and actually have brown sugar on hand, you could just top the tarts with a simple homemade streusel and buy an extra package of mini tart shells.

Makes about 30 tiny little tarts. Serve with mint tea.

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