In summer, there’s nothing quite like berries to satisfy the nexus of sweet, tart, and refreshing. July and August mean buckets of raspberries and blueberries that are like edible jewels to add a little sparkle to any dish. Common berries to be found in France are framboises (raspberries), fraises (strawberries), myrtilles (blueberries), and mûres (blackberries). The local favorite, though, is cassis (blackcurrant), which has an extremely tart flavor and is often used for cutting through sweet things. It’s most famously used in a syrup form mixed with white wine to create a drink called, kir. You might have trouble finding blackcurrants in the U.S., and cassis syrup can be hard to come by as well, but the richness of blackberries and the tartness of lemon juice can be used in a pinch as a replacement.
During the summer in France, berries can be used for anything from breakfast to dessert, as flavors for juices or ice creams, or as fillings for pastries or pies. I still dream about a tarte framboise-chocolat I ate once during my travels at Flower’s Café in Toulouse, or eating a scoop of cassis gelato in the port of Cassis itself, after a long hike down from the calanques. But you don’t have to travel far to get creative with your berry surplus. Here are some ideas.
When it starts getting hot, there’s nothing more refreshing than a bowl full of the cold, sweet magic that is sorbet. The most common berries used for sorbet in France are blackcurrants, which give their sorbet a nice purple hue. We’ve used raspberries for this recipe to make things more accessible for our friends summering Stateside.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
6 cups raspberries
Step 1: Make a simple syrup by heating water and sugar in a saucepan, and stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
Step 2: Add raspberries and simple syrup to a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Strain through a mesh sieve into a bowl, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Step 3: Pour mixture into an ice cream maker, and follow the instructions according to your machine to freeze. Transfer to a container in the freezer when done for at least two hours until ready to eat. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze your mixture onto a layer of parchment paper on a cookie sheet until set, then break up and blend the pieces in the food processor again. Repeat this step if necessary to achieve your desired consistency.
Bonus: To make the flavor of your sorbet a bit more complex, try adding the juice of half of a lemon or half of a teaspoon of rosewater while blending your mixture. Alternatively, add a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary or mint to your simple syrup, and strain out before blending.
The tarte aux framboises is one of the staples of French pâtisserie, but you don’t need to study at Le Cordon Bleu to make one at home. Skip a few steps by using a store-bought pie crust, or make your own if you’re feeling up to the task.
1/2 lb. fresh raspberries
…For French pastry cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Step 1: Blind bake your pie crust. Dock the bottom of your crust with a fork, cover in parchment paper, and fill with dried beans or rice to weigh the crust down. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 375°F until golden brown. When finished, remove and let come to room temperature.
Step 2: While your crust cools, prepare your pastry cream. Beat egg yolks and sugar with a whisk in a saucepan until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the flour.
Step 3: In a separate saucepan, heat the milk until it begins to simmer. Whisking constantly, pour the milk into the yolk mixture. Let thicken over medium heat for about five minutes, until a custard consistency is reached.
Step 4: Remove the custard from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Set aside and let cool to room temperature on the counter or in the fridge.
Step 5: When the pie shell has cooled, add the custard, topping with raspberries. Refrigerate until the tart has set.
In France, myrtilles will most likely be found in clafoutis (you can use Kate Christensen’s Frenchly recipe for Clafoutis aux Fraises and sub in blueberries as desired). You might find them in tart form as well. But they’re also commonly served with French yogurt at breakfast, either whole or as a compote. The French have an ages-old love affair with yaourt, and French yogurt is made in small batches and allowed to culture for a long time, giving it an extra creamy texture. Get some good quality French yogurt (or Greek yogurt if you can’t find it), and instead of a traditional blueberry compote, take things to the next level with a blueberry crumble topping.
…For the Filling
3 cups fresh blueberries
2-4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
…For the Crumble
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick melted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
Greek yogurt, or French-style yogurt such as La Fermière
Step 1: Preheat oven to 375°F.
Step 2: Combine filling ingredients (blueberries, lemon juice, flour, sugar, and salt) and toss well.
Step 3: Combine crumble ingredients (flour, oats, sugar, salt). Add melted butter and combine until the mixture is evenly coated and crumbly.
Step 4: Layer filling in the bottom of a pie dish or baking dish and top with crumble. Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden and crispy.
Step 5: Serve in glasses with Greek yogurt for a sweet and healthy breakfast or dessert.
A fruit fool is a whimsical way of referring to berries served with whipped cream, but don’t scoff at this highly versatile dish. Named after the French word “fouler,” which means to mash or press, this dish comes together in minutes, and any combination of flavors can be added to spruce it up. Add some chopped basil or a tablespoon of cassis syrup when heating your blackberries, or fresh mint or lemon zest for blueberries. If using raspberries, consider adding a layer of chocolate ganache at the end. Bake shortcakes to go with it (or buy them at the store) to make a delicious and easy berry shortcake.
1 1/2 cups blackberries
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Step 1: Mix berries with sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over low heat for ten minutes. Mash berries to release their juices.
Step 2: Combine the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and whip to medium peaks using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
Step 3: Gently fold cream into berry mixture, or layer in glasses to your desired aesthetic.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently road tripping around Europe, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.