Driscoll’s raspberries add a ray of sun to fall baking while fitting right in with the cozier flavors of the season. Maybe that’s because, as discovered in a recent US survey, 85% of people think berries bring a spark of joy and brighten ordinary moments any time of year. For the majority of us, they also bring back happy memories and summertime. It’s just in their sweet-tart nature.
For bakers like me, it feels good to add berries to our holiday pies, cookies, cakes, and rolls because we know Driscoll’s berries are the finest around for any dessert recipes using raspberries. We know they taste great, they’re easy to bake with, and that they’ll bring pleasure to anyone lucky enough to get a slice of whatever’s hot from the oven. When I asked Henry Yeung, sensory scientist for Driscoll’s, why raspberries in particular make people so happy, he gave me two more reasons: “Their color. People eat with their eyes”—a handy trait in a pumpkin-hued season—and “it reminds people of childhood”—pleasure and nostalgia rolled into one delicious berry.
Henry is one of hundreds of Joy Makers at Driscoll’s, people who spend their days growing, tasting, and studying berries, and talking to consumers about the berries they love. As a sensory scientist, Henry is on the consumer end of things, which in laypeople’s terms means he studies the qualities that make berries so good to eat. His test subjects are berry fans like you and me, focus groups who report back on everything from color and shape to texture and scent, from peak ripeness to whatever happens when we leave a carton of raspberries in the car for too long. If you can taste it, touch it, see it, smell it, or hear it, and it has to do with Driscoll’s Berries, Henry wants to know about it.
I’m fascinated in particular by the part of Henry’s job where he works with berry testers (yes, these lucky people get to eat berries all day) to create a common vocabulary so that when members of this group describe berries, it’s possible to objectively talk about what before was just a matter of taste. “I might present someone with a sprig of mint and ask, ‘Is this what you mean by green-tasting?’” he says. “Or I might go to the lawn outside, pull out some grass and ask, ‘Is this what you mean?’” By working with consumers to create a common language, Henry can discover what it is about certain berries that make them great. Or…not so great: of 100 raspberry experiments, only ten might make it through this phase of testing. All in all, it takes upwards of 5 – 7 years for a variety of berry to go from just a few baby seedlings in a glasshouse to your neighborhood market, with feedback and study from thousands of people along the way.
Like many of us, Henry remembers popping berry after berry into his mouth as a kid, delighting in their sweet taste and gem-colored juice while his parents, no doubt, were happy his snack was as healthy as it was tasty. Henry’s berry memories also include a savory strawberry dish at a dim sum restaurant he visited on a trip back to Hong Kong, the first time he’d been there since immigrating to the United States when he was eight years old. “It was a poached scallop with strawberry soy sauce. Amazing. I’ll never forget it. To this day I’ve been looking for a recipe. I still can’t find it anywhere!”
In my own family, raspberries add a new spark to our Thanksgiving dessert recipes and all holiday dessert traditions. When company’s coming and figs are still in their fall season, we surprise guests with a Raspberry and Fig Pie made with the all-butter crust recipe from my cookbook, Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter. The secret ingredient in our dessert recipes using raspberries is a little fresh bay leaf to elevate the fruit to show-stopping levels. More traditional Christmas and Thanksgiving dessert recipes often reign, and that’s when fresh raspberries dessert recipes like Raspberry Pie with Walnut Crumble and Bourbon Whipped Cream offers a fun alternative to the usual suspects. Like Henry said, we eat with our eyes, and I love how fall’s crop of red raspberries surprise and delight right when people expect apple or pumpkin. This year I’m going to serve my slices as Henry suggested, with a handful of fresh raspberries tossed over the whipped cream to add fresh raspberry taste to the fresh-baked pie. See more on dessert recipes using raspberries.
Thanks to Henry and all the Joy Makers at Driscoll’s for giving us the finest berries for our fresh raspberries dessert recipes and all holiday treats!