Category: baked goods

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries. I had absolutely no idea what they were until I saw them at a farmers market here in Boston. When I walked by them I said, “Aww, baby tomatillos!” The sign said “ground cherries” so I asked the woman more about them.  She carefully unwrapped one from it’s papery husk and handed it to me.

Wow, so weird. And so good.

They’re the size of cherry tomatoes. The ripe ones are a pale golden yellow. They have a hint (just a hint) of tomato, but are much sweeter. They smell like fresh strawberries, have the sweetness of grapes, and have a vaguely pineapple flavor. And a little vanilla, too. Weird. But good.

I picked up two little cartons and then let them sit on my counter for four days. I couldn’t figure out what to do with them, and I thought the point would be moot since they were probably spoiled. But nope! They store extremely well in the fridge, and as it turns out, pretty well on your counter top, too.

Ground Cherries

The most traditional way to use them is in pie. I been thinking about a way to make miniature pies in cupcake tins, so here was my chance to try it out. The upshot is that you can use the technique with whatever fruit you can find, should ground cherries not be available.

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies
Makes Six

Pate Brisee (pie dough)
1 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 Cup Cubed, Chilled Earth Balance Margarine
2 Tbs – 1/4 Cup Ice Water

1 1/3 Cup Ground Cherries, de-husked and washed
1/4 Cup Sugar + 1/2 tsp Flour

Begin by making the pie dough. For a step-by-step, see this recipe.

Line a cupcake tin with cupcake papers. Spray lightly with oil. Place a scant tablespoon of dough into the bottom of each cup. Using a small glass dipped in water (one that has the same diameter of the bottom of the cupcake cup), press the dough to form a bottom crust.

Cupcake Pie Shells

Take small pieces of dough and build up the sides of the cup with dough, making sure the walls aren’t too thick.

Cupcake Pie Shells

At this point, you can use the glass again, dipped in water so it won’t stick, to neaten everything up if you want.

Cupcake Pie Shells

Your finished pie shells should look something like this. Place the shells in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up.

Cupcake Pie Shells

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Remove the shells from the fridge and fill to the top, slightly overflowing, with ground cherries (or whatever fruit you’re using).

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of the sugar/flour mixture to each cup, depending on how sweet you want your pies. 1/2 tsp was sweet enough for me, allowing the flavor of the fruit to show through.  If you’re using something tangier or less sweet, you’ll want more sugar.

Cover the back of a cookie sheet with a sheet of plastic wrap. Add the rest of the pie dough, and cover with a second sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4-1/8″ thick. Using a glass that has a slightly larger diameter than the openings of the cupcake cups, stamp out six pie crust tops. Place this in the freezer for a few minutes, or into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

Pie Tops

Once chilled, you should be able to easily peel out the tops and place them over your pies. Pinch the edges down, slash a X in the top with a sharp knife, and sprinkle with sugar. You can do other types of tops, such as lattice work, if desired.

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for several minutes before gently removing them from the cupcake tin to cook completely.

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pie

Ground cherry cupcake pies!

Again, you can use any fruit you like, but if you ever see ground cherries, definitely try them. They’re also sometimes called cape gooseberries (though some people say it’s a different fruit in the same family), husk tomatoes (which usually refer to tomatillos…), goldenberries, and a host of other names. Whatever they’re called, they should be small, sweet, and surprising. Make a jam, dip them in chocolate, add them to salsa, or eat them raw.


Okay!  Seems like a lot of people find these growing nearby their homes. PLEASE don’t eat them unless you’re SURE they are okay to eat.  Wikipedia lists over 35 different plants in the Physalis genus.  That’s a lot!  So there’s no guarantee the species that is growing near you is this same species I’ve written about.  Please be careful!!  Even if they are safe to eat, they might not taste the same.

If the people that live around you don’t tend to eat the fruits of the bushes you see, there might be a very good reason why.  Wild foraging can be dangerous, so please eat only ground cherries that you find at markets that have a reputation for, well, selling non-poisonous food.  Ha!

Ground Cherries

Individual Blueberry Grunts

Individual Blueberry Grunt

Yeah, I’d never heard of a blueberry grunt, either. Until I became friends with Sandy. Every since we became friends, I couldn’t use the word “blueberry” without her saying “Mmmm, blueberry grunt…” eyes half-closed and smiling. I knew it was one of her favorite desserts, but I couldn’t bring myself to make something called a grunt.

Until, that is, I had four cups freshly picked blueberries.

A grunt is in the cobbler family, and it’s a traditional East Coast maritime dessert. It’s perfect for people who might want something like a pie, but are too lazy make an actual pie. So that means it’s perfect for me!

Grunts out of the oven

Blueberry is a popular flavor for grunts, but I imagine you can use pretty much any berry or fruit. They’re a great way to use up bountiful–but fleeting–summer fruit. The most common way to make a grunt is to boil berries with water, sugar, and lemon juice, then add biscuit dough to the top, cover with a tight lid, and steam. It’s a one-pan, stove-top operation. I chose to bake mine because I had these ridiculously cute gratin dishes that I’d been dying to use for a blog post. I’ll give directions for both methods of cooking.

Recipes for grunts are all pretty standard, I adapted and veganized this simple recipe.

Individual Blueberry Grunts

Blueberry Grunts
Makes four individual grunts, or one large

Blueberry Filling
Four Cups Fresh Blueberries (or frozen)
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 tsp Each Cinnamon and Nutmeg, optional (I left them out)

Simple Biscuits
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
3 Tbs Earth Balance Margarine, or veg. shortening
3/4-1 Cup Soymilk

Add all of the ingredients for the blueberry filling into a large skillet.  If you’re going to be making one large grunt and steaming the biscuits, make sure this skillet has a tight fitting lid. If you’re going to be baking the grunt, preheat the oven to 400º F.

Blueberry Filling

Boil the berries for 10-15 minutes until the mixture has thickened a little.

Blueberry Filling

Meanwhile, combine all the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the margarine/shortening into the dry ingredients. If you’re berries aren’t done yet, go ahead and stick the dry mixture in the fridge or freezer to keep the margarine cold until you’re ready for it.

When the berries are ready, add the soymilk to the dry mixture to form a soft biscuit dough. The consistency is pretty forgiving, a slightly too-soft or too-firm dough won’t make a difference in the final product. As long as it holds together, but is soft enough to break apart into clumps, you’re good to go. Don’t over-mix the dough, or the biscuits will be tough. But you knew that!

Grunt Biscuit Dough

For one large, steamed grunt:
Break the biscuit dough up into small, bite-sized pieces.  Place the pieces on top of the hot, still-cooking berries, spread evenly across the top.  Cover the skillet with a tight fitting lid, reduce the heat slightly, and steam for 15 minutes without peeking.  The biscuits should be puffed up and cooked all the way through.  Serve warm.

For one large baked grunt:
Follow the instructions for a steamed grunt, but place in the oven to bake at 400º F (without a lid) for 20 minutes.  You can sand the biscuits sugar before baking if you like! Serve warm.

For individual baked grunts:
Transfer berry mixture to individual ramekins or gratin dishes, filling only half-full.  Add biscuit mixture on top.  Sand with sugar and place all the grunts on a baking sheet (this will help you take them out of the oven with burning yourself).  Bake for 20 minutes, serve warm.

Here’s what my individual grunts looked like before baking:

Grunts before baking

These are great just as they are, but you can also serve them with some ice cream if you want. I invited Sandy over to try them, and she said that not only were they delicious, but they “taste exactly like a non-vegan grunt.” So if you’re looking for a simple, but elegant dessert to use up summer berries, I highly recommend this one.

I won’t blame you if you call it a cobbler, though.

Individual Blueberry Grunts