Elinor Arsenault knows the secret to a good pastry.
“That’s made with butter, real butter, I use a lot of real butter.”
She’s pointing to a Pyrex casserole dish, layered with golden shortbread on the bottom and raspberry jam on top. This summer Elinor’s selling her pastries at the Orleans Farmers market, but she first started baking as a young girl in Royalton in Western Massachusetts.
“I grew up in a very, very small town about 2,000 people. And most of them had come over from Finland, and my father had a grocery store there so I had to learn a little Finnish and when I learned enough they were nice enough to give me their recipes. And so I got their recipes when I was young.”
The raspberry bars are Elinor’s version of a traditional Finnish shortbread. They look like a Linzer torte except without the top layer of dough.
“It’s a shortbread dough on the bottom and then it’s homemade raspberry jam and then coconuts and nuts on the top. And it’s very simple.”
Elinor starts with the dough, which is mostly butter.
“And flour and brown sugar and an egg and mix it up and pat it in there and…”
So you sort of just press it into the bottom of the pan?
“Yes, yes I do, and then you put this, the homemade jam on, and I make my own jams, I make about 10-15 cases.”
Elinor picks her own berries, which she says she doesn’t spray, and she makes two kinds of raspberry preserves. She likes some with seeds, and some without.
“A jelly is clear and you take out the pulp or the seeds and jam has the seeds in it and part of the berries.”
For baked goods, she says you want the texture of the berries. Elinor spreads 12 ounces of the homemade jam over the shortbread and sprinkles coconut and chopped walnuts on top.
“What you do is you bake it for 30 minutes and then you take it out cool it just a little bit shut the oven off and put it back for another 15 minutes and that kind of sets the jam.”
It also toasts the coconut flakes and nuts. The result is a rich, buttery dough topped with thick, sticky jam and crisp pieces of coconut and walnuts. It is absolutely delicious.
This is Elinor’s first summer at the farmers’ market. She’s always liked to bake, but after her husband died, it became a way of keeping busy.
“One of the things I was doing was baking and giving it to all the neighbors and my son said mom why don’t you come down and live with me for the summer and sell it at the farmers’ market. And I’m giving it a try.”
Local raspberries were in season from mid June until mid July, and they’re just coming back into season for the second harvest, which should last until early October.
Here is a link to Ellie Arsenault's Raspberry Shortbread.
If you want to check out the season for any local fruit or vegetable, you can find a link to an online harvest calendar here.