Posted on July 11, 2011
I went to my local farmers market recently and bought two cartons of fresh premium blueberries from Blueberry Ridge Orchard in Jackson, La. When you buy from a supermarket (which, let’s face it, I do), fruits and vegetables just lose a little something in their flavor and smell. But if you’re lucky enough to buy something that was freshly plucked from a vine, tree or plant, you’re in for a special treat.
How is this for a treat?
On a recent Saturday afternoon, these blueberries filled my car and my kitchen with their subtly sweet smell. Though I could have rinsed them and served them on cereal, over ice cream or mixed with other fruit, I decided to test my dicey baking skills and feature them in a fruit tart. A few years ago, I bought Tamasin Day-Lewis’ The Art of the Tart: Savory and Sweet. As I experimented with Meyer Lemon Tarts, Leek Tarts and the like, I discovered that you could have the best ingredients in the world, but still fall short with your end result if the crust was a flop, both literally and figuratively.
I wanted to use these blueberries and Lewis’ book had a strawberry tart recipe that seemed like it could be adapted for other fruit.
The elements of the tart I made were: a sweetened tart shell, pastry cream and the pretty berries.
To make the shell, mix 1 1/2 cups of white flour, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (use Plugra European Style Butter for the best flavor and texture), 2 dessert spoons of confectioner’s sugar, 2 egg yolks and a little bit of ice cold water with your hands until you have a good, well-incorporated dough. Chill the dough for at least an hour. Then, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough and put it into a 12-inch tart pan, then blind bake it before returning it to the oven to cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool.
Here it is:
While the crust cools, make the pastry cream. To do this, you’ll need to scald 1 3/4 cups of whole milk. (Ed note: I used a cup of Smith Creamery cream with 3/4 cup of reduced fat milk. Smith Creamery cream is wonderfully rich and fresh, so I definitely wanted that velvety smooth taste…albeit cut with a little bit of reduced fat milk.) As the milk scalds, add vanilla extract. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together 4 egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar and less than 1/3 cup of cornstarch. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the eggs, whisking as you pour. Return the milk and egg mixture to the pan and stir it over gentle heat until it thickens. When it thickens, pour it into a bowl and put it into the refrigerator to cool, stirring it every so often.
This is what it will look like:
When your tart shell and cream have cooled, smooth the cream into the tart shell and then cover the cream with blueberries or other fresh fruit. Lewis recommends a glaze of watered-down jelly, but for a small fruit like blueberries, I don’t think you need it. I hope to use this recipe with fresh peaches soon, incorporating ginger into either the pastry cream or the fruit.
Any other ways you’re enjoying fresh summer fruit right now? If so, please share them in comments.