Friday, July 3, 2015
by Sheila Connolly
The last of the local strawberries… I hadn’t been to a farmers market this spring, so I kind of over-indulged when I was in Northampton, buying two overflowing quarts of beautiful ripe berries.
There are only two of us at home these days, and that was a lot of strawberries. First round: the old stand-by, strawberry shortcake, with home-made shortcakes and plenty of whipped cream. Didn’t use up even half of the berries.
Also in Northampton, I visited one of my favorite used bookstores, The Raven, where I bought (1) a four-volume edition of the History of Middlesex County, published in 1927 (maybe only a Massachusetts genealogist can get excited about that); (2) Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which somehow I’d never read); and (3) two cookbooks. I can’t stop myself.
One of these cookbooks was Seasonal Fruit Desserts, by Deborah Madison, which had lots of nice recipes (I’m always on the lookout for new apple recipes). But what struck me was that there were not one but two new pie-crust recipes! I may have mentioned (often) that I am pie-crust challenged—these two may be numbers 14 and 15. But hope springs eternal!
So there I was with a pile of strawberries and a new pie crust recipe—but I couldn’t find a single recipe I liked. So I snooped around and combined several, and this is the result.
at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of one orange (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Butter a 9" round or square tart pan.
Beat the butter with the sugar and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again until smooth.
Add the flavorings, then the flour, and mix just to combine.
Scrape the batter into the tart pan (be sure to gather up all the bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl). With an offset spatula, spread out the batter, pushing it up against the sides to make a rim.
If the batter is too soft to handle, refrigerate it for 10 minutes.
When making your tart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the tart pan with the dough and set it on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until it just begins to brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool (it will shrink down a bit).
Wait, what’s that doing here? Call it mortar, so you have something to set your strawberries in, to bind them to the crust. (You could also use a simple pastry custard without the lemon.)
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1-1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
Grate the peel from the lemon. Squeeze the lemon to extract the juice. (One large lemon will provide both enough juice and peel for this recipe.)
Whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a small heavy saucepan. Add the butter and the lemon peel. Place over medium heat and stir until the butter melts. Keep stirring until the curd thickens to the consistency of pudding, which should take about 5 minutes.
Place in a small bowl, then press plastic wrap on the surface (to prevent a skin from forming). Chill at least 2 hours.
Putting it all together:
Remove the rim from the tart crust and place the crust on a serving plate.
Spread a thin layer of the lemon curd to cover the bottom.
Arrange the strawberries on top of the curd.You can use whole strawberries, or slice them as I did (tastes good either way!).
Melt some jelly (seedless—take your pick from any red jelly you like) and brush over the top of the berries.
Chill to set—then eat quickly! This tart gets soggy overnight.
P.S. The other pie-crust recipe from the Seasonal Fruit Desserts cookbook? A more typical rolled crust, but made with maple or brown sugar and a bit of whole-wheat pastry flour. Now, what kind of filling should I try?
Privy to the Dead, still in its first month. I promise there's nothing disgusting in the privy!
Have a wonderful (and safe) Fourth of July!