From the harvest: Strawberry tart

May 30, 2012|By John Houser III, Special to The Baltimore Sun

The strawberries you find at area you-pick farms and farmers' markets bear no resemblance to that waxy fruit from the mega mart. They are smaller, uglier, and richer in color and flavor. They taste like a strawberry should taste. They are best if eaten immediately, paired with fresh whipped cream (my favorite way to eat them), but if you need to store them in the fridge, just place them in a plastic bag with a paper towel. Their flavor will change, but they will keep better than being out all night on the counter.

This tart recipe gives a triple hit of strawberry goodness. The tart shell is baked with a thin layer of jam, giving a concentrated strawberry base that also protects the shell from getting soggy from the strawberry curd that acts as the filling for the tart. Topping the curd are fresh strawberries to give the tart a summery flavor. A glaze of fresh strawberry jam takes it over the top.

There are multiple pieces to this tart, but if you make the curd and the jam the night before, you'll find this recipe to be manageable.

Strawberry tart

Makes: 12 4-inch tarts

For the strawberry jam:

2 pounds strawberries, chopped

1 ounce lemon juice

5 ounces sugar

For the strawberry curd:

2 egg yolks

1 whole egg

1 1/4 ounce cornstarch

2 ounces sugar

1 pound strawberries, hulled

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 ounces sugar

1 ounce butter

For the tart shells (makes 12 4-inch shells):

8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, softened

4 ounces sugar

1 pinch of kosher salt

3 eggs

1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

20 ounces cake flour

4 ounces of the strawberry jam

For garnish:

Fresh strawberries (or strawberry tips, depending on the size of your tart shells)

To make the strawberry jam, place strawberries in a large sauce pan. Add sugar and lemon juice and stir to coat. Cover pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Use a potato masher or a fork to mash the strawberries into a chunky pulp. Cook for another 20 minutes at a slow simmer. Cool with the lid on the pot so it doesn't form a skin.

To make the strawberry curd, whisk the whole egg and egg yolks together in a metal or glass mixing bowl. Sift into the egg mixture the cornstarch and sugar and whisk until it changes from bright yellow to pale yellow.

Place strawberries, sugar, salt and pepper into a food processor/blender. Pulse until it becomes a liquid. Pour into a small pot and bring to a simmer, then turn it off.

While continuously whisking the egg mixture, use a small ladle or measuring cup to pour small amounts of the hot strawberry puree into the egg mixture. When half of the strawberry puree has been whisked into the egg mixture, pour all of the egg/strawberry mixture into the pot containing the strawberry puree. Whisk constantly, while bringing the pot back to a simmer over medium-low heat. The strawberry curd will thicken upon simmering. Whisk for 30 seconds and take off of the heat. Whisk in the butter until incorporated and smooth. Cover the pot and let cool or transfer to a bowl, place parchment paper or plastic wrap on top of the curd and place the bowl into a bigger bowl of ice water until cool. Whisk curd before using to loosen it up a bit.

To make the tart shells, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the eggs and the egg yolk until smooth. In a mixer bowl, add butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Start the mixer at the second speed until combined, then ramp it up to the third speed and cream everything together. Turn the mixer off. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and turn the mixer back on third speed. Add the eggs a little at a time until almost incorporated. Mix at high (fourth) speed until smooth.

Slowly add half of the flour and beat on the third speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides and add the rest of the flour slowly and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Cut dough in half, wrap in plastic, flatten the dough into a disk shape and place into the fridge for 1 hour.

On a floured work space, roll the dough out and cut into rounds (sizes will vary depending on your tart pans) and press into tart pans (if it breaks a little, just pinch it back together). Spread one teaspoon of strawberry jam in the bottom. Bake for 13 minutes. Let the shells cool for 10 minutes before trying to remove from the tart pans.

To assemble the tart, using a piping bag or a spoon, fill the tart shells 3/4 full of strawberry curd. Place as many strawberries on top as can fit. Glaze with a tablespoon or more of the strawberry jam. Serve immediately.

Tips: Spread curd on toast for a little pick-me-up in the morning. (It's great at midnight, too.) Top your favorite vanilla ice cream with extra jam for one of the best treats you'll have all summer. Roll out the remaining scrap of tart dough and cut into little rounds and place on a baking sheet. Bake until brown (roughly 5 minutes). You now have little shortbread cookies. Great to dip into the strawberry curd.

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