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One of the great satisfactions about a career in food is the joy I get from giving people the pleasure of an unexpected flavor that they never forget. Everyone who likes to eat has what I call "taste memories." Theyíre the moments when you discovered how incredibly good something could taste, and everything about that moment is still alive and powerful in your mind. The first time I went strawberry-picking, I realized that the berries I had been eating from the store were mere stand-ins for what strawberries can and should be.
Thereís something incredibly dressy about making fruit tarts. I often think the glazed fresh fruit brings images of glossy magazine covers to mind. Amazing what a little melted apricot jam can do! To celebrate the glorious strawberries (or raspberries, blackberries or blueberries) youíve brought home from the farm, Iíve created a filling that rests them on a bed of lightly sweetened cream cheese mousse. The mousse is lightly sprinkled with brown sugar, then topped with strawberry halves (or gently crushed smaller berries). The sugar will combine with some of the juice from the fresh-cut berries to make a sauce that will be released with each forkful. Your audience will, quite simply, think you are a genius.óS.R.
Amazing Tart Dough
In my restaurant travels (working behind the swinging doors), I encountered this tart dough, which is one of the most amazing foods Iíve ever worked with. It not only handles and rolls beautifully, but also once baked and removed from the tart pan, itís strong enough to hold together like a champ. Even thatís not the best thing about it. Most tart doughs have a nice, flaky, tender texture, and a background buttery flavor. This one leaves them all behind. It has a ton of flavor all on its own, without trying to take over the show from whatever ingredients you care to fill it with.
This recipe makes enough for three 8- to 9-inch tarts. I recommend freezing whatever you donít use right away; itíll hold for 3 to 4 months frozen, if well-wrapped.
1 cup (7 1/4 ounces) sugar
zest of 1 lemon, grated fine (2 to 3 teaspoons)
zest of 1 orange, grated fine (3 to 4 teaspoons)
5 cups (20 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Pastry Flour or Mellow Pastry Blend, or 4 3/4 cups (20 ounces)King Arthur Unbleached all-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks, 12 ounces), slightly softened
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Strawberry and Cream Filling
12 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) fresh orange juice
zest from 1 orange (1 tablespoon)
3/4 cup (6 1/4 ounces) heavy cream
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) vanilla sugar OR 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (2 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
1 quart fresh strawberries (or the berries of your choice)
1/2 cup (5 1/2 ounces) apricot jam (optional)
Tart Dough: Combine the sugar and zests in a medium-sized mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Add the flour and salt, and whisk till well-combined. Cut the butter into small chunks, and cut these into the dry ingredients; mix until the dough has a texture similar to rolled oats. Note: Pay attention to this step, or youíll have little islands of butter in your dough that will create holes when baked!) Add the egg and egg yolks, mix for another 2 minutes, then add the water, and mix 2 minutes more.
Take the dough out of the bowl, and squeeze and knead it by hand till it comes together. If necessary, sprinkle it with more water or flour to get a smooth consistency. Divide the dough into three pieces, forming each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap the disks, and refrigerate them for at least an hour before rolling.
Take one piece of dough out of the fridge, allow it to soften for about 5 to 10 minutes, till itís pliable, and roll it out to fit a 9-inch square (or 10-inch round) tart tin, preferably one with a removable bottom. If you donít have a tart tin, use a 9-inch pie pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork; fill it with pie weights or a pie chain; or line it with waxed paper, and fill it about half full with dried rice or beans. Bake the tart shell in a preheated 375įF oven for 20 minutes, until the dough is set through and a light golden brown.
Strawberry and Cream Filling: In a medium-sized bowl, whip the cream cheese with the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice, and zest until the mixture is light and there are no more lumps. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until the whisk or beater leaves tracks, then add the vanilla sugar or vanilla, and whip until the cream holds a peak.
Fold the whipped cream and cream cheese mixtures together, and spread this filling into the baked tart shell. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the top (it may help to press it through a sifter to make a light, even coating). Wash, dry, and trim the berries; if youíre using strawberries, cut them in half. If youíre using smaller berries, crush them lightly. Arrange the berries (strawberry halves cut-side down) over the filling, covering the entire surface. If desired, heat the apricot jam gently with 2 tablespoons of water, and paint the tops of the berries to make them shine. Refrigerate the tart for about 1 hour before serving; this will firm up the filling. The tart is best served the same day. Yield: one 9-inch round or square tart.
Note: When cooled, the tart shell can be filled with any cooked filling you like, such as jam or pastry cream. For a light mousse filling, combine whipped cream and fruit juice with some dissolved gelatin, to help it hold up. Top with fresh summer fruit, and you have a beautiful dessert with surprisingly little effort. Enjoy.
Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 153g): 447 cal, 28g fat, 5g protein, 18g complex carbohydrates, 26g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 107mg cholesterol, 193mg sodium, 161mg potassium, 246RE vitamin A, 21mg vitamin C, 1mg iron, 31mg calcium, 71mg phosphorus.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 5, Summer 2002 issue.