The Summer-is-Here Berry-Citrus Tart
I adore simple cookies. I love a good homemade pie. I lust after decadently smooth ice cream. I would probably kill a person to get my hands on the last ever creme brulee. I hate tarts though.
Yes, they’re cute. They combine many of my favorite things (a cookie-like dough, custard and then some delicious fruit or nut topping). They can be a show stopper even. But for some reason I just have little respect for this seemingly antiquated dessert. At least that’s how I use to feel. It all started last year. Cue the cliche flashback harp music and wavy lines. Imagine me looking off into the distance stroking my chin as if in deep thought as we travel back in time through my memories.
Times were different back then, a whole year ago. It was a simpler time. Some would say it was a happier time. I was a mere 24 years old, a kid still. It was a particularly bright, sunny afternoon. It was reaching the end of summer and I had some ripe pears on my hands. I must have had a great deal of time on my hands as well because I thought to myself, why not spend the next four hours making a pear and blackberry amaretto tart. Between mixing, forming and blind baking the short dough, stirring, stirring and stirring the custard, poaching and sauteing the pears, reducing the jam to make a glaze and finally assembling it all, I was exhausted. It was my first time making a tart and I was ready to make it my last. Dirty dishes littered my virgin kitchen, my hands burnt from boiling jam and sugar, hot tart shells and delicious but way-too-hot-to-taste-as-it-cooked custard.
Standing back I admired the grandma-would-probably-consider-this-a-modern dessert. It didn’t look too bad. It actually looked pretty, its pear and blackberry patterns pleasing my inner OCD. The just-perfect brown short dough holding it all in tantalized the mind. The apricot glaze made the whole package glisten in the bright afternoon sun like a brand new, I’m-compensating-for-something german sports car. I took a bite and instantly my mind was transported to its happy place, a place to which only a truly delicious dessert could transport me.
Somehow as the days wore on my mind only remembered the hell it took to get to that delicious happy dessert place. The burns, the vast amounts of work, the seemingly never ending stirring and of course the mounds of dirty dishes. I mean it was good but was it that good? Of all the delicious dishes out there I was sure to find more happiness in a more modern selection of desserts, a selection of desserts that favor simplicity over layered, complicated flavors that require layered, complicated preparations.
Of course all my friends and family who tried it only saw and tasted the end result. For months and months after completing the tart, my inquiries into which dessert I should make next were always met with a resounding “MAKE ANOTHER TART!” Conversations went from:
Me: “What dessert should I make this week?”
Them: “a tart!”
Me: “What dessert should I make this week? And don’t say tart.”
Them: “… a tart!”
Me: “You know I hate tarts so please think outside the box. What dessert should I make this week?”
Them: “Make a tart!”
Me: “What dessert should I make this week? Let me guess…”
Them: “I know you don’t like making tarts but how about you make a tart just this one time.”
The cycle never ended. The friends and family I cook for on a regular basis never picked up on the hint. And as if I were a radio station pressured into play a horrible song requested by the fans, I finally broke down yesterday and decided to make a tart.
This time it would be different though. I needed a tart that allowed me to reduce the steps and parts. That meant no glaze and no topping that required cooking. I also wasn’t going to use the short dough recipe I used last time–as it required about three attempts before being acceptable–and instead of a typical custard I wanted to go in a different, more summer friendly direction. I had a lot of berries on hand so I knew that could be my topping because what fruit is better to leave raw than berries? Instead of a typical custard I quickly settled on a lemon-citrus custard-like filling (I’m not sure it can be called a custard on account of it lacking dairy–of course I guess with dairy it would end up being a curd). As for the dough, I decided to go with a brown sugar short dough, probably the most laborious process of the lot.
Together these three parts form an absolutely delicious, fairly simple, for a tart, berry-citrus tart. In fact I said something I thought I’d never say as I was enjoying my first slice. I uttered the words, “I may have found a new favorite dessert.” Of course I said this quietly so no one would hear me. I still don’t want weekly requests for tarts.
This tart is different though. While still reminiscent of the old-fashioned tarts of yesteryear, the berries add a bright, colorful top that scream summer. The yellow of the citrus filling peak through in a bright, cheerful way. The flavor of the tart citrus filling pops against the sweet berries. The sugary sweet dough holds it all together–literally and figuratively. It’s a tart meets lemon meringue pie–obviously without the meringue–meets sugar cookie meets delicious fresh berry-filled treat. If you like tarts you’ll probably love this. If you are like me and tarts are missing from your favorites list, then you still will probably love this. Either way try it.
Like right now.
The recipe for this tart is inspired by and modified from a Bo Friberg recipe in his formidable yet excellent book–if you’re at all serious about perfecting your pastry skills and baking in general I suggest buying this book and its sister, the second volume. The crust recipe though is essentially his. He’s an excellent pastry chef and his doughs/crusts/shells are things I just can’t bring myself to change. And remember, I am an advocate of baking by weight, not volume. So if you haven’t bought a scale yet, go do it! If not, as always I do my best to include accurate volumetric measurements as well, but scoop at your own risk.
Brown Sugar Tart Shell Ingredients 5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp. 4 ounces light brown sugar (2/3 cup) 1 egg 7 ounces bread flour (1 3/4 cup) Lemon-Citrus Filling Ingredients 2 ounces corn starch (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) 14 ounces granulated sugar (2 cups) 6 eggs Finely grated zest of 2 lemons 1/2 cup juice squeezed from lemons 1/2 cup juice squeezed from oranges Remaining Tart Ingredients 6 ounces blackberries (1/2 cup) 10 ounces blueberries (1 cup) 10 ounces strawberries, decapitated and cut in half (1 cup) Powdered sugar for dusting Tart Shell Instructions 1. Place the butter, sugar and egg in a mixing bowl. Mix at low speed until just combined. 2. Add the flour and mix until the dough is smooth. Don't over mix. Scrape down the bowl when necessary. 3. Wrap the dough in parchment paper and refrigerate until it is hard enough to work with (about 1 hour). 4. Preheat the oven to 375F. 5. Roll the dough out to a 14" circle. I suggest rolling it out on parchment paper sprinkled with flour. The dough should be be about 1/8 inch thick. 5. Place the tart pan (with removable bottom) upside down on the dough. Flip the dough and pan over by the parchment paper. The dough should now be on top of the pan, the paper on top of that. Remove the paper. 6. Without stretching the dough, lift and bring the excess dough in so that the dough falls into the corners of the pan. You don't want to stretch or force the dough into the corners. Fold any excess in to make a thicker side. 7. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough and cut a circle piece of parchment paper so it fits on the botton of the dough in the pan. Now lay enough foil over the parchment paper to come up the sides at least a few inches. 8. Fill the pans with dried beans, pie weights, or even another baking dish. This is done to keep the dough in place during baking otherwise it would turn into a puddle. 9. Bake for 11-14 minutes until golden around the edges. 10. Remove from the oven and lift the foil layers with the beans, pie weights, or other heavy object(s) out. Remove the parchment paper as well. Do this carefully to avoid pulling out chunks of the crust. 11. Pierce the bottom of the shell with a fork a few places. Return to the the oven and bake another 5 minutes (this is to finish baking the bottom of the shell). 12. Set aside. Leave the oven heated at 375F. Lemon-Citrus Filling Instructions 1. Stir the cornstarch and sugar together in a metal or glass bowl. 2. Mix in the eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and orange juice. Stir until ingredients are well combined. Do not whip. 3. Bring water to a simmer in a pot small enough to hold the hold the bowl with the filling ingredients (bain-marie). 4. Place the bowl on top of the simmering water and heat until the mixture thickens and coats a spoon, stirring constantly. Be careful not to overheat the mixture (hence us using a bain-marie). 5. Pour the mixture into the baked tart shell. 6. Return the tart to the oven and lower the temp. to 350F. 7. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until the filling is set. 8. Allow to cool. Assembly Instructions 1. Arrange the berries on top of the tart. Consider the tart to be a blank canvas and you an artist. I suggest drawing in the lines but this is your chance to be creatively free. You can use my tart as an example to emulate.
While this isn’t as easy as many desserts out there, it is quite straightforward. This is probably the easiest tart I have made. Oh and I told y’all I’d be back to posting about desserts in no time.
What’s your favorite tart?