A hankering for strawberry tart
Strawberries are everywhere right now, except in my garden. At the moment I have lots of plants, some of which have flowers, but nary a strawberry in sight. I’m hoping that they’re just being coy and will start popping out strawberries galore at any time now. As soon as strawberries come into season my family starts pestering me to make a strawberry tart. There are a few steps to making this one, but it’s SO worth it. The crispy-tenderness of the dough, the smooth sweetness of the “crema” and the tart freshness of the strawberries all marry together to forge an incredible taste explosion in your mouth.
Do you want it the easy way, or the hard way?
Our local bakery used to make the perfect strawberry tarts like this, but lately they’ve decided to go all fancy on us and put stuff in them that shouldn’t be there, such as threads of spun, caramelized sugar, or hazelnut paste spread on the dough underneath the crema. It’s all very well (as they can put up their prices that way), but they’ve lost the essence of the true strawberry tart as it should be; one which showcases the star, which is the strawberries. To make this strawberry tart there is an easy way and a harder way. You choose what you want to go for. Here’s the eas(ier!) way: buy the pie crust ready-made if you feel uncomfortable about making dough. Well, that’s it for the easy bit really. I supposed you could buy the strawberries already washed and cut up, but that would be taking the whole “easy” to extremes, wouldn’t it? To make the crema, there is no easy way. But, I assure you that it’s not difficult to make. You stick all the ingredients in a pot and stir and stir and stir while they’re heating until they get thick. That’s it. You just need patience, and a watchful eye so you don’t get a solid lump of goo. Oh, I forgot to mention that the recipe for the crema comes from a lovely Italian lady called Lina who runs an agriturismo in the Salento region of Italy (down in the heel). We were there last year and she stuffed us with fabulous tarts and cakes!
Where did the dough recipe come from?
The dough recipe I’ve used here is a slightly adapted version of fabulous Yotam Ottolenghi’s dough from his cookbook “Ottolenghi – The Cookbook“. I could go on and on and on (as I am wont to do!) about Ottolenghi’s recipes, but this is not the time nor the place (plus you’ll probably get up and leave in protest if I waffle too much more). You can use any berries for the topping. It works wonderfully with raspberries too.
Travel photo of the week
Here’s a photo of the Salento area of Italy, way down in the “heel” of the boot. It’s not that well-known outside of Italy, but it should be! This photo is of Porto Selvaggio, which means “Wild Port”. You can see why. 🙂 The Salento is an incredibly beautiful region with marvelous food and a very long and interesting history. Drop everything and go there!
By Lisa Watson
Strawberry and Italian custard tart
- For the Dough:
- 125 g All-purpose flour 4.4oz, 1 cup
- 50 g Granulated Sugar 3.5 Tbsp
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1 Lemon for the zest
- 90 g fridge-cold Butter 6 Tbsp
- 1 Egg yolk
- 2 – 4 Tbsp Water
- For the Crema:
- 500 ml Milk 2 cups
- 75 g Flour
- 125 g 4.2oz, 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 packet vanilla sugar or 1 tsp of essence
- 2 Egg yolks
- 1 lemon for the zest
- 500 g Strawberries 1 lb, approx. 2 cups – or any red berries
For the Dough:
- Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor or by hand.
- Add the lemon zest and butter and whizz, or rub together with your hands, until the mixture looks crumbly.
- Add the egg yolk and mix in, then the water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough sticks together. It should be a little crumbly and not sticky.
- Put the dough in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes, and up to 3 days.
- When you want to use the dough, take it out of the fridge (of course!). Roll it out on the bench to the size of your dish. Don’t forget to grease the pie dish with butter before putting the dough in it. Try to roll out the dough as thinly as possible to get a nice crispy crust. Blind bake (that means put some foil on top of the dough and some rice on top of the foil) for about 15 -20 minutes at 180ºC (350ºF) until the dough is golden-brown. You may have to take the foil and rice off for the last 5 minutes to let all the crust brown well.
For the Crema:
- Put all the ingredients in a pot and heat at medium heat on the stove top, stirring constantly with a whisk.
- Stir and stir until it has a “thick” consistency. When you pull the whisk through the crema, it should leave a trail behind it that levels out again very slowly. The mixture should be almost thick enough to pick up with the whisk.
- Pour the crema into the baked pie crust and leave to cool and set.
For the Strawberries:
- Rinse and halve or quarter the strawberries (depending on how big they are). Now it’s up to you to use your artistic abilities to decorate the top of it!