Friday, 29 March 2013

Summer Berry Tart

I made this lovely tart in early summer, when we had the first wave of raspberries at their peak – it is one of my favourite combinations – berries, lemony custard, and pastry to deliver it to your plate.  It would also work well with fresh autumn berries. 

This pudding also lends itself to all manner of shortcuts if cooking from scratch is not your thing… sweet shortcrust pastry from the freezer, a mix of custard and lemon curd, and there’s a lovely dessert that simply needs some compilation! 
Just remember before starting that you need to allow enough time to make the pastry, rest it, get it into the tart tin, rest it, cook it and cool it  (around 3 hours all up)… and then another couple of hours to chill the custard in the tart.

Berry Tart with Lemon Custard
Serves 8 people, approximately 27cm tart

Sweet Pastry
For best results, make this the day before and rest overnight in the fridge – if you can’t do this, make sure it rests in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.  You can also experiment with ginger or cinnamon to add some spice to the pastry.

170g butter, just softened (not melted)
85g sugar
1 small egg, lightly beaten with a fork
1/8 tsp vanilla paste (or a few drops vanilla essence)
Zest of a lemon
260g plain flour

Using a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the egg, vanilla and lemon zest.  Now add the flour and gently mix just enough to combine – it will start to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl.  It really is important not to overmix as it will become oily and difficult to work with later.  Scoop out straight on to plastic wrap and pop into the fridge to rest.

Once rested, remove from the plastic wrap, squeeze gently to make sure it is combined (again not too much – you don’t want it to warm up), gently shape into a circle and roll out on a floured bench to about 3mm thick.  Line a loose-bottomed tart tin and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (not fan bake).  Line the tart base with foil and fill with baking blind beads/rice etc.  Bake for 10 mins, then remove the foil and baking blind beads/rice, and bake for a further 10 mins, or until the pastry is dry, crisp and golden brown.  Remove from the oven (leave in the tart tin) and cool.

Lemony Custard
2 tbsp lemon zest (make sure there is no white pith, as this will make it taste bitter)
1 C lemon juice
1 C caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
140g butter, chopped into smallish squares
3 tbsp olive oil (not your average mass produced one – try a rich fruity boutique grower)

Whisk together all ingredients except the butter and olive oil in a medium sized, heavy based saucepan.  Bring to the boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 2 minutes (or a bit less), whisking constantly, until it thickens up – you must keep whisking to avoid scrambled eggs, and you don’t have to rapidly boil – just enough to keep bubbling and cook the flour so that it thickens up.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and olive oil until combined.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes, giving the occasional stir, and then pour into the pastry case and refrigerate til firm (I would allow 2 hours for this stage).

Fruit topping
Around 3-6 punnets of summer berries (personally, I don’t think you can have too much fruit).  My version involved strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

If time allows, slice the strawberries in half and soak overnight in a good slosh of raspberry liqueur with a sprinkling of castor sugar.  Before serving, spoon the strawberries over the tart (gently press them into the custard) and then pile the blueberries and raspberries on top.  Drizzle the juice from the sozzled strawberries over everything and serve.

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