Ciao Italia Blog Exclusive: Glazed Strawberry Tart

June 25, 2009

I planted my own strawberries last year.

For all the time and effort I spent on them, I yielded only about a quart of the perfect red berries I was striving for. The rest were poached by birds and chipmunks.

But this year, I was in attack mode. I installed a solar electric fence around the strawberry patch. I didn’t stop there. I also enclosed the entire patch in green netting.

Like Farmer McGregor, I checked the patch every so often to see how things were progressing.

All appeared well. Lots of white flowers came along, followed by lots of white berries on their way to becoming those perfect red berries of my dreams.

Soon, I calculated, I would be picking my own fresh, free-from-pesticides strawberries and doing my part for the environment.

Before I could say, “strawberry shortcake,” however, the chipmunks had munched their way through the netting (and the fence), and helped themselves to the tastiest of the red berries, leaving only the pale pink ones with their white tops for me!

The battle cry sounded, and I reinforced the netting, making sure no holes were lurking for the critters to weasel their way in. But, as I learned, short of sleeping with one eye open, there is no way to prevent them from getting into the patch.

Finally, I got in my car, and I drove to the nearest local farm. I bought two quarts of strawberries to make my favorite strawberry tart.

“How do you keep out the chipmunks?” I asked the farmer. “Easy,” he said, “Plant enough for you and for the little varmints, too.”

Glazed Strawberry Tart

Makes one 9×1 inch tart in a removable tart shell pan.

1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour (6 ounces)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. almond sugar powder or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
Grated zest of one lemon
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen and grated
1 egg plus 1 yolk, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. strawberry rhubarb jam

2 qts. ripe strawberries, stems hulled. 5 berries cut in pieces, the rest left whole
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 425F.

Whirl the almonds in a food processor until they are a fine consistency but leave a little texture.

Add the unbleached flour, salt, almond sugar powder and zest to the bowl of the processor and whirl until blended.

Add the butter and pulse several times; add the egg and yolk gradually through the fed tube until a ball of dough begins to form.

Gather up dough, and pat into a disk Cover and refrigerate until cold but not hard, about 40 minutes.

Roll the dough out between flour dusted parchment paper to fit the tart shell. Trim off excess dough. Bake the shell for 8-10 minutes or just until it begins to brown on the edges. Remove the shell from the oven and brush it with the jam. Set aside to cool completely.

When cool, arrange the berries in the shell to fill it completely. Set aside.

Place the cut up berries in a small saucepan with one cup of water and bring to a boil. Press in the berries with a wooden spoon to smash them. Strain them through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Set aside. In the same saucepan combine the sugar and the cornstarch and mix well off the heat. Slowly add the strained juice and return to the flame. Squeeze in the lemon juice and cook the mixture over medium heat until it begins to thicken.

Brush the berries with the glaze making sure to coat each berry well and allow the excess glaze to drip down between the berries.

Refrigerate for several hours before serving with a dollop of whipped cream.

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