Mary Ann's Blog

The Tart As Art

Summertime is ripe for the picking of all kinds of fruits and I circle my calendar each year with reminders to pick raspberries, blackberries, cherries, plums and peaches when they are in season. No summer season fades away without me getting my fill of nature’s offering of summer sweets. And I have a plan when I show up in the berry patch or the fruit orchards in my neck of the woods. One of the joys of self-picking is getting the juiciest and freshest of summer fruits. I am all business as I fill my boxes and pails with berry stained hands and I calculate how much I will freeze for winter baking and how much I will keep for making fresh tarts and cobblers, or for topping a bowl of ice cream or adding some to cool smoothies or just setting a bowl aside for sitting on the porch and indulging in some happy eating in the cool summer breezes.

Last year, my husband announced that he was going to put in a fruit orchard adjacent to our vegetable garden! He carefully selected healthy blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes and I could not resist adding two white peach trees and two cherry trees. As they were planted, I realized that the fruit of our labors would be a long time in coming, since the trees and bushes needed to establish themselves. But half the fun is waiting to see what will happen. My biggest worry was going to be birds and deer,  that no doubt, would love to munch on the tender leaves and fruit!

Fresh fruit tarts are one of my favorite things to make; they are a refreshing change from heavier desserts like cakes and pies and are gorgeous to look at with their bright color combinations and the way the fruit is artfully arranged in a tart shell. I love the way they glisten under a blanket of fruit glaze that magically transform them and they look almost like stained glass windows.

I take my inspiration for some of the ones I make often from the many pastry windows that I have peered into, especially those in Italy where they are designed with so much food fashion flair that the tart becomes art itself.

Pastry Dough
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar 
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut in pieces 
1 large egg 
Pinch of salt  
2 tablespoons ice water

To make the pastry, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the egg and salt and. pulse just to blend. With the motor running, add the water gradually through the feed tube and process until the mixture begins to form a ball; you may not need all of the water.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the dough between 2 clean sheets of waxed paper and roll it out to fit a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Fit the dough into the pan and trim off the excess dough. Prick the dough in several places with a fork. Put a sheet of foil or waxed paper over the dough and weigh it down with dried beans or rice. Bake for 12 minutes, remove the foil and beans, and bake for about 3 to 5 minutes more, or until the tart shell is light golden brown. Let cool on a rack.

2 tablespoons apricot jam 
4 to 5 cups  raspberries
½ cup water 
¾ cup sugar 
3 tablespoons cornstarch 
1 teaspoon almond extract 
Mascarpone cheese, optional In a small saucepan

Heat the apricot jam until smooth and melted. Brush the cooled  crust with the jam to seal it. Reserve ½ cup of the raspberries for the glaze, and arrange the rest in the tart shell. Set aside while you make the glaze.

Place reserved raspberries in a saucepan. Add the ½ cup water and bring to a boil. Boil until the fruit is soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a strainer set over a bowl. Mash the fruit with a wooden spoon and press against the solids to extract as much of the juices as possible. Discard the solids. Add enough water to the strained juices to make 1 cup.

In a saucepan mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Slowly add the strained juice and mix well. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to thicken and becomes clear, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract. Let cool for 5 minutes.Using a pastry brush, coat the fruit in the tart shell with the glaze, letting some of the glaze run down between the fruit. Chill the tart for at least 2 hours. Serve with mascarpone cheese or whipped cream


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