Friday, November 12, 2010

Strawberry Tarts for the Queen of Hearts

When there are strawberries growing in the garden, berries glowing scarlet, abundant, luscious, fragrant, demanding to be picked twice a week before the tortoises take bites out of the biggest juiciest ones, it isn’t hard to decide on the main ingredient for dessert. Strawberries with shortbread, a pavlova, a strawberry cream sponge or just plain berries with pancakes and a dash of balsamic vinegar, you hardly even need to get creative when the strawberry itself takes centre stage.

School bake sales are another matter. The school encourages healthy snacks like fruit, but I couldn’t work out how they could sell the strawberries on their own without complicated calculations of 20c per berry, 'her strawberry’s bigger than mine', and so on. An image came to me unbidden of those delicious French patisserie tarts with luscious fresh fruit delicately coated in a glaze that preserves freshness. Crisp pastry, succulent fruit and just a smidgen of extra sweetness from the glaze. I wasn’t expecting to achieve the heights of the patissier’s art just like that, but anyway went in search of a glaze recipe to try and at least get close to the tantalising image in my mind.

Discarding recipes that instructed you to use jello or apple juice in the mix, I came up with an easy recipe that did actually work in the way I’d hoped, coating the fruit with a translucent glow without making the pastry soggy. What I liked about this one is that it uses some of the strawberries for both colour and flavour, so no need for any ersatz colouring to be added.

After that it was just a case of making pastry, blind baking lots of little tart shells, and then putting them together with the best looking strawberries and a dollop of glaze.

Glaze Recipe for Strawberry tarts

1 cup of chopped strawberries
1 cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch

Cook the strawberries in the water until tender enough to push through a sieve.
Strain and push the pulp through a sieve back into the pan.
Mix together the sugar and cornflour then stir it into the strawberry liquid.
Cook stirring until it thickens and clears.
Spoon it over the prepared pastry cases with strawberries in them.

I used the sweet pastry recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, which worked perfectly for these.

I couldn’t resist trying one before it had cooled properly, even though it was by now 10 o’clock at night. It was almost perfect, with crispy crumbly pastry, a bite of lush strawberry and smooth sweet glaze to meld it all together... not French, not perfect in looks with my rough and ready pastry skills, but just right for kids and adults to drool over at breakfast and beg to taste them before they even get to school. Now there are only four left ... how will we work that out this afternoon?


  1. Wow! Those are beautiful. I remember cake sales at school and we never had anything as beautiful as those. The most creative Moms would decorate Marie biscuits with Smarties - ultra chic in the late 70's!

  2. These look utterly delicious... Almost indecent!
    Robyn x

  3. Oh Kit, look at THOSE! You'd certainly be the queen of MY heart if I got a plate of these dainty little tarts! :)

  4. As to your last question, my reply would be: "Four what? Leftover tarts? Nope, haven't seen them."

    *evil grin*

  5. This looks so good right now. This is the time of year that I do the most cardio, since I know that I will be eating so much rich desserts and high calorie foods. It allows me to indulge and not feel guilty.

  6. Ooh, those look so good!

    I only make tarts once in a blue moon, but when I do, I cheat and use store-bought pastry, which I roll in wheat germ first. (The pastry absorbs a surprising amount of wheat germ, so I tell myself it's not so unhealthy.) Also, I do this with fresh fruit, but make the glaze out of strawberry jam. In fact, I wait until there's just an inch or so left, swill that around with hot water and sugar, then boil it. If my family ever notice the odd bread crumb in the glaze, they're smart enough not to say anything about it.

    You can see what sort of baker I am. But I swear I didn't cut these corners with those cookies that got trashed!

  7. Those look great! Too bad strawberries are so out of season on this side of the world. This recipe may warrant purchasing the expensive fruit.

  8. Kit - have been waiting for your pre-holiday post in order to send my best wishes, but as it looks like you're not going to post before Yule, I'm taking this chance to wish you and your family the happiest Christmas ever, from New York to South Africa!


  9. Lovely blog :)Gorgeous looking recipe!
    Really enjoyed stumbling across it :)


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!