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?