Saturday, May 24, 2008

Quick Berry Tart

Last weekend we were invited to dinner at a friends' home and I wanted to bring something for dessert. After a few very rare hot days in San Francisco, we were suddenly engulfed in the typical fog that follows. We were headed out to their house to enjoy some of the inland heat so I thought they would appreciate something freshly baked but summery.

First I made a sweet, buttery pie crust since it would have to chill a bit before rolling it out. In my food processor, I put 1 1/8 cup of all-purpose white flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar - I pulsed this mixture once or twice then added; 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter cut into pieces. I processed the flour mixture and butter for about 10 seconds - or until the consistency of cornmeal. I placed this mixture in a bowl and added 1 egg yolk and about 3 tablespoons of ice water - using a spatula I gradually mixed and gathered the mixture into the form of a ball. I then flattened the ball slightly, wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the freezer for 10 minutes. (If the mixture still seems dry continue to add 1/2 teaspoon of ice water at a time until it comes together. Additionally, rather than placing the dough in the freezer you can place it in the fridge but do not use it for at least 30 minutes.)

As you wait for the dough to chill, wash the berries you plan to use. I happen to have some strawberries. I wash, dry and de-stem each of them then slice them thinly; I want to place them in a thin layer over the pastry. When I have two cups of the strawberries sliced, I toss them with a scant teaspoon of sugar and a small capful of orange liqueur (you can substitute a squeeze of fresh lemon juice). I set these to the side until the pastry is ready to be rolled.

I turn my oven onto 425 degrees to bake. After the dough has set for 10 minutes, I place the dough on a floured board and gently roll it out. It doesn't have to be beautiful but you want it to get it to be a rough 9- to 10-inch circle. You place the rolled pastry on the cookie sheet and gently fix any holes or cracks by pinching with your fingers or "filling in" with a bit of extra pastry from the edges. Then gently place the fruit on top of the pastry and leave yourself about an inch to an inch and a half of an edge. You will gently fold this over to keep the juices from spilling onto the cookies sheet. The whole thing should resemble a fruit pizza essentially.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and gently brush the exposed pasty and the top of the fruit all over. Bake the tart for 20-30 minutes; until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly. Remove from the oven and cool before serving. You can serve warm or at room temperature with a bit of whipped cream or ice cream.

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