Monday, February 15, 2010

Blueberry-Raspberry Tart

We needed a dessert for a Sunday potluck after church. So, I sent my husband off to the Cook’s Illustrated website to find a tantalizing dessert. This was too pretty not to make.

Now, if you think it seems a bit odd to be making a berry dessert in the middle of February, you are right. Luckily for me though, I also enjoy gardening--and live in a climate where such fruits thrive. Every year I freeze homegrown fresh blueberries and raspberries for use during the winter. They are easy to freeze--I literally pick them into the freezer containers, put the lids on, and toss them in the freezer. While not nearly as good as fresh berries, they are vastly superior to store-bought frozen berries, which are often mushy and in tiny pieces when you thaw them. But I can’t wait until next summer to try this dish again with fresh berries!

This dessert had an extra savory delight, because the filling was made with browned butter (More on browned butter to come during next month's pasta extravaganza... legend has it was one of the Greek poet Homer’s favorite flavors). The browned butter imparts a unique nutty flavor, and a very rich aroma to this dessert. I may try using browned butter in other similar instances.

And because I never make recipes exactly like they are written, I made a few adaptations. Here's what I came up with:

Blueberry-Raspberry Tart
1 large egg yolk
1 T heavy cream
½ t vanilla extract
1 ¼ C flour
2/3 C sugar
¼ t salt
8 T butter (cold)
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, cream and vanilla. In a larger bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse meal. Stir in the wet ingredients and form into a ball. At this point the dough should be chilled for 1 to 48 hours. (I was on a tight time schedule and didn’t have time for this, so I skipped this step. It worked all right, but probably would have baked better if I had chilled the dough first.) Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let set about 15 minutes until malleable. Roll it out into a circle large enough for a 9" tart pan. I had problems with my dessert running over, so next time, I would probably roll this out to a 10" circle and discard the extra or use it for something else. Press the rolled dough into the bottom of a 9" tart pan, trimming off excess dough. The original recipe called for freezing the dough for 30 minutes at this point, but I skipped this step. (Again, probably a good idea, if you have time.) Set the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown. (It will take longer if you have put your dough in the freezer.) Cool on a wire rack. While the dough is cooling, make the filling.

6 T butter
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
½ C plus 1 T sugar
¼ t salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 ½ t lemon juice
2 T flour
a dash of nutmeg
2 T cream
5 ounces fresh raspberries
5 ounces fresh blueberries
To brown butter, heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter smells nutty and the milk solids at the bottom are golden brown. This should take 5-7 minutes. Watch this carefully as it will seem like they remain white for a long time, but they will quickly go from just turning color to getting too brown. Immediately transfer to a small heat-proof bowl. (The butter continues to heat, and may burn if you leave it in the hot pan.) Cool until just warm.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg and egg white together in a medium bowl. Add sugar and salt and whisk vigorously until light colored. Whisk in the warm butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Whisk in the flour and nutmeg, and then the cream. My secret ingredient in many recipes that have an egg/cream mixture is adding nutmeg. I always have a whole nutmeg on hand and use my tiny grater--just a few grates of the whole nutmeg add a hint of flavor.
Place the berries on the cooled crust and pour the filling gently over them. Place tart pan back on metal sheet and bake 30 minutes or until filling does not jiggle. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate if not served within 6 hours.

Note on the crust: I was a little disappointed in the consistency of my crust, but I mostly attribute that to not working with cold enough dough. I have another similar recipe to this one that puts a layer of flour and sugar between the crust and the filling (½ C flour + ½ C sugar). I might also try that step if I still find the crust a bit soggy.

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