Every year the Environmental Working Group publishes their "Dirty Dozen" list, which consists of 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residue. For the third year in a row, strawberries have topped that list. I ONLY buy organic strawberries and I also only buy organic blueberries and well, any berries for that matter. Berries are sweet with barely any skin and therefore appealing to all sorts of bugs and critters, so farmers tend to use a high amount of pesticides to keep their berry crops alive.
When late spring and summer finally arrive and berries are abundant, I love to make this incredible and ORGANIC strawberry and blueberry tart. I also use all organic baking ingredients (if you live near a Trader Joe's, you can find all the organic ingredients there) so the tart is entirely organic. If you want to make it gluten- free, just use gluten-free organic flour, which is not difficult to find these days.
The cooking process may look complicated, but it’s actually not. Unlike most desserts, you can calmly make each component separately and then bring it all together when you’re ready to serve.
Just start with the crust. Then, while the dough is in the fridge, make the pastry cream and leave that to chill for a bit while you finish the crust. And as the crust bakes (and makes your house smell heavenly), wash and chop up the fruit and melt the apricot jelly.
Tip: to get the perfect crust, it helps to have the flour and butter be as cold as possible.
So that’s it! If you’ve never made a fancy tart before, now’s the time to try! Especially since organic strawberries and blueberries are at their peak and can be found in abundance right now.
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Step 1: GATHER YOUR INGREDIENTS
FOR THE TART:
- 1 pint organic strawberries
- 1 pint organic blueberries
- 1/4 cup organic apricot jelly
- 1 tsp water
- 2 tbs organic sliced almonds (OPTIONAL)
- a few leaves of organic fresh mint sliced thinly (OPTIONAL)
FOR THE CRUST:
- 1 1/3 cups organic all purpose flour
- 2.5 tbs organic cold shortening
- 6 tbs organic cold unsalted butter
- 3 tbs organic sugar
- 1/2 tsp rounded kosher salt
- 4 to 5 tbs ice cold water
FOR THE PASTRY CREAM:
- 1.5 cups organic whole milk
- 5 large organic free range egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 tbs organic butter
- 1 tbs organic heavy cream
- 3/4 cup organic sugar
- 3 tbs organic cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cognac (OPTIONAL)
Step 2: PREPARE EGGS, BUTTER, FLOUR AND WARM THE MILK
Set eggs out to bring to room temperature. Place the 1.5 cups of milk into a medium saucepan and heat until scalded (see note), watch closely and don’t burn!
Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a small container, mix slightly with fork and place in the freezer (in this case, on top of a magnum vodka bottle lol) I use a measuring cup which fits easily in freezer and conveniently measures the flour. Dice the butter and also throw it in the freezer…trust me, it will make your crust perfect and flaky! Chill both while you make the pastry cream:
Step 3: MIX THE EGGS WITH SUGAR
Separate the egg yolks (save the whites for a healthy egg white omelette!) and place into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat on medium for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl with a spatula a couple of times.
Step 4: MIX ALL CUSTARD INGREDIENTS TOGETHER
While the eggs are mixing, place the vanilla extract, Cognac, butter and heavy cream into a small bowl and set aside. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the cornstarch while continuing to mix. With mixer still on low, carefully add the scalded milk and mix another 20 seconds or so. Turn off the mixer and pour mixture into the pan you used to scald the milk.
Step 5: COOK CUSTARD AND PASS THROUGH MESH SIEVE
Turn the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often with the spatula or a wooden spoon. make sure to scrape the bottom often. When the mixture starts to curdle, switch to a whisk and continue to stir, a bit faster this time. You want to smooth out the curds.
Now add the already prepared vanilla, Cognac, butter and cream. Stir with whisk over low heat for a minute and then remove from heat.
This step makes the pastry cream smoother, but it’s not an absolute necessity:
pour the custard into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and use a spatula to push it through. If skipping, just place pastry cream directly into bowl.
Cover it with plastic so that it sits directly on top of the cream and place the bowl into the fridge.
Step 6: MAKE THE DOUGH FOR CRUST
Place the flour mixture, the cold butter and cold shortening into a food processor. Using a steel blade, pulse a few times (10 to 15) until mixture is grainy and the largest butter chunks resemble the size of green peas.
Add the 1/4 cup ice water and pulse a few more times. Place a small amount of dough in your hand, if it clumps together easily then it is ready. If it doesn’t, then add another tbs water and pulse again.
When ready, place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together into a ball using your hands. Don’t over work it! It’s ok if there’s bits of butter in it…it will make the crust more flaky when they melt. Flatten the ball slightly into a disk, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least a half hour.
Step 7: ROLL OUT CRUST AND SHAPE
Preheat oven to 400
Roll out the dough, and using the rolling pin, transfer it to a 9 inch removable bottom tart pan. Press in the sides and cut off any excess if needed. I like a thick crust rim, so I add any excess to areas where it looks thinner. Don’t want to waste any delicious crust nibbles!
Step 8: BAKE THE CRUST
Butter the bottom of a pice of foil, place butter side down into the tart and fill with pie weights if you have them, or some raw rice or beans. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove the foil with the weights and prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Lower the heat to 375 and bake the crust another 15 or 20 minutes, until nice and golden. If browning too fast, lower temperature to 350.
Remove the crust and let it cool. Make sure you really let it cool (setting on a rack helps) before you add the pastry cream or it will melt.
Step 9: PREPARE THE BERRIES
While the tart is baking, prep the berries.
A FUN AND EASY TRICK TO HULL THE STRAWBERRIES:
After learning this trick, I couldn't believe that I never thought of it all the years prior. Take a straw, preferably a sturdy plastic one, and just push from the bottom and through the center until the green stem pops off. It's that simple! It's a sun chore you can give a friend or your kids while you prepare the crust and filling.
Also, NEVER EVER wash strawberries under water. They are like sponges (FYI so are mushrooms) and absorb water immediately, which will make them mushy and soggy. Lightly wet a paper towel and give the berries a quick wipe. Blueberries are different, feel free to wash those.
Step 10: HEAT APRICOT JELLY AND TOAST ALMONDS
Heat the apricot jelly with the water over low heat until melted, stirring with a small whisk. Remove from heat.
Toast the almonds in a 350 oven for 5 to 7 minutes just until fragrant…BE CAREFUL to not burn them!
Step 11: SPREAD CREAM IN CRUST AND TOP WITH BERRIES
Add the pastry cream to the tart and use a spatula to smooth it out evenly. Then decorate the tart with the berries with a fun pattern or just throw them on there…you can’t go wrong!
Lightly brush the melted apricot on the berries.
Step 12: SPRINKLE WITH ALMONDS AND MINT (OPTIONAL)
Sprinkle on the toasted almond slices, they’re delicious and add a fantastic crunch! Also sprinkle some of the thinly sliced mint if you like the flavor of mint like I do. It's very refreshing and adds a nice summery green color.
Step 13: ENJOY THIS GORGEOUS AND FANCY TART THAT YOU MADE!!
My mouth is watering as I write this instructable, because the tart is already gone!!!! It is SO GOOD!!!!!
Best way to use fresh and ripe organic summer berries.
Enjoy and cheers!!
First Prize in the
Organic Cooking Challenge