Thursday, April 1, 2010
Oh I know. You're probably not even thinking about blueberries yet. They haven't even crossed your mind. But damn it. I need to believe that summer really is just around the corner, because all of this rain lately? It's getting me down. And for baking, you don't really need the most luscious berries ever to see the light of day. Heat does something great to fruit that helps it overcome any of its still-out-of-season limitations.
Of course, what would be even better is if you happened to live in Northern Europe somewhere, one of the Scandinavian countries perhaps, where you might traipse around bare-footed and carefree (okay, probably not bare-footed. Going without shoes being highly overrated when foraging for your food) plucking a basket full of small, tart bilberries from their low-growing bushes. In fact, if you were Scandinavian, it would be your government-given right to gather the fruit on any public land. The fruit of the people. Bilberries are closely related to our more familiar blueberries, but are smaller, more tart. Oh, and wild. Always wild.
If you don't have bilberries on hand, you can use blueberries for this dessert, or any in-season (or out of season but available!) berry. Blackberries, raspberries, black currants...you get the idea. The recipe is Joanne Harris's, from her French kitchen. If I had a french kitchen, I think this particular tart would be on my counter at all times. The recipe seems to have been written for the bilberry, as we've been saying, so the sugar content might be a bit high for the more demure blueberry. Next time, I'd adjust accordingly. You should, too, depending on the tartness of your fruit.
Adapted from Joanne Harris and Fran Warde's My French Kitchen
For the pâte brisée:
1 3/4 cups flour
12 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into cubes and kept in the refrigerator until needed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tablespoon cold water
For the filling:
1 lb blueberries (or other berries!) washed and picked over
3/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar (or perhaps a bit less depending on the sweetness of your berries), plus a bit more for sprinkling
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon crème de cassis (totally worth it, don't skip it. There are other things you can use it for. Like drinking it.)
I really find the easiest way to do a crust like this is in the food processor. So that's what we'll do, although Harris and Warde keep it old school. So anyway, put the flour and butter into the bowl of a food processor and process for about 15 seconds, until the mixture reaches the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. Add the eggs, sugar and water, and process again, for no more than about 30 seconds, until the mixture starts to come together in larger chuncks to form a dough. You don't want to overwork the dough, so, umm, don't.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead only long enough to bring it into one homogenous lump of dough. Wrap and refrigerate and rest the dough for 40 minutes.
Lightly butter a 10" tart pan with a removable bottom. On the same lightly flour surface, turn out the chilled dough and roll it out to a size slighly larger than your pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, with dough hanging off all sides. Now here's a cool little trick: to trim the dough, simply roll your rollingpin over the top of the tart pan. Magic! Refrigerate the lined pan for 20 minutes.
While the pan is cooling, preheat the oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream, sugar, eggs, flour and liqueur. Whisk until there are not lumps. Take the pan out of the refrigerator and put the berries in the crust. Pour the cream mixture over the fruit, then lightly sprinkle the top with a little bit of extra sugar. Bake for 35 minutes, until the crust is fully cooked and the cream is set. Allow to cool before serving.