With all the plump, juicy berries available in all the grocery stores lately, I’ve been eating them out of hand on a daily basis. I hate to cook them– it seems like such a waste of fresh produce– but I knew I wanted to do something special to really showcase the berries. Enter the fruit tart.
This tart is easy to make, but will make you look like a superstar. The graham crust (not crackers, but it’s got the same flavor profile) is a step above the usual pate sucree, and the flavors of brown sugar and honey really complement the other components of the tart. It also requires no rolling, bakes up nice and crisp without shrinking, and looks great. The filling tastes complex but couldn’t be simpler, and the trick of glazing the berries makes the dessert look professional. You’ll have people wondering if you actually made it yourself!
Summer Berry Tart
Graham Tart Shell (adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course)
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tbs. granulated sugar
3 tbs. honey
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (or you can just use more all purpose)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and light. Add honey and continue beating until fully incorporated.
2. In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients, then add to the butter mixture in two batches. Mix until fully incorporated.
3. Press dough into a 9″ removable bottom tart pan, allowing the dough on the sides to climb slightly up above the fluted edge of the pan.
4. Put the unbaked shell in the freezer for 1 hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
6. When you’re ready to bake, use a paring knife to slice the edges level with the top of the pan, and prick the bottom several times with a fork.
7. Bake until the edges get golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Immediately upon removing from the oven, use the bottom of a glass to tamp down the puffed surface of the crust so it stays flat (leaving more room for filling!). Let cool completely.
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (the kind that makes 2 cups of pudding)
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups milk
1. Beat the cream cheese until smooth.
2. Add 1/4 cup of the milk to the cream cheese and continue to beat until fully incorporated and smooth. Add another 1/4 cup and repeat. Continue to add your milk in small amounts, beating the mixture until smooth.
3. Pour in all of the pudding mix. Using the whisk attachment of your mixer (or whatever you usually use to make pudding), beat the mixture for 2 minutes, until it thickens up. Spread into cooled tart shell.
Assorted fresh berries
3 tbs. apricot jam or apple jelly
1. Using sliced or whole berries (depending on your preference), arrange the berries prettily in the tart shell.
2. Warm the jam or jelly in the microwave until liquid. Using a pastry brush, paint the berries generously with jam. You can serve immediately, or keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
1. The graham dough can also be chilled, rolled, and cut if you want a thinner crust, like for tartlets. You just need to chill it for at least an hour before trying to roll it, because it’s pretty soft right out of the mixer.
2. The crust recipe makes more than enough for a 9″ round tart– it would easily stretch to a 10″ tart. You could also make a 4 x14″ rectangular tart with these same amounts. I actually doubled the recipe to make two tarts, and had enough to make the mini tart pictured at the top of the post.
3. Feel free to make your crust and cream filling the night before– just don’t put the cream filling in until you’re ready to assemble the tart in its entirety, to maintain crispness in the crust.
4. I used strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries for this one. If you’re going to do that, brush the glaze on your strawberries and raspberries before adding the blueberries in– the blueberries are too small to brush glaze onto, and they’ll just stick to your pastry brush.
5. You don’t have to slice your strawberries– this tart is also really impressive if you just place a bunch of strawberries pointy-side up onto the cream filling and glaze them.
6. You’ll have leftover cream filling for this one– I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what you can do with it (hint: spoon!).