Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cake of the Week: Fresh Strawberry Tart

Last weekend SpeedyKate referred to me as her hippie friend “but in a good way,” and I quickly realized she’s right. I come from a family of unintentional hippies. You wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at us, but we do exhibit all the key NorCal/local/environmental/peace and love traits (but my Dad would be horrified if you called him a hippie - sorry Dad!).

Upon entering the real world I was shocked to learn that not everyone recycles and turns off all lights when leaving the room, that many people don’t understand how chickens lay eggs, or know that fruits and veggies have seasons.

My family’s hippy-ness is most apparent in our food. My “comfort food” is fresh salsa made from home-grown tomatoes, and strawberry pie made from the berries grown in the planter beds my mama built in our backyard. In the fishing season, my dad would bring back striped bass and rainbow trout for dinner or to smoke (yumm!). Boxed mac and cheese was an only-when-there’s-a-babysitter special occasion thing, eggs came from our chickens (living in the coop my Mama built – so crafty she is!), and soda never happened.

My parents didn’t take it to the no-TV, no-sugar, no-fast food extreme (we ate In-N-Out every weekend on the way to Tahoe), which is why we don’t qualify as true hippies, just totally cliché Northern Californians.

Anywho, when I was in elementary school when we had the most prolific strawberry beds ever. We’re talking about so many strawberries that picking then became a chore and my Mama had to come up with creative ways to use them all up.

Enter the Strawberry Tart (my mama made it in pie form, but I went for the tart version). The filling is almost 100% strawberries – no fat, no filler, just sweet red awesomeness. This recipe is so easy, and it looks and tastes like a summer afternoon. You can serve it plain, or top with whipped cream or ice cream.

Strawberry Tart

Tart shell: (this is the same recipe from my Ricotta Tart)
1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Liberally butter a 11" tart or quiche pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt.  Pulse to combine.  Add butter pieces and pulse until fine crumbs form.  Add yolk, vanilla and water.  Pulse in quick bursts until dough forms a ball.  Press dough into buttered pan (flour hands if your dough is sticky). Chill shell for 40 minutes.

After chilling, prick the tart shell with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.  Let shell cool completely before filling.
2 quarts fresh strawberries
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup water

Mash or briefly food-process about ½ quart strawberries (you want enough to make about 1 cup mashed/chopped berries).

In a saucepan on the stove over medium heat, combine sugar, cornstarch, and water. Heat for 2 minutes, then add the mashed/chopped berries. Bring the mixture to a simmer, wisking constantly. Simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.

Cut the rest of the strawberries in half and set aside.

Spread a thin layer of filling inside the cooled tart crust.

Arrange the halved berries on top of crust.

Using a spoon and spatula, evenly spread filling/glaze over the fresh berries.
Chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.