Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brown Sugar Strawberry Tart

This recipe may or may not have led to my first incident of theft. 

Theft is probably too strong a word, it was more like…pilfering. In any case, I spotted this in an old issue of Sunset magazine at the gym last winter, and it stopped me dead in my (elliptical machine) tracks. I briefly considered coughing and ripping the page out, then decided that was probably even more uncouth, and just took the whole darn thing. I don’t know why I felt so guilty about it; I’m pretty sure those magazines are there for the taking. Still, I snuck it under my jacket lest anyone try to stop me on the way out.  I was NOT GOING HOME WITHOUT THIS RECIPE.

It was everything my summer-starved mind was craving: fresh berries, a light, creamy filling with just enough crème fra
îche to give it a bit of tartness and character, and a buttery, crumbly crust more akin to a shortbread cookie than a pie crust. It doesn't hurt that it comes together ridiculously quickly and easily, and if you take the few extra moments required to arrange your strawberries in concentric circles with cut sides alternating up and down, you’ll breeze into that summer barbecue looking like a culinary wizard.

Surely that's worth a little light pilfering.

Note: This recipe would be delicious with all manner of fruits: blueberries, raspberries, peaches, heck, even cherries if you can be bothered to pit and slice them. Promise me you'll try it with strawberries first though, and do it soon while they're at the pinnacle of juicy-sweet-red-ripe-perfection. You won't be sorry.

Brown Sugar Strawberry Tart
Tweaked, just barely, from Sunset Magazine, April 2010

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Scant 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (you could also use salted butter and skip the 1/4 tsp. salt)
1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup whipping cream
12 oz. strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, pulse flour, 2 Tbsp. of the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until combined. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until crumbs form and dough just begins to come together. I almost lost faith that it was going to come together at this point, but give it a few extra pulses if necessary, and I promise it will! Press evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9 inch round tart pan with a removable bottom (I'm sure you could get away with using a 9" springform pan, or even a pie dish in a pinch, but a fluted tart pan gives everything such professional polish, and they're not very expensive. I have this one.)

Bake until edges are just golden, 20-22 minutes. Let cool on a rack, then carefully push crust from pan rim and set on a plate.

In a medium bowl, beat crème fraîche, whipping cream, remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar, and remaining 1/2 tsp. vanilla on high speed until thick. Spread in cooled crust. Arrange strawberries in concentric circles, alternating cut sides up and down. I briefly considered straining and heating some strawberry jam to use as a glaze, but was so glad I opted not to- it is just perfect the way it is, and I fear a glaze would make it cloyingly sweet. Might be worth considering if your fruit is not particularly sweet or flavorful, however.

Can be made up to 4 hours ahead, and stored, loosely covered, in the refrigerator.

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