Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Strawberries are Coming: Again, Almost Amanda's Strawberry Tart

I picked the first handful of garden strawberries this morning, marking the beginning of my 2014 berry season out in my yard. I am planning to make this pie again as soon as full production begins, hopefully within a week, if the sun comes out and it stays dry for a few days. My pal Brad may just get a homemade strawberry tart for his birthday dinner. Please enjoy this post from about a year ago. It's one of the best strawberry tarts you'll eat.

A day or so ago, I was ogling a beautiful peach tart over on Food52. Even Pinned it to make soon. Peaches, so far are not great, and a peach tart will have to wait a few weeks until the height of the season. What I do have is a small glut of homegrown strawberries, small sweet Mara des Bois. And Chuck has been asking for a strawberry pie since I brought in the first bowlful from the garden. Amanda Hesser wrote the recipe on Food52, and she got me when she said the recipe had been her mother's. I am a total sucker for family recipes. I started to read the comments, too and found that many other cooks, since the recipe is a couple of years old, used fruit other than peaches with great success.

I'd told Chuck there would be no strawberry pie since I'd used my last frozen homemade pie shell, and I refuse to use store-bought. He uses them all the time, but I won't. Any fool can make a decent filling; I rest my laurels on my butter and lard pie crust. So, with some trepidation I decided to try this press-in crust from Amanda's recipe that uses oil. Handed-down recipes are almost always good, and this is no exception. I made a few minor recipe changes, besides using strawberries, but it's still pretty much Amanda's mom's recipe, I think. Easy to toss together, for sure. So this version is for you, Amanda, and please thank your mom from all of us.

The best tip ever is in the video with the original recipe over on Food52: pat the crust into the pan from the rim toward the center. With a big tart like this, sometimes it feels like you won't have enough dough to make a nice rim if you start from the center out. This method totally eliminates the problem.

This strawberry tart is wonderful. The berries get an almost jammy consistency, but still have a fresh berry flavor. Please try to use good, local ripe berries for this; those huge, shipped-far, underripe berries just don't match the deliciousness of  the local ones.
Almost Amanda's Strawberry Tart
Too hot to cut yet, but, oh boy!

Almost Amanda's Strawberry Tart

Serves 8
Adapted slightly from Amanda Hesser's Peach Tart on Food52

Note: oils seeds are among the most genetically modified crops on the planet, and the only way to assure you are not using GMO oil is to use organic oils. Light flavored olive oils, are usually overly processed, too. So choose your ingredients accordingly. I use all organic products, but choosing organic oil is probably the most important.

Tools: 11"(or a 9") tart pan with removable bottom

1-1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup organic canola, corn or vegetable oil
2T light cream or organic coconut creamer
1/2  teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1 quart small strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise (about 2-1/2 lb)

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.  In a bowl, mix together with a whisk, 1-1/2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp sea salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, the cream and the almond extract. Pour the oil mixture into the flour mixture and mix gently with a fork until it's all just combined and crumbly, don't over work it. Dump it into the tart pan, and working from the rim edge towards the center, pat the dough in place, about 1/8" thick.

2. Mix with your fingertips in a bowl, the 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, 1/4  teaspoon of salt and the butter until it's crumbly and sandy looking.

3. Starting out at the rim, start placing the berry halves, cut side down, in tight concentric circles on top of the dough. Fill in gaps with smaller berries or tear off pieces of strawberry. Sprinkle all of the the sugar-flour mixture evenly over the top of the fruit, and bake for 35 to 45 (mine took 35) minutes until the pastry is lightly browned and the berries look bubbly and jam-like. Cool on a rack and serve at room temp or slightly chilled, with healthy dollops of whipped creme fraiche or whipped cream.

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