Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wild Berry Tarts and Peach Tarts

Delaware is a pretty lush state and a large variety of plants thrive here including rambling blackberry and raspberry bushes. This is the peak time for these delicate berries so I spend time on Wednesday picking berries with D. We got some thorns and prickers in our fingers but were rewarded with a large bag of sweet berries at the end. I decided to make some berry tarts but wasn't quite sure what to use a vegan pastry cream. I finally settled on one that used flour and soymilk and seemed to work for several people but once I made it, I was disappointed. It seemed too much like sweet paper mache gloop even after I cooled it. But I didn't have time to make another cream since I was planning on bringing these to a group meeting and the meeting was starting in 30 minutes! So I just slathered in into the tart shells I baked earlier and spread a thin layer of blood orange sauce that I found in the freezer on top before arranging the berries over the whole thing.

The blood orange sauce really saved the tarts. The sweet and slightly bitter orange flavor punched up the gloopy pastry cream and made a decadent tart. Still I think next time I would use a cashew cream or a vanilla pudding instead of the faux pastry cream.

One thing that finally struck me after making lots of tarts is that the water:butter:flour ratio for pie crusts is as such 1:2:6. So for example 3/4 cup flour: 1/4 cup butter: 2 T water. It's nice to be able to bake sans recipe.

Tart crust (fits about five 4" tart pans)
3/4 cup flour
1 t sugar
pinch salt
1/4 cup Earth Balance
2 T water

Mix flour, sugar and salt together. Cut in butter until pea sized balls form. I do this by hand since I'm missing a food processor. Sigh. Add in water and gather into a large ball. Wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 mins. After chilling divide dough into five parts and pat quickly into balls. In between two pieces of wax paper, roll out each ball until it is slightly bigger than your tart pans. It should be quite thin maybe 1/8". Gently peel off wax paper and drape dough into pans, pressing into the flutes. Cover with wax paper and fill with dry beans. Blind bake at 350 C for 15 minutes. I do this in the toaster oven since it's so bloody hot now.

Tart pastry cream filling is from Vegan Chef.
1/2 cup unbleached flour
2 cups soy milk, rice milk, or other non-dairy milk of choice, divided
1/3 cup unbleached cane sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 t. grated lemon zest
1/2 t. vanilla

In a small bowl, place the flour and whisk in 1/2 cups soy milk, and set aside. In a small saucepan, place the remaining soy milk, sugar, and salt, and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture to the liquid ingredients and whisk well to combine. Cook the mixture over medium heat, while whisking constantly, for 5-6 minutes or until thickened. Add the remaining ingredients, whisk well to combine, and cook the mixture an additional 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a glass bowl. Place a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming on the top. Place the pastry cream in the refrigerator for several hours to cool completely. Use as a filling for pies, tarts, pastries, or phyllo dough, or as a topping for desserts.

Yield: 2 Cups

Blood Orange Syrup (from Epicurious)
3 cups fresh blood orange juice or regular orange juice
9 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons grated blood orange peel or regular orange peel

Stir all ingredients in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until syrup is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate until cold. Cover and keep refrigerated up to 2 days. I put mine in the freezer and can pull it out to use directly. It doesn't need to defrost since it won't freeze solid or loose any flavor.

Spoon pastry cream into each tart shell and smooth.
Spoon a thin layer of blood orange syrup on top.
Top with fruit.

The tarts got a bit soggy after a while. I should have probably painted the insides of the tart shells with some jam to prevent that from happening.
The peach tart flower idea is originally from Tartlette who mentions that this can be done with thinly sliced fruit. Yeah right, I thought, probably only by a professional pastry chef. But I was so wrong! The flower was delightfully easy to make and even more fun to eat.

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