When does the summer end? For those of us living in a cold climate it is definitely not August 31st or September 1st, not even the Labor Day (first Monday of September). The fall in Eastern Canada begins around autumnal equinox time (22nd of September) with sudden gusty winds and rains bending and rocking the trees, blow-drying leaves into their new colors and flocking the birds to swarm into the their long journey down South. Although it’s still possible to make some BBQ, the goose-bumping temperatures usually lock us in to experiment with pies and breads. This tart was a pure impromptu caused by our unexpected garden find – squash flowers.
This berry tart bustling with freshness and happy summer flavors is a real catch when you are up to something special. Not only it will accompany any party table with unique charm, it is remarkably simple in preparation. The combination of fresh berries, puff pastry and roasted almonds in this tart make a totally out of this world snack, appetizer, side course or dessert, not to mention that it goes hand in hand with array of great cheeses, wine and even champagne.
There are times in our lives when we feel the magic shift has just taken place, except it’s a brief thing and like anything ‘happy’ when such moments arrive all you can do is blurt out ‘wow, thank you’ while, in fact, you are thinking: ‘Wait a sec, what’s going on here? Am I in some kind of a movie?’ You are so busy worrying that instead of acknowledging the obvious you don’t know whether to pinch yourself or start spinning around and pretending you are a Wonder Woman. Because, all you do know, it has been one of your wildest dreams and now you feel it’s too good to be true. Only when back home you are finally convinced that it was you and your effort that just got rewarded and your life will never be the same. End of story. You can exhale, overwhelmingly happy, and have a good laugh at yourself for being so stressed. Naturally, you celebrate with your beloved ones with champagne and something exquisite and memorable because things like that are much better remembered in retrospect.
Well, in my state of excitement I would play the jazz flute of destiny if I could, but I made this amazing Fresh Berry Tart instead (following my mom’s spur of the moment recipe) with fresh currants, gooseberries, grapes, yellow plums, rhubarb and wine jelly. What a great partner for any parte-e-e!
Although it looks promisingly fattening, fear not, the amount of sugar in it is minimal and the puff pastry open crust is not exaggerated, but gives that freshly baked state of crisp and buttery flakiness you are looking for in the high-end desserts. The runny berries center, both sour and rich, gives an aromatic citrusy tang with a backdrop of nuttiness from roasted almonds – simply irresistible! Watch the simple steps and follow the recipe below:
Even if the craft of the pastry chef is by necessity highly precise, you can vary the seasonal fruits in this tart, from the super-juicy ones, to more dry by adding more or less jelly and water into the syrup. Try the wine jelly (red or white) instead of the berry for once, it adds an interesting spike in flavor and expands the variety of wines you can take with the tart.
The other important ingredients besides the berries, jelly and pastry dough are:
Crumbs, which can be Panko, Graham or semi-salted cracker crumbs depending on whether you like it sweet, semi-sweet or salty-sweet.
Roasted slivered almonds and Demerara sugar or (my preferred) cracked or flaked maple sugar.
The number of dishes that can partner with this tart is quite astonishing: from snack and appetizer in tapas or aperitif bar, to BBQ red meats, to desserts with assorted cheeses – it will be a hit in any given combination.
Finally, it is an awesome way to eat the freshly collected berries from your garden, forest, farm or local market.
Call it happy endings, or beginnings or just a HAPPY tart, ultimately, everyone deserves to share a bit of this happiness. Major tip: serve it freshly baked and you will be astonished how many of your guests will take a second piece. So worth an effort, you won’t regret! T.
Fresh sour cherry summer pie is one of those foods that I just can’t stay away from no matter how hard I try: it’s the best way for me to enjoy those intensely tangy and rich little fruits in season. In the juxtaposition with the neutral and subtle baked pear, the cherries shine even more. I intensified the filling taste with lemon zest, ginger and cinnamon and added a bit of almond flour to the crust dough to give an extra nutty charm to the flaky crunch. I also replaced the standard vanilla ice cream with quick homemade yogurt cream. The result: simply irresistible summer concoction bursting with freshness and flavors!
I got really hooked: it was refreshing and innovative with almost zero calories and great quench. I named it phony fruitcake and continued to experiment with the concept of having the no-bake body of a cake made of fresh fruit. I eliminated the frosting part (which was a little too kitsch for me) and just kept carving my phony fruitcakes from melon, pineapple, papaya, etc. topping them with fresh berries and sometimes a lace of berries coulis with maple syrup instead of sugar. The cake didn’t have much of a substance, but I liked the simplicity and the skinny side of it.
So when a friend came with a pack of pie dough in shell (yes, I’ve even cheated on the dough this time) to help me cherry picking and asked me to ditch the diet for once (politely) and whirl the grandma’s cherry pie with her, I gave up. Later that night I was devouring the best cherry pie I’ve had in a long time, even with commercial crust (below is my recipe of the pie dough from scratch).
I quickly traded the previous motivational quote by Kate Moss: ‘’Nothing tastes as good as thin feels’’ (heck, I don’t even remember how thin feels, although I’m sure even Bethenny Frankel often feels like that too) for much more appealing one by Woody Allen: ‘’ When we lose twenty pounds… we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have! We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.’’ (What a great soul bargain – I like it!)
I suggest you try them both and tell me which one you prefer: the Cherry Pear Pie or the No Bake Fresh Watermelon Cake. Cheers!
Right Image: Amédée Varin from “Drôleries végétales. L’Empire des légumes, mémoires de Cucurbitus Ier”
by Eugène Nus and Antoine Méray, Paris: Gabriel de Gonet, 1861.
I modified the recipe just a little bit over the course of a few tries. Particularly, I reduced ham to 200 g (Ricardo’s version is way too MEATY for me) and used only green asparagus (did not get the white one before the week-end). The preparation takes about 25 minutes, 30 minutes of fridge time and around 45 minutes of cooking, so give yourself a good hour to make this impressive meal. Once you taste it, you will not regret. Steps are easy: defrost and roll the puff pastry, boil or steam asparagus; chop the ham and mix it with sauteed onions and mustard, spread everything according to the instructions and bake. Add eggs 10 minutes into the end of baking. Mine got little out of whack, but the look and aroma were still amazing.