Tuesday, May 12, 2009

for the love of spring

Not that I've been counting, but it has snowed, rained, sleeted or been overall gloomy for the past 6 weekends. It's as if I fell asleep Friday night in my home and woke up in Seattle on Saturday and Sunday. The ironic part over these past 6 weekends, and I promise I'm not counting, is that it never fails, on Monday morning the weather that I am aching to enjoy is back. I wouldn't complain but I live in a place that claims over 300 days of sunshine a year. It just so happens, those lovely spring days have been falling Monday through Friday. When I also happen to be at my desk sitting in front of a computer.

What I'm getting at is I have a terrible case of spring fever. Spring fever that involves strawberries and tarts and sitting on a patio in the middle of the afternoon. It's nearly the middle of May and I have barely had the chance to pick up a few extra freckles. Maybe a couple while out running errands over lunch. But not the freckles I deserve to have by mid May.

While yearning for the perfect spring day, the lovely week day weather inspired me to make a Strawberry Tart. A tart that ideally would be enjoyed on a Saturday afternoon on my patio. That of course didn't happen but let me tell you about this tart. It's a looker. Probably the most beautiful tart I have ever attempted. I could not have been more proud. More often than not my fortune in the baking department has been less than stellar. Actually, I shouldn't be so hard on myself. My previous dessert history usually tastes rather good. But gorgeous is not the first word that comes to mind. Pie soup might be a better description.

But, this strawberry tart, the one on the cover of Gourmet's April issue, is perfect for spring. I didn't have mascarpone on hand but did have an 8 oz package of cream cheese. I think it made a nice substitution and will likely make it with the cream cheese again.

For tart shell:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Rounded 1/4 tsp salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold water

For filling:
1 1/2 lb strawberries (about 1 1/2 qt), trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup ruby Port
1 lb mascarpone (about 2 cups) or 8 oz of cream cheese
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom; pie weights or dried beans

Make tart shell:
Blend together flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, and water with a fork, then drizzle over flour mixture and stir with fork (or pulse) until mixture comes together.

Gently knead with floured hands on a lightly floured surface until a dough forms, then gently knead 4 or 5 times. Press into a 5-inch disk. Place in center of tart pan and cover with plastic wrap. Using your fingers and bottom of a flat-bottomed measuring cup, spread and push dough to evenly cover bottom and side of pan. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until side is set and edge is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue to bake until shell is deep golden all over, about 20 minutes more. Cool in pan, about 45 minutes.

Make Filling While Tart Shell Cools:
Stir together strawberries and granulated sugar in a bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Strain in a sieve set over a small saucepan, reserving berries. Add Port to liquid in saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together mascarpone, confectioners sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until stiff.

Assemble Tart:
Spread mascarpone mixture evenly in cooled tart shell, then top with strawberries. Drizzle Port glaze all over tart.

Cooks’ note:
Tart shell can be baked 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature.
Add strawberries and drizzle Port glaze over tart just before serving.

Recipe by Andrea Albin
Photograph by Romulo Yanes


  1. I've been wanting to make this all month!!

  2. I made that for Easter dessert, and it's on my blog. I thought the port wine glaze was the best part. Love your blog!

  3. Jora, you're going to love this tart. It's similar to your strawberry pie. aka summertime perfection.
    I agree Rebekka, the port glaze is delish. By the way, I checked out your blog. It's great! I'm also from Tennessee and some of my closest friends are in Nashville. Such a small world!