3.14.2015

Strawberry Fields Forever

The other night at dinner with some friends, we were discussing the Beatles and we asked their incredibly articulate 15-year old daughter if she has ever heard a vinyl record playing on a record player.

She had, and that somehow reminded us all of the "Paul (McCartney) is Dead" rumor of that era, and how, at the end of Strawberry Fields, John Lennon says, in what seems to be a much slower RPM, "I buried Paul."

Years later, according to an interview with Paul McCartney, John actually had said, "Cranberry sauce." So much for that fantasy!

But, of course, that brought me to strawberries and how much I love a strawberry that actually tastes like a strawberry!

In Tucson, our first strawberries of the season come over to us from Oxnard, California. Each weekend from February through March, they are trucked over the mountains and across the desert to our Sunday Market. This year, the first berries arrived in late January while most every other part of the world is either too hot or too cold to grow them.

Thank you, Oxnard, for your amazing strawberries!

I get them every weekend until they disappear, enjoying their delicious, juicy sweetness while I can.

They are good plain, right out of their little pint containers, or dipped in Grand Marnier and then powdered sugar.

Today, I wanted to make a tart, and I found a wonderful basic recipe in a little traditional French cookbook my friend Philip brought back from his last trip to France. (Happy Birthday, Philip!)

As with many traditional recipes, I find that ingredient amounts and baking times should be taken with a grain of salt at least seen more as suggestions than hard-and-fast rules.

With this recipe, I translated the crust procedure to be made in a food processor. I made the filling pretty much as directed, although the required baking time had to be almost doubled to 18 minutes.

Finally, I felt no need to make my own strawberry jelly to used as a glaze; pre-made currant jelly works perfectly. That left me with quite a few fresh strawberries to eat while I was baking!

Other things to note were these: you can make the crust and custard filling a day in advance, but do NOT top the custard with berries or glaze until a couple of hours before serving. If you have the time, this tart is best made and served the same day.

~ David

Tarte aux Fraises

300 grams flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
pinch salt
150 grams chilled butter
1 large egg, beaten

80 grams sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup currant jelly

Place flour, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse twice to blend.  Add butter in 10 pieces and pulse 10 times. Add beaten egg, and process until dough is moist and almost ready to clump. Remove from the processor and place on the counter. Bring together into a ball; wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough into a 13-inch circle. It will break apart from time to time just keep putting it back together. Slide the removable bottom of an 11-inch fluted tart pan under the crust (this will make it easier to transfer with fewer breaks) and then place it into the fluted ring of the tart pan. Press the dough into the bottom, sides, and corners of the mold, and trim any excess. Make sure all cracks are filled. Prick the bottom 10-15 times with a fork, line with foil, and fill with pie weights (I use dried beans), and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Whisk together the 80 grams of sugar, 2 eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt. Pour into the cooled crust and bake for 15-18 minutes until custard is set. (It will be only a thin layer of custard.)

Starting at the outer edge, arrange strawberry halves in concentric circles, points inward, until custard is covered. Melt the currant jelly in a small saucepan until liquid and smooth. Brush the strawberries with the melted jelly and allow it to set for 30 minutes to 2 hours before serving.

Serves 8-10.

37 comments:

  1. All the teenagers I know are back into vinyl these days! Which I don't understand from a sound quality perspective. What I do understand is strawberries is springtime. It's spring here and I suspect it is there as well. GREG

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    1. I am with you, Greg - I will keep my CDs and am not so concerned about the fidelity either way.

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  2. I should correct my little fib. It's not spring in Los Angeles. It's summer. We hit 94 in the Hollywood Hills today. I put my feet in the pool. GREG

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    1. Wow - that is hot for this time of year. We are only in the low 80s, which is just fine. I am sure the oven temperatures are on there way for us...

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  3. What a sweet way to welcome spring time.
    Only looking at the beautiful pics makes me longing for fresh strawberries.
    This is springtime on a dessert plate!

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    1. Thank you, Daniela - I hope spring somes soon for you!

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  4. Wow! At 7,150 ft. elevation I can only dream of strawberries right now. I remember many years ago I used to go on a buying trip to the annual ski show in Las Vegas in March and the highlight for me (rather than the slots or shows) was the fresh strawberries on the Hilton hotel buffet! Coming from frozen Colorado It was heaven to smell green grass and eat those strawberries. We have a raised strawberry bed but won't get berries until late June.

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    1. Caterina - when you are enjoying your strawberries in late June, you can be assured they will all hae shriveled here! So dream of warmer days and joy sweet berries!

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  5. I just bought three pints of California strawberries that looked beautiful, but weren't very sweet. This looks like a wonderful way to use them while waiting for sweeter berries to come to market. Thanks, David!

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    1. We have been lucky, Kirsten - our berries from California have been really sweet and flavorful. Just lucky, I guess! Hope you enjoy the Tarte!

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  6. Hi David, always look forward to the title of your posts, they are so perfect and just reel you right in. Love this tart, we are getting some great, great berries here as well. Take care!

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    1. Thanks, Cheri - your are always so kind in your comments! Glad the berries are making it up to you, as well. We even got some from Yuma this weekend.

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  7. I'm coming over here for a little commenting spree for the first time in ages, in the hope that Blogspot and Wordpress are no longer in a huff with each other...

    Gosh, look how lovely and bright those strawberries are. This looks and sounds delicious. I am a big fan of desserts that look this impressive but don't require hours of sweat and tears in the kitchen. Have pinned for future reference.

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    1. Perhaps the war is over? Thanks, Ruth - this has quickly become a new favorite!

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  8. Nothing nicer than strawberry tart when the fruit is in season! And I love the Beatles xo

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    1. Being of the same era, I can imagine the Beatles were a part of your upbringing, too. Do you remember the whole "Paul is dead" thing?

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  9. What an awesome story, now I want to listen to Strawberry Fields again!!! I love the Beatles. I've got a few of their albums on MP3 and my mother has at least five precious Beatles records at her house. You've reminded me to dig them out and listen to them again :) As for this beautiful strawberry tart, I'm very glad that you're entering berry season! The vanilla custard is a perfect accompaniment :)

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    1. Oh, Laura - I hope your mother has the album with Strawberry Fields so that you can hear it!

      Yes, berry season is always welcome, and then easy to let go of because stone fruit season is next!

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  10. Whenever I drive through Oxnard (during the right months), I stop at the roadside trucks selling strawberries. THE BEST! This is a gorgeous tart. Making art with strawberries is fun!

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    1. Valentina - between the strawberries in Oxnard and the artichokes further north (I love the friend artichoke stands!), I am always happy to be traveling the back roads of CA!

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  11. Good old vinyl records. Perhaps now is the time to tell you the first vinyl record I bought with my pocket money was the Dancing Queen single by ABBA. And I say that with pride!

    For some reason our last strawberry season seemed better than previous years. They were so much sweeter than normal and I shouldn't get enough of them.

    I think I need to try your method of dipping them into Grand Marnier and sugar. I've never tried that! Will have to try this tarte aux fraises, as well!

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    1. Oh, John - that is perfect! I would be proud, too, if that were my first vinyl. In addition to being proud, I would also be a lot younger! :) My first vinyl was probably a 45rpm of This Magic Moment... or something by Paul Revere and the Raiders.

      I think you will like the berries in Grand Marnier and powdered sugar. A very nice and elegant end to a meal.

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  12. You got me thinking about how to get my kids to listen to (and see) a vinyl record... it is an experience they definitely need to have! Then again, so would a slice of this tart!

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    1. I think getting them to try the tart will be easier, Fiona! The other requires you (probably) buying a record player!

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  13. It's too cold still for us to get any local strawberries. They've had some at WF from California I think, but that's not local enough personally :)
    I adore strawberry tart but like you, I really wish the strawberries would taste like strawberries. I remember going to pick strawberries in the English countryside back in my youth, and those strawberries were the best, straight from the fields.
    My -7 year old is very much into The Beatles and when she was in that phase, we welcomed it because that meant she was out of the Drake phase. Unfortunately, we're back in the rap phase :(
    So, she bought a record player and buys all these vinyls now, As an audio video nut, I think it's pretty awesome that vinyl is making a comeback, but from a sound viewpoint, not the best sound but I like the nostalgia.
    Your tart is beautiful, David! Hit me up in CO in July and I'll make you one xx

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    1. * 17 year old! Not 7 :) Though the 9 yr old is a fan too :)

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    2. Nazneen - I am always so glad for our (AZ and CO) proximity to California - we really reap the benefits of good produce from them! I remember wild strawberries both in Vermont and France - nothing, and I mean nothing, tasted as good as they did.

      Yes, the Beatles are much preferred to some of the current rap! :)

      I will take you up on your offer! :)

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  14. David, no such thing as local strawberries around here for quite some time but your strawberry tart looks delightful! And I am pleased as punch that you use "grams" instead of ounces in the recipe
    Liebe Grüße,
    Andrea

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    1. That is funny, Andrea - I use ounces and grams both, depending on the recipe. Sometimes, I wish I had more time to translate more often! :)

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  15. We are lucky that we are in a strawberry growing area so during the season they are plentiful and cheap. Your strawberry tart looks beautiful I will look forward to trying it when berries are back in season. How frustrating on the baking times in your recipes, maybe the authors should all take a leaf out of my old tutors book - whenever we would ask how long it would take for something to bake he would always sagely reply "when it's done" it was very frustrating at the time but we did learn to think for ourselves in the end :)

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    1. I am quite used to baking times being off in traditional books, Karen. Mostly, I think the recipes are transcribed from someone's nonna, yia-yia, etc. I think your advice to "bake till done" makes perfect sense!

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    2. I know what you mean, its when Nana hasn't written all the instructions or all the ingredients cause she has them in her head that drives me nuts... :)

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    3. Yep! My Gramma woudl sometimes just write the ingredients with no directions at all. Her white cake has egg whites only - but are they beaten or not? One would assume yes, but in the end it works better if they aren't. Go figure. FYI - I am paraphrasing your statement on "till done" for my next post. And giving you credit!

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  16. I will be in Southern California next week and, of course, will go to the farmers' market in Carlsbad where I will find luscious red strawberries. (Actually, I will likely be in Oxnard, too!) But, the recipe looked so good that I bought them today at the Golden Harvest--they are from Salinas, a little further north, but I am sure they will do the trick!

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    1. Salinas has great strawberries - I know, because I was just there! Let me know how the tarte came out, Susan!

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  17. Such a simple combination, which I feel are always the best when made with top quality ingredients! I still long for British strawberries, which must be a different strawberry altogether, from our US berries. I too, love currant jelly for glazing, but do sometimes buy Marie's since they dropped the corn syrup and now use sugar again! :) Reminds me of the strawberry tarts in Scotland.

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    1. Strawberries in France taste much better to me, too, Christina... I believe we tend to breed them to be bigger, and not necessarily better.

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