Isn’t summer wonderful? Warm, sunny weather (if we are lucky), an abundance of new fruits and vegetables to feast on, and if you are really, really fortunate, a bout of summer-itis. Or hayfever, as it is more commonly known.
I thought I had escaped it this year, but it appears it was just biding its time.
If you suffer with hayfever then you know what I am talking about. Constant sneezing. A nose that will start to run down your face at the most inopportune of moments. And then there is the innocent itch in the corner of your eye. Absent-mindedly you give it a little rub with your finger. But it quickly turns into “oh, it’s really itchy” which leads to slightly more ferocious rubbing and “that feels really good” which turns into “stop it, stop it, you’ll only make it worse”. “But I can’t stop it, I can’t!” as the heel of your hand replaces your finger so that you can really go to work on the itch. Which in turn leaves you with an eye that is a delightful shade of blood-shot pink, feels as if it is on fire and is simultaneously streaming with water like Niagara Falls but also so dry that your eyelid is squeaking down / sticking to your eyeball.
You line up the items that you hope will try to rectify the damage you have just inflicted upon yourself. They start with cotton wool pads soaked in cold water and progress with cucumber slices straight from the fridge, the backs of teaspoons kept in the freezer, bags of frozen peas (because you can smoosh those into the shape of your eye socket), and hell, even those mini magnum ice creams look as if they will do a good job at extinguishing the eyeball inferno. Nothing ice-cold is off-limits.
You have to suffer comments like “What did you do to your eyes?” “I rubbed them.” “What did you rub them with, stinging nettles?!”
Some days I keep my make-up on for as long as possible (instead of removing it as soon as I get home) because it is only the thought of grinding mascara into my eyeball that is stopping me from attacking it with gusto.
Ah, yes, summer is a wonderful time of the year.
But let’s not talk about that, let’s talk about more pleasant things, like strawberries. Specifically, strawberries in tarts.
My sister came home the other day with a strawberry tart from the supermarket. Of course I could only
glare enviously at her avert my eyes as she ate it. But it gave me an idea. Why don’t I make some for strawberry week?
So, I did.
You need to make the vanilla creme filling the day before assembling these tarts in order for it to firm up enough. You can use it as soon as it has chilled, but it will be more of a custard than a cream and therefore prone to running and puddling. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Also, trying to make pastry on a hot summer’s day in a kitchen that has an oven and a bread machine churning away means that chilling it is imperative. Otherwise it will be so soft that all you will accomplish is a lot of cursing and swearing, be utterly frustrated and the pastry may or may not end up decorating the kitchen walls as you throw it around the place in a heat induced traumatic tantrum. (NB: the latter did not happen, but it so easily could). Or you could save yourself the heartache and use your favourite shop bought pastry.
I added some lemon zest to the pastry to act as a counter balance to the sweetness of the vanilla creme and the strawberries. It is optional, but if you do decide to use it, make sure you mix it in well. If you don’t then someone may get a big lump of lip-puckering lemon zest in their mouthful of tart. Which may put them off eating the rest of it. (Apologies to my sister, again).
I realised as I started putting the strawberries on the top, that heart-shaped pastry moulds are not the easiest things to fill. So these are not the most perfect looking tarts. They are not quite as pretty as I would have liked them to be. The strawberries are a bit higgledy-piggledy rather than in straight lines. But it doesn’t stop them from tasting any less yummy.
If you are still lusting after some strawberry action, then check out these strawberry recipes – strawberry risotto, anyone? I think I may just have to.
Alternatively, if you are feeling creative, why not make some strawberry pom-poms (there are other fruits to make too).
For the vanilla creme:
- 250ml milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1/2 a vanilla bean, scraped out)
- 3 egg yolks
- 62g golden caster sugar
- 20g cornflour
- 40g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
For the pastry:
- 100g rice flour
- 50g gram flour (chickpea flour / garbanzo bean flour)
- 2 tbsp ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 75g butter, cold and cubed (plus a little extra, softened, for greasing the tin)
- 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 egg yolk
- Strawberry jam – to glaze
- Start the day before by making the vanilla creme. Place the milk and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan. Place over a low heat and warm. Meanwhile in a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Add the cornflour and whisk again until smooth. Once the milk is warm to the touch, carefully add it to the egg yolk mixture, a small amount at a time, whisking well in between each addition. Take you time over this. If you add too much warm milk or add it too quickly you will get scrambled eggs. Once all the milk has been incorporated, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and over heat over on low, stirring continuously, until it thickens. If it starts to get a bit lumpy, remove from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth again. Return to the heat and carry on. Once it is thick, remove from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. Transfer to a clean bowl and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to cool completely.
- To make the pastry, place the flours, ground almonds, and butter in a bowl (you can use a stand mixer if you wish). Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest and xanthan gum. Add the egg yolk and approximately 5 tablespoons of water. Using your hands, bring the mixture together to form a dough, adding water a little at a time as necessary. You should have a dough that feels slightly damp to the touch. Wrap it in cling-film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius / 160 fan / 350 Fahrenheit. Grease your pastry tins with a little butter or oil.
- Take the pastry out of the fridge and cut into quarters. Take one piece and place it between two sheets of non-stick baking paper. (NB: If the weather is really warm keep the remaining pieces of pastry in the fridge until needed). Roll the pastry out to a thickness of approximately 5mm. Remove the top layer of paper and carefully transfer to the pastry tin. Remove the second piece of paper and carefully ease in the edges of the pastry, cutting away any excess. Repeat until all the tins are lined with pastry. Place a small square of non-stick baking paper into each tin (scrunch it up a little in order to make it fit better), throw on some baking beans and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (I found it easier to put all the small tins onto a large baking sheet).
- Remove the pastry shells from the oven and, taking care not to burn yourself, remove the baking beans and paper. Return the pastry to the oven for a further 5 minutes in order to crisp up the bottom fully.
- Take the pastry out of the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.
- To assemble the tarts – take the cold pastry shells and fill 3/4 full with the vanilla creme, smoothing the top down with the back of a spoon. Cut the tops off the strawberries and place, cut side down, on top of the creme. Fill in any gaps with small pieces of strawberry. Warm a couple of tablespoons of strawberry jam in the microwave, to loosen it off, and using a pastry brush, brush the strawberries with the jam to glaze. If you get a little bit on the vanilla creme, don’t worry.
- Either serve immediately, or keep in the fridge until needed. They will happily sit in the fridge for a few hours, but be aware that the longer you leave them, the more likely you are to have a slightly soggy bottom to your pastry.
© The Pink Rose Bakery 2014
I recently discovered Lucy’s blog – supergoldenbakes – and would like to share this recipe as part of #CookBlogShare