my mom once told me that cooking (and life in general) is about attitude, a lesson that came in handy this afternoon.
in my last post, i talked about wild blackberry picking, and how i just maybe got carried away and ended up picking 4kg of them! after giving half away and using another few handfuls for breakfast smoothies, i still had loads to experiment with.
at first i thought i’d make a traditional blackberry pie. then i thought i could turn them into jam. an upside down blackberry cake, perhaps. or coffee cake (i ♥ coffee). but all of those methods required cooking the berries, and they were just too good in their natural form to alter.
i arrived instead at the idea of using the berries as a finisher; a compliment to an already delicious base. a simple but elegant fruit tart to display the berries in all their glory. after all, what’s better than homemade pastry and creme patissiere?
ah yes, it was all so perfectly planned. birds were chirping. i would be accoladed by French master chefs and given a book deal. UNTIL:
1) i overcooked the pastry cream
2) i dropped the pie shell right out of the springform pan, and half of it ended up on the floor.
needless to say, things weren’t going quite as planned. expletives ensued. natural light for photos was dwindling, as was my confidence that i could replicate the perfect dough i’d made earlier.
then i channeled my mother’s advice and started over. i had another taste of the pastry cream which was still cooling off in the fridge. it wasn’t quite as smooth as the first time i’d made it, but all the brandy and vanilla goodness was still there. it was delicious! powers to resurrect the dough were beyond me, but making another round beat spending the afternoon in today’s bipolar sun-rain-sun-rain weather system. overall, no big deal.
the tart wasn’t what it was “supposed” to be. it didn’t meet the tidy rules of perfect Parisian cookery. but when it came together – new crust that shrank a bit, cooked custard and all – it looked beautiful, and was damn well inhaled within a minute of gracing our plates. in fact, had i not mentioned this little foible, nobody would have known that anything went awry in the process. and ultimately, i achieved my goal: to make something from which every component was done by hand, from picking the fruit to making the custard and pastry (2x).
today, wrong was just right. i’ll have seconds.
(NOT SO DISASTROUS, ACTUALLY QUITE AMAZING)
WILD BLACKBERRY TART
*this recipe uses a 10″ springform tart pan and a food processor. it’s adapted from this Ina Garten recipe, using blackberries, reduced fat dairy. the glaze is omitted and the pastry cream doubled.
for the crust:
1 1/4 cup plain flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (or 113g or 1 stick) butter
5-6 tbsp ice water
for the pastry cream:
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups milk (i used 98.5% fat free)
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cognac or brandy (or brandy essence if you don’t want to buy a whole bottle)
2 tbsp cream (i used light cream. half-and-half would be great)
i recommend starting with the crust first, since while it’s chilling you can get busy with the filling.
in a ziploc bag or container, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and freeze 30 minutes. slice the butter into 1/4-inch pieces. combine the flour mixture and butter in the food processor, pulsing about 10 times until you get small clumps. add 3-4 tbsp of ice water and process. add the remaining 2 tbsp and process again until the batter JUST starts to form a ball around the blade. remove the dough and lightly dust it with flour. then flatten it into a disc, wrap in plastic and pop in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.
while that’s resting, make your pastry cream. beat the eggs and sugar about 3 minutes until light yellow. beat in the cornstarch on slow speed until just combined. in a saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle simmer. slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture -while whisking – then pour the combined eggs + milk back into the pot. cook on medium-low heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. (now’s a good time to taste and make sure the cornstarch has cooked out). bring the custard to a light boil, then turn the heat down to low again and cook another 2 minutes. remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, cream and cognac. strain the custard into a container, cover with plastic wrap (so the plastic is directly touching it, to avoid forming skin) and store in the fridge until completely cool.
now, preheat your oven to 180°C / 375°F and remove the dough from the fridge. on a well-floured surface, and using a well-floured rolling pin, roll it out so you have at least 1″ overhang on your 10″ tart pan. place the dough in the pan, lightly pressing it into the fluted edges. cut off the excess dough with a knife, or fold it over to create a raised edge. line the tart shell with foil, fill with baking beans, and bake 10 minutes. remove it from the oven, remove the beans and foil, prick all over with a fork and baking another 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
spread the pastry cream into the cooled shell – i used about 3/4 of the mixture and saved the rest. top with blackberries (or any fruit), decoratively or hastily, as by this point you’ll really be wanting a slice.