Summer Scratches

Huzzah for summer. This year has been jetting past at light speed and now, having a few days off of rest and relaxation (after all those 12 hour restaurant-style days) I am very decided on properly enjoying myself. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, and an island at that, it just could not be summer without a little blackberry gathering. Last week was the first of the year, I went out with my little colander to fill and a long shirt to protect me from the brambles unwilling to relinquish their fruit. However, I was a little overzealous; honestly, the silly bushes were all still red, I got maybe half a colander full of very very tart fruit I made into a plum and blackberry crumble, but since the whole thing was quite ridiculous, we won't go into that.

This week was true blackberry gathering, forcing into the depths of the prickles to get the sweetest, highest, most perfect berry, it takes bravery that. Blackberry gathering is a dangerous and exhilarating sport, not for the faint at heart or the easily scratched.

This week it was blackberry perfection.

I decided not to shun a little hard work and at about noon when out to gather the berries, this time I filled my colander, my little dog Marls helping at my side, the work went by quickly and I may have even helped my farmers tan progress a little. The berries were then rinsed and searched to weed out the unripe or buggy ones, and then placed in a little bowl with about a 1/4th a cup of sugar to sit for 15 minutes while the juice was drawn out a tad. While this was going on I made a little tart dough.

I am generally a strict rule follower but when it comes to recipes I go horribly astray, so this is rather made up on my part, but nevertheless (or perhaps because of this) it came out as some of the best tart dough in the history of all tart-doughs ever recorded.

Extremely Yummy, Crumbly, Perfect Tart Dough (if I do say so myself)

Make like a cookie (i.e. cream together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and vanilla and finally the flour).

2/3 cup powdered sugar (I know this is a lot, but when it cooks I promise it wont be intensely sweet)

½ Stick Butter, I use expensive Belgian butter because my chef friend makes me and I suppose, yes it tastes better, you make use what you like, but unsalted is better so you can salt your own to your taste

1 lovely large egg

Dash of vanilla extract

1 ¼ cup of flour

Once it is done, I pound it out flat like an enormous cookie and wrap in a little cling film to go in the fridge for at least an hour but up to 48 if you are a well-planned and pre-dough-making sort of baker, which I, most unfortunately, am not.

OK, so now that the tart dough is resting peacefully, I put my berries in a saucepot and cook it down. For about 2 hours as it is slightly simmering, then strain it through a very fine strainer. (I have to take this opportunity to tell you about my new baby: my all-clad strainer I got from Williams and Sonoma- I got a gift certificate from my sweet Mum- it was expensive but oh so fabulous- I have to kiss it before I use it so it knows it is loved). Anyway, you are making a coulis, and a very thick and powerful one so keep on reducing it until it is quite thick- you can add a bit of lemon juice at this point as well.

Once your blackberry coulis is potent, get out your tart dough, roll it, put it into a 9 and a half inch tart pan and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. I don’t know what this does, other than firm it up, but according to Baking Illustrated it is the thing to do, so I did it. Once it has cooled off, bake it at 375 for abut 30 mins with tinfoil and baking beads inside (or beans, they work too) then 5-7ish minutes with the tin foil off to turn a light golden color.

Then make the blackberry custard middle bit- start about 10-15 minutes before your tart dough is done because you are going to want to pour the finished mixture into the hot-out –of-the-oven tart.

Blackberry Custard Filling:

Your colander full of blackberries: now reduced to about a cup of strained coulis

8 egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs

½ cup sugar (or to your taste)

Shake or two of salt

2/3 cup heavy cream (like whipping cream- unwhipped obviously)

In a metal bowl add the eggs and the sugar and whisk lighly until blended, add salt, coulis and cream, and then stick on bain-marie style. (Get a saucepan abut a 1/3 full of water on high with the bowl on top, but not actually touching the water- just the steam) and cook until it reaches 170 degrees. You need an instant read thermometer for this but you should be able to tell without it because it starts to get thick. Once it is there, pour it into the tart shell and bake another 10-15 minutes until the custard is set and jiggles just slightly. Then refrigerate for at least an hour and a half, but overnight is best.

This tart actually screams summer, and it is perfect with a little glass of champagne, maybe a little cheese, and some friends before turning in for the night.

(Marley begging for a little scrumptious tart)


Nerissa said...

Ack! I get so fat just reading your recipes. *sigh* That looks SO good. I might just have to mention it to my talented baker sister hmmmm

Katy said...

Thanks Nerissa,
Funny you should mention sister. Mine ate this tart and said it was the best she has ever had and begged me to show her how to do it. You will have to let me know how it goes for yours. Take care :)


holistic said...

!!Delectable! I tweeked the recipee a bit, and it turned out fabulous just the same. ->Such as, for the crust, I substituted whole-wheat pastry flour, and added a bit more than the pre-scribed amount -due to consistancy, as well as adding 1/2 cup of (unrolled) oats and local unsalted butter.

For the filling i strayed quite a bit; reducing blackberries that had been brandy soaking since last fall's harvest *blending in silken tofu to thicken; juice of lime + gooey vanilla + apricot preserves + mint leaves (to mellow the brandy liquoured tones) & a bit of arrow root to meld it more.

Then I grated a home-harvested belizian cacao-nib ball atop {(From one of the oldest orchards in Toledo [Occassionaly providing to Green&Black]: picked from the tree, suckled and spatooned, fermented in a banana leaf for a week, sun dried for a few days, comal roasted, de-skinned and willowed, then hand ground & formed with all the local seasonings of nearby vanilla vines, coffee and coconuts permeating its darkest tones)}

Needless to say, it was delightful.