No, not you, silly. I would never point fingers at you and shout tart. But... I would steal a look sideways at this strawberry concoction, all hussied up (yes, I said hussied - it is a tart after all!) sporting a big puff of meringue, and silently mouth tart. Well, look at it. Wouldn't you?!?
Don't you find that as soon as a warm breeze billows our way, we rush to shed our fleecy clothes for things more flimsy, and our thoughts turn to lighter fare? Bye-bye chocolate. We'll meet again soon (I'm thinking of a rendez-vous when the first fall leaf hits the ground). Welcome, berries. Not the pretenders that sit on shelves in big box groceries. I'm talking about the ones that as I write are ripening in my own backyard (ok, two pots on my deck), sprouting ruby red in farmers' fields, and beckoning from overflowing crates at markets. Hello old friends. Have I got a loads of recipes in mind for you. Today though, it's all about the strawberry tarts!
First, the CRUST.
Hey, how come I'm hearing some menacing music?!? There is NOTHING to be afraid of when making a pastry dough. You take some dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar), you cut in some fat (butter, shortening), and you add some liquid (water, vinegar, egg) to bind it all together. You can use a pastry blender to cut in the fat (but your fingers will work just as well). You pull it all together into a ball and then let it chill, baby baby, chill. Allow me to illustrate.....
Now, the BLIND BAKING.....
First, get yourself a bag of dried beans. These are now your blind baking beans. Sort of like magic beans. Next, you roll out the dough, cut it out to fit your tart pans, press the dough good and well (oh, how the Monarch will love my grammatical ramblings, given his English abilities) into the pans and then dock them. No, not deck them. But, well, sort of. Docking means taking a fork and pricking them to bits. This will allow some of the air to escape so the dough doesn't rise and get all lumpy, bumpy in the pans. Then, add the magic beans and bake. Voila!
Ah, the COOL STRAWBERRY FILLING...
Well, to make sure that the filling is ooey and gooey, we have to add something to the already luscious berries. A little sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice will do. Simmer in a pot and then cool. Then, we just spoon the filling into the pre-baked tart shells. We're almost there....
And finally, the HUSSY MERINGUE TOPPING.....
A few egg whites, sweetened with a little sugar, and whipped into a frenzy. Dolloped over the tarts, and we're good to go! A few minutes in the oven, and the fat lady is about to sing....
And here they come, fresh out of the oven...
If you'd like to try them, here's the recipe (sorry, all of mine have been eaten up already!)
Strawberry Meringue Tarts (adapted from Fresh with Anna Olson)
1 1/4 cups, pastry flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp white vinegar
3 Tbsp cold water (add more if necessary)
3 cups strawberries (quartered or diced)
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp cornstarch
5 large egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
To make the dough:
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together. With a pastry cutter (or your fingers), cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a course crumbly texture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the vinegar and the cold water. Add this to the flour mixture and blend. If the dough is too dry, add another tablespoon of water until it just comes together. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. (If not using right away, you can freeze the dough).
When ready to use, on a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a large circle and cut out 6 equal circles (make sure each circle is at least an inch or more larger than the diameter of the tart pans). Line tart pans with dough, pressing well into the sides. Trim the tart shells and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Place the tart shells on a baking tray and dock the bottoms with a fork. If using pie weights (beans), line the bottoms with parchment paper and put beans in. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Remove beans. Let cool on rack.
To make the filling:
Stir the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Let sit for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid into a small pot and bring it to a simmer. Stir the cornstarch with 2 Tbsp water and whisk it into the simmering liquid. Stir until the filling has thickened, and then remove the pot from the heat to cool. Once cooled, fold the strawberries into the sauce and spoon the mixture into the baked tart shells. Chill the tarts while preparing the meringue.
To make the meringue:
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Whip the egg whites with the lemon juice on one speed lower than high and gradually add the sugar while whipping to stiff peaks. Stir in the cornstarch then pipe or dollop the meringue over the strawberry filling. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes until browned, then cool and chill until ready to serve.
Note: I found that there was too much meringue for the six tartlets. Next time I would use only 3-4 egg whites and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.