Gooseberry Tart

For me, gooseberries are one of those quintessentially British fruits, like damson plums or sloes, that I nonetheless never managed to try while I lived in London.Gooseberry Tart

To rectify this, I’ve been on the lookout for them  for the past several years, only to be disappointed.  But this year’s fruit crop in Massachusetts is proving to be amazing–tons of sour cherries have now given way to red, black, and even golden raspberries, along with red and black currants and yes, gooseberries.

Gooseberry Tart

The price, unfortunately, reflects the fact that these gooseberries are so hard to come by.  So even though I splurged on two generously filled half pints at the farmer’s market, I came home to find I didn’t even have the four to five cups required for a pie.  Fortunately, I had enough for pie’s rustic French cousin, a galette.

Gooseberry Tart

While you thankfully don’t have to chop gooseberries (which must be as tedious as cutting up grapes or cherry tomatoes for toddlers) they do require a bit of prep work–they need to be topped and tailed, which is really just removing the stem from one end and the blossom from the other.  It’s easy enough to do, but given how these tiny bits tend to stick to your fingers, and then rub off on the next gooseberry you reach for, you’ll want to wash your berries after this process.  Once done, the gooseberries look much like grapes, albeit rather veiny ones.

Then it’s just a matter of assembly.  It’s easy to find helpers who will enjoy sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over the berries and the crust.

Gooseberry Tart

Gooseberries are surprisingly tart, and are said to taste a bit like strawberries–which is true, but not something I would have noticed had I not already been aware of the comparison.  They cook down into a juicy filling, and have a surprising richness–making it easy to see why gooseberries complement savory dishes so nicely.  For dessert, however, a tart yogurt ice cream or dollop of creme fraiche would nicely accompany this galette, with the fruit’s juices swirling together with the melting cream.

Gooseberry Tart

Gooseberry Tart
Author: Adapted from Lindsey Shere, via [url href=”http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/gooseberry-tart”%5DFood and Wine[/url]
Ingredients
  • Pastry
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 -inch dice
  • About 3 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint gooseberries (about 3 cups), stems and tails removed
Instructions
Make the crust.
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender (or two knives or forks) or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until the mixture resembles a mix of coarse cornmeal with larger particles the size of peas. (I.e. you’ll still have a fair amount of larger chunks of butter). Stir in the ice water with a fork. When the dough holds together, knead it a few times against the side of the bowl to smooth it out. (If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a few more drops of ice water.) Pat the dough into a disk, and wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Flour a surface and roll out the dough into a round about 14 inches in diameter. (You may have to wait a few moments for the dough to soften). It need not be perfect around the edges as this gives it its rustic look. Lay it on a large baking sheet or pizza pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate briefly while you prepare the filling (but no longer as the crust will get to hard to fold over the filling later).
Make the filling and assemble the tart
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Mix 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar with the flour and sprinkle this mixture over a 9-inch area of the pastry. Spread the prepared gooseberries on top. (I rolled out the dough before prepping the gooseberries; the dough chilled while I topped and tailed the berries). Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cinnamon-sugar and sprinkle the remainder over the gooseberries. Fold the edges of the pastry up over the berries to form a 9-inch free-form tart, making pleats and pressing them together lightly. Brush the pastry with water and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon-sugar.
  2. Bake the tart in the center of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the gooseberries are bubbling and lightly browned and the pastry has caramelized in spots and is well browned on the bottom. Cut the tart into wedges with a sharp knife and serve.

Gooseberry Tart

Modern Baker Challenge: Raspberry Almond Tartlets

What is it about diminutive little desserts that are so irresistible?  I don’t know if it’s because you know that you can have several without a second’s consideration, or that they are the cute baby kittens of the dessert world.  Or that since you know they are gone after two bites, you enjoy them all the more?  In any case, these were probably one of my most successful exploits in the Modern Baker Challenge, and even though I’m a bit late completing this assignment, here is definitely a case of better late than never.

Actually, I knew these were going to be delicious, and probably a top five.    Raspberries are probably my favorite berry (not unlike Karen), and my love of marzipan is well enough known that my Christmas stocking is always bursting with the stuff each year.  (Santa is on the ball!)  Why the delay then?  Making 24 tartlets seemed a bit daunting.  Plus I wasn’t sure about how excited I was to work with the sweet nut dough again–I’d had issues the last time around with stickiness and generalized uncooperativeness.

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Step by step then:  the dough was easier to work with this time.  I gave it time to properly chill and probably am just a bit more experienced with working with dough in general.  (As I knew that I could always resort to pressing in the dough, I was a bit more relaxed about the whole adventure).  Not having a set of biscuit cutters, I started using a baby bottle rim to cut out the dough, which turned out to be a bit too small.  Using a larger lid ended up working, but re-rolling the dough ended up warming it so much that it was unworkably sticky.  Back to the fridge to cool off.  So in short I made it a bit more difficult than it needed to be, but it got done.  All 24 pieces.  Ugh.

This was sort of the story of these tarts–no particular step was hard, but there were a lot of them, and each step was repeated 24 times.  24 tart shells, 24 dollops of jam in the base, 24 times nestling in raspberries, 24 generous spoonfuls of almond filling, 24 sprinkles of sliced almonds. 

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But then I could bake them off.  I wasn’t able to perfectly cover the  berries with the filling and sliced almonds as directed, but it didn’t seem to matter.  And while it will seem ridiculous to admit that I used frozen berries in August (when I live 10 minutes from an organic raspberry pick-your-own operation), I did.  It added about 10-15 minutes to the baking time, but worked out perfectly.

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I took these into work as I couldn’t trust myself around them.  What was the reaction?  The day after I brought them in people were still dropping by my office to tell me how wonderful they were, and others who heard about it and missed out demanded to know why I hadn’t informed them.  I then got some gentle inquiries as to whether I would be planning to do any baking over the three-day weekend. 

Lesson is that raspberry almond tartlets can make you very popular in the office.  But office politics may be complicated if you don’t have enough for all, and you may end up getting some extra “assignments.”   With these delicate considerations, you may just opt to hoard them for yourself.