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Berry Tarts

May 12, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Berry Tarts  

For fruit lovers, spring, in all its fullness, is a fabulous time to go shopping.  One of the real treats of the season are the berries that are quietly rolling into the market.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Waterfront Kitchen attests, there are lots of ways to enjoy fresh berries, and one of the best is to feature them in tarts or pies.    

The first berries we will see this spring are the strawberries, and their season lasts about 2 months beginning mid-May.  Next come blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, which stretch into later in the summer.  Two other varieties that are much rarer, but a lot of fun, are currents (black and red) and gooseberries.  

Currents were once ubiquitous, and appear quite often in older recipes.  Gooseberries, plentiful in England, are rarely seen here, but they do pop up.   The fresh gooseberry is quite tart, but a slightly sweet gooseberry jam is very popular and a good use of the fruit.

Jerry loves to make simple berry tarts.  The technique is to first blind bake a tart tin lined with pastry dough, then make a sweet custard-like pastry creme which becomes a first layer in the crust, pour your berries over it (often macerated in a flavorful sweet liquid... with a little alcohol in it), and then top it off with a lovely homemade whipped cream.  Here are Jerry's recipes for two of those components.

                Orange Pastry Creme
              (An Emeril Lagasse recipe)

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, with the seeds scraped out
1 tbs orange zest
1 tbs orange juice
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch, measured then sifted

1.  In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean pods and seeds, orange zest and juice. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Slowly add 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the egg yolk mixture to the pan of hot milk and whisk to combine. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heavy wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.

3.  Remove from the heat and strain into a clean container, scraping the bottom of the strainer with a spoon. Discard the vanilla bean or rinse and reserve for another use. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours.

            Mascarpone Whipped Cream

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a KitchenAide mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium high speed until soft peaks are formed. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour before using.

        Creme Fraiche and Orange Whipped Cream

1/2 cup Creme Fraiche
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a KitchenAide mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium high speed until soft peaks form. Store in the refrigerator for one hour before using.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
As General Partner of Clipper City Brewing Company, L.P., Hugh J. Sisson is among Baltimore's premier authorities on craft brewing and a former manager of the state's first pub brewery, Sissons, located in Federal Hill. A fifth generation Baltimorean, Hugh has been involved in all aspects of craft brewing.