It is strawberry time here in Oregon and we've had so much rain up until last Saturday that the strawberry fields have been left alone to grow big, plump, super ripe berries. Luckily, Saturday was a sunny and warm day (the first this season!) and the Jellos (Cookie and Cabbage) invited me to go strawberry picking with them. The farm was situated on a lovely hillside looking west over the Tualatin valley, and the day was gorgeous. We stayed for maybe a couple of hours. I picked for myself 6.75 pounds of strawberries. The Jellos collectively picked 19.25. We paid a dollar per pound. I know! A freaking dollar per pound!
I froze some berries, turned most of them into jam, and then decided to try this tart for the doulas.
June 13, 2010
Name of Tart: Fresh Strawberry and Ricotta Tart
Occasion: Fresh strawberries! And a doula meeting!
Constituents: Short crust filled with cream cheese-ricotta filling, topped with fresh strawberries
I found the recipe in Rustic Fruit Desserts, and it sounded intriguing. Also, the tart calls for a short crust, which I tend to have more success making than a pastry crust. So, why not?
The short crust is first blind baked in a 10 inch tart pan. I need to remember that dark pans need the oven temperature turned down 25 degrees! My crust burnt a bit around the edges which was sad. But I soldiered on. We could always pick off the crust.
The filling gets mixed together in about 2 minutes. Whole milk ricotta, cream cheese, the seeds from half of a vanilla bean, sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, and salt are mixed together for an indefinite amount of time. I am so used to Rose's detailed instructions that reading "mix together on medium speed" is entirely unsatisfactory. For how long, people? Till mixed, or until light and airy, or for a minute or what? Maybe this filling is pretty forgiving and it doesn't really matter how long everything gets mixed for. Anyway, I let the mixer run for a minute and called it good. Then 2 eggs are added, one at a time, and mixed until blended in. After that, a tablespoon of vanilla extract is blended in and you're done. Pour this creamy delight into the prebaked tart shell and bake for 30 minutes.
After baking, the tart first cools to room temperature and then is refrigerated for an hour, presumably to firm things up. In the meantime, the strawberries are washed and hulled, and the bigger berries are halved.
I sped up the cooling time, or so I like to believe, by sticking the tart outside to cool. The filling is all puffed and pretty when first pulled from the oven, but as it cools it shrinks a bit down onto itself with only occasional tiny hairline cracks. I will also confess that I did not give it the full hour in the refrigerator that the recipe recommends; this tart got at most 30 minutes with no noticeable bad results. I had doulas to feed, I couldn't wait the full hour!
The strawberries--about 3 pints worth, did I mention that--are supposed to be tossed with a bit of warmed and strained strawberry jam. This does give them a nice juicy glisten, but I decided I didn't want to artificially sweeten these beautiful berries in any way. I picked out a few mushy berries, maybe 1/2 a cup total, and mashed them up in a bowl with a fork. I then pushed this mush through a fine sieve, and voila! Fresh strawberry puree, which I tossed with the berries and gave them that juicy glistening shine without all the extra sugar.
I say this every time I mention them on this blog, but I love my doulas. They dug into this tart, along with all the savory snacks they brought, with the same gusto as they do everything in life. Our midwife and our pregnant post partum doula were seen snacking on this tart with their hands. It was a perfect, light yet fancy summer dessert. The nutmeg gave a little bit of contrasting warmth to the filling, while the super ripe berries got to play center stage. It would be fun one time to omit the nutmeg and go with the more ordinary accompaniment of lemon zest. As burnt as the crust looked on the edges, it didn't taste too bad, at least not to me. This is a great potluck dinner dessert that plays well with others, and can satisfy a pack of lively, courageous, fierce doulas. It would also make an excellent breakfast tart, but all I brought home from the meeting was a dirty tart pan. Oh well, I'll just have to make another!