We have passed the summer solstices last week and it is now officially “summer season’’ on our calendar but here in Bay Area, we already had record high of scorching hot days weeks before. It is now that the air is hot, the sun is high, but smell of varieties of fresh summer fruits and scent of summer flower, such like Jasmin are fantastic.
We are having perfect California weather this week (hot days and cool night). Summer means no doubt for the great fruit season. Strawberries are all over the market, cherries and plums are ripe, apricot, peach and nectarine started available, and other fresh berries and watermelon are coming soon. It is truly the season for fresh fruit lovers. Their vibrant colors, rich sweet smells and juice flavor, all are more than irresistible and make us very happy.
We have a long season of cultivated local strawberries in California but its prime is perhaps to its peak now (April to June), and I am now waiting for to tasting those wild berries like small organic strawberries that are coming to our farmers’ market soon.
Popularity of strawberry is so huge today and Commercial strawberries on the market are so massive in all seasons, but nothing look bright, vibrant red color and luscious sweet flavor of strawberries in its historical season, spring to early summer are exceptional (magic of nature).
Strawberry is very easy to grow in your backyard even on the terrace of sunny apartment. I started experiment with only on large pot with few plants a few years ago and I have few pots and dozen plants this year. You are not going to get a pint of strawberries every few days but you may enjoy few of them in every couple days. It takes about 3-4 weeks to harvest ripe strawberries after their blossom of white flowers, but having fun to watch them growing and ripping day by day. For me it’s a big joy tasting real thing.
French Strawberry Tart
For one 9 to 10-inch tart, serves 6.
2 pints of ripe strawberries about 23 ounces (700g) try to get similar size of berries
One baked tart shell, bout 9 to 11-inch
1½ cups pastry cream
2 tablespoons raspberry, strawberry or apricot glaze or powder sugar on the top of strawberries.
For Tart Shell (PÂTE SUCRÉE /Flaky Sweet Pastry):
For one 9 to 10-inch tart
4 ounces (120g) unsalted butter, softened at “room temperature”
A pinch of salt
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg (50g)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/¼ cups (180g) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
Place the SOFTENED butter and salt in the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if mixing by hand and cream until completely smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and continue beating until homogenized. Mix in half of the flour until just incorporated and add remaining flour and mix just until it forms a ball.
Flatten the pastry into about 6-inch disc, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm (can be placed in freezer for about 30 minutes). The dough must be completely chilled before being used. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days or freeze for a month.
For Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière):
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
1 vanilla beans or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
2tablespoons flour or corn or potato starch
In a saucepan heat up the milk with a half portion of the sugar.
In a small mixing bowl, mix with the rest of the sugar, flour (or starch) and egg yolks. Pour ½ of the hot milk in the bowl and quickly whisk mixture well. And then return to the saucepan and stir constantly the cream over low heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately plunge the sauce pan into the large bowl of ice water to cool. If sauce is a bit too lumpy, strain through a sieve.
Assembling the tart:
Spread the pastry cream onto the bottom of prebaked pastry shell. Slice the strawberries way you like, also way would like to decorate. Glaze, brush the warm jam on the top of berries and decorate with small mint leaves.
Note. You can bake the tart shell and pastry cream a day or two in advance. So you need clean and slice the strawberries on the day you serve. (Recommended)
For chocolate fan, melt 3 ounces (90g) of dark chocolate and spread over the bottom of the tart before spreading chilled pastry cream. It is also preventing tart shell become soggy quickly (good idea for two reasons!)