It’s that time of year again – a time that I loved when I was a little girl and off I would go with my cousin, Margaret to ‘Uncle Jack’s allotment’ (see my ‘Radish Starter’) to pick blackberries from his abundant bushes. We would bring half home in plastic bags, the other half went direct into our stomachs – and yes, we did have belly ache! Our fingers, tongues and T-shirts would be purple/black with the juice and our arms and legs covered in scratches where we had pushed ourselves deep into a bush to retrieve a particularly juicy berry that was just out of reach.
Once home our grandmother would make them into a pie, and I can still taste the sweet, soft pastry topped with sugar and the dark, sharp fruit inside.
Sadly this has not been a good year for the blackberries, as there has been very little rain and too much sun, so they are generally small and shrivelled. We did, however managed to salvage some, just enough to make one tart (French equivalent of ‘pie’), and fill some pots with jam; but nowhere near as many as last year. (There will be a ‘jam’ post in a couple of weeks)
BLACKBERRY TART Ingredients
1lb/500g blackberries (or as many as you can find!)
Sweet pastry (paté sucre)
7oz/200g plain flour*
3 ½ oz/ 100g slightly salted butter
1 Tablespoon (2 cuillers a soupe) Icing sugar (sucre glace)
2 free range egg yolks (jaune d’oeuf)
*See my post on ‘Lindy’s Mama Mia Pizza’ for a table on International flour grades)
2 oz/ 50g unsalted butter
1 oz/25g plain flour*
2 oz/50g castor sugar (sucre en poudre)
2 free range eggs (de poules elevees en plein air)
5 fl oz/150ml milk
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod (grains de vanille)
Method Sweet Pastry (paté sucre)*
Sift (tamiser) the flour and icing sugar together in to a bowl
Cut the butter into small cubes and quickly rub into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
Add the egg yolks and ‘cut’ into the mixture with a knife before gathering it together with you hands to form a ball (if the mixture is too dry, add a small amount of ice cold water, a little as a time)
Knead (petrir) until smooth and flatten into a disk, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours
*See the end of this post for how to make the perfect pastry
Gently melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat
Add the flour and sugar stirring constantly with a wooden spoon
Add the eggs and beat until smooth
Add the milk and continue to stir constantly
As the sauce begins to thicken remove from the heat and stir with a hand whisk
Stir in the vanilla, cover with cling film and leave to cool
Putting it all together
Remove the pastry from the fridge for a couple of minutes
Roll out the pastry on a board sprinkled with a little flour until it is large enough to fit a 9”/23cm tart tin and cover the sides.
Line the tart tin with the pastry, trim off any excess and place in the freezer for 10 minutes, while the oven in preheating (with a baking tray inside) at 190 degree/gas mark 5
Remove the pastry from the freezer and lightly prick the base with a fork (do not puncture) Line the pastry with baking foil or greaseproof paper and weigh down with baking beans (I use dried kidney beans)
Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 3-4 minutes, until the pastry is a light biscuit colour. Then leave to cool completely.
Spread the crème patisserie evenly over the cooled pastry case and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
Decorate with the Blackberries and serve chilled
(This recipe works equally well with raspberries, strawberries or redcurrants)
A perfect marriage of sweet crisp pastry, soft vanilla crème patisserie and tangy berries….Definately my type of tart!
How to make perfect Pastry Ingredients
200g/7oz plain flour (Aldi was my favorite in the UK, but Francine ‘farine de ble pour tous usages’ works well)
80g TREX (100g margarine – TREX has a higher water content so 20% less is needed)
1 egg yolk (jaune)
2 dessertspoons (cuilleres de soupe) of ice cold water
A pinch of salt
The four main factors for making a good pastry are:-
The speed of making it – pastry does not like to be over handled
The temperature – the cooler the room, your hands, the surface, and the water the better.
The amount of moisture – the drier the pastry, the more light and crumbly (short) it is – even if it is more difficult to work with and may need patching up, it is worth it for the end result. The wetter, the more you will break your teeth! The time spent ‘resting the pastry before cooking.
Wash your hands and rinse in cold water
Sieve the flour with the salt into a large, preferable pottery mixing bowl
Chop in the TREX (or equivalent) with a cold knife, then quickly work it into breadcrumbs using the tips of your fingers only and lifting the mixture from the bowl as the work it, to get as much air in the mixture as possible
Cut the egg yolk into the mixture again using a cold knife
Add the water (direct from the fridge – the colder the better, iced water is best) and mix all together with a cold knife
Quickly draw the mixture into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to ‘rest’ for at least 30 minutes (alternatively put in the freezer if not ready to use immediately)
Remove from fridge a couple of minutes before rolling out to fit a 12” (30xm) flan/quiche dish
Put back in fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use
Always allow hot fillings to completely cool before putting into uncooked tart or quiche pastry, as otherwise it will make the pastry ‘soggy’ instead of ‘crisp’