the strawberry is very often the fruit that causes heart-ache. promising in colour but a dissapointment in flavour. it has become the mainstream berry, often shipped all around the world to charm our senses. but then - nothing but a watery aroma!
and what a crime to see that strawberries are offered in the middle of winter, to accompany that glass of champagne on new years eve. when the strawberry plant itself is still in deep hibernation, gathering all its power for the summer ahead.
but then strawberries are very often linked to sweet memories of childhood. you dwell on thoughts of afternoons picking strawberries on a field or - if you are blessed like me - your familys garden, where you almost bursted with excitement, trying to find the ripest, juciest strawberries. a real strawberry has a firm flesh and is full of juice. you wont find the deep flavour of a blackcurrant or the sweetness of a ripe raspberry. the strawberry is a light but summery aroma.
but its delicacy requires a gentle handling, the fruit is easily damaged and turns into a mushy-thing. - so you better handle it with great care and nestle it on a soft bed of wodden hay.
"you need to make much of a truly excellent strawberry when you find it" nigel slater writes about the scarlet-red ferrari of a fruit. he is right, if you eat domnestic strawberries at the peak of the season you might actually get that wonderful fruity-honey-sweet scent of the fruit.
but: a good strawberry doesnt need much to shine on a cakestand. maybe a dash of vanilla. a pinch of sugar or a splash of the tender flavour of rose- or orange blossom water would enhanche the summery-light-sweet flavour of the fruit.
carefully hulled we put them on a soft bed of mascarpone cream. enjoy your strawberries - while they last!
adapted from LADUREE, Sucré
for a 24cm round tart pan
sweet almond pastry:
120g butter, very cold
70g icing sugar
25g ground almonds
1 pinch of fleur de sel
1 pinch of vanilla powder (or vanilla seeds)
200g cake flour
some chocolate ganache, for sealing the tart
2 gelatin sheets
60ml heavy cream
125g granulated sugar
400g strawberries, halved
rose water, vanilla seeds or orange blossom water, opitional
some raspberry jelly
First make the pastry by sifting the icing sugar. cut butter in small cubes and place in the stand mixer with paddle attachement. work in butter to homogenize, then add following ingredients, one by one, making sure to fully incorporate each into mixture before next addition: icing sugar, almonds, fleur de sel, vanilla, egg and flour. combine until dough comes together. form into a ball and wrap in clingfilm. refridgeate at least for 2 hours or up to one day ahead. it will make it easier to roll out.
butter the tart pan, roll out the dough on a floured surface to 2mm thick and press into the buttered pan. refrigeate for one hour.
preheat oven to 170 °C.
prick tart surface with a fork, so it wont puff up during baking. line tart with parchement paper and fill with baking beans. bake for about 20 minutes until lightly coloured. take out of oven, remove beans and continue baking to colour slightly. remove from shell and allow to cool.
melt ganache over a bain marrie, then glaze the tart bottom with the chocolate to prevent it from soaking in the macarpone cream.
to make the mascarpone cream put gelatin sheets in a bowl with very cold water and let sit for about 10 minutes. drain, squeezing hard to remove all excess liquid. bring cream and sugar to a boil in a pan. remove from heat, add gelatine, mix well and allow to cool completely.
cream the mascarpone in your kitchen aid with the paddle attachment. continue to mix, adding the cooled gleatine mixture little by little. flavour with vanilla, rosewater or orange blossom water if desired. fill in the baked tart shell. put in the fridge for at least 20 minutes until cream is firm.
rinse strawberries and drain on a dish towell. hull and slice half lenghtwise. finish the tart by arranging strawberries in a decorative pattern on top of the cream.
carefully warm strawberry jelly in a pan, put through a fine meshed sieve (to remove fruit bits), then glaze the tart with the jelly.
keep cool until serving.