When I was young the last thing I wanted to do was pick blueberries. Yet in late spring, for more years than not, I headed out to the berry patch with my grandmother. Other times, we’d go off in the woods hunting for wild ones.
I knew we weren’t finished when the picking was over as we’d fill little containers and sell them on the street corner for something like 50¢ a pint. The all-you-could-eat part however was great. I looked forward to that treat every year, hoping that the farmer didn’t ask me to stick out my tongue.
It did teach me the value of hard work and the care it takes to harvest fruit. I now gladly pay $4 or $5 a pint. The local season is fleeting, and the berries amazing, regardless of the part of the country in which you live. Once you’ve tasted a local berry it’s very difficult to enjoy those that have been shipped across the country much less from another continent.
Makes one 11″ Tart
1 1/4 cups (5 1/2 oz / 160 g) all-purpose flour
Scant 1/3 cup (1 oz / 30 g) almond flour (ground almonds)
2/3 cup (2 1/2 oz / 75 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 g) kosher salt
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (optional)
5 tablespoons (2 ½ oz / 70 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
3 large egg yolks (52 g), cold
About 2 pints (12 oz / 450 g) fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz / 75 g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (7 1/2 g) cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons (15 g) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one lemon (about 1 tsp / 1 g) preferably organic
1 1/2 cups (6 oz/ 225 grams) fresh blueberries, washed and dried (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer sift together the flours, confectioners’ sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the chunks of cold butter. Using the paddle attachment beat on medium low speed until the mixture is mealy with no visible pieces of butter.
Add the egg yolks and seeds from the vanilla bean (if using) and beat on low speed until the ingredients are combined. It will look as if the mixture is too dry and your inclination will be to add more liquid. The next step will prevent that tendency.
Remove the mixture to a smooth, cold work surface (hmm, like your counter-top) and using the heel of your hand, smear the dough away from you a little at a time, turning it back onto itself with a bench scraper. This method of combining dough mixture is called fraisage.
After the dough has come together form it into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least six hours or preferably overnight. (If well wrapped, it can be frozen for up to three months.) If using frozen dough, place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. When ready to roll out remove it from the refrigerator and allow to temper a bit at room temperature for easier rolling and to prevent the edges from cracking.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 13-inch round turning it as you go to prevent it from sticking to the counter surface. You can also use that bench scraper to keep it from sticking to the counter. To get the dough from the counter to the tart pan, roll it onto the rolling pin and then unroll into the pan. Firmly press the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
With the tines of a fork prick the bottom of the pastry. Cover the prepared tart shell and place in the refrigerator or freezer to chill while you preheat the oven to 400° F and prepare the blueberry filling.
In a large bowl mix together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and zest. Add the blueberries and gently stir to combine. Place the chilled tart shell on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pour the mixture into the shell and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° F and continue baking until the tart is golden brown, the blueberries are bubbling and have become soft and jam-like (about another 40 – 45 minutes). If the edges of the crust are browning too much cover the edges with a pie shield. (I use the ring from an 11-inch removable bottom tart pan.)
When the filling is bubbly remove the tart from oven and place on a wire rack. Top with the remaining blueberries (crown side up), pressing them gently in concentric circles into the hot blueberry filling. If precision is not your gig just scatter the remaining berries over the filling but still press them gently into it.
Let the tart cool to room temperature before serving. If desired, serve with softly whipped cream, crème fraîche, or vanilla ice cream. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator. After a day the crust will begin to soften, so my suggestion is eat any remaining for breakfast the next morning.
Makes about 8 -1 2 servings.