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Sunday
Jun052011

« Birthday Tarts »

My mother and sister were both born in May, one day apart.  Just don't ask me which one was born first. I remember the dates, but I always confuse the order. (And mind you, I am the family genealogist.) Luckily for me, we always celebrate their birthdays over Memorial Day weekend, so the dates conveniently blend together  -- and I head off to the kitchen to cook. 

This year, at my mother's request, I baked individual fruit tarts in lieu of a birthday cake. The recipe for the tarts was adapted from Paula Croteau's Cookbook, Farmhouse Kitchen Favorites. Paula and her husband, Michael, own the Croteau Vineyards on Eastern LI, which exclusively produces rose wines.  If running a vineyard and raising a family were not enough, Paula also runs the Farmhouseo Coking School out of her home in Southold.

My mother has Paula's cookbook at home, and a few weeks ago I made her Blueberry Crumb Tart for the first time.

The tart got rave reviews, but its' size (10 inches) proved to be unwieldy. (I couldn't maneuver the tart off the baking sheet and subsequently needed to pull both the tart and the paper onto a cutting board.*) This time, I decided to make smaller, semi-individual tarts, which were much easier to handle. Doing it this way, I was also able to use a variety of fruit, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and apricots.

I was initially skeptical of a tart dough that was made out of shortening, rather than butter. But the addition of vinegar to the dough (which breaks down the gluten in the flour) produces a very flaky crust.  The crust also contains an egg yolk for some added richness. Paula recommends putting the divided dough in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  I actually put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes, which allowed it to really firm up prior to rolling it out and transferring it to the cooking sheet.


To make the individual tarts, I divided the dough into 8 equal portions, rolled each portion out to an eight inch circle and transferred them to a parchment lined baking sheet. After crimping the edges, I covered the bottom of pastry dough with a thin layer of jam, the fruit and the sugar topping. I did not put jam on the bottom of the apricot tarts, but rather mixed sugar and a little tapioca into the fruit. In hindsight, this was a mistake. The apricots would have benefited from the added sweetness of the jam. The tarts bake for approximately 30 minutes.  

We served the tarts on a large try. The presentation was dramatic, and it allowed everyone to pick and choose which which tart they wanted to sample. (We cut the 6 inch tarts in half to serve, which was just the right portion size.) 

The tarts were all all delicious, but the unanimous favorite was the the raspberry tart.  It was a real beauty.

With an abundance of summer fruit on the way, I would encourage you to try this recipe. And if you are on Eastern Long Island, stop by the Croteau Vineyards to sample a flight of Paula and Michael's excellent rose. 

The printable recipe is here.

*After reviewing the recipe a second time, I realized that Paula recommended a rimless baking sheet.  That would definitely make it easier to get the tart off the pan!

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